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File #: 2014-625   
Type: Regular Agenda Item
Body: City Council
On agenda: 7/1/2014
Title: Introduction of Ordinance Adopting the Alameda Point Waterfront Town Center Plan. (Base Reuse 819099)
Attachments: 1. Exhibit 1 - June 2014 Public Review Draft of the Alameda Point Waterfront Town Center Plan, 2. Exhibit 2 - Written Public Comments, 3. Ordinance, 4. Exernal Correspondence, 5. Presentation
Title
 
Introduction of Ordinance Adopting the Alameda Point Waterfront Town Center Plan.  (Base Reuse 819099)
 
Body
 
To: Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Council
 
From: John A. Russo, City Manager
 
Re: Introduction of Ordinance Adopting the Alameda Point Waterfront Town Center Plan
 
BACKGROUND
 
Over the course of the last two years, City of Alameda staff and Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM), with funding from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), have been working on a Waterfront Town Center Plan (Town Center Plan) for Alameda Point. Alameda Point is a designated Priority Development Area (PDA) in the Bay Area's sustainable communities strategy (Plan Bay Area), which makes Alameda Point eligible for regional funds to prepare and implement transit-oriented land use plans.
 
DISCUSSION
 
The Town Center Plan (Exhibit 1) is a specific plan for transit-oriented development of the waterfront lands that surround the Seaplane Lagoon and the property at the entrance of Alameda Point between Main Street and Seaplane Lagoon.  
 
The Town Center Plan is informed by:
·      The previous four years of public workshops and Planning Board hearings at which the Alameda Point Master Infrastructure Plan (MIP), comprehensive zoning amendment (ZA), and General Plan amendment (GPA) were discussed, analyzed and approved;
 
·      The Planning Board's Planning Guide for Alameda Point, which was endorsed by the City Council in July 2013;
 
·      Five (5) Planning Board Town Center Plan workshops (two in 2013 and three in 2014); and public hearings before the Historical Advisory Board and the Recreation and Parks Commission; and
 
·      Extensive contributions and input from the Planning Board's Waterfront Town Center subcommittee.  
 
The draft Town Center Plan represents another major milestone in the public planning process that the Alameda community has undertaken to redevelop and reuse the former Alameda Naval Air Station. The proceeding major planning milestones include:
1993 - U.S. Department of Defense announces departure of US Navy personnel, their families, and 18,000 jobs from western Alameda.
1996 - City completes NAS Alameda Community Reuse Plan, which establishes the Alameda community's vision for civilian reuse and redevelopment of NAS Alameda into a transit-oriented, mixed use community and job center.
1999 - City completes GPA, ZA, and Master Plan for the Bayport and Alameda Landing areas of the former NAS Alameda/Fleet Industrial Supply Center (FISC).
 
2001 - City approves site-specific development plans and design review applications for Bayport neighborhood. Construction begins on Bayport neighborhood in 2002.
 
2003 - City approves GPA for Alameda Point (lands west of Main Street).
 
2011 - City commences work on Alameda Point EIR, ZA, MIP and Town Center Plan.  
 
2012-2013 - City approves development plans and design review for Alameda Landing. Target store opens in 2013.
 
2014 - City approves Alameda Point EIR, GPA, ZA, and MIP.
 
On April 10, 2014, staff released a draft Town Center Plan for public review and discussion. The Planning Board then held three public workshops on April 28th, May 12th, and May 27th, to take public comment on the draft Plan, staff met weekly with the Planning Board subcommittee to review recommended changes and revisions. In early June, City staff released a revised draft Town Center Plan, and, on June 9, 2014, the Planning Board recommended that the City Council adopt the Town Center Plan with a few minor revisions.  Those revisions are summarized below.
 
ANALYSIS
The Town Center Plan implements the General Plan policy objectives for a transit- and pedestrian-oriented, mixed use transit village at Alameda Point and the WTC Sub-district Master Plan requirement contained in the recently approved zoning amendment for Alameda Point. The Town Center Plan implements this vision through a wide variety of regulations, standards, and guidelines for both public improvements and private investment. The four major characteristics of the Town Center Plan are:   
 
I.      Form Based Regulations: The Town Center Plan provides specific regulations, standards, and design guidelines to shape the form of the public and private physical environment and the use of land to create a waterfront-oriented transit village that is pedestrian, bicycle and transit friendly and supported by unique regional recreational and open space opportunities.  
 
II.      Seaplane Lagoon: The Town Center Plan establishes the Seaplane Lagoon as the center of the Town Center Plan area and Alameda Point, with water and land-based transit services (ferries and buses), recreational opportunities (kayaking, sailing, bicycling, walking), visitor services (waterfront restaurants, commercial services, museums, and hotels), and parks and habitat conservation areas (promenades, public plazas, wetlands and open space).
 
III.      NAS Alameda Historic District Guidelines: The Town Center Plan provides guidelines for in-fill new construction within those areas of the Town Center Plan area that overlap with the boundaries of the NAS Alameda Historic District (e.g., taxiways between the Seaplane Lagoon and Hangar Row).
 
IV.      Criteria for Future Decision Making: The Town Center Plan provides guidance and standards for evaluating future development and construction plans for the area.  The Town Center Plan is designed to ensure that the area can develop incrementally over time without sacrificing the overall vision for a transit-oriented, waterfront district.  The Town Center Plan development standards provide certainty and predictability for both the Alameda community and future private investors and developers.  
 
I. Form Based Regulations
 
The Town Center Plan's major recommendations for shaping the form of the public and private physical environment and the use of land to create a waterfront-oriented transit village that is pedestrian, bicycle and transit friendly and supported by unique regional recreational and open space opportunities include:   
·      Consistent with the recently approved MIP, the Town Center Plan recommends re-aligning Ralph Appezzato Memorial Parkway (Appezzato Parkway) west of its intersection with Main Street to create a direct, straight connection and view corridor from Alameda Point's Main Street entrance to the water at the Seaplane Lagoon. The re-constructed and re-aligned Appezzato Parkway would include: a protected bikeway for two lanes of bicyclists, transit lanes for buses and shuttles through Orion Street, wide sidewalks for pedestrians, and two lanes for automobiles.  New intersections along Appezzato Parkway within Alameda Point are to be spaced to reflect standard, traditional Alameda-sized blocks (generally 200 to 250 feet in width, 350 to 450 feet in length) with wide sidewalks with trees.  An Alameda-style grid pattern of streets and blocks is proposed to extend north and south from the new east-west aligned Appezzato Parkway extension.  Proposed cross-sections for all the new and existing streets in the Town Center Plan area are included in the Town Center Plan.
 
·      To support a pedestrian-oriented environment, the Town Center Plan recommends that all buildings along the extension of the Appezzato Parkway within Alameda Point should face the Appezzato Parkway.  Buildings on Main Street will front on Main Street.  Buildings at the corner of Main and the Appezzato Parkway will have an attractive "face" on both streets; the location of the front door is to be determined during design review.  Parking associated with buildings along the Appezzato Parkway must be placed behind or within buildings.  Access to parking will be from side streets to prevent curb cuts across the Appezzato Parkway's pedestrian sidewalks and protected bikeway. The Town Center Plan includes specific requirements and standards for how buildings front onto the public realm (e.g., public sidewalks, plazas, and streets).  
 
·      The Town Center Plan includes minimum and maximum height limits and permissible uses for every block in the Town Center Plan area. The regulations are designed to:
 
a)      Support a transit-oriented and supportive waterfront mixed-use community and a successful, pedestrian-scaled retail center;
 
b)      Use building form and height to create seamless transitions from the two-story residential buildings (approximately 25 to 30 feet in height) in the existing Bayport and Main Street neighborhoods on the east side of Main Street and 50- to 60-foot high 120,000-square-foot  Seaplane Hangars on the west side of Ferry Point Road at the edge of the Seaplane Lagoon and NAS Alameda Historic District to a higher density mixed-use transit-oriented and -supportive "town center" at the core of the WTC Sub-district and Alameda Point;
 
c)      Use land use regulations to create a seamless transition from the single use low density residential neighborhoods east of Main Street to a higher density, mixed-use transit village centered at the terminus of the extension of the Appezzato Parkway at the Seaplane Lagoon. The Town Center Plan recommends that on blocks facing Main Street, ground floor non-residential uses be permitted at the corner of Main Street and the Appezzato Parkway, but not required. Blocks near to, and at the corner of, the Seaplane Lagoon with the Appezzato Parkway extension, within the retail core of the transit village, are required to provide ground floor commercial uses. Uses that help concentrate residents, employees and visitors, such as multi-family housing, office, retail, restaurants, and hotels, are highly encouraged in the Town Center Plan to create a vibrant center of activity and to support frequent and convenient transit service. Lower intensity and non-compatible uses are excluded, such as single-family homes and industrial uses.
 
d)      Use development regulations to help ensure that the development that occurs in the Town Center Plan area includes sufficient density to support transit. The height limits in the Town Center Plan are designed to ensure that the development that is allowed by the General Plan is configured to be transit supportive.   The height limits do not change the overall development capacity for Alameda Point, which is set by the General Plan.  In addition, the Town Center Plan include the following additional recommended finding for all future development plans to  ensure that each future development is well designed to support transit:  "Development Plans shall be evaluated to ensure that they achieve residential and commercial densities that support convenient and frequent transit service."
II. Seaplane Lagoon and Public Spaces
 
The Town Center Plan establishes the Seaplane Lagoon as the center of the WTC plan area and of Alameda Point, with water and land based transit services (ferries and buses), recreational opportunities (kayaking, sailing, bicycling, walking), visitor services (waterfront restaurants, commercial services, museums, and hotels), and parks and habitat conservation areas (promenades, public plazas, wetlands and open space).
 
The Appezzato Parkway terminates at a public plaza at the corner of the Seaplane Lagoon, recommended to be called the Seaplane Plaza in the Town Center Plan. The Seaplane Plaza will be the center of a retail and visitor-serving transit-oriented waterfront "town center."  The space might be accented by landmark buildings at the foot of the Appezzato Parkway.
 
Ferry service, marina, and recreational boating uses will be concentrated along the northern and eastern edges of the Seaplane Lagoon within walking distance of the Seaplane Plaza. Other visitor serving and commercial recreational uses are permitted along the eastern edge of the Seaplane Lagoon promenade. A new ferry terminal is located along the eastern edge of the Seaplane Lagoon near the terminus of Pacific Avenue, where it can serve the residents and businesses of the WTC plan area and the businesses within the Enterprise sub-districts.  The Pacific Avenue location is also designed to limit the travel time for ferry vessels within the Seaplane Lagoon and separate the ferry service from the public's use of the northeastern edge of the Seaplane lagoon for kayaking, sailing schools, and small boat landings and marinas.  
 
The northern edge of the Seaplane lagoon is planned for a large public open space that is designed to adapt to sea-level rise and provide passive and active recreational opportunities. The Plan provides sea-level adaptation strategies for all three sides of the Seaplane Lagoon. Water uses become less intense and more passive as one moves toward the western edge of the Seaplane Lagoon and the Least Tern colony on the federal property to the west of the plan area.
 
The western edge of the Seaplane lagoon is planned as a passive open space that complements the adjacent Nature Reserve area and endangered Least Tern colony that is located to the immediate west of the Town Center Plan area on federal property. Low intensity, environmentally sensitive non-residential uses and passive open space opportunities, such as trails and camping, are provided in this area, including an expansion of wetlands to support the Nature Reserve and provide additional wildlife habitat.   
 
Sierra Club and Other Comments: The Town Center Plan's proposal for the parks and open spaces surrounding the Seaplane Lagoon has been well received by the Alameda community and the City of Alameda Recreation and Parks Commission.  Opposition to the open space proposal is limited to a letter from Norman LaForce, representing the Sierra Club, and from Leora Feeney, a resident. Mr. LaForce and Ms. Feeney believe that the public's access and use of this area should be limited.  They would prefer that use of the existing buildings along the western edge by local artists and craftsmen be limited to one-year leases, and that pedestrian access and trails be reduced on these public lands.    They describe a vision in which the west side of the Lagoon includes limited public access and essentially becomes part of the adjacent 500-acre Nature Reserve, which is closed to the public to protect the endangered Least Tern seasonal nesting sites.  
 
The Town Center Plan has a different vision for the western area of the Seaplane Lagoon.  The Town Center Plan envisions a passive recreation area for people and wildlife that is complementary to the Nature Reserve, but not an extension of it.  The western side of the Seaplane Lagoon is now comprised of a man-made rip-rap seawall, concrete aprons, and a small collection of one story buildings.  The Town Center Plan proposes removal of the rip rap edge and concrete aprons and the construction of a natural wetlands edge and open fields, interwoven with pedestrian trails, viewing platforms, and "urban camping" opportunities.  Over time, with sea-level rise, the area will regularly inundate with high tides and storm events.  The existing buildings are proposed to remain in their current use by low impact users, such as the existing artists and craftsmen, or be transitioned over in time to other similar low impact uses, until such time that the buildings become un-usable due to sea level rise.   In the meantime, the City is able to collect interim revenues from these buildings, which provide crucial support for maintenance and operations of the Alameda Point property.
 
Additionally, these letters mention how Building 25, directly north of the park spaces along the western edge, was removed from the green park areas shown in earlier drawings.  Building 25 is highly coveted for revenue-generating visitor-serving and employment uses consistent with the overall vision for Alameda Point.  Overall, the plan for Alameda Point includes 300 acres of parks and open space within City-controlled land, excluding the 7.5-acre area around Building 25, as well as another 500 acres of undeveloped "Nature Reserve" on federal land.  This results in a total of approximately 800 acres of park and open space land out of 1,502 acres of land at the former NAS Alameda (i.e., 878 acres of City land and 624 acres of federal land) or over 50 percent of the former NAS Alameda property being reserved for parks and open space.  Staff believes it is important to keep Building 25 outside of the green park areas to provide the City with flexibility in how this area is reused.
 
III. NAS Alameda Historic District Guidelines
 
To achieve the Reuse Plan, General Plan, Planning Guide and zoning vision for a transit-oriented, mixed-use community adjacent to an active waterfront environment and compatible with the NAS Alameda Historic District, the Town Center Plan includes guidelines for the placement and height of new construction within the NAS Alameda Historic District. Examples of the recommended guidelines include:
 
·      Building placement must preserve axial alignment of existing hangars;
 
·      Streets and spaces between buildings must extend existing street alignments and view corridors;
 
·      Building heights shall be limited by the height of the existing Hangar buildings; and
 
·      Building design should include simple clean forms that respect the industrial character of the existing buildings which comprise the NAS Alameda Historic District.
 
Alameda Architectural Preservation Society (AAPS) Comments: The infill guidelines for new construction within the NAS Alameda Historic District have also been well received, with one exception.  Mr. Chris Buckley of AAPS is concerned about the permitted building heights on the taxiways between the existing Hangars and the Seaplane Lagoon.  Generally, Mr. Buckley would like the height of any new building on the taxiway to be less than the 50-foot height of the Hangar buildings.  
The Town Center Plan recommends a maximum 50-foot height limit for new buildings directly south of the hangars and a 35-foot height limit for buildings directly south of the spaces between the hangars along the taxiways for the following reasons:
 
·      The potential uses of the buildings include a range of uses, including maritime employment, film, beverage and food manufacturing, research and development, and offices uses.  These uses often require large buildings of three or four stories.
 
·      The infill guidelines for new construction require wide view corridors through and across the taxiway area that will ensure that multiple views of the five hangar buildings will be preserved from a variety of locations and angles along view corridors.
 
·      Creation of the waterfront parks and facilities, as well as infrastructure improvements to fund the maintenance and improvement of the NAS Alameda Historic District, require private capital and investment. Reducing all future buildings in this area to 35 feet or less will significantly impact the ability to attract investment and to preserve and to make improvements in the NAS Alameda Historic District.    
 
IV. Criteria for Future Decision Making
 
The Town Center Plan does not represent the last step in the planning process. The public and the Planning Board must still review and approve site-specific Development Plans and design review applications prior to issuance of building permits to ensure that the final details and designs are consistent with the Town Center Plan, Citywide Design Review Manual and community expectations.
 
The Town Center Plan helps ensure that Development Plans are consistent with the community vision in terms of building and street placement, building height, massing and scale, and building use.  Decisions about individual building designs, conditionally permitted uses, public improvement plans for streets, pedestrian areas, ferry and bus transit, parking areas, parks and open spaces and other site-specific issues will be determined through the City's standard Development Plan and design review process and is described in Chapter 8 of the Town Center Plan.
 
Recommended Revisions
The following provides a summary of the revisions to the June 2014 draft of the Town Center Plan recommended by the Planning Board:
·      Page 8 and throughout document:  Make sure that all open space drawings show the West Waterfront (De-Pave Park) consistent with the open space diagram on page 97.
 
·      Page 9 and throughout document: Change sub-area called "Town Center Core" to "Transit Village Center."
 
·      Page 28: Under Western Waterfront, add a sentence that states that, "This Plan assumes that by the time the Plan is built out, Building 25 will be removed."
 
·      Page 39: Replace two of the photos of Building 77 with photos of Buildings 39 and 40.
 
·      Pages 68-81: Add a vertical section line to each street plan so that the reader understands how the street plan relates to the street section.
 
·      Page 70-71: Revise Appezzato Parkway street sections to keep the transit lane on the same side of the street as the travel lane, and adds passenger islands between the transit lane and the vehicle lane for passenger loading and unloading.  The revised sections also move the buses into a mixed flow configuration for the final blocks between Orion and the water to create a more pedestrian, retail oriented environment.  
 
·      Page 83: Delete legend in Open Space Network diagram and make all park spaces the same color green.
 
·      Page 97:  Add a sentence that states that, "The buildings within the West Waterfront (De-Pave Park) area may remain and be used for interim leasing until such time asthe park is fully funded."
 
·      Page 112:  Add a sentence at the end of the first column that states that shared parking agreements among the City, property owners and businesses are encouraged.
 
·      Page 145:  In the second column, delete the first sentence of the second paragraph.
 
City staff agrees with all of the Planning Board recommended revisions with the exception of the proposed modification to page 28 regarding Building 25.  City staff recommends that this sentence not be added and that the Plan be silent on whether and when Building 25 be removed to provide the City with flexibility in how to address the long-term reuse of this area.  As described above, this Building generates much-needed lease revenue and jobs and is highly coveted for local craft food and beverage manufacturing uses that include tasting rooms and visitor-serving amenities.  There are few places left in the Bay Area that offer these types of buildings in a location as unique as Alameda Point.  While a future City Council may decide to demolish this building to provide for better views or more open space, City staff does not recommend making this decision at this time.
 
FINANCIAL IMPACT
 
The adoption of the Town Center Plan will not impact the General Fund or Base Reuse Department budgets (Fund 858).
 
MUNICIPAL CODE/POLICY DOCUMENT CROSS REFERENCE
 
The Town Center Plan implements the Alameda Point Zoning Ordinance (Section 30-4.24 of the Alameda Municipal Code), which requires a Master Plan be prepared for the Waterfront Town Center Sub-district pursuant to  Section 30-4.24 (B)(ii) of the Alameda Municipal Code.
 
ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW
 
On February 4, 2014, the City Council adopted the Alameda Point EIR, which evaluated the potential environmental impacts of the draft Town Center Plan.  The EIR analysis helped shape the Town Center Plan to minimize potential environmental impacts and support a sustainable development. All development within the Town Center Plan area is required to comply with the mitigation measures adopted by the City Council for Alameda Point.
 
PUBLIC NOTICE AND COMMENTS
 
Public notice has been provided through newspaper advertisements, notices to property owners within 300 feet of Alameda Point and all tenants at Alameda Point.  The Alameda Point email blast reaches hundreds of addresses.  Letters and emails received in response to the notices and advertisements are attached as Exhibit 2.
 
RECOMMENDATION
 
Introduce an ordinance to adopt the Alameda Point Waterfront Town Center Plan.
 
Respectfully submitted,
Jennifer Ott, Chief Operating Officer - Alameda Point
 
By,
Andrew Thomas, City Planner
 
Financial Impact section reviewed,
Fred Marsh, Finance Director
 
Exhibits:  
1.      June 2014 Public Review Draft of the Alameda Point Waterfront Town Center Plan
2.      Written Public Comments