Alameda’s Measure B may be the most ill-advised local ballot initiative in recent memory. Not only will it likely go down to defeat in the Tuesday, February 2, special election, but it may have poisoned the water for a promising redevelopment proposal at the former Alameda Naval Air Station. The troubling thing is that it didn’t have to happen this way.
Alameda Point developer SunCal rushed Measure B onto the ballot way before it needed to. The developer was trying to gain the upper hand in negotiations with the city by getting voters to approve its favored deal points before an actual deal was reached. In an Express story last June, courageous city staffers told Alameda journalist Rin Kelly that they strongly opposed the ballot measure because it would tie the city’s hands. Interim City Manager Marie Gallant said vital parts of the measure would take away Alameda’s ability to “negotiate what we think is in the best interest of the city.”
Eventually, the backlash against the measure grew so loud that Mayor Beverly Johnson was forced to do an about-face after recording robocalls in favor of it. Now, nearly every member of city government stands together in opposition.
Nonetheless, some Alamedans are still urging residents to vote for Measure B anyway, arguing that SunCal will negotiate in good faith with the city and that residents should trust their government officials to negotiate effectively, even if their hands are tied behind them. Measure B proponents also argue that a no vote will send SunCal packing, leaving the point as is for years to come. The proponents also note that the initiative would provide a necessary exemption to a 1970s era law that severely limits density in the city, known as Measure A.
First we should make it clear that we view Measure A as a racist initiative that was designed to keep people of color out of Alameda by blocking the construction of less-expensive apartments and condos. We also think it’s long past time that Alamedans overturned this badly out-of-date law and started allowing urban development, especially at Alameda Point. We also believe that SunCal’s vision is worth pursuing — if the developer, the city, and area transit agencies can solve the transportation problems that come with 4,400 new homes.
But we don’t support Measure B. It will only reward the greedy intentions that put the measure on the ballot in the first place. We also doubt that the development team will back out now after pouring so much money into the project.
Yes, it’s true that Measure B may have ruined SunCal’s chances of ever fulfilling its plans for the point. And yes, voting no means that SunCal will have to come back to voters later to get that Measure A exemption. But when they do, we’ll be among the first in line to endorse it.