Ekene Ikeme, Alameda Sun
On Thursday, July 27, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1706, which will pave the way for construction to commence on the planned Encinal Terminals Project.
The project proposes to turn the blighted industrial site behind the former Del Monte Warehouse along the Oakland Estuary into a mixed-use development with 589 new homes — 80 of which will be affordable — more than four acres of waterfront parks, a marina with up to 160 berths, the completion of the Bay Trail, commercial retail space and more.
“The city looks forward to breaking ground on this once blighted property that sat vacant for over 10 years,” said Andrew Thomas, acting director of Base Reuse and Economic Development, in a statement.
Encinal Terminals is a 32-acre site located at 1521 Buena Vista Ave. Currently, the City of Alameda controls an approximately 6.4-acre parcel of former tidelands held in public trust for the State of California. The land is surrounded by 20.42 acres of land and 5.48 acres of submerged land privately owned by developer, North Waterfront Cove, LLC (NWC), a subsidiary of Tim Lewis Communities. The plan calls for NWC to build the housing units on a portion of the public tidelands at the property.
But public tidelands are not permitted for residential development. Public tidelands are for commerce, navigation and fisheries. To move forward with the project, the city, California State Land Commission, and NWC agreed to a land exchange at Encinal Terminals last year.
Existing law prohibits the State Lands Commission from transferring state public trust lands without approval from state legislatures and the governor, which is why AB 1706 was created. AB 1706 was authored by California Assemblywoman Mia Bonta and co-authored by the City of Alameda and the California State Lands Commission. The bill authorizes the City of Alameda to execute the land exchange agreement. The bill was first read on Feb. 17.
After the exchange, the city’s ownership of the trust lands would increase from 6.4 to 20.75 acres and NWC’s ownership of private lands would decrease from 26.15 to 11.8 acres. The agreement authorizes the land exchange to be implemented in four phases. Each phase of the exchange is conditioned on the developer’s completion of public improvements for that phase, at the developer’s sole cost.
NWC will control a triangular section on the northeastern edge and a strip of land in the center of the property. The city will own the remainder of the property including 7.25 acres of land that will be improved by NWC for the Bay Trail and waterfront public promenades and plazas, public roads through the center of the site from Clement Avenue to the northern waterfront edge of the site, and completion of the waterfront Clement Avenue extension and Cross Alameda Trail from Atlantic Avenue to Entrance Road.
The city will also control 13.2 acres of submerged lands, which shall be improved by removal of the current deteriorating wharf and replaced with a 0.6-acre rehabilitated and improved wharf, a public kayak launch and a public water shuttle landing.
Along with the cost of constructing the new housing developments, NWC will fund:
- Sea level rise protection and environmental remediation for private and public trust lands.
- All new infrastructure, including sewer, storm, power, roads, etc. for private and public trust lands.
The 589 housing units were a major component of the city’s approved Housing Element. Public access will also be granted to the site. Currently, there is no public access at the site.
The site was used for port operations in the first half of the 20th century, but those operations ceased by the late 1980s. The city used the site for container storage until about 2010. The land has been vacant since.
The shoreline has been altered by artificial dredging and filling activity. As a result, certain lands along the city’s shoreline and underlying adjacent waters are privately owned and claimed to be free of the trust, while certain granted trust lands have been filled and are cut off from the water. In addition, the precise boundaries between the granted lands and adjacent private lands are uncertain, which led to the inability to develop housing and other uses at the site.
In 2017, the City Council approved the project’s environmental impact report, but balked at approving the land swap until information showing the valuation of the land if the city up-zoned it for residential via the land swap.
Instead of providing the valuation, NWC dropped the swap idea and planned to build the entire project on land it owned, which was approved in 2018. However, in 2021, NWC notified the city that building housing on their privately owned land was not financially feasible and they went back to the land swap plan.
The City Council approved the revised Encinal Terminals project with a 4-1 vote at its Jan. 18, 2022, meeting. NWC will have 15 years to complete the housing project. To read more about the project, visit https://tinyurl.com/mrxjv5h3.