ALAMEDA -- A waterfront neighborhood where seaplanes once came and went from San Francisco Bay will become the "Town Center" of Alameda Point and have homes, businesses and a ferry terminal under a draft plan that city officials are considering.
Bike and pedestrian paths, overlooks and a marina are also proposed for the neighborhood surrounding what's known as the Seaplane Lagoon at the former Alameda Naval Air Station.
But concerns about rising sea levels, increased traffic in the city's West End and fears that some proposed buildings could undermine the area's historic character were among the issues raised when the Planning Board considered the plan Aug. 21.
The special session was a chance for the public to weigh in on the proposals. It was also the first of a series of meetings scheduled through next year as city officials consider documents related to transit, transportation and zoning as they work to jump-start redevelopment at the former U.S. Navy base.
"The economy is getting better," said Jennifer Ott, chief operating officer for Alameda Point. "We are anxious to move this along and try and take it to the next step and move toward development."
The goal for the waterfront neighborhood is to create a "transit-oriented" hub where many of the proposed homes and apartments are near the ferry terminal to help minimize traffic, City Planner Andrew Thomas said. Currently, most of the 1,450 homes allowed under the city's agreement with the Navy are proposed for the area bordered by Ferry Point and Main Street.
Planning Board member John Knox White said he was concerned what kind of businesses would end up near the waterfront, including the possibility of a big box retailer, and whether the draft plan went far enough to examine traffic, including if people live near the ferry terminal.
"Transportation is really key here," said White, who noted that any redevelopment will affect traffic. "I think it will define how well this space works."
He also called for a more comprehensive effort to promote bicycle use.
"If we are going to create a low traffic impact we can't just keep designing things the way they are designed everywhere else," he said.
Water taxis could help promote the neighborhood as it is redeveloped, especially since people already come to the former base for the Alameda Point Antiques Faire and other events, Planning Board member Kristopher Koster said. Creating informal spots along the shoreline where sailors can stop and tie up their crafts for brief visits should also be considered, Koster said.
As part of redevelopment, city officials will review the design of the neighborhood's street pattern, especially the portion of West Atlantic Avenue that connects with Ferry Point since it provides a gateway to Webster Street. The corridor includes an area south of West Atlantic where the Navy is carrying out the environmental cleanup of a site where jet fuel tanks were stored.
"It is being remediated," Thomas said. "But it will take many, many years for that to (completely) happen."
The city's preliminary plans call for commercial buildings on the site with possibly apartments on the upper floors, Thomas said. The city took ownership of about 1,400 acres of Alameda Point in June through a no-cost conveyance agreement with the Navy, which closed the base in 1997.
The agreement, the first phase of the base's overall transfer, provided the city with about 500 acres of land and nearly 900 acres beneath San Francisco Bay. Among the areas that still must be turned over to the city is the cleanup site south of West Atlantic. That is expected to happen in 2019, when the entire transfer of Alameda Point will be complete.
Design consultants Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP helped create the draft waterfront plan, which was funded by a $200,000 grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. While city officials are calling the area the "Town Center," they said that's only for reference and that any official name for the neighborhood would involve public input.
Reach Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him on Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty.