Monday, November 18, 2013

VA Project Final Environmental Assessment Released

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Navy jointly issued their final Environmental Assessment on November 18, 2013 for the VA’s proposed Alameda Point outpatient clinic, offices, and columbarium cemetery.  The report found that the 112-acre project on the northern part of the former Naval Air Station airfield would cause no significant impacts to the environment.  The environmental review culminates years of debate over the project’s potential impacts on the endangered California Least Terns that nest on the nearby runway, and paves the way for the Navy to transfer 624 acres of the airfield to the VA in 2014.

The VA began looking at the Alameda site in 2004 for expansion and consolidation of services from undersized and scattered facilities, which are currently leased by the VA until 2018.  More than 9,000 veterans are enrolled in clinical services in the Oakland/Alameda area, with patient visits up 50% in the last five years.  Approximately 543 veterans will be seen at the Alameda Point outpatient clinic each weekday and 70 on Saturday and Sunday.  The VA anticipates employing a staff of 250, including 26 physicians and 34 nurses.

The VA will also establish a new national cemetery at Alameda Point.  The two closest national cemeteries in San Bruno and San Francisco’s Presidio no longer accept new interments.  Currently the closest burial options for Bay Area veterans are San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery in Santa Nella and Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon.  The new columbarium cemetery will initially be 20 acres, with the remaining 60 acres built out in increments until completion in 2116.  Approximately six services will take place Monday through Friday.

Traffic and Transportation
The VA and Navy evaluated seven intersections in Oakland and four in Alameda, as well as the Posey/Webster Tube and segments of I-880, for traffic impacts.  The report noted that two Oakland intersections and the Atlantic/Webster intersection would be performing at unacceptable levels regardless of the VA project because of other Alameda Point development.  The assessment states, “The minimal additional traffic resulting from the Proposed Action would not, cumulatively, make the already unacceptable intersections significantly worse.”

The VA plans to operate a 24-person shuttle bus service between Alameda Point and the 12th Street Oakland City Center BART station every half hour, seven days a week.  Extending AC Transit bus line 31 to the clinic would provide additional service if the transit agency decides to add service.

Wetland Mitigation
Several acres of seasonal wetland will be impacted by the VA’s project and will need mitigation, either through on-site replacement or paying into a wetland mitigation bank.  The VA has not reached agreement yet with the Regional Water Quality Control Board and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on a mitigation plan.  However, the VA has stated that their preference is to “enhance and expand existing conditions” at the Runway Wetland on the southeast corner of the runway area.  Plans will be finalized before issuance of any permits for the VA’s project.

Nature Reserve, Least Tern Management
Most of the VA’s runway area will remain undeveloped.  Initial plans allowed for periodic emergency preparedness training on the undeveloped area.  The new plans allow training exercises only in the VA’s developed area about every 14 months between mid-August and April 1 when the terns are gone.

The influence of years of lobbying by the Golden Gate Audubon Society and open space advocates for wildlife stewardship in the undeveloped area is reflected in the VA’s final report.  The VA states, “The remainder of the 512 acres of the Transfer Parcel will remain as a preserve for the California Least Tern or open space, with no plan for development, and will be available to wildlife for future generations.”  The VA will construct a 2,500-square-foot Conservation Management Office (CMO) near the entrance to their property.  The CMO will provide office space for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, meeting space for educational programs and volunteers, and public restrooms.

Public Access
As part of their project, the VA will construct a pedestrian/bicycle/vehicle roadway along the northern border of their property all the way to a public viewpoint on the western shoreline.  The roadway will include power, water, and sewer utilities that will be available for the city or a region-serving public park operator on the Northwest Territories to make connections to.  The city will be granted a shoreline easement for constructing the Bay Trail.  The VA will also be constructing a new north entryway to Alameda Point and laying oversized infrastructure, which the city can use, along Redline Avenue out to their site.

Raising Elevation
The VA plans to bring in over 400,000 cubic yards of clean fill material to raise the elevation of their site by as much as three feet, bringing the highest elevation to 13.5 feet above Mean Sea Level.  Plans are based on a 2009 Bay Conservation and Development Commission sea level rise prediction of 16 inches by 2050 and 55 inches by 2099.  The 18-month construction project is expected to begin by 2016 and be completed in 2017.

The VA is made up of three administrations:  Veterans Health Administration, Veterans Benefits Administration, and National Cemetery Administration.  All three will have offices at the Alameda Point VA.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

VA Unveils Plan for Alameda Point

The Department of Veterans Affairs Northern California (VA) will showcase its plan for an outpatient clinic, columbarium, and offices at Alameda Point. 

When:  Thursday, March 14, 2013 (1-3 p.m. or 6-8 p.m.)
Where:  USS HORNET Museum
707 W. Hornet Ave, Pier 3 (Alameda Point)
Alameda, CA  94501

When: Wednesday, April 10, 2013 (4 p.m. to 7 p.m.)
Where: Albert H. Dewitt Officers’ Club
641 West Redline Avenue (Alameda Point)
Alameda, California 94501
(510) 747-7529

The VA and Navy have drafted a Draft Environmental Assessment document that describes the purpose, need for, and evaluation of the potential direct, indirect and cumulative impacts on the human and natural environment.

The public is invited to attend the meeting sessions where the VA and Navy will describe this proposed undertaking and accept comments at the meetings and through Friday, April 19, 2013 (total 56 days). 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Alameda Point VA clinic design rolled out

On October 18, 2012, the residents of Alameda learned second-hand about the details of the Veterans Administration’s plans for a clinic and columbarium at Alameda Point.

According to an article published in the Oakland Tribune, the VA briefed the Alameda County Veterans Affairs Commission.  

“ ‘The clinic's design will feature a glass-fronted lobby that will face the skyline, plus an overhanging winglike roof that architect Greg Lehman said was inspired by the bird colony and the site's history as part of the Alameda Naval Air Station. People visiting the clinic will have views of San Francisco,’ Lehman said Monday, when the veterans commission was updated on the project. ‘We also wanted to capture as much of the natural light as possible.’"   
In addition, “The two-story clinic will measure 158,000 square feet on 30 acres and will replace the VA's current facility on Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Oakland.”
Meanwhile, Alameda residents have yet to be briefed. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A better option for VA clinic at Alameda Point: The Lab site

The US Department of Veterans Affairs’ original plan for outpatient facilities and a columbarium at Alameda Point ran into strong opposition over proximity to the nesting site of the CA Least Terns on the wildlife refuge.  

Now, a new set of concerns is emerging. The new proposed location on the Northwest Territories will impact wetlands and natural habitat, is isolated from the main mixed-use area where redevelopment planning is underway, and will generate a stream of traffic through land designated for open space. 

A better site is available and should be considered.

Friday, March 16, 2012

VA’s 2013 budget request – Alameda Point commitment still alive

The VA’s 2013 budget request to Congress contains no funding request for Alameda Point.  The project was first funded in 2011 for design and planning.  Concerns over the proximity to a nesting site for an endangered bird, the California Least Tern, have led to delays in moving the project forward.  FY 2012 also did not receive a funding request. 

The VA, however, still remains committed to the project.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

East Bay Regional Park District Spearheads City/VA Parkland Deal

It seemed as though the plans for a veterans’ facility at Alameda Point were moving full steam ahead. But no. Last year the project almost died until the East Bay Regional Park District stepped in to help.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

VA Project Behind Schedule, But Making Headway

The VA clinic and columbarium at Alameda Point are behind schedule from the original timeline.  The property was expected to be conveyed from the Navy to the VA in November of 2011.  The transfer date is now expected to be in November of 2012. The construction completion date has been moved from December 2014 to December 2016, according to the VA.