Waterfront plan for Seaplane Lagoon sees value in nature

August 25, 2013

Parks and Open Space, Wetlands

Returning part of the Seaplane Lagoon shoreline to nature is one of the biggest changes that have emerged in the planning process at Alameda Point.  The design proposal for the western side of the Seaplane Lagoon echoes the major theme of the Greenspace Project of Golden Gate University’s Center on Urban Environmental Law – the interconnected ecosystem. 

Seaplane Lagoon green areas (proposed)

From Town Center and Waterfront Precise Plan presentation to Planning Board.
(click on map image to enlarge)

The draft Town Center and Waterfront Precise Plan for the Seaplane Lagoon and eastern entrance area, presented to the Planning Board on August 21, offers a number of new concepts, including moving the proposed marina from the west side of the lagoon to the east side.   The waterfront plan is being refined concurrently with zoning changes, an environmental impact report, and a master infrastructure plan, which are all aimed at providing the level of detail necessary for the city to start marketing property to investors in 2014.

In reporting to the Planning Board on design plans of the city’s consultant, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), city staff stated:  “Due to the vast scale of the study area and the Seaplane Lagoon as its centerpiece, the Town Center will be able to support a wide variety of unique waterfront experiences—some of which build and expand upon existing assets and activities, some of which introduce entirely new opportunities.  SOM proposes the following four waterfront zones and experiences:

1. Natural environment—along the western edge of the Seaplane Lagoon with trails, docks, camping, outdoor sculpture and wetlands.

2. Promenade and recreational opportunities—along the northern edge, with early phased soccer fields, food concessions, bike and pedestrian paths, open lawn, and kayak access.

3. Urban edge—along the eastern side and portions of northern edge with marinas, docks, eating patios, overlooks, and ferry service.

4. Industrial—further south on the eastern side with maritime uses located near the MARAD ships and the USS Hornet.”

Seaplane Lagoon western edge

From Town Center and Waterfront Precise Plan presentation to Planning Board.

Climate adaptation grant funding needed - As currently envisioned, however, the de-paving, removal of buildings, and alteration of the western Seaplane Lagoon shoreline area is put off into the distant Phase 3 future — a decade or more from now — when presumably a surplus of infrastructure funds will allow for implementation.  One option available for timelier implementation would be to begin now seeking grant funding from agencies that focus on shoreline climate change adaptation.  There will be no commercial development on the western side of the lagoon, and therefore the project would become a public asset.

Lying directly to the west on the Nature Reserve is the Runway Wetland, whose habitat value would be greatly enhanced by a connection to the Seaplane Lagoon.  Additionally, the draft Master Infrastructure Plan predicts a $10 million savings if the area were allowed to become tidal wetland as sea level rises.

Eastern jetty of Seaplane Lagoon with Great Blue Herons with nest and landing gull.  Heron is directly above proposed tidal marsh featured on map above.  West shore of Seaplane Lagoon in background.

Great Blue Herons with nest (left) and gulls on eastern jetty of Seaplane Lagoon. Heron is directly above proposed tidal marsh featured on map above. West shore of Seaplane Lagoon in background.

Great Blue Heron standing in shallow Seaplane Lagoon area where tidal marsh is proposed.

Great Blue Heron standing in shallow Seaplane Lagoon area where tidal marsh is proposed.

Sea Lion catching fish in Seaplane Lagoon.  Floating haul out platforms would increase their presence.

Sea Lion catching fish in Seaplane Lagoon. Floating haul out platforms would increase their presence.

Black-crowned Night Heron poking around for food on eastern jetty of Seaplane Lagoon.  One of the regular but seldom seen wildlife visitors.

Black-crowned Night Heron poking around for food on eastern jetty of Seaplane Lagoon. One of the regular but seldom seen wildlife visitors.

Alameda Point Channel in foreground that connects San Francisco Bay to the Seaplane Lagoon.

Alameda Point Channel in foreground that connects San Francisco Bay to the Seaplane Lagoon.

Unless otherwise noted, all photos are copyright Richard Bangert.  Permission requests appreciated before reproducing.  See “About” page for contact info.

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2 Comments on “Waterfront plan for Seaplane Lagoon sees value in nature”

  1. William Deichman Says:

    We have observed harbor seals, as many as nine, resting, playing, etc. on the old officers’ dock near the USS Hornet. This dock is located just off the adjacent public path. The low-lying portion of the dock, which the harbor seals loved, has suddenly disappeared. We were very disappointed about this as we enjoyed watching the seals. Are there plans to restore the dock for the seals general frolicking. Please let me know if you have any idea what has happened to this dock.

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    • richard94501 Says:

      The dock is still there. I just checked. It may have been submerged during high tide when it looked like it was gone.

      The bad news is that when the Water Emergency Transit Authority builds the ferry maintenance facility in this location, this seal and sea lion haul out will be history. The Environmental Impact Report for this facility, issued two years ago, failed to mention the seals and sea lions that haul out on this dock. Perhaps public pressure can persuade the ferry agency to build some floating wooden docks for marine mammals and birds nearby.

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