Disappointment: Alameda Point VA complex won’t open until 2026; some critical of Urban Shield exercises at site

A sprawling federal Veterans Health Administration complex long slated for Alameda Point will not open until at least 2026–another two years behind schedule. Representatives for the $200 million federal project, featuring facilities for veterans outpatient and administrative services, and national cemetery with a 300,000-niche columbarium, said a hand-off of the project to the Army Corps of Engineer has slowed down final approval of the design.

Several Alameda councilmembers strongly urged the VA to accelerate the process, which is not yet entirely funded by the federal government. “The promise has been made to the veterans. The promise has been made to the city of Alameda,” said Councilmember Frank Matarrese. “How can we accelerate the process?”

It has been roughly 22 years since the original intent for the property was first broached, said an exasperated Councilmember Jim Oddie “We were able to defeat imperialism and fascism in what four years?”

“Believe me, I want to get this project done before I retire,” Larry Janes, capital asset manager for the VHA.

“I don’t think we should have any Urban Shield on the island of Alameda.-Alameda Councilmember Jim Oddie voicing opposition to the controversial law enforcement emergency training event.

The 112-acre complex is planned for the runway portion of the former Alameda Naval Air Station, roughly the same area where the monthly Alameda Antiques Faire is held. In exchange for the Navy improving infrastructure at Alameda Point, the city relinquished 72-acres of open space in 2012. Two years later, the Navy transferred the 624-acre runways to the VHA, with 511 acres set aside for conservation.

But movement on the plan and improvements to Alameda Point’s infrastructure has stalled, leading the city last month to send a letter to the VHA in Washington, D.C. asking for an update on the project. This led to Tuesday’s presentation, although the city still expects further answers from the VHA.

In the meantime, the VHA’s property at Alameda Point not only caters to the Antiques Faire and Navy environmental remediation, but for the protected Least tern during the non-breeding season. Training exercises for the controversial Urban Shield event take place there, too.

“I don’t think we should have any Urban Shield on the island of Alameda,” said Oddie. “I understand the militarization of police and I don’t want to see this in our backyard or our front yards. I would just like to not see this in Alameda anymore.”

A VHA representative told the council the administration interprets the agreement as allowing for the use of the property by Urban Shield, as long as the exercises are scheduled during the Least Tern’s non-breeding season.

Councilmember Malia Vella disagreed, believing Urban Shield’s presence at the Point is out of compliance with agreement. She was also critical of the poor noticing by the VA about when Urban Shield is coming to Alameda. “I think it’s a bit concerning and out of line with what is supposed to be going on out there,” said Vella. “It’s a bit jarring for people to see military equipment rolling in.”
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