Alameda Loses the Rockefeller Foundation Grant It only Just Received

reprinted from NPO (Non Profit Quarterly)

Alameda Loses the Rockefeller Foundation Grant It only Just Received

April 3, 2014

What is a “resilient city”? Whatever it might be, in the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities program, it no longer includes Alameda, California. The Rockefeller-funded program, with a grant review panel including former president Bill Clinton, had selected Alameda for a $1 million two-year grant, with a purpose described in December by city manager John Russo as to “help the city continue an ongoing effort to help the city weather an earthquake, fire, tsunami or other disaster.” A few months later, Alameda learned that it lost the grant it had only recently been told it was receiving. The explanation, according to an email from the director of 100 Resilient Cities, Michael Berkowitz, was that “it is clear to us that Alameda’s strategy is incompatible with 100RC’s vision for our network of cities.”

For nonprofits and foundations, that is an unusual sequence of events. It could be that Rockefeller discovered that Alameda’s actual resilience strategy did not comport with what it submitted as its grant application, though one would have expected that the foundation’s due diligence process would have tested the substance, depth, and commitment of the city’s proposed strategy. It could be that the Rockefeller Foundation had second thoughts or cold feet about some aspect of Alameda’s strategy or politics. Or it might have been neither.

The 100 Resilient Cities website defines building resilience as “making people, communities and systems better prepared to withstand catastrophic events—both natural and manmade—and able to bounce back more quickly and emerge stronger from these shocks and stresses.” Alameda was one of the first 33 cities for the program, but the 100 Resilient Cities website has quickly been amended to eliminate Alameda in its list of grant recipients and to reduce the count to 32. The remaining 32 are international and high profile, with the likes of Bangkok, Da Nang, Christchurch, Melbourne, Durban, Dakar, Mexico City, Rio, Glasgow, and Rome—and, interestingly, Ashkelon in Israel and Ramallah in Palestine.

With Alameda off the list, the remaining North American grant recipients are Boulder, El Paso, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York City, Norfolk, and three other larger Bay Area California cities: San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. Berkeley’s program seems to include strategies “to deliver critical city services for seven days without outside power in the event the region experiences a major outage” and “for a distributed energy microgrid to power buildings should the electric grid fail.” Oakland’s program apparently is built on “groundbreaking community partnerships…[for] effective community-based climate resilience planning.” San Francisco’s builds on the “city’s innovative use of financing and building codes has dramatically improved building safety, and their use of social media to educate and motivate the public.” What might have done in Alameda, the fourth of the Bay Area cities selected by Rockefeller, so abruptly?

It may have been over a disagreement between Rockefeller and Alameda over what appears to have been a core commitment of each funded Resilience city, the authority to be given a new “chief resilience officer.” In a statement quoted in the Alamedan but not attributed to a specific foundation or program representative, the “crucial” resilience officer is meant to be a mandatory component of each city’s program: “The importance of such a silo-busting role is why 100RC committed to fund the (officer) for each member city for two years.” Back in December, the Alamedanattributed to Russo a statement that the “resilience czar’s” role would be to put together and execute a plan that would help the city get back on its feet after an initial disaster response (Alameda has been long concerned about dealing with a possible tsunami). As described by a Rockefeller vice-president, Neill Coleman, “We know this person will need to be a networker, a connector…We also expect them to play the role of an evangelist for resilience thinking.” Half a year earlier, Rockefeller president Judith Rodin made it clear that the key to the foundation’s funding was paying for “Chief Resilience Officers” at the heart of the program. A disagreement over the concept and power of a CRO seems likely to have been the instigation of the Rockefeller reversal.

As of mid-March, the Guardian had published a piece about the activities of the four Bay Area winners of the Resilient Cities grants, including a two-day seminar involving all four at the Presidio on topics such as a rising sea level, seismic events, and wildfires. Most of the article addressed the programs and initiatives of the three bigger cities, referring only to Alameda as “quaint and low-profile,” with no reference to any of Alameda’s resilience strategies. Only a few weeks after the Presidio meeting, Alameda was on the outside looking in, informed that the Rockefeller grant was no longer. There’s a story here for sure. NPQ would love to hear from the principals in this dynamic, especially from the small city of Alameda, to learn about their experience of interacting with a high profile foundation initiative.—Rick Cohen


Stop the feds? Stop our mayor and city council!

See recent editorial in the SF Chron about Neptune Pointe below.

Shameful: our City leadership is actively on the wrong side, they worked against we-the-residents when they changed the zoning to residential to help out developers (their theme song must be: We Champion Developers!) which was one-million percent in opposition to citizens’ expressed preference which we also funded when we approved the 2008 Measure WW: expand the damn park people!

Reprinted below without permission and from: http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/editorials/article/Stop-feds-land-grab-from-state-parks-5082588.php

 

Stop feds’ land grab from state parks

Updated 4:55 pm, Friday, December 20, 2013

In an audacious display of bureaucratic arrogance, the federal government is threatening to use its eminent domain powers to seize a state-owned street near Alameda’s Crown Beach to accommodate a proposed development of up to 90 homes.

It gets worse. The targeted property is not exactly state surplus. It is a short stretch of McKay Avenue that provides access to the interpretive center at Crab Cove, which sits at the eastern edge of the largest stretch of public beach on the San Francisco Bay. The General Services Administration wants to claim the road to assure utility services for the Roseville (Placer County) developer who outbid the East Bay Regional Park District for the 4-acre site on what is known as Neptune Pointe.

The parks district had hoped to acquire that plot of abandoned federal office space to accommodate a park expansion – funding for which was included in the 2008 Measure WW, which was passed by more than 70 percent of voters in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

So to sum it up: We have the GSA selling its surplus office park to a private developer for $3 million, a price that was nearly triple the parks district’s appraisal, on the presumption that state parks would willingly cede access on McKay Avenue for utilities. When state parks balked, the federal government pulled out the eminent domain threat.

“We’re very experienced here at dealing with urban parks and developers and politics … but this one’s for the record books,” said Bob Doyle, general manager of the regional parks district. “We just haven’t been able to get a fair shake from day one.”

State Attorney General Kamala Harris‘ office recently sent a strongly worded letter to the U.S. Department of Justice about GSA’s threat to use eminent domain to seize the street and sidewalks of McKay Avenue.

“We are extraordinarily troubled by GSA’s intent to take public land for a private developer’s benefit,” Deputy Attorney General John Devine wrote.

The letter went on to cite federal law dictating that agencies disposing of surplus property should give priority to public uses, and can offer it to state and local governments for discounts of “up to 100 percent.”

The park district had bid $1 million, a third of the sale price to Tim Lewis Communities, a home developer based in Roseville. GSA officials said they needed to get full market value out of that 4-acre plot as part of the offices-consolidation project that made that area surplus.

Doyle directs some of his irritation at the city of Alameda for rezoning the land from office space to residential after the sale. The parks district has filed a lawsuit against the city for making the zoning change without an environmental impact report.

However, Alameda City Manager John Russo called the parks-district lawsuit “a bazooka on a fly” and a big waste of taxpayer dollars. He explained that the zoning change was made because the property was being acquired by a developer – and the growth-resistant suburb has long been under pressure from the state to do more to meet housing demand for diverse income levels.

Besides, Russo added, the developer’s initial application with the city is not going anywhere until the McKay Avenue dispute is resolved.

“If you don’t have access, you don’t have a project,” he said, adding, “They all need to get together to work something out.”

Here’s what should happen in the public interest: The GSA’s deal with the developer should be nullified by one or both parties because of the lack of access. Parks officials have made plain they are not giving up the street to a development that would preclude expansion plans and could even come in conflict with the park experience and its operations. The GSA should then strike a deal with the parks district – at a reasonable discount – to facilitate the park expansion that voters overwhelmingly approved five years ago.

Members of Congress need to get off the sidelines and lean on the GSA bureaucrats to work out a deal with the regional parks. The attorney general’s office should not be the only high-level voice against the taking of a state-owned street for the benefit of a private developer.


The City Is No Friend of Crown Beach

Republished from The Alameda Sun, 9/26/2013

Written by Karin Lucas Published: FRIDAY, 27 SEPTEMBER 2013 01:54

Several representatives of the City of Alameda have denied all responsibility for the controversy about the Neptune Pointe parcel. The roughly four-acre Neptune Pointe site is located adjacent to Crab Cove, at the western end of Crown Beach. Crown Beach including Crab Cove is operated by the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD).

After the federal government no longer needed the parcel, the General Services Administration (GSA) put it up for sale. When the United States Department of Agriculture used Neptune Pointe, it was zoned administrative/professional. The state of California owns McKay Avenue, which provides access to Crab Cove and Neptune Pointe. The federal government had reserved utility easements under McKay Avenue to serve its Neptune Pointe facilities.

When EBRPD became aware that the federal government no longer needed Neptune Pointe, the park district designated the site for park expansion. In September 2008, the City Council endorsed the park expansion. The voters approved the expansion and funded it with a 71 percent “yes” vote for Measure WW in November 2008.

Neptune Pointe went to auction in June 2011. The park district offered the fair market value price of $1.5 million based on its zoning as administrative/professional property. Tim Lewis Communities (TLC), a high-end developer with other residential projects planned in Alameda, offered $3.075 million, obviously with the intent to use the site for the construction of housing. TLC still has not purchased Neptune Pointe, although the city accommodated the developer by rezoning Neptune Pointe to “residential” on July 3, 2012, increasing the property’s value considerably.

Since then EBRPD has filed a lawsuit against the city. The suit alleges that the rezoning occurred without the legally required notices and environmental review, and violated Measure A, the City Charter provision limiting housing density.

Of course, when the city granted the new “residential” zoning, it also ignored the voter-approved Measure WW, which authorized and funded EBRPD’s acquisition of Neptune Pointe.

The State of California has stated that it will not be able to grant the utility easement rights under the street, something TLC requires for its proposed housing development. The state cannot grant such rights for private purposes. GSA, which still has not received the purchase price from TLC after more than two years from entering into a contract, has now threatened to condemn McKay Avenue so that TLC can get the necessary easement rights.

Condemnation proceedings by law are required to serve a public purpose. In this case the condemnation would benefit a private developer and render the public park expansion impossible.

Mayor Marie Gilmore and the City Council must realize that they are not innocent bystanders. When they rezoned Neptune Pointe “residential” the following occurred:

They went against their own September 2008 endorsement of the use of Neptune Pointe for park expansion. They ignored the will of the 71 percent of the Alameda voters who approved Measure WW in November 2008. They took a position against EBPRD, the regional organization that makes invaluable contributions to maintain and enhance our island’s natural beauty and livability, all at no cost to the city.

Many Alamedans have called and emailed the councilmembers asking that the city rezone Neptune Pointe “open space” for park expansion. Again, they ignore us — all for the benefit of a private developer.

We formed Friends of Crown Beach to support the expansion of Crown Beach to Neptune Pointe. Read more and join us at http:// friendsofcrownbeach.com.

Karin Lucas is a former city council member and a co-founder of Friends of Crown Beach.

 


City Shenanigans

A whole lot of people wrote Alameda’s mayor and city councilmembers to complain about their work strategizing (pushing) for housing at Crown Beach, and demanded they reverse position on the July 3rd evening vote against Measure WW.  Curiously, for such a significant decision that affects our future quality of life, we heard back only from City Councilmember Ashcraft (not the mayor or any other councilmembers responded to anyone I know). And Ashcraft’s somewhat detailed, not short, email was rife with dissemblance (disguising something, their true intent perhaps? To sell out to developers?).

Apparently our elected representatives don’t think we can track events over time or parse facts from lies.

So here you go people:

1) Ashcraft’s email (sent to many people, the same email) here.

2) Eugenie Thomson’s and Friends of Crown Beach‘s rebuttal (rife with facts) here.

Read and weep. This is who the residents of the City of Alameda elected. We have a rare and valuable situation here in Alameda, a lot of land on baylands with views in the SF Bay Area. Our elected officials seem to be stuck in a 1950s mindset with regard to development. Everyone I talk to in Alameda has tremendous vision for our city island.  Why don’t they? Why are they, at every turn it seems, doing the opposite of what residents desire and what fits a forward-thinking 21st century city?

To stay abreast of this subject, please email Friends of Crown Beach and ask to be added to their list of supporters (no donation required): friendsofcrownbeach@gmail.com


Fact-based OPINIONS

Half of the homes/apartments in the West End Alameda do not receive the Alameda Sun. Of those that do receive it, few read it as evidenced by the number of papers left to go yellow in the driveways until garbage day. But there have been some significant editorials and Letters to the Editor in the Alameda Sun recently. Y’all might wish to reconsider leaving the paper in the driveway, pick it up and at least read the opinion page. As a resident, what’s going on right under our noses gets exposed there often enough to warrant a regular read-through.

Did you know our city leadership is hard at work attempting theft of planned open-space at Crown Beach? (!)

Here are a few opinions and letters from recent papers on the subject that more than warrant our attention (below or read them at the Alameda Sun here), and kudos to Eugenie Thomson, citizen extraordinaire, for her outstanding, detailed and excellent, research and work providing us with the facts.

And be sure to visit the FRIENDS OF CROWN BEACH website here, and send these hard-working volunteers an email confirming your support: friendsofcrownbeach@gmail.com

Save Alameda’s Crown Jewel

Written by Eugenie P. Thomson, PE    Published: FRIDAY, 21 JUNE 2013 06:12
McKay Avenue development plan called into questionThe City decided to move forward with an EIR based on an incomplete application for the Neptune Point parcel.Why did the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) sue the City of Alameda? Eager to know the answer to that question, I recently set about researching the background and motivations of the lawsuit. It was that research that led me to support EBRPD and join with others in forming a group called “Friends of Crown Beach.” Here’s what I found out.On July 3, 2012 — while most of us were distracted by plans for the Fourth of July holiday — the City Council quietly voted to rezone 14 parcels of land throughout the city for apartment buildings and approve the construction of 2,323 residential units on these parcels. This was necessary, they insisted, to meet Alameda’s regional housing needs. But concerned residents who fervently want to retain Alameda’s culture and quality of life will question that claim, not to mention the City Council’s surreptitious timing.With its Independence Eve vote, the Council directly violated two material mandates:Measure A in the City Charter, which disallows new apartment buildings.EBRPD’s Measure WW, the council-endorsed ballot item approved by voters in November 2008. This included purchasing Neptune Point to make it part of Crown Memorial State Beach.

The city did not do an environmental impact report (EIR) for this new housing element.

The electorate voted for Neptune Point to be used for parks, not housing. And we want to know how much longer it will take us to leave the Island and we want to know how many more cars will park in front of our homes.

EBRPD sued the city because the City Council ignored the will of the people. The district’s lawsuit addresses many of the concerns we had when the City Council cast its hasty July 3, 2012, vote. Vitally important questions remained unanswered. For example, where is the EIR for this major housing change to the city’s General Plan?

The decision to change Measure A and the parks Measure WW was so rushed that the city sent EBRPD’s hearing notice to a Caltrans post office box. Accident? Perhaps. Reckless and ill-timed? Absolutely.

Had the council followed state environmental law, it would have discovered the Neptune Point parcel is not needed to meet its regional housing allocation because satisfactory alternative sites are available.

The old EIR that City Council used as a basis for its decision contains false land use and traffic impact assumptions.

For example, 1,760 of the residential units — the vast majority council approved for apartments — are nowhere near the parcels in the land use plan in the old EIR. This document anticipates no congestion or impacts on traffic in the Posey Tube during morning peak drive times, only miniscule traffic increases and final forecasted traffic volumes close to existing. This is simply not true, considering the anticipated growth at the west end of the Island.

Bottom line: The new housing approved by council on July 3, 2012, will generate significant new traffic, noise and air quality impacts. Based on realistic data and simple facts, EBRPD is on solid ground to win its lawsuit against the city. Such a vast amount of new housing would dramatically impact every resident of Alameda. In filing suit against the city, EBRPD did the right thing — not only for their parcel, but for all of us.

City Council should not have put the cart before the horse. Such a momentous decision should have been preceded by a deliberate period of public input. And if the City Council wants to overturn what the electorate approved, it should take that decision back to the ballot box.

There is good reason why the sign at City Hall says Alameda is “the island of homes and beaches.” Crown Memorial State Beach is treasured by those of us who live here, and it is such an arrestingly beautiful spot that millions of tourists travel here to walk this pristine 2.5-mile beach and shoreline. This unique, precious landmark is what Alameda is all about — not housing and multi-family buildings, traffic congestion and pollution.

Just like the Independence Eve vote last year, it happens again.

Last week once again City Hall ignored the residents at the June 5 Planning Board meeting. The city decided to move forward with an EIR based on an incomplete application for the Neptune Point parcel. The staff stated that is OK because the developer will pay for its costs. What staff did not say: If the EBRPD is successful with its lawsuit the developer can recover its costs.

The application is incomplete because the developer currently does not have access nor sewer rights. McKay Avenue is owned by the State Parks and Recreation Department and, according to its May 22 letter, the department has denied access and utility rights to Tim Lewis for this parcel. But why accept an incomplete application? Is this wasting taxpayers’ dollars? Absolutely.

So, my fellow Alameda residents, if you want to preserve our island’s character, natural beauty and charm, if you think city council is wrong to overturn a ballot measure approved by the citizens and is wasting our taxpayers’ dollars, I invite you to visit http://www.FriendsofCrownBeach.com and join us in this quest to save Alameda’s Crown Jewel and add your name on our website. Join us in sending your comments to our city officials.

Eugenie Thomson P.E. is licensed as both a civil engineer and a traffic engineer with more than 35 year experience in government contracts and engineering. She is a past member of the California Board for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors.

An Open Letter to U.S. Senator Boxer

Written by Alameda Sun Published: FRIDAY, 05 JULY 2013 06:30

Measure WW specifically stated with respect to Neptune Point that the park district would seek to “acquire appropriate federal property if it becomes available.”

The Alameda Sun received a copy of this letter addressed to Senator Barbara Boxer with copies addressed to Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Barbara Lee.

Dear Senator Boxer:

We have always appreciated your leadership and support of the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD). As Californians we are very fortunate to have our senator as chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee. In your capacity as chair, we believe the experiences EBRPD has had with the General Service Administration (GSA) may be instructive to you and your Senate colleagues as you consider the confi rmation of Daniel Tangherlini to be GSA Administrator.

EBRPD operates the Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach (“Crown Beach”) in Alameda on behalf of the State of California and the City of Alameda. The United States owns a surplus four-acre parcel commonly called “Neptune Point” immediately next to this popular urban shoreline park.

In 2005, EBRPD identified the Neptune Point property next to Crown Beach as an important acquisition priority and the only remaining opportunity to expand the state park. The property would permit the park district to replace and expand the existing interpretive center, currently located in an outdated military building, and increase shoreline access. EBRPD’s goal is to provide a world-class educational experience for the thousands of school children who visit the interpretive center each year.

In 2008, Alameda voters overwhelmingly passed the park district’s property-tax-supported Measure WW, which specifi cally stated with respect to Neptune Point that the park district would seek to “acquire appropriate federal property if it becomes available.” This was referenced in the printed ballot material and represents a specifi c public commitment by the park district to the Alameda voters, who approved the measure by 71 percent.

Initially, the park district pursued the GSA’s support of a public benefi t conveyance of the property for the expansion of the state park. We were informed the GSA would not consider a public benefi t conveyance and would instead offer the property for sale via an online auction. In 2011, the park district independently appraised the property and submitted a formal bid based on the fair market appraisal on the thenexisting zoning.

The highest bidder in the auction was an out-of-town developer with numerous extensions having been granted by the GSA. From information provided to the park district, it appears the purchase terms have been changed substantially from those disclosed in the online auction. It now appears the GSA is seeking to make whole its relocation fund account to sell surplus property by doubling the original bid in an effort to justify “relocation” costs of approximately $2.8 million.

This “value” is based on the assumption of full access to the property and utility easements — both of which are owned in fee by the State of California for whom EBRPD operates the park. The state has directly expressed that it will not allow the use of public park roadways for private commercial gain.

This, in fact, precludes use of their property for anything other than access to this important public urban park.

This has been a troubling and difficult process for all impacted parties, and it needs to be resolved. We understand the Obama Administration announced their intent to nominate Tangherlini because, in part, as acting administrator, he helped restore the trust of the American people in the GSA by making it more efficient, accountable and transparent.

We believe our experience with Neptune Point is the exact type of situation President Barack Obama, the Congress and Tangherlini have been charged with rectifying in order to ensure trust in this extensive public agency. We trust this example can provide you and your colleagues some instructive lines of questioning as you proceed with due diligence on Tangherlini’s nomination.

Again, we value your leadership in the U.S. Senate and for California. If you have any questions regarding our experiences with the GSA, please do not hesitate to contact me.

— Robert E. Doyle General Manager, EBRPD

Something Doesn’t Smell Right at City Hall

Written by Mark Greenside Published: FRIDAY, 05 JULY 2013 06:27

The city may have a state mandate to have a housing plan. It does not have a state mandate to ruin the Island.

When I moved to Alameda I didn’t know very much about the city, and I wasn’t paying much attention. In the November 2010 elections, I voted for Mayor Marie Gilmore and all the winning City Councilmembers. I did the same in 2012. Now, however, that I know a little more, I’m beginning to have my doubts. In less than three years, there have been multiple blunders, mistakes and poor decisions.

Here are just some of the things that the City Council and Mayor Marie Gilmore have done over the last few years:

1. The phony deficit in the 2013 city budget is troubling. The City Council recently passed a $163 million budget for the next two years with at least a 25 percent reserve in the General Fund. The budget projects a $3.5 million deficit this fiscal year and a $5.2 million deficit in the following fiscal year.

To offset these deficits the budget eliminates fi re department overtime and equipment, which is fi ne unless/until you need it, and substantially raises parking fines and fees and eliminates jobs.

However, according to one report the city has $66 million set aside as reserve. So with $66 million in the bank and a $3.5 million “shortfall,” where exactly is the deficit? And why? In my household, there would be no deficit; there would be $62.5 million in the bank. Something doesn’t smell right. Why call something a deficit when you have the money to pay it? It appears as if the city wants to cut the fi re department, eliminate jobs, and raise parking fees and fines, and the “deficit” is their stated reason. Given that there is no real deficit, the question is why do they wish to do these things?

2. The Neptune Point, Crab Cove, Crown Beach East Bay Regional Park litigation brings up another issue. It appears to be yet another attempt by city leaders to develop land that the voters do not want to develop. Measure A limits housing density here. It states, “There shall be no multiple dwelling units built in Alameda.”

A 1991 amendment to the measure states, “The maximum density for any residential development within the city of Alameda shall be one housing unit per 2,000 square feet of land.”

In 2008, Measure WW was passed 72 percent voted “yes,” approving 500 million dollars in bonds for the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) “to fi nance the district’s completion of its master plan by acquiring … and purchasing and restoring open space and wildlife corridors.”

Yet, on July 3, 2012, the City Council voted to approve the building of apartment buildings on 10 to 14 parcels of land, including Neptune Point. The city did this knowing that EBRPD wanted to buy the land to complete Crown Beach and “restore open space and wildlife corridors.”

The City Council voted to do this even before a required environmental impact report (EIR) was begun. Given the 80 percent vote for Measure D and the 72 percent vote for Measure WW, it is not likely that this is a popular decision. Moreover, it is not a decision that was made with much public knowledge or input.

It has, of course, led to litigation with the park district, once again costing the city money, time and good will.

3. The development of the West End is moving willy-nilly, full-speed ahead with housing developments planned at Alameda Point, Alameda Landing, Chipman Warehouse and Crown Beach. All this adds thousands of housing units — double that in people. In addition six million- plus square feet of commercial and retail development adds workers, visitors, tourists and shoppers to the mix — all of it, according to civil and traffic engineer Eugenie Thomson is based on an old EIR that “contains false land-use and traffic-impact assumptions … (and) anticipates no congestion or impacts approaching the Posey Tube … (and) forecasted traffic volumes close to (what currently exists)” Are they kidding? The city may have a state mandate to have a housing plan. It does not have a state mandate to ruin the Island.

4. A 24/7 In-and-Out-Burger at Alameda Landing adds exactly what to Alameda? Good paying jobs? An attractive building? A place you want your kids to hang out at three in the morning?

It may be time to amend Measure D one year after its passage and add: “City Council cannot sell, trade, or dispose of any city owned property over X square feet unless approved by voters after a full-scale, independent, thorough environmental and traffi c report.” That way, we, the voters will get to decide what we want, not our “representatives,” who seem to be representing something and someone else.

Mark Greenside lives in Alameda.

Letters to the Editor

Written by Alameda Sun    Published: FRIDAY, 05 JULY 2013 06:23

Very un-Alameda-like

Editor:

Both Mayor Marie Gilmore and Councilwoman Lena Tam sent me identical email responses to my concerns about what’s happening at the federal surplus property near Crab Cove.

I live on Taylor Avenue and my neighbors received the same response. It said, “The city of Alameda processes applications submitted by property owners. Assuming the (East Bay Regional) Park District acquires the property from the federal government, the city of Alameda will be happy to process any development applications submitted by the Park District.”

I find their response to be not very Alameda- like and an attempt to duck responsibility. It tries to paint the city and themselves as innocent bystanders and application processors, indicating a lack of usefulness and veracity.

It is well known that the city council voted in July 2012 to rezone the McKay Avenue property residential in favor of a developer while the U.S. General Services Administration still owns the property.

The council resolution created new zoning districts throughout the city that ignore long-standing restrictions against high-density housing in Alameda.

I agree with East Bay Regional Park District that the rezoning of the property was done without proper notice and without an adequate environmental impact report analyzing the impacts as required by the California Environmental Quality Act.

Any housing development at the location, right beside the park, isn’t consistent or compatible with the recreational and natural resources operated by district.

It would be more respectful to the residents for our elected representatives to take responsibility for their actions and decisions. We do expect more.

— Lis Cox

Monkey Wrenches Foul up Monkey Business

Written by Alameda Sun    Published: FRIDAY, 28 JUNE 2013 02:14
You can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave of public trust finally broke and rolled back into a sea of betrayal.Jeffrey R. Smith Without the right kind of vision, it is hard to tell whether Alamedans are being duped, betrayed or swindled.Or, to paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson: “Now, less than five years since approving a bond issue to extend Crab Cove, you can go up on a steep hill in Washington Park and look West to McKay Avenue. With the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave of public trust finally broke and rolled back into a sea of betrayal.”Strange that a seemingly manageable island of only 10 square miles, wherein 43 percent of its denizens enjoy a bachelor’s degree or higher, can keep staffing municipal government with what the impolitic might insensitively call carpetbaggers.With ovine trust, in 2008 voters approved a porcine $6.5 million regional park bond measure to purchase additional property for the expansion of Crab Cove.Now, the Planning Board is attempting to renege on the sales pitch for the bond issue and turn the targeted land over to a developer who could conceivably nestle “as many as 95 new homes” on what might have been an airy, festive expansion of Crab Cove.Imagine: As we blithely chortle through evening sitcoms, wine and popcorn in hand, city staffers are slavering in anticipation of this successful breach of public trust. Astonishingly, they are reportedly worried that this mega sting might get derailed.

One has to wonder, what happens to seemingly ordinary citizens once they get catapulted into Kafka’s Castle or the Alameda Puzzle Palace.

Do they too begin to believe in what columnist Jon Carroll called the public’s naïve “presumption of competence” in elected officials? Do they buy into their own officious personas? Are these apparatchiks, like Anakin Skywalker, drawn over the dark side by byzantine intrigues, seductive politics, stuffed envelopes and rational self-interest?

The local media reported that the mere mention of of a lawsuit that could interfere with the Crab Cove housing scam provoked frustration among city leaders. They fear the suit could undo a stateapproved housing plan that was two decades in the making.

Wait a minute; these planners set a collision course two decades ago yet failed to blow the fog horn when the 2008 regional park bond measure was being huckstered to a trusting constituency?

Who is at the helm of this Juggernaut? Joe Hazelwood or Edward Smith? Does city government actually act on behalf of Alameda residents? Let’s examine the record.

• In 1995, without a sound study, it decided to mothball and under-utilize, in perpetuity, the two most valuable pieces of infrastructure on the island: the Naval Air Station runways and the environmentally friendly aircraft paint hangar.

• In 1998 the city dove recklessly into an ill-conceived Telecom venture, with a cash-hemorrhaging porous firewall; this vampiric albatross was sold in 2008 at a colossal loss; saddling Alameda with $85 million in long-term debt.

• In 2007 a prescient Planning Board coerced Safeway to scale back its gas station from 16 pumps to 12 pumps so that Alameda residents could spend more quality time riding their brakes while awaiting their turn at a pump; thanks, Rebecca.

• The following year the City Council seriously entertained SunCal’s proposal to build 6,200 residential units on the former Navy base. So seriously in fact, that they exposed the city to a lawsuit filed by the rapacious developer.

• Three years later, firefighters’ salaries bubbled up to record highs, each costing the city somewhere between $170,000 per year and $220,000 depending on whether you believe Barbara Thomas or more conservative estimates; as they aver in Chapter 9 Detroit, “fiscal mismanagement and unaffordable labor agreements.”

• In 2012 the Planning Board cleared the way for a Target store in the West End provided Target agreed to “cap the amount of space dedicated inside the store to groceries and other nontaxable items to 10 percent” so that Alamedans would not gain too much access to cheap groceries — thanks, we were so worried that our food bills were going to plummet.

• We also watched an earthquake fence corset Historic Alameda High to the tune of $240,000. Close inspection reveals it’s installed backwards and strung up with wiring the same gauge as an ordinary coat hanger.

Recently the city used scare tactics to convince fatuous locals that if we did not cram houses into every nook and cranny of Alameda, then Seal Team Sacramento would rappel down from choppers, fine the bejesus out of us and leave us as destitute as Detroit or Stockton. As my Uncle Cusper was fond of saying, “Ab falso quod libet” or “From false premises one can prove anything.” Such scare tactics allow the city to share the duvet with friendly developers until we are finally building houses out on abandoned Navy piers.

Every housing decision invariably paves the way for over-crowding, meltdowns in city parking lots and stultifying traffic snarls. One wonders, when the city will stop approving new housing. When the streets are gridlocked? Or when traffic is deadlocked?

Presently I am tied up teaching math at Encinal High School, but if I retire or if the district finally cashiers me, I will run for a sinecure on the Planning Board with the pledge to do absolutely nothing in the name of progress and to throw lots of monkey wrenches into the monkey business.

Jeffrey R Smith lives in Alameda.


In case you missed it . . .

Alameda Healthcare District intends to merge with Alameda Health System.

The notice (here) says it was posted on Friday, 6/14, (it wasn’t), and that it includes a 36-page document (it doesn’t).

It was posted today, Father’s Day, at 10a.

The Alameda Healthcare District is—by all intents, constructions, and purposes—intent on all of us missing this notice and not participating in this rather significant discussion.

How do you feel about the Alameda Healthcare District spending the $7,000,000 we give them in taxes each year to merge with an organization that owns Highland HospitalHighland WellnessEastmont WellnessHayward Wellness at WintonNewark WellnessFairmont Hospital, and John George Psychiatric Hospital? And that is funded by Alameda Health System Foundation?

How do you feel about that merger and their continued use of our $7M in annual taxes?

Did you know: the annual levy of taxes on us is optionalContinue reading


Call to Action: Demand Laura’s Law in Alameda County

On March 18, Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan ordered a report from Alex Briscoe, Alameda County BHCS (Behavioral Health Care Services) agency director regarding Laura’s Law. His report was published on May 1; read it here. and advises voluntary programs as an alternative to Laura’s Law.  But as we all know, voluntary doesn’t work for some mentally ill.  Please read the My Word written by Candy Dewitt here (and below in this blogpost) detailing the reasons why we should demand that Laura’s Law be enacted in Alameda County. Ms. Dewitt fought for years to get medical treatment required for her beautiful son Daniel who was stricken with paranoid schizophrenia who was a clear danger to himself, and they feared others. Their fears came true. Laura’s Law in Alameda County would have protected Daniel himself from becoming a victim to his disease by ensuring he be under the proper medical care. Laura’s Law and Kendra’s Law already protects others like him in other counties and states. Let’s make sure we get the same protections in our own county: Laura’s Law intervenes before these precious young adult children become violent perpetrators, and this then protects our community and other loved ones.

Laura’s Law can only be operative in counties in which the county board of supervisors, by resolution, authorizes its application and makes a finding that no voluntary mental health program serving adults, and no children’s mental health program, was reduced in order to implement the law.

DEADLINE FOR PUBLIC COMMENT: JUNE 30

WRITE & REQUEST THAT LAURA’S LAW BE APPROVED IN ALAMEDA COUNTY

Wilma Chan Alameda County Supervisor, District 3: wilma.chan@acgov.org

Katie Rodriguez Alameda County District 3 staff person:  ie.rodriguez@acgov.org  & district3@acgov.org

Keith Carson Alameda County Supervisor, District 5:  Keith.carson@acgov.org

 Aisha Brown Alameda County District 5 staff person:  dist5@acgov.org & Brown.Aisha@acgov.org

Alex Briscoe Alameda County BHCS Director:  alex.briscoe@acgov.org

Aaron Chapman, Alameda County BHCS Medical Director:  achapman@acbhcs.org

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

Contra Costa Times by Candy DeWitt, guest commentary © 2013 Bay Area News Group

Posted:   06/08/2013 12:01:00 PM PDT

http://www.contracostatimes.com/opinion/ci_23404803/my-word-must-treat-mentally-ill-before-tragedy

If you don’t have someone you love struck down the prime of his or her life with severe mental illness, I don’t think you could ever imagine the pain and suffering. We had no idea and knew nothing about mental illness. Today, it consumes my life: fighting for change, for our young son, fighting for others and for the hope that the senseless tragedies stop. Continue reading


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