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.
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.
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