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.