Category Archives: Neptune Point

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):

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:

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 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


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.