Tag Archives: City Manager Russo

TUE + WED CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS: BE THERE

GUEST BLOG from: SpeakUpAlameda@gmail.com

ATTEND THIS WEEK’S MEETINGS   •   SPEAK OUT   •   PROTECT OUR CITY’S FUTURE!!

CITY of ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS THIS WEEK

TUESDAY, APRIL 28, 6:30 PM SPEAK BEFORE CLOSED SESSION

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 29, 5:00 PM SPEAK BEFORE VOTE / AGENDA IS HERE.

Where’s the fire?

Why the rush to approve Mr. Russo’s proposal???

THE ISSUE YOU WANT TO SPEAK OUT ON                                                         

  • Fire and Police Contracts expire December 2017 (in 2.5 years)
  • City Manager Russo recently negotiated 5-year contract extensions of our fire and police unions, and put it on the April 29th City Council Meeting for approval
  • Russo did not include our elected City Treasurer Kevin Kennedy and City Auditor Kevin Kearney (“The Kevins”) in the negotiation process
  • Russo gave The Kevins and our city council exactly 2 weeks (!)–during tax season—to assess the contract extension.
  • City Council Member Oddie and the Alameda Fire Union and Firefighters are pulling out the stops to get this approved: promoting it in newspapers and online in social media.
  • Despite Mr. Oddie’s credentials (B.A. Finance, MBA) and in his recent op-ed, he got the numbers all wrong: Russo’s extension doesn’t reduce our OPEB liability “by $47 million over the next 30 years”.
  • In fact, after 30 years of implementing this proposal, the city will still have $252.6 million in unfunded OPEB* liability that we cannot afford

*OPEB: Other Post Employment Benefits

OVER THE NEXT 2 YEARS, WE NEED TO:
1)   CAREFULLY ASSESS OUR BUDGET
2)   CAREFULLY CRAFT PUBLIC SAFETY CONTRACTS  IN CONTEXT OF OUR BUDGET FORECASTS (See graphics below)
WHY?  Read on.
THE CITY BUDGET PROJECTIONS SHOW THAT DEFICITS BEGIN BY THIS SAME TIME NEXT YEAR.

Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 9.47.00 AM

SOMETHING’S VERY WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE.
80% (!!) OF OUR BUDGET IS SPENT ON PUBLIC SAFETY SERVICES!

Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 9.51.07 AM

 

 . . . AND SOMETHING IS VERY, VERY  WRONG
IN OUR CITY FIRE AGENCY.

Some firefighters earning $90K/year, earn another 40%  ($36K) in overtime pay per year!

 Screen Shot 2015-04-25 at 11.11.37 AM

Our city leadership and management should WANT to know what’s wrong before approving any extensions to the existing contract!

ATTEND WEDNESDAY’S CITY COUNCIL MEETING!

SPEAK OUT!!!

PROTECT OUR CITY’S FUTURE!!

MORE INFORMATION: SpeakUpAlameda@gmail.com


ACT MEETING NOTES

Thank you to Nancy Hirdman who took down these notes:

Notes from Alameda Citizens Taskforce (ACT) Meeting held June 26th
Speakers: Jim Smallman, Doug deHaan and many members of the audience

JIM SMALLMAN

Measure A was an Alameda City Charter amendment which states:

A. There shall be no multiple dwelling units built in Alameda except for the Housing Authority’s Senior Housing
B. The maximum density shall be no more than 1 unit per 2,000 sq. ft. of land

This was passed by the voters in the 1970s because Victorians were being torn down and replaced with apartment buildings and because 10,000 homes were planned for Bay Farm which would cause traffic problems.

There are ways around Measure A and the state of CA has required affordable housing to be built through laws such as the Density Bonus Law. Some community governments attempt to resist the stat’s mandate and some use the mandate to push through development. Affordable housing is for low low (not a typo) income, low income and moderate income.

2% of the land is to be set aside for affordable housing but this 2% compounds every 7 years with the requirement for new housing plans. The last was unveiled on 7/3 of 2011 or 2012. Note: City Council passes important issues on evenings around holidays when people are not paying attention.
DOUG DEHAAN (and some audience members at times):
Density and transportation are the 2 hot points

The City of Alameda has 2 philosophies about transportation: 

A. Commercial – must have more parking spaces because we need tax revenue from sales. “Drive your care here to spend your money.”
B. Move masses with public transportation so we need state and federal funding and high density to support it. More riders means more dollars for more public transport. Ideas, either tried and did not work or are on the drawing board: (1)Water Taxi (had one) but now there will be 3,000 more units build in Oakland on the estuary which may have fees to pay for it. (2) Lite Rail to Fruitvale Bart (3) Bus lane dedicated through tube (4) Ferry Service with WETA on Alameda Point with a 7 story office/maintenance building (hangers are 40’) (5) Del Monte – Bus passes, 3 zip car parking spaces, 3 stop lights synchronized with other city lights
NOTE: Ferry carries only 180 passengers. Location issue. It will take 5 minutes for it to get out of lagoon if located there (has to go slow so it will not create wake that will disturb other boating in lagoon). Current location on estuary – takes too long to get out of estuary.

We get “transportation” dollars from state and federal sources. This transportation takes people and their spending (dollars) out of town. We should be having transportation as four “20 person buses” looping around island from Buena Vista round Encinal and back covering shopping areas. (Mastick Sr. Center has buses that loop around from 9-4 every 10 minutes) Target has a bus for employees.

We need to push for becoming exempt from the state mandates because we are an island and have constraints. Lobby Sacramento. We are already dense.

School Bond Issue – need more money for more students who are going to be coming to live in all the new units. Developers to pay some impact fees which will be passes on to buyers.

Density Bonus – as long as we are under this we can’t have more than 1 parking space per unit of affordable housing, and need less than 32 sq. ft. of open space which can be private open space such as patio or balcony.

More building increases tax base to cover the city staff pensions.

Today’s Measure A = Russo’s agenda to support ABAG (Assoc. of Bay Area Governments) We are seeing a fast moving implementation of “plans”. Audience member suggestion: We don’t have to belong to ABAG.

Alameda is “land wealthy” due to Alameda Point. Most development will be on the West End. Big issue is the tube.
Measure A is too general. It does not stipulate how it applies to re-development areas. There is a multi-family over-lay and city council and staff keeps saying “We could get sued”. How much housing in new development must be affordable? City says 25% (per agreement made with housing advocates) and developer Tim Lewis says 15% per state law.

Neighborhoods must come together such as Del Monte area where there will be 35 units per acre plus Tim Lewis wants to build 108 more units behind it on 1.5 acres. Note – This is not just that neighborhood’s problem – it is every neighborhood’s problem. For Del Monte area residents, in a crisis mode right now. What is done here could be blueprint for next development area.

What to do:

• Get more info to be more methodical in thoughts.
• Note “plants” in the audience, read the room.
• Make views known.
• Read blogs such as The Alamedan, Alameda Merry Go Round, Blogging Bayport
• Study census data
• Look into getting exempted from state density mandates (small group formed to study this, due to report back next monthly meeting)
• Look into getting out of ABAG (small group formed to study this, due to report back next monthly meeting)
• Stop dependency on state and federal money
• Require developers to pay for ongoing infrastructure costs such as police, fire
• Everyone – write letters to council members, letters to the editors
• All neighborhood groups should band together to join in the cause to keep Alameda livable. ( e.g Wedge, Harbor Bay, etc)
• Join the free website Nextdoor.com – help us to create a “relay” to get information across the whole island

Join in with Facebook groups:

P.L.A.N. Alameda
Alameda Peeps
Alameda 94501

Please visit our website: www.alamedacitizenstaskforce.org
Submitted by Nancy Hird
Disclaimer: Notes could not be written as fast as people were speaking. I attempted to capture what was said as accurately as possible.

MORE: From Alameda Citizens Task Force website under “Get Involved”

Getting involved is as easy as joining us for a group discussion at one of our monthly meetings held the fourth Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m. at the First Congregational Church UCC, 1912 Central Avenue. Our attendance varies and our informal discussions are about ways to better the quality of life for Alamedans. Often they take on an organizational or political nature.
Each quarter we have a special meeting with a guest speaker regarding a locally oriented topic. These meetings are held in the community room on the second floor at Alameda Hospital. Notice of the meetings is sent to a large anonymous email list primarily of regular and active members of ACT.

ACT watches the city government meetings closely and we frequently attend the City Council Meetings, Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Agency and the Transportation Commission, and Planning Board meetings. Our members also attend the AUSD meetings and other government meetings. Because the information presented at these meetings is vitally important to Alameda, we like to reserve a time in our General monthly meetings for reports given by attending members. This assists us in keeping informed about what our elected and appointed officials are deciding “for our own good”.

When we disagree with the actions taken by our city leaders, we coordinate letter writing campaigns to our leaders and the local newspapers. We also speak at the public government meetings to communicate alternatives to proposals being considered.

Governmental meetings are scheduled as follows:

City Council – 1st and 3rd Tuesdays, usually beginning at 7:00 p.m. These meetings usually follow closed council meetings regarding litigation or personnel matters. The closed meetings often cause the Regular City Council Meetings to begin after 7:00.

Planning Board – 2nd and 4th Mondays, usually starting at 7:00 p.m.
These meetings are located on the third floor of the Alameda City Hall in Council Chambers. (Corner of Santa Clara and oak Streets) They are also video streamed live and then archived for easy retrieval on the city website.
http://www.cityofalamedaca.gov/

The city website is a very good source for information and has relatively good recent document archival capabilities which are accessible via the website. If additional information is required, requests can be made by the city clerk’s office at City Hall.
To access information regarding City Council, Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Agency, Planning Board, Public Utilities Board, Transportation Commission or Special Events, Click on “City Hall”.

Webcasts and Podcasts are also available under “City Hall”. You can view meetings that are scheduled in the City Chambers in this area as well as watch or listen to archived meetings. Both the agendas and the videos, MP3 audios or MP4 videos are available in this area.

How Government Meetings Work

Upon arrival on the third floor of City Hall, there is a desk in the hallway that has agendas and speaker slips.
If a person intends to speak on any subject, he/she fills out the speaker’s slip and gives it to the person at the City Clerk Desk within Council Chambers at the left hand side of the dais (elevated semi-circle where the city leaders sit). The speaker’s slip can be for any subject, whether or not it is on the agenda as there is space on agendas for public comments that are not agendized. In the case of City Council, there are two Public Comment times for nonagenda items, one in the beginning of the meeting and one towards the end of the meeting to accommodate the schedules of people who want to address issues with the city council members. Speaking times are generally limited to 3 minutes and a light/sound system exists to alert speakers of their time at the podium.
Considering the three minute time limit, it is often helpful to plan in advance with other members of the public who want to speak on the same topic with the same views. By dividing up the subject areas of a topic among multiple speakers, all the points can be covered. (It is difficult, however; to schedule speaker’s time so a conversation with the council flows from one subject to another by a string of speakers.)

Some speakers read and others speak extemporaneously. It is always a good idea to organize thoughts and planned words in advance. It is also OK to just get up at the podium and say you agree with something another speaker has said. Speaking is usually one sided. It is rare for a city leader to ask questions or make comments during public comment times. They sometimes will call a speaker back to the podium with questions during their discussion times so it is wise to stay until the end of the meeting if possible.

Some people watch the meetings on cable television (Comcast Channel 15) and wait to attend until their particular subject is scheduled to allow them less time in council chambers, and to continue personal business at home until the last minute. They still must complete a speaker’s slip and present it at the proper location.


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


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.

 


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.


The Navy’s preferred Alternative BA-1 plan for The Point . . .

. . . isn’t a solution at all. Read on:

Residents and RAB Respond to the Navy’s Proposed Change of Plan

Guest post by Susan Galleymore

More than two dozen residents attended the Navy’s public comment meeting held in the City of Alameda’s main library  on April 9th. The presentation addressed the Navy’s reversal of an earlier decision to remove contamination from the “Burn Area” of the former waste dump on the north western tip of Alameda Point.  Their new plan, Alternative BA-1, leaves contaminants in place topped with a soil cover and installs a Waste Isolation Bulkhead (“WIB”) to reduce the flow of contaminants into the bay.  (Read the Navy’s “Proposed Plan for Modified Remedy at IR Site 1 Burn Area.”)

Residents’ comments indicate uniform disapproval of the change:   Continue reading


The Navy is bamboozling us

See a local news report on last night’s meeting trying to win support a plan that doesn’t remediate the soil and places the ongoing burden of protecting environmental and public health on the City of Alameda. City Manager Russo is apparently all for this. (!) Story is here.