Alameda Faces Ballot Initiative, Parks District Lawsuit Over Housing Development

Jan 17, 2014

Posted in EnvironmentResponsive Government

y Post Staff

Friends of Crown Beach, which is working to preserve Neptune Point in Alameda for public use, says its concerns are being “soundly ignored” by the City Council and City Manager John Russo and in response is launching a ballot initiative to stop a housing development on government surplus lands adjacent to Crown Memorial State Beach.

The group hopes to place a measure on the November 2014 ballot that would rezone the Neptune Point site from residential use to open space.

In a letter to supporters, Friends of Crown Beach wrote: “Despite many emails to council members, letters to the editor, newspaper commentaries and even a recent editorial in the Chronicle, our plea to preserve Neptune Point for public use has been soundly ignored by our City Council and City Manager.

Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach

“Therefore, we believe it is paramount that Alameda voters voice their wishes in next November’s election,” the letter said. “At present, we’re awaiting our attorney’s final language on our ballot measure. Then, after the city signs off, we’ll order the petitions and begin collecting signatures.”

The group hopes a successful ballot measure would lay the groundwork for the East Bay Regional Park District to acquire the site.

The Post has been unable to talk to Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore and City Manager John Russo despite repeated requests for an interview.

At issue is a short
 stretch of McKay Avenue, which provides
 access to the Crab Cove interpretive center that sits at the eastern edge of
the largest stretch of public beach on
the San Francisco Bay.

The federal General 
Services Administration (GSA) is threatening to use its eminent domain powers to assure utility services for
 the Roseville (Placer County) developer that outbid the East Bay Regional Park for the Neptune Pointe site.

State Attorney General Kamala Harris’ office recently sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice about GSA’s eminent domain threat 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.

Friends of Crown Beach and the Alameda Citizens Task Force held a campaign kick-off meeting Wednesday at Alameda Hospital.

In addition, The East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD) has filed a lawsuit against the city for making the zoning change without an environmental impact report.

The parks district is challenging the rezoning of property that would permit up to 126 housing units at the entrance of Crown Beach.

EBRPD contends that such rezoning of the property located at the end of McKay Avenue was done without proper notice and without completion of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), analyzing the impacts as required by CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act).

Parks district General Manager Robert Doyle said that the new zoning for a private development basically in the footprint of the state beach isn’t consistent or compatible with the recreational and natural resources operated by EBRPD in the immediate vicinity.

In response, City Manager Russo called the lawsuit “a bazooka on a fly” and a big waste of taxpayer dollars, according to the SF. Chronicle. He said the zoning change was made because the property was being acquired by a developer — and the growth-resistant suburb has been under pressure from the state for years to do more to meet demands for housing, the Chronicle said.

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