The legal dispute between the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) and the City of Alameda continues over a parcel of land adjacent to Crab Cove Visitors Center at Crown Memorial State Beach. EBRPD claims the city failed to prepare an adequate environmental impact report, and violated its charter and general plan by adopting, without a vote of the people, both a housing element and municipal code amendments that conflict with the general plan and the city charter. The city hotly denies the allegations. Many in the community wonder how we got here. Below is a timeline based on publicly available documents.
2006 – EBRPD becomes aware the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) is consolidating operations on McKay Avenue (Neptune Point) adjacent to Crab Cove and might sell a portion of its seven-acre property.
2006-2007 – EBRPD tries to work with GSA to acquire the parcel at no cost through a public benefit conveyance or at the appraised fair market value, pointing to environmental impacts on the state beach and the limited street easement rights available to private developers.
2008 – GSA announces its plans to sell a 3.89-acre portion of its Neptune Point property through a competitive auction.
July 2008 – EBRPD includes a line item for “acquisition of surplus federal property to complete Crown Beach” as part of ballot Measure WW.
August 2008 – City council endorses Measure WW, which voters enact in November 2008.
March 2009 – City identifies the entire seven-acre GSA Neptune Point site as an area to be included in its draft housing element.
June 15, 2009 – State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) deems Alameda’s draft housing element insufficient based, in part, on its lack of analyses of identified housing sites and potential governmental constraints.
February 4, 2010 – EBRPD writes to GSA (1) contesting GSA’s belief that the highest value and best use for the property is a residential condominium development, by informing GSA of the constraints on the property—namely, street easement rights and Measure A, a charter provision that bans the construction of anything larger than a duplex, and (2) asking for delay of the auction so that EBRPD can obtain an appraisal and participate as a bidder.
Spring 2010 – GSA responds to EBRPD’s February 4, 2010 letter, saying it will delay the start of its auction so that EBRPD can obtain an appraisal and participate as a bidder. (EBRPD by law can only bid the appraised value. In this case, that value was based on the property’s “government office” zoning in effect at the time of the auction.)
Summer 2010 – EBRPD follows up with city planning staff about potential impacts of housing development adjacent to Crown Memorial State Beach.
March 21, 2011 – GSA produces a YouTube video to attract investors/bidders, featuring Crown Memorial State Beach.
May 3, 2011 –At a city council meeting, John Russo is appointed to city manager, and Mayor Gilmore reports on a meeting she had with Alameda’s EBRPD representative Doug Siden, saying the Neptune Point property is going to auction, that EBRPD wants the land, and that EBRPD owns the street.
June 1, 2011 – GSA opens its auction. There are five active bidders, including EBRPD.
June 11, 2011 – Planning board adopts proposed draft amendments to the general plan and municipal code, related to the housing element.
Summer 2011 – EBRPD meets with newly hired city manager John Russo about its interest in obtaining the Neptune Point property, voicing concern about changing the zoning at Neptune Point to residential, which would undermine EBRPD’s efforts to make it part of Crown Memorial State Beach. STL Company LLC (Tim Lewis Communities) wins the GSA auction.
October 21, 2011 – Tim Lewis Communities submits application to city to rezone the property “from Government to R-4 (Medium Density Residential).”
November 11, 2011 – Renewed Hope housing advocates threaten the city with a lawsuit if the city doesn’t adopt a housing element, citing the need for affordable housing for lower income families.
November 17, 2011 – City responds to an EBRPD inquiry about the process to rezone Neptune Point, assuring EBRPD that “you will be encouraged to share your concerns” before the planning board and city council when they consider general plan and zoning amendments.
December 12, 2011 – Planning board endorses a public participation schedule to consider proposed amendments to the draft housing element prior to final consideration by the city council. (City memorandum lists 26 sites under consideration showing Neptune Point as having an “application for rezoning on file.”)
January 3, 2012 – EBRPD writes the California Department of Parks and Recreation concerning the potential impacts of residential development to Crown Memorial State Beach and opposing the granting of a utilities easement.
February-March 2012 – Negotiations between the city and EBRPD for a regional park at Alameda Point reach an impasse over the city’s demand for money from EBRPD to acquire the land. “We want to see some money for the local sports fields from this deal,” the city says.
March 12, 2012 – Planning board kicks off a 60-day public review period to review specific amendments to the 2009 draft housing element. City notifies “interested parties,” including developer Tim Lewis Communities, but omits EBRPD.
April 25, 2012 – EBRPD meets with Mayor Gilmore to reiterate concerns about housing being built within the footprint of Crown Memorial State Beach.
[update, 1/12/13] May 17, 2012 – City mails notice of a June 11 planning board hearing to property owners in the surrounding area. EBRPD is not sent a notice. The State of California (owner of record for Crown Beach/Crab Cove) is noticed at PO Box 7444 in San Francisco, which is listed as the mailing address for the CA Department of Transportation legal division. (The CA Department of Parks and Recreation is the executor of Crown Beach on behalf of the state with a Sacramento mailing address and a regional district office in Petaluma.)
May 18, 2012 –State HCD reviews city’s proposed zoning and general plan amendments, deeming the housing element to be in compliance with state housing law.
June 7, 2012 – City posts notice in the newspaper for the June 11 planning board hearing that would consider an addendum to a past environmental impact report and housing element negative declaration, listing three specific sites but not McKay Avenue.
June 11, 2012 –Planning board approves the proposed amendments to the general plan and municipal code related to the housing element, allowing for multi-family housing on 24 specific sites.
[update, 1/12/13] June 19, 2012 – City mails notice of a July 3 city council hearing to property owners in the surrounding area. EBRPD is not sent a notice.
June 28, 2012 – City posts notice in the newspaper for a July 3 city council public hearing on draft general plan and zoning ordinance amendments, listing one site: “End of McKay Avenue.”
July 3, 2012 – City council adopts the housing element that includes 24 specific sites and rezones Neptune Point from “government office” to high-density residential. Council also adopts a city parks master plan that recommends enhancing Alameda’s partnership with EBRPD and the California Department of Parks and Recreation to develop and acquire additional parkland.
July 10, 2012 – Mayor Gilmore and the city receive a copy of a letter to GSA in support of EBRPD from congressional representatives Pete Stark and Barbara Lee, stating their concerns over environmental impacts to the area and requesting further information on last-minute changes to the escrow terms of the sale.
July 17, 2012 – City council amends zoning provisions of the municipal code to conform to the housing element, approving 105 units for the Neptune Point site.
August 30, 2012 – Legal counsel for EBRPD and the city meet to discuss EBRPD’s concerns about future redevelopment of Neptune Point property.
October 3, 2012 – GSA responds to congressional representatives Stark and Lee, explaining GSA’s positions. EBRPD writes to developer Tim Lewis Communities, objecting to the development of any housing at the entrance to the state beach and informing Tim Lewis Communities that according to the State Department of Parks and Recreation there is no right to locate utilities within McKay Avenue to serve private development at the site.
October 4, 2012 – EBRPD writes a letter to the city to request exploring ways to resolve the dispute without litigation and informing the city that, as an interested party, it had failed to notice EBRPD about the public hearings.
October 16, 2012 – Developer Tim Lewis Communities confirms to the city that it plans to develop 48 single family homes.
October 17, 2012 – City responds to EBRPD’s October 4, 2012 letter, stating it “intends to mount a vigorous defense” if EBRPD chooses to file a lawsuit, because EBRPD “sat silent during the administrative process” and “does not have standing to bring or maintain a CEQA action.”
November 12, 2012 – EBRPD and an Alameda resident file a lawsuit related to CEQA.
GSA video from March 21, 2011, which was included on marketing site.
Originally published in Alameda Sun.