“That is not logical, Captain,” Mr. Spock would often say on the Star Trek television series. Can’t the same be said for putting housing on bay-front property that the East Bay Regional Park District needs for expansion of state park facilities?
Granted, if the 48 new single-family homes proposed to be built next to Crab Cove are constructed, the new homeowners will enjoy their special waterfront houses and the developer will get a good return on his investment. But please. What does the region or the residents of Alameda get from this project that can’t be accomplished at nearby Alameda Point? Once the opportunity for expanding this parkland is gone, it’s gone forever.
When city leaders rezoned the parcel residential, they were trying to adopt a citywide state-mandated housing element. I get that. But including this particular site in the housing element was a mistake. There is now a dispute as to whether the developer has the easement rights to dig up the state-owned street for new infrastructure, whether the all-sites environmental impact report was adequately performed, and whether the city violated its charter. In addition, the council and voters supported Measure WW to fund parkland acquisition here, not housing.
Now that we are in the middle of the site-specific environmental review, we realize that better access to parks and open space is at risk, we are not achieving the multifamily housing the city wanted, we will lose public parking spaces to a few homeowners and their guests, a historic building might not be restored for public use, and a new Crab Cove Visitor’s Center may never be built. Hundreds of thousands of lives will be negatively affected year after year.
Let’s take the logical course of action to unwind this mess. The city itself should remove the residential zoning. The developer, who hasn’t even closed escrow yet, would likely then back out because the financial incentive is gone. Next, let’s move that housing allotment to Alameda Point in order to meet the state-mandated requirements and invite the developer to follow. The state and housing advocates will understand the city has acted in good faith. There would be no need to spend any more resources on legal battles because a settlement between the park district and the city should surely follow. Finally, the current housing element would stay in place, and relations between the city and the park district would begin to heal. The seller (GSA) would be forced to bend, allowing the park district a fair shot at acquiring the land.
There is not a single redeeming reason for moving ahead with this project. But there are many reasons for killing it. Most important, as Mr. Spock said when giving up his life to save his ship, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Or the one.”
The deadline for submitting written comments to city hall about what should be included in the environmental review is June 24. The park district’s vision for the site is the superior alternative.
Originally published in Alameda Sun. See related Timeline of events leading up to the housing proposal and video below.
YouTube video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F4Ls0-guaWY