Point Counterpoint on Crab Cove Housing Plan

Surplus federal property Google Earth imageMany Alamedans have been asking the city council to remove the residential zoning from the federal parcel near Crab Cove.  On October 10, our own Recreation and Parks Commission decided to send a letter to the city council requesting the same.

In 2008, voters overwhelmingly approved funding for parkland expansion on this 3.89-acre parcel. But the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) by law can only pay the appraised value and thus was outbid by Tim Lewis Communities LLC at the public auction.  Soon thereafter, the city granted Tim Lewis’s application to rezone the property to residential.

Below are points that have been made by city officials, followed by counterpoints.

Point: A private citizen/developer, Tim Lewis Communities LLC, owns the property.
Counterpoint:  The property has been in escrow for almost two years and is still owned by the federal government.

Point: The city does not own the property and therefore cannot rezone it.
Counterpoint:  The city has already rezoned this property even though it doesn’t own it.

Point:  Alameda has nothing to do with the land use of the property.
Counterpoint:  The city granted the approval for residential development.

Point:  The city had to include the property in its state-mandated housing element.
Counterpoint:  The city would have met the state criteria without this parcel.

Point:  This issue is a dispute between EBRPD and the federal government’s General Services Administration (GSA).
Counterpoint:  There are two disputes.  One is a lawsuit between EBRPD and the city over the residential zoning.  The other dispute is the GSA’s threat to use eminent domain to take over McKay Avenue to enable utility easements for the housing developer.

Point:  The city council can’t talk to constituents about the parcel because the issue is under litigation.
Counterpoint:  The city manager, planning services manager, and council members have released public statements on the issue.

Point:  EBRPD should use its financial resources to preserve open space and fund community parks, rather than generating costly litigation.
Counterpoint:  EBRPD is using its financial resources to preserve and fund parks.  The city rezoned the property to residential, which undermined the park district effort to preserve open space, and generated costly litigation.

Point:  EBRPD could make an offer to Tim Lewis Communities to purchase the property in order to expand Crown Beach.
Counterpoint:  Tim Lewis does not yet own the property, the federal GSA still does.  But even if Tim Lewis did own it, a sale to EBRPD would be a giveaway of taxpayer money because the new price would be based on the more valuable residential zoning.

Point:  The city cannot turn the parcel into public property.
Counterpoint:  The city can create, rather than frustrate, the conditions to do so, particularly through zoning that helps EBRPD acquire it.

Point: The federal GSA plans to seize McKay Avenue because of actions taken by EBRPD that are interfering with the sale of the property to Tim Lewis.
Counterpoint:  The eminent domain action is between the federal GSA and the California Department of Parks and Recreation—not EBRPD.  The existing deed and state law are interfering with the sale—not EBRPD.  The state parks department cannot provide utility easement to a private developer.  The GSA auctioned the property under false pretenses without first checking with state officials.

Originally published in Alameda Sun.

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