Local Measure D Would Require Voter Approval for Park Land Sales, Swaps

Dennis Evanosky

Measure D’s proposed language would protect park land, like that at Lincoln Park, from being sold or swapped without voter approval.

Alameda voters are being asked to decide whether to take away the City Council's ability to sell or trade the city's park land, which the city's charter now allows the council to do if a suitable replacement is found. Measure D would eliminate the council's ability to make those calls and put them into the hands of voters.

Golfers and Bay Farm Island residents put together the measure after the council decided to consider a proposal to allow developer Ron Cowan to build homes on the Mif Albright Golf Course in exchange for cash and land he owns on North Loop Road, which would have been used to construct new ball fields.

The council unanimously opted not to pursue the plan.

The city charter was amended by voters in 1992 to prohibit the sale or disposal of city park land, though the rules allow three exceptions.

City leaders can lease or grant concession privileges in public parks; grant permits, licenses or easements for streets and utilities on park land; and sell or dispose of park land as long as the council decides, after public hearings, that they can replace it with a new park that "is of comparable size and utility and serves the same service area with substantially the same amenities and improvements."

Measure D would eliminate that last exception, requiring voter approval for such a sale or swap to occur.

Cowan sought to build more than 100 homes where the ninehole golf course now stands and was offering $7.2 million to help build baseball and soccer fields on his 12.2 acre North Loop property, which sits between homes and an industrial complex roughly two and a half miles away.

Golfers fought the plan, seeking to preserve the Mif course, and Bay Farm Island residents joined them, saying the new homes would create an unacceptable increase in traffic.

Measure D would expressly forbid the sale or trade of golf complex property without voter approval.

"Recent events demonstrate why the loophole must be closed. Our Mif Albright par-3 golf course, where generations of young Alamedans learned the game, could have been exchanged by the City Council for property in a business park and cash," says the argument in favor of the measure, which was signed by Tony Corica — whose father is the golf complex's namesake.

Other signers include real estate professional Marie Kane, former Community of Harbor Bay Isle homeowners association president (and current school board candidate) Michael Robles-Wong,Alameda Junior Golf chief Norma Arnerich and community leader Nick Cabral.

It says that overwhelming public opposition stopped the deal, but the resulting controversy "distracted the work of city staff, Council, and citizens for years" and that unless the charter is changed, "the battle may have to be fought again, perhaps in defense of another park."

The measure was formulated over 11 months' worth of community meetings and is backed by Protect Our Alameda Parks, a community group.

It has been endorsed by former mayor Bill Withrow; former City Council members Barbara Kerr and Frank Matarrese; sitting school board member Trish Herrera Spencer; and City Council candidates Tony Daysog and Jane Sullwold, who now heads the city's Golf Commission and who fought the deal.

No argument opposing the measure was submitted, and the impartial analysis included with the ballot measure doesn't contemplate any specific scenarios where the new rules might be invoked.

"Passage of Measure D will ensure that the sale or swap of any public parkland shall require a vote of the people," Corica said when asked why the measure is needed. "We are seeking to protect our precious public parks, golf courses and boating facilities." Read more at www.thealamedan.org



0 #1 Jaan Carter 2012-09-07 18:48
The golf swap fiasco is a good lesson for anyone who is considering trusting their government. When should we trust our government? Never! Do we trust a fox in the hen house? No. If we had been paying attention, and not TRUSTING our government, we wouldn't have the current crisis we're having right now (nationally). Thank you, Good Woof! And Good Luck.

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