McKay project doesn’t respect voters’ wishes

The $40 million dollar proposal to build a facility for the homeless on McKay Avenue is a blatant disregard of the wishes of 22,251 Alameda voters. 

In 2008 East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD) sponsored Measure WW, which passed by 71.9 percent of the vote. It was supported by the San Francisco Bay Sierra Club, League of Women Voters, Doug Siden and many others. Measure WW included Project 18 which allocated $6.5 million to “replace and expand the Crab Cove interpretative center, expand and restore Alameda Beach to increase space and protect shoreline and acquire surplus federal property if it becomes available.” At the time, there was only a single parcel with federal buildings on McKay.

Ignoring the voters and EBRPD, the federal government split the parcel and sold the first part to developer Tim Lewis. Antagonized voters responded with an initiative rezoning the lot to open space. After obtaining the required number of signatures, the City Council rezoned it to open space. Now, the federal government is trying to dispose of the second part of the original parcel, again in defiance of the voters’ expressed mandate. 

Crab Cove Regional Educational Center serves tens of thousands of children, seniors and disabled persons, and the beach serves more than 1.5 million persons per year. Population is growing and the opportunities to expand access to natural resources are disappearing. Global warming and sea level rise threaten our coasts. Alameda needs to retain this last three acres for recreation and education. Once lost, it can never be regained.

Although helping the homeless is noble and to be commended, Alameda currently houses 500 homeless at Alameda Point. Alameda has 204 homeless, while Alameda County has 5,629. Alameda houses two-and-a-half times the number of Alameda’s homeless persons. Some cities in the county, with BART and other transit, do not house any homeless. 

The 34 acres originally given the homeless at Alameda Point, while being reduced to 10 acres, is still sufficient to include a respite center and hospice. The will of the voters should be sacrosanct to our elected officials and other leaders. Building a new homeless facility is good, but building it on land voters were led to believe was going to recreation will destroy any remaining trust in our government’s ability to provide guardianship of our environment.


Barbara Thomas, former Vice-Mayor and Councilmember