Council Approves Crab Cove Initiative Unanimously

In a unanimous vote at its July 1 meeting, the city council decided to adopt the Crab Cove initiative to rezone the federal surplus property on McKay Avenue as “open space.” This means that the initiative, “Crab Cove Open Space Expansion Initiative,” will not have to appear on the November ballot. 

“We believe the East Bay Regional Park District will now be able to negotiate the purchase of this property for park expansion,” the Friends of Crab Cove said on its website. The vote has thwarted Tim Lewis Communities’ efforts to build houses on the tract. Friends of Crab Cove believe the initiative would have won even if the initiative had been placed on the November ballot.

The vote will likely also put a stop to the lawsuit that the East Bay Regional Park District filed against the city over rezoning the property. The park district informed the city that if the City Council turned the initiative into an ordinance it “would resolve the Park District’s suit without further expending City resources.” 

The City Council also passed a companion measure to the ordinance, something city staff labeled a “fiscal responsibility” measure. This measure would allow the city to suspend any ordinance that resulted in a lawsuit filed within 120 days of the ordinance’s effective date. 

If a lawsuit arises and the city wins, the ordinance would go back into effect. If the city should lose, the measure would allow the city to raise taxes, cut services, modify the budget or even sell the property to recoup court costs and other legal fees.

The City Council passed the companion measure with Councilman Stewart Chen casting the lone “no” vote. Chen cited the lack of public review of the measure before the City Council’s vote. Karin Lucas of Friends of Crown Beach agrees with Chen.

“This Fiscal Responsibility ordinance is in direct conflict with California law, Elections Code section 9217,” stated Lucas.  “California law prohibits the city council from amending or repealing any initiative measures without voter approval.”

If the Fiscal Responsibility measure becomes effective it may cause further litigation, just as the city council’s 2012 decision to zone the parcel to residential caused two lawsuits to be filed.

In 2008, voters in Alameda and Contra Costa counties approved the Crab Cove expansion, but City Council changed the property’s zoning in 2012. Friends of Crown Beach, the group that sponsored the initiative, gathered more than 6,000 signatures from Alameda voters within a six-week period between March and May to get it placed on the November ballot.

Final passage of the ordinance that makes the initiative the law of the land and its companion ordinance is scheduled for the Tuesday, July 15, City Council meeting.  

Dennis Evanosky contributed to this story. Contact Ekene Ikeme at eikeme@alamedasun.com.