Crown Beach Talk Draws Thick Crowd

Doug Siden addresses a crowded room at the Friends of Crown Beach meeting. Photo by Ana L. Gonzalez

Friends of Crown Beach hosted a meeting Wednesday, Jan. 15, the Alameda Hospital to kick off the campaign to add a proposed measure to the November ballot to make Neptune Point open space.

In 2006, the federal government stated that they were no longer going to use their offices located on McKay Avenue. Since then the park district has shown an interest in buying the property to expand Crown Beach.

In 2011, The General Services Administration hosted an auction and Roseville, Calif.-based developer Tim Lewis Communities (TLC) purchased the property for $3.085 million. Although escrow has not closed on the sale, TLC still has plans to build homes on the site.

However, Eugenie Thomson, Friends of Crown Beach steering committee member, has pointed out that “you can’t use parkland for private gain.” At issue is whether is property is parkland or multi-family residential.The East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) threatened to sue the city when the city rezoned the property to multi-family residential in 2012. In an October 2012 letter to the park district’s general manager Robert Doyle, City Manager John Russo pointed out that EBRPD ignored many of the steps the city took to advertise its intention to rezone the site.

These included posting “bright green posters” and hosting meetings that Russo stated that Doyle and the park district “failed to attend.” The park district followed through and filed a lawsuit against the city on Nov. 9, 2012. City Attorney Janet Kern immediately called the suit “a complete misuse of the legal system.” She stated that “the city will not be bullied into setting aside the Housing Element after the full and fair public process that lead to its certification by the state.” According to Thomson, the city is ignoring the fact that in 2008 voters passed EBRPD’s Measure WW.

The measure included $6.5 million dollars to expand Crown Beach. This means Neptune Point should have been rezoned as open space, Thomson said. Russo, however, stated in his missive to the park district that “the subject site was identified as a suitable housing site in the city’s draft housing element in 2008.” Those who attended the meeting asked questions and learned what is currently happening in the case. Thomson said that the attorney for Friends of Crown Beach is finalizing the proposed measure. Once that is done the organization will send the measure to the city for review and approval. She said she hopes to have the measure to the city by the end of January and hopes to receive approval by the end of February.

However, the city will have more than a month to review the measure and give it a title. Thomson said that once the city approves the measure, Friends of Crown Beach will make copies so its members can talk to the community and petition voters for signatures. Friends of Crown Beach must collect 6,000 signatures before the deadline, which, according to Thomson, is April 6. The city will then have 60 days to verify the signatures.

Joyce Larrick, a community member and volunteer, asked if the Friends will train those who volunteer to gather signatures. Another supporter asked how much money the campaign would cost. Thomson said the organization will train the signature gatherers and the campaign would cost between $15,000 and $20,000. Steering committee member Gretchen Lipow said that Friends of Crown Beach has already received $5,000 from different supporters. This money covered part of the attorney’s fee, she said. Other money collected will help purchase signs and flyers. Lipow and Thomson said that there are many ways that the community can get involved and support the measure. These include donating money and volunteering as signature gatherers.

Thomson also suggested that voters call and Representative Barbara Lee and senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. She also recommended visiting www.friendsofcrownbeach. com. “We are going to make this project happen,” said Thomson of expanding Crown Beach. She believes with the help of the community the measure will make it to the November ballot and will pass. She also believes that this project will benefit the future generations and the community of Alameda. The lawsuit (case number RG 126555 685) is moving forward in Superior Court, Judge Evelio Grillo presiding.

The parties last met on Dec. 17, 2013, and a case management conference is scheduled for 1:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 13, in Department 31 on the second floor of the U.S. Post Office Building, 201 13th St. in Oakland.

Dennis Evanosky contributed to this story.