Discussion Needed on Park Changes

Discussion Needed on Park Changes

The Alameda Sun received a copy of this letter.

Dear Mayor Ashcraft and Councilmembers:

It comes as a concern that there would be an agendized item to make changes to Consider Addressing the Process for Potential Changes to the Jean Sweeney Open Space Park Design Development Plan at the council meeting before there was a public review and input at a publicly accessible commission meeting.

As the park and open space is a public commons, and the Plan was already voted on with broad public support in approval, wouldn’t it be appropriate for a public hearing for any changes to be brought before either the Recs and Parks Commission or Planning Commission to allow for due public review and input.

To my awareness, there have been no open public meetings to present any proposed change as proposed here in this item to the nearly completed Jean Sweeney Open Space Park (JSOSP) Plan. If there were, how were they publicly noticed and where?

Moreso, the public has not been informed as to why it is suddenly necessary for the city have Council make a decision to not continue with the Union Pacific Railroad property purchase as planned and scheduled since 2016. As for more than 7 years now, the public has believed that the promise the city made to the community in developing the park would be upheld.

Now, the proposed redesign has had no public announcement nor hearing for its necessity. How does this not bypass the public process and authority of the Recreation and Parks Commissioners and the public’s access to make recommendations on this public commons in advance of its proposal to Council?

I would ask the council to send consideration of staff’s proposed changes to an appropriate commission for deliberation and input.

I do not agree with the proposed changes, as they would negatively impact the amount of open space and park land as presented to the public and voted on by Council. Specifically, the loss of the Southern Pacific Railroad land along the southern edge of the park and the loss of the area west of 8th Street compromises the integrity of the park as proposed and committed to the community. It would also impact the following:

•The Food Bank plans to build at the park now, due to uncertainty of the land purchase.

• The community gardens planned next to the Food Bank to make it easier for surplus food to be donated to them are now in jeopardy.

• the loss of parking spaces in the West End is breaking a promise to the neighborhoods who worry that park visitors will be parking on the street that will have walk-in access to the park. This has also been a concern for the adjacent business park on the North side of the park.

• The Union Pacific Railroad (UPR) land beyond the fence as the area now in jeopardy of being lost will now allow UPR to dispose of the land as they wish. This now would potentially change the character and nature of the “park and open space” the public was led to believe this space was planned to be.

• Moreover, the Union Pacific Railroad strip of land of nearly 4.52 acres, put over 100 mature trees there at risk to be removed when the land is sold for other purposes.

As a CASA member who participated on the city’s Climate Emergency Declaration Resolution and as an environmental nonprofit executive of an urban reforestation organization, I think retaining mature trees in a park area should be a high priority for the city to help achieve its climate action plan goals of carbon sequestration.

I would ask that City Council reconsider staff’s proposal and remand any proposed changes to the JSOSP Plan to appropriate public commission first as an act of transparency and matter of public process before a council decision. This would enable and assure that the public can, first, be duly informed and; second, be given the ability to review and comment.

Thank you for considering my request. Respectfully,

- Amos White, Alameda Resident, Founder/CPO — 100K Trees for Humanity