"Fiscal Responsibility" Law Not All That Responsible

On July 1, the City Council adopted the citizens’ "Crab Cove Open Space Expansion Initiative." The initiative was sponsored by "Friends of Crown Beach" who gathered more than 6,000 signatures within a six-week period. The initiative zones a 3.89-acre parcel adjacent to Crab Cove as "open space." The parcel is currently for sale by the federal General Services Administration (GSA). In 2008, voters in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties approved the Crab Cove expansion and funded it.

In July 2012 the Alameda City Council zoned the 3.89-acre parcel for residential development and until now ignored pleas by citizens to reverse the residential zoning.

At the July 1 meeting the city council had two options: put the initiative on the November 2014 ballot or adopt it. The council chose the latter because it was clear that the open space measure was certain to win in November.

At the same meeting, the council also enacted a so-called "fiscal responsibility" ordinance that purports to authorize the council to suspend the open space zoning initiative under certain conditions if the city gets sued. This fiscal responsibility ordinance is in direct conflict with California law, Elections Code section 9217. California law prohibits the city council from amending or repealing any initiative measure 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: the East Bay Regional Park District against the City of Alameda and the federal government’s General Services Administration (GSA) against the state of California — both at taxpayers’ expense. On June 5, the Bay Conservation and Development Commission authorized the filing of another lawsuit affecting the proposed residential development next to Crab Cove.

It seems the City Council only pays attention to the voters’ wishes when it has no choice. Even then it threatens the voters with an illegal ordinance. Had the council paid attention to its constituents, the legal fees paid by the city, the East Bay Regional Park District, the GSA, and the Bay Conservation and Development District as a consequence of the city’s disastrous residential zoning of the 3.89-acre parcel adjacent to Crab Cove would have been saved.

The open space zoning lays the groundwork for the East Bay Regional Park District to negotiate the purchase of the property for park expansion when the GSA decides to end their effort to sell to a housing developer. We will continue to monitor developments."

Karin Lucas is a member of Friends of Crown Beach.