The Real McKay Story

A recent letter, (“McKay project doesn’t respect voters’ wishes,” April 19) from former Vice Mayor Barbara Thomas is misleading the public with the intent of denying vulnerable, medically fragile homeless seniors with a safe place to live out their lives and get much needed medical care. The letter pins opposition to helping homeless seniors on personal opinion that there is a voter mandate to turn the property into open space.

No such mandate exists. At almost every step the facts in the letter were wrong:

• The parcel was not divided to “antagonize” voters and East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD). It was split to facilitate surplus disposition of a portion of land the feds no longer needed, known as Neptune Pointe.
• The City Council has never rezoned the Federal Center property.
• The federal government is not “trying to dispose of the parcel, in defiance of the voters.” They are following the requirements of the Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. 11411, as amended), which states that public bodies and eligible nonprofit organizations and institutions that are concerned with providing assistance to the homeless may apply to acquire government property.

Following the requirements of the law, Alameda Point Collaborative (APC) successfully applied for, and has received, conditional approval to acquire the property. Our plan is to create a center to care for homeless seniors and individuals with acute medical needs, as well as a neighborhood resource center that will provide outreach and support services for City of Alameda residents experiencing homelessness or a housing crisis. 

Intake of clients into the senior housing and medical respite facility will be from hospitals and medical providers, there will be no drop-in intake for these services done onsite. The resource center component will however see seven to 10 clients a day on a drop-in basis who will be coming to sign up for resources and leaving. There will be no overnight shelter or warming center services for these clients.

EBRPD has told us very clearly that they have never had an acquisition intent for the Federal Facility. They did, as we all know, have a strong acquisition interest in the North Pointe property in order to “complete” the park. Fortunately, they were able to make that purchase with WW funds, and are now using the remaining allocation of WW funds for Alameda to restore North Pointe to open space, improve the Visitor’s Center, and improve the beach front along all of Crown Beach.

EBRPD is doing a commendable job of fulfilling the WW pledge.

Out of a series of lawsuits resulting in the sale of Neptune Point to EBRPD, they, the state and the federal government signed a settlement agreement that states in very clear terms: “East Bay and State Parks agree that the Retained Parcel (the federal center) may be subdivided and fully developed, by General Services Administration, other federal tenants, or any successors in interest and assigns, and that such subdivision and development may be for any government purpose or for any residential or commercial use. East Bay and State Parks agree that they will not interfere, by legal means or otherwise, with the use or transfer of any portion of the Retained Parcel.

APC had the first of what will be many coordination meetings with EBRPD on April 20. We share a common road, some common uses and a common interest in providing high quality services to the community. During the meeting, EBRPD staff offered up the idea of engaging their naturalists to provide programming for the seniors — an offer that fits so well into our vision of providing a safe, nurturing facility. 

APC also offered to make staff who will be trained in trauma recovery services available to help outreach to homeless who may be using the park inappropriately and connecting them with services elsewhere. We also talked about more mundane issues of sewer lines, parking and asphalt, but all in all both parties are moving forward in close coordination and cooperation.

In an online blog talking about the McKay Avenue project somebody said “What if, just imagine, if the community came together around a plan to help the sick and dying homeless seniors?” In offering to make their naturalists available for programs at our center, EBRPD is showing one way how that can be done. I hope others can also allow some similar compassion into their hearts.

If anyone would like more information about the project, they are welcome to email me at dbiggs@apcollaborative.org.

 

Doug Biggs is the executive director of Alameda Point Collaborative.