Voters Must Have Their Say on Neptune Point

Attorney General Kamala Harris indicated that GSA had not followed the Code of Federal Regulations in procuring the contract with Lewis.

Another park project is going to be determined by a ballot measure: this time to move forward with the expansion of Crown Beach that more than 70 percent of Alameda voters approved on Nov. 4, 2008. Project No. 18 in Measure WW allocated $ 6.5 million to replace and expand the interpretive center; expand and restore the beach to increase space for recreation and protect the shoreline; and acquire appropriate surplus federal property if it becomes available.

At a September meeting before the November 2008 election, the City Council endorsed Measure WW. East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) further defined this specific project with its concept plan.

Voters approved the Measure WW Project No. 18, but City Council replaced this project when it approved housing on the site on July 3, 2012, as part of the City’s new Housing Element.

I love Alameda and believe we, as a community, can make a difference both for our children and future generations. So I started looking into this and found some startling key facts. These facts explain why we need a ballot measure.

Last November, I became aware the General Service Administration (GSA) failed in following its own regulations when it contracted with the developer Tim Lewis Communities for the purchase of the surplus Neptune Point parcel (the same parcel that EBRPD had identified for Project No. 18 in Measure WW).

A Nov. 7, 2013, letter from California Attorney General Kamala Harris indicated that GSA had not followed the Code of Federal Regulations in procuring the contract with Lewis. This code requires GSA to first offer surplus property to other public agencies before turning to a public auction. GSA had not offered the surplus parcel to California State Parks that owns the land where EBRPD operates Crown Beach, including its access on McKay Avenue.

The park district submitted a bid of $1.5 million to GSA using an appraisal limited to the existing land use, government offices. Lewis submitted a bid of $1.8 million, assuming the land would be rezoned for housing (Had Lewis had discussions with city staff about changing the zoning?)

That was not a fair auction. Not offering the surplus property to California State Parks is breaking the rules and calls into question the validity of the auction and GSA’s contract with Lewis. Furthermore, the Code of Federal Regulations states that public agencies may get a discount of up to 100 percent, but GSA made no such offer.

I know the property purchase cannot be completed because California State Parks owns McKay Avenue. GSA is attempting to take McKay from California State Parks to provide access and easements for the private benefit of Tim Lewis and to the detriment of the current park and its users. The GSA/Tim Lewis sale remains in escrow.

I also checked the city records to understand why EBRPD sued in November 2012. The old 2009 environmental impact report (EIR) the city relied on for its 2012 Housing Element cannot be used because its project definition was grossly different.

Records also indicate the city staff failed to follow requirements like doing a site suitability and availability analysis for proposed housing sites as required by the State Department of Housing and Community Development. The city did not describe the site’s constraints and limited active public participation to housing advocates and developers, not neighbors. City staff and City Council had tunnel vision focused on housing.

Over the last 18 months, I and many others have tried to convince City Council to support Measure WW and undo its hasty

July 3, 2012, vote. And after many letters and a lot of research we have become fully convinced that the only way to move forward is a ballot measure that rezones the parcel to open space.

More than 500 registered voters have signed up on the Friends of Crown Beach website. The Sierra Club and the East Bay Park Foundation have come forward to support our efforts. Harris’ office, EBRPD and California State Parks efforts all indicate this site is better suited for park expansion. The city does not need this site to meet the Association of Bay Area Governments’ (ABAG) housing allocation. The current proposal to add 1,425 more homes at Alameda Point would bring Alameda significantly above ABAG’s housing requirement.

I love our parks and I have voted for this project, which is so wonderful for our community and for generations to come.

Let’s make this project happen. Join us in March to gather signatures for the petition and talk to your neighbors. See the EBRPD concept plan for the project at Crab Cove at www.FriendsofCrownBeach.com. Donate some money. Let’s move together so this project happens and come dance with us when it is built. You will have fun and you’ll make new friends.

Eugenie Thomson is a retired civil engineer and a member of the Friends of Crown Beach.