Council to consider companion to Crab Cove measure
Council to consider companion to Crab Cove measure
Image courtesy of the City of Alameda.
The City Council is set to decide Tuesday whether to place a citizen-sponsored initiative on the November ballot that will permit only park development at Neptune Pointe – along with a companion measure that staffers say is intended to shield the city from costs associated with any lawsuit that might be filed if the open space measure succeeds.
If it’s placed on the ballot and okayed by voters, the city-sponsored “Alameda Open Space Fiscal Responsibility Measure” would permit the council “to take such measures as are necessary” to protect the city’s finances should Alameda be sued as a result of the Crab Cove open space expansion initiative’s success. The proposed fiscal responsibility measure doesn’t specify what actions the council could take if the city is sued or if it loses a lawsuit.
The city-drafted measure would go into effect if the city is sued within 120 days of the open space initiative becoming effective and would keep the council’s actions in place until voters approve taxes to pay off any judgment against the city or someone else buys the property.
An impact report sought by council members concerned the city may be sued if the open space initiative passes confirms the city could face a lawsuit if the zoning is changed – a move that could reduce its value because it would prohibit more lucrative housing development from moving forward.
The property is already the subject of two lawsuits, with a third on the way. City Attorney Janet Kern said she couldn’t comment on whether anyone has threatened to sue if the open space initiative succeeds.
Council members can either put one or both of the measures or the ballot, or approve the open space measure as written and put it into effect themselves.
City leaders placed a similar companion measure on the ballot alongside Measure E, which rezoned the Alameda Belt Line property for parks. The prior owner of that property had announced plans to sell it to a developer.
The impact report speculates that legal costs to fight any suit filed over the changed zoning for the property could run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and that damages could range from the $3.075 million sale price for the land to $5.6 million, the amount the city could collect in impact fees.
In addition to the potential for litigation, the report looks at the impacts the open space initiative would have on potential uses of the land if it’s approved. It says the federal government wouldn’t be subject to local land use rules but that the park district would be – and that it would need approvals for the parking and maintenance yard included in the expansion plan it has drawn up for the site. The state would also be exempt from Alameda’s zoning rules, but a private entity like Tim Lewis Communities would be bound by them.
The report also notes that the initiative would simply rezone the property to prohibit anything but a park from being built there. It says the initiative would not change the ownership of the property or ensure a park is built.
Karin Lucas of Friends of Crown Beach, which put the open space measure forward, said the city made a mistake when it zoned Neptune Pointe for homes and noted that its continued unwillingness to fix it has already triggered lawsuits. She said the value of the property could be affected by the state’s decision to restrict access to McKay Avenue.
“With the supposedly impartial legal analysis of the open space zoning measure and draft ballot measure, the city attorney also does (Tim Lewis Communities’) bidding and tries to stop Alamedans from approving the open space zoning by scaring them with large expenses should the measure pass,” Lucas said.
She said Alamedans are “very well informed” about the city’s attempts to “foil” efforts to expand Crab Cove and that the city’s objections and its proposed companion measure are “irrelevant.”
“In summary, the Friends of Crown Beach are confident that the open space zoning will pass in November,” Lucas said.
Developer Tim Lewis Communities signed an agreement with the federal government in 2011 to purchase the 3.9-acre property, which sits across the street from Crab Cove on McKay Avenue, and the city rezoned it in 2012 to allow housing development. A spokesperson for the federal General Services Administration said the deadline for closing the sale has been extended to September 2.
The developer is seeking permission to build 48 homes, but its application stalled when the state refused to grant access to McKay Avenue.
The East Bay Regional Park District – which has long desired the property but was unable to convince the federal government not to auction it off – sued the city in an effort to reverse its decision to permit housing on the property; that case is still being litigated. An Alameda County superior court judge issued a temporary ruling Monday refusing the city’s request to stay the case, and was expected to finalize a ruling Wednesday.
The state also refused to allow the developer to access McKay Avenue, prompting the federal government to sue to take back ownership of the road. Members of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, which oversees development of the Bay Area’s coastline, voted on June 5 to sue the federal government, saying the commission’s determination that it wouldn’t need to conduct a review of the sale didn’t extend to the government’s plans to take McKay Avenue.
The council meeting begins at 7 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Avenue. Additional information is available on the city’s website.