City, park district in talks to end lawsuit

City, park district in talks to end lawsuit

Michele Ellson

Representatives from the city, the East Bay Regional Park District and developer Tim Lewis Communities have agreed to attend mediation in an attempt to end their legal fight over a 3.899-acre property the park district had hoped to obtain to expand Crab Cove.

The park district sued the city in 2012 after the City Council rezoned the surplused federal property on McKay Avenue, dubbed Neptune Pointe, to allow homes. The suit claims the city failed to conduct a proper environmental review of zoning changes that permitted housing to be built on several sites across Alameda, failed to properly notify them of the planned changes and illegally bypassed Measure A, which bars the multifamily housing now permitted on 10 sites. The city has denied the claims, accusing the park district of using the courts to try to scuttle the development.

Tim Lewis Communities won an auction for the property and submitted an application to the city to develop 48 homes at the site. The application was deemed incomplete and put on hold in late 2012 after the state said it wouldn't let the developer use or build utilities under McKay Avenue.

The city's attorneys filed a motion on January 21 asking Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo to put the case on hold while the city conducts an environmental review of the potential impacts of Tim Lewis's proposed development - a review that's also on hold until the dispute with the state is resolved. The park district objected, saying they want all the zoning voided and the decision to allow homes on the Neptune Pointe site to be reconsidered.

A hearing had been scheduled for next Thursday but was postponed until March.

City Attorney Janet Kern declined to comment on the mediation Wednesday, saying the process is confidential and that talking about it could jeopardize the proceedings. Park district spokeswoman Carol Johnson also said she couldn't comment.

Meanwhile, a group of residents who want the property to become a park is moving forward with plans to put a measure restricting the use of the property on the ballot. A campaign finance disclosure from Friends of Crown Beach shows the group raised $4,800 in December and paid $3,500 to a law firm to draft a ballot measure that, if approved, would only allow the property to be used as open park space.

Comments

Submitted by David Kirwin (not verified) on Thu, Feb 6, 2014

This is a most excellent step. I expect all parties are aware of the massive public support of this property becoming the needed expansion of the park.

The remaining question that I hope certainly comes to light is why the developer was willing to bid so high on land which was not zoned for what he wanted - and due to the zoning was willing to bid higher than EBRPD was allowed to bid because they are legally prohibited from bidding beyond market value. While ridiculous to think this publicly owned property should become anything other that the expansion of the parks the voters approved, just who did the developer have in his pocket that could have the zoning changed so he could make a windfall profit? - I hope this becomes public knowledge and appropriate steps are taken to remove them from their public offices.

Submitted by Allison Martin (not verified) on Thu, Feb 6, 2014

Great news! I hope the truth comes out and we get our Crown Beach park expansion for all to enjoy.

Submitted by Jon Spangler on Thu, Feb 6, 2014

This is, indeed, great news.

I do not agree with David Kirwin that any public officials--on any of the three governmental sides--were or are in anyone's pocket, however. Many people within all three agencies (federal GSA, EBRPD, and City of Alameda) made plenty of mis-steps to create this mess and the multiple interagency communication and information failures were among the worst I have seen in 16 years here in Alameda.

To make matters worse, lots of intransigent egos--the biggest ones, I think, were located at City Hall in Alameda--have resisted making peace and reaching a reasonable settlement until now.

Perhaps reason will finally be allowed to take hold and some legal swords will be beaten into plowshares and pruning hooks…I hope that the City of Alameda, EBRPD, and the GSA have finally learned that it is in the public interest--and far cheaper, too--for agencies to cooperate, communicate, and collaborate rather than pay attorneys to litigate.

Submitted by frank on Fri, Feb 7, 2014

This was predictable. There is an Election approaching in November and as the time draws near concessions need to be made to defuse this issue which has united the Citizens of out small City. Personally I find the actions of are elected leaders an embarrassment. The CC should have just waited for all the Lawsuits and Easement issues to settle before voting to rezone this Parcel. Also noted the Vote was taken by a 'lame duck' CC and at least should have been deferred until the current CC was seated.

Submitted by Laura (not verified) on Mon, Feb 10, 2014

Good news for sure, but it was far more than "mis-steps" or poor communication from city leaders that provoked: their continued persistence in dismissing/denigrating the idea for a public park's expansion while instead pursuing a private housing development (not to be municipally owned by our city's Alameda Housing Authority) thus supposedly preempting any potential lawsuits from housing development advocates despite the availability of other (privately owned/properly zoned as residential) parcels and/or that the City will have already met the required/calendared numbers for the City's Housing Element (to meet State law for % of low income housing built w/i a specific time period) which is the document our city leaders continue to use while knowing it is out of compliance with our state laws (CEQA requires EIR for Housing Element updates including a public comment period, none occurred). Our leadership needs to be questioned because they didn't ask enough themselves.

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