City, schools leaders set to weigh in on swap deal

City, schools leaders set to weigh in on swap deal

Michele Ellson

Chart courtesy of the City of Alameda.

City and schools leaders are set to consider a complex land and cash deal that will resolve a series of long-running disputes put resources into the hands of the agencies that can make the best use of them, staffers who drafted the agreements said.

If approved, the proposed deal would see the school district relinquishing its claim on a six-acre public trust property behind a former Del Monte warehouse, 12 acres of property in the future commercial center of Alameda Point, its former Island High School site and $4.6 million in affordable housing funds in exchange for up to $1.9 million to fix the Encinal High School swim center and 20 acres of Alameda Point property in the heart of proposed residential development.

The Board of Education is expected to decide whether to sign off on the agreement at its meeting Tuesday, while the board governing the Alameda Housing Authority – which would gain the $4.6 million in housing funds and the 0.83-acre Island High parcel – will cast its vote on Thursday. The City Council will consider the deal on March 18.

The proposed deal came together as efforts to ink an agreement to fix Alameda Unified’s high school pools, which are used by the district, the Alameda Recreation and Parks Department and independent swim groups, languished. The deal took about a year to complete, a city staff report says.

“We were able to come together and say, ‘Let’s try to solve all of these issues,’” Kern said.

One of the disputes centered around a 2000 agreement to trade the former Mastick School to the city to build a senior center in exchange for 12 acres at Alameda Point, seven acres on the former Fleet Industrial Supply Center site and the six-acre public trust property, which is part of the state’s Tidelands Trust. The school district built Ruby Bridges Elementary School on the FISC property. But the transfer of the Tidelands property – which requires state approval – was never finalized, Kern confirmed – leaving the city’s end of the bargain incomplete.

The Mastick agreement says the district wanted to “develop the Tidelands parcel as a school facility” and that if the deal wasn’t consummated, the rents the city collected on it would flow to Alameda Unified; Kern said the language of the agreement is “less than clear” while the proposed new agreement makes note of “significant legal issues” over the title to the property.

The state limits development of the Tidelands parcels to maritime and water-serving uses; the land can’t be sold to private interests.

Another dispute centered around the $4.6 million in housing funds, which accrued as the result of a 1991 deal between the city and school district to set aside a portion of the property taxes the city collected to fund low income housing in redevelopment zones for the district. Since the money can only be used to build housing – something the school district doesn’t do – it was never spent.

The state threatened to take the money when it eliminated redevelopment programs, but relented at the request of school district and city officials. The housing authority wants to spend that money before the state changes its mind, the agreement says. But future revenues that flow into the fund will still belong to the school district, it says.

Both the Tidelands property and the housing fund have been the subject of closed-door discussions between the school board and the district’s legal counsel listed as “pending litigation,” and the agreement between the school district, housing authority and city has been billed as a “settlement agreement.” But no lawsuits over the land or the money have been filed.

In addition to obtaining cash to fix its swimming pools – $1.15 million plus up to $750,000 more from the city once that is spent – Alameda Unified is set to receive a bigger and better-situated piece of Alameda Point than the Mastick agreement gave them. Meanwhile, the school district will get.

The Island High property appraised at $1.19 million in January, a staff report to the housing authority’s board says; the authority’s $1.2 million payment for the property will fund pool fixes and legal and consulting fees the district incurred.

The housing authority would like to build affordable housing on the Island High site, Executive Director Michael T. Pucci has said; the deal says the housing authority is “not in a position to acquire the Island High School (s)ite” without the money, though it’s not clear if it will be used solely to build housing there.

Neighbors of the property, which is at Everett Street and Eagle Avenue, have said they don’t want housing built there.

The city has no immediate plans for the public trust property, which has some boat slips and other rented buildings, City Attorney Janet Kern said, though a city staff report for the council’s consideration says retaining the property will help the city “facilitate better planning for potential future development in that area.” Homebuilder Tim Lewis Communities bought the Del Monte warehouse, which is at the corner of Sherman Street and Buena Vista Avenue, and is planning to develop it.

Kern encouraged residents to weigh in on the proposed cash and land deal and said that additional public hearings will be held as proposals to develop any of the property to be exchanged arise.

“This agreement has things happen, but it isn’t the end of the story,” she said.

IF YOU GO

Approval of the proposed land and cash swap deal will be considered on the following dates:

Board of Education 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 11 in council chambers on the third floor of City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Avenue. Agenda

Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, 7 p.m. Thursday, March 13 in the Ruth Rambeau Memorial Community Room at Independence Plaza, 703 Atlantic Avenue. Agenda

City Council, 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 18 in council chambers on the third floor of City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Avenue. Agenda

Comments

Submitted by Jsanders128 (not verified) on Sat, Mar 8, 2014

Just what we need, low income housing everywhere.

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

Hi Michele,
According to City budget documents, the Tidewater parcel collects an annual stream of public revenue, over a million dollars in 2006 (before fully-traded to AUSD), and yet the Superintendent calls it worthless to AUSD?

How worthwhile was AUSD's multimillion dollar move to new administrative offices last year?....And/or the series of AUSD community engagement meetings leading to BOE's decision to create a master plan specifically for AUSD facilities, oh, and yet without including these huge concessions of land being essentially granted to the City and without a public process?

And why is our City making AUSD (taxpayers) pay for public-school land at the Point when it had been given to our city by the feds? And why does AUSD need 20 acres instead of 12?

And why will there be no low-income housing built at the Point but the winning solution is to instead build within Alameda's poorest East End neighborhood where the schools are already impacted?

How can our Board of Education President say she thinks this "is the right thing to do and I'm doing this for the kids" ? Because she's been snow-jobbed by city and district attorneys who have worked out a framework to suit THEIR needs and not the city's public. (Don't ask questions, just eat the celebration cake, people.)

To be clear: the protest here is not NIMBYism, rather it is a response to what manifests when there is zero news/media coverage in our town of 2 newspapers and nearly 80K residents, big stuff happens while the people are asleep! zzzzzzzzzz

Submitted by Kristen (not verified) on Mon, Mar 10, 2014

@Laura, I wouldn't say there has been "zero" coverage of this issue-- it's been in the Sun, the Journal, here on The Alamedan, I think maybe even in Patch (back when they still had reporters working for them). You say it's "not NIMBYism" in the last paragraph, but a couple of paragraphs earlier you imply that low-income housing shouldn't happen in the East End at all because schools will be impacted in a so-called "poor" area (the Wedge falls within the Edison boundaries, so while there may be a bit of poverty, it's not a lot by any means--check the Census Tract data. Edison area is mostly high income). It's erroneous to suggest there is no low-income housing on the Point when the former base is home to Alameda Point Collaborative which houses 300+ formerly homeless and there are plenty of other low-income housing complexes on the West End in general (Esperanza, Eagle Village, Rosefield Village, etc.) plus Summer House which is a mix of incomes, mostly lower.
I have to agree with you on the AUSD office district move, though. Not only from a cost perspective but also from a "feel" perspective-- they moved from the heart of the city at Alameda High (in offices that were old but functional if not perfectly climate-controlled or, it turns out, up to snuff seismically) to sleek new generic offices far from any school in the district. It really sends a message that while students have to put up with substandard facilities, administrators don't. "Business is business" as the saying goes.

Submitted by Laura (not verified) on Tue, Mar 11, 2014

Hi Kristen,
Yes, students within the Wedge (between Park and Tilden) attend AUSD's impacted schools at Edison, LMS and AHS, while neighbors on the west side of Park attend Haight, Wood, and AHS.

The Wedge is NOT part of the affluent/high income residential districts that surround Edison School such as Gibbons Dr or Fernside, additionally the entire North Park St area was rezoned last year to increase residential/family housing and encourage vertical growth (height limit on buildings were approved/raised to 5 stories) So where will those students go to school? And where will families moving into Alameda's newest neighborhood of 350 homes being built on SKS site at Oak/Clement (two blocks away from AUSD's parcel) send their children to school? Or into the 250+ homes planned nearby at the Boatworks? The BOE asked that their Facility Master Plan to include this site, but Alameda's/AUSD's non-elected administrators have commandeered the process so that it does not include input from public or AUSD educators.

My comments are not NIMBY...low income families will be losing out here big time: it is not about current low-income housing units and/or the uneven distribution of low-income housing available on our island, the concern is for FUTURE low income housing. The 20 acres of land now being sold to AUSD was previously designated (within Alameda Point's EIR) to Alameda Housing Authority for low-income housing, but this land swap now diminishes Alameda's low income development to a single acre within a growing residential neighborhood that deserves to be served by AUSD, as it once did prior to becoming Alameda's Auto Row.

Submitted by Kristen (not verified) on Tue, Mar 11, 2014

Interesting. Maybe I don't quite understand what is meant by "impacted" in this context; do you mean East End schools are overpopulated? Perhaps that is because if your neighborhood school is Title 1, you have the option of voting with your feet. For years, this didn't seem to bother the district all that much, but recent efforts at creating magnet schools (Maya Lin, Junior Jets) may keep more people in their neighborhoods instead of trekking cross-town. Also the Bay Farm magnet may ease some of the crowding at Lincoln.
Also, those low-income future students of Edison won't be "losing out" at all. Why shouldn't kids of all income levels benefit from a great school? Equity and excellence for all, isn't that the motto of AUSD? Shouldn't we want that for all our students? Who knows, maybe having low-income students will improve Edison's ADA; after all, they won't be jetting off to Hawaii or Aspen or Australia during the school year...