Council may draft companion to open space measure
Council may draft companion to open space measure
City Council members have ordered a report detailing the potential legal and fiscal impacts of a proposed ballot initiative that would rezone federal property slated for housing to allow only parks – and expressed support for a companion measure that could pause enforcement of the initiative while those impacts are addressed.
“We’re trying to give the residents what they want without potentially blowing our budget,” Mayor Marie Gilmore said.
Council members voted unanimously Tuesday to order a report that will outline the potential fiscal, legal and other impacts of a proposed citizens’ initiative to rezone 3.9 acres of federal property across the street from Crab Cove. And some said they’d consider a companion measure that would give them time to find the money to pay for the land if approval of the measure necessitated it.
Parks supporters put a measure on the 2002 ballot that successfully sought to rezone the Alameda Belt Line as park space. Council members put a companion measure on the ballot seeking voters’ leave to ask a court whether they’d be required to buy the land if the open space measure passed and to put a second measure on the ballot to seek funding for the purchase if the court required it.
“It’s not like some alternative measure substantively opposed to what residents signed. It’s more like a supplement so that at the end of the day the taxpayers understand that we have options in the event that something unforeseen occurs,” Councilman Tony Daysog said Tuesday.
Council members took pains Tuesday to assure supporters of the initiative that the report won’t obstruct the initiative’s path to the November ballot. The report has to be completed and back to the council by July 1, at which point members can either put the initiative on the ballot or approve the zoning changes it seeks.
“One way or the other, the initiative will be on the November ballot. It’s just a matter of doing the due diligence and determining the exposure of the city,” Councilwoman Lena Tam said.
City staffers will draft the report, which is to impartially lay out the positive and not-so-positive impacts the initiative could pose. Council members said they want it to explore the legal exposure the city might face if the zoning for the McKay Avenue property is changed and any costs it might incur if the city were to buy the property as a result of those changes.
Other items the report could look at include the initiative’s potential impacts on land use, infrastructure funding, open space, traffic and employment.
Vice Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft said she wants to know whether the initiative would permit the property to be used for parking and a corporation yard – uses the park district had considered – while Tam wanted to know whether the city’s zoning rules apply to the park district.
“At the end of the day this boils down to ownership of the property,” Tam said.
Supporters of the initiative urged the council to speed the measure onto the November ballot.
“We all live in a community that values its open space. After your study, I hope you’ll move forward to give the community another opportunity to show they value open space,” said Doug Siden, Alameda’s representative on the East Bay Regional Park District board.
Supporter and onetime City Council candidate Jane Sullwold said she hoped the report would thoroughly explore the likelihood that the city will be sued if the measure passes – a notion she questioned.
“Look into those issues and get the complete report. Don’t just go on vague assurances,” Sullwold said.
Siden’s comments sparked a sharp response from Gilmore, one of several from council members who are clearly frustrated about the East Bay Regional Park District’s decision to sue the city for permitting housing on the property, which the district has long sought.
“I don’t think it’s a question of whether we value open space, I think all of us do. I think it’s a matter of knowing what we’re getting into,” said Gilmore, who asked Siden if the park district will offer Measure WW park bond money to buy the property if the measure passes.
In addition to the initiative and the park district’s suit against the city – which seeks to nullify the council’s decision to permit housing as part of its effort to pass a state-mandated housing blueprint before affordable housing advocates sued – the state has blocked developer Tim Lewis Communities’ effort to access McKay Avenue to support the development, and the federal government has sued to reclaim the road.
Daysog said the council ordered a similar report to assess the impacts of 2002’s Measure E, which rezoned the former Alameda Belt Line property as park land. The property’s owners had assessed it at $20 million to $25 million, though the city ultimately won a lawsuit allowing Alameda to reclaim the land for less than $1 million.
In 2010, the council ordered a similar report detailing the potential impacts of a ballot measure drafted by SunCal Companies that would have allowed the developer to build more than 4,500 homes at Alameda Point.
The council's options on Tuesday included ordering the report, adopting the zoning changes the initiative seeks or putting it on the ballot.