Council throws support behind Crab Cove expansion

Council throws support behind Crab Cove expansion

Michele Ellson
Neptune Pointe

City Council members offered a vote of support Tuesday for the expansion of Crab Cove onto a 3.899-acre federal property across the street that was once slated for housing.

The council unanimously okayed a resolution supporting the East Bay Regional Park District’s quest to obtain the property, which the federal officials dubbed Neptune Pointe, to expand the park.

“A statement of support from the city certainly can’t hurt and it just might help,” said Councilwoman Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, who had originally opposed supporting the park district in the dispute but said she changed her mind after talking to Alameda’s park district representative. “I will support taking the high road in this case. I think that is what the city is doing.”

The council also voted to set up a joint committee featuring park district leaders and council members, in an effort to repair the fractured relationship between the two entities.

“Part of this referral was to rebuild a good working relationship with the city and the park district, because this is not the only project (we’re working on together),” Vice Mayor Frank Matarrese said.

Matarrese asked his dais-mates to consider collaborating more closely with the park district, an effort they agreed on January 21 to move forward with on a 3-2 vote. The resolution the council voted on Tuesday was written with the aid of park district staffers, in communication with Mayor Trish Spencer, who had listed repairing the city’s relationship with the park district as a priority.

The move was the latest shift in the city’s position on the imbroglio over the property. City leaders originally said they were trying to stay out of the fight between the federal government and the park district, but they ultimately acceded to parks backers who gathered signatures for a ballot measure to rezone the land for park uses.

The City Council zoned the property to permit homes in 2012, after the federal government auctioned the property off to housing developer Tim Lewis Communities. The developer, which offered $3.075 million for the property but never closed a deal, had sought to build 48 luxury homes there.

Park district officials balked at the moves, saying the federal government should have given them the property or sold it to them for less than what the developer was willing to pay and also, that the city was well aware they hoped to obtain it to expand Crab Cove when council members zoned it to permit housing. They filed the first of several lawsuits that have been lodged over plans for the property.

The park district recently dropped its lawsuit against the city, and the developer agreed to relinquish its interest in the property. But the federal government has amended a legal action seeking title to the road that provides access to the property, McKay Avenue, and an adjacent sidewalk. The state now owns both.

Last month the General Services Administration released a notice to other federal agencies letting them know the property is available for short-term use or long-term transfer. The list of potential short-term uses envisioned by the federal agency include storage or vehicle parking; office, lab or detention space; or a facility for unaccompanied minors in the country illegally.

Former Mayor Marie Gilmore had said the city couldn’t get the federal agency to talk to them; Doug Siden, who is Alameda’s representative on the park district board, said its actions threaten efforts to expand the park.

Parks backers said they hoped the city’s support of the park district would prompt lawmakers to intervene in the lingering dispute.

“This resolution, at long last, would send the right message to the GSA and to our state and federal representatives,” parks backer and Sierra Club representative Irene Dieter said.

The Alamedan’s full coverage of Neptune Pointe is here.

Comments

Submitted by Keith Nealy (not verified) on Wed, Feb 18, 2015

We really need Jerry Brown, Barbara Lee, Dianne Feinstein, and Nancy Pelosi to get on board with this and get the Feds to back off. Let's ask for their help. The GSA's latest maneuver appears punitive.

Submitted by David (not verified) on Wed, Feb 18, 2015

Where's our State Assembly rep Rob Bonta on this? Why isn't he intervening and reaching out to the feds to get them to talk?

(Although... it's a ways from the border, but Alameda is pretty progressive and probably would not object to using the facility to house unaccompanied minors in temporary detention.)

Jon Spangler's picture
Submitted by Jon Spangler on Wed, Feb 18, 2015

I am glad that an olive branch was finally tendered last night, but it took far too long for the City of Alameda to bury the hatchet and act responsibly in the conflict with EBRPD over Crab Cove.

The City of Alameda should have worked hard to reconcile with EBRPD when the dispute first arose instead of getting its legislative and administrative knickers in a huffy knot and reacting so defensively: reconciling and reaching an accommodation could have saved tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on both sides. Instead, anger, defensiveness, and arrogance seemed to rule the day.

I hope--despite some needlessly snarky comments from certain council members Tuesday night--that the two agencies will regain their friendly and cooperative working relationship soon, and not repeat the mistake of going to war next time that a problem needs to be solved.