FAQ: Questions about the swap, answered

FAQ: Questions about the swap, answered

Michele Ellson

Updated at 3:58 p.m. Monday, May 12, in BOLD

The City Council is slated to vote tonight on a complex land and cash swap deal that will resolve deeds to public trust property on the Island’s northern waterfront, give the school district the money it needs to fix up pools at Encinal High School and hand housing funds and the former Island High School site to the Alameda Housing Authority. The proposal has sparked questions about just what each entity is getting, what it’s worth and how it will be used.

The Alamedan posed those questions to city and schools representatives and did a little research of its own; here’s what we were able to find out.

How did this deal come about?
The deal sprang from the city and school district’s efforts to reach an agreement to fix Alameda Unified’s high school pools, which are used by the school district, the city’s parks department and community groups. Attorneys for both the city and the school district used a stopping point in negotiations over the pools as an opportunity to consider resolving a longstanding dispute over the Tidelands property now included in the deal and also, to fulfill the city’s longstanding desire to obtain the Eagle Avenue property where Island High School once sat for housing.

What are the main terms of the deal?
Under the proposed deal, the city would retain clear title to 17 acres of Tidelands property (above ground and submerged) that sits between the Alameda/Oakland Estuary and the to-be-developed Del Monte warehouse, along with a dozen acres in what the city hopes will be the economic heart of Alameda Point. The school district would get 20 acres in the Point’s residential section plus up to $1.9 million to fix up the Encinal High School swim center. The Alameda Housing Authority would gain access to $4.6 million in funds designated for low-income housing development and would purchase the former Island High School site.

What’s the value of the land that’s changing hands?
An appraisal of the 0.83-acre Island High site conducted in January valued it at $1.19 million. An FAQ schools officials released Monday said the Tidelands parcels weren’t appraised because they can’t be sold; it said an appraisal wasn’t done on the Point property “because there are neither firm plans for how they will be used nor existing, similar properties against which to compare them. That makes knowing the potential monetary value very difficult.”

Where did the $4.6 million in housing funds come from? How will the money be used?
The city’s former redevelopment program collected property taxes to help revitalize blighted and underutilized areas around town. (State lawmakers nixed redevelopment in 2011, and the programs were shut down the following year.) The city made a deal with the school district in 1991 to set aside some of the tax money for the school district, to build housing for its teachers. But that never happened, and the money accrued for the next two decades, unused. The state moved to take the money away in 2012, saying the money was not among the bills the city’s former redevelopment agency was required to pay. But state finance officials relented after schools and city officials protested, saying in a December 2012 letter that the money could be used to fund affordable housing. The funds are to be used for that purpose, though specifics have not yet been announced.

What are the city’s plans for the Tidelands Trust property? Can the city sell it to a developer?
The Tidelands property is public trust property that the city can’t sell – unless state lawmakers choose to remove property from the trust. (Legally, the city was not permitted to give the property to the school district; the deal never received the state’s approval.) Tidelands property can typically only be used for marine-related industry and recreational purposes; each grant of trust property to a municipality outlines the specific uses that are allowed. (Alameda’s Tidelands grants are all listed here.) During an earlier interview, City Attorney Janet Kern said the city hasn’t made any new plans for the property, whose current uses include a marina, a yacht club and boat slips.

What about the lease revenues the city collects on the Tidelands property? Where does that money go?
Revenue collected from Tidelands property must be reinvested into the trust, according to the State Lands Commission (more on that in the first link of the last entry). The city’s budget anticipates $820,000 in revenues from all of the Tidelands properties Alameda holds this year and $1.5 million in expenses; activities include an annual inspection of the shoreline, developing litter removal programs, avoiding encroachment from adjacent properties and exploring the adjustment of parcel lines “to make properties more marketable.” (The non-submerged Tidelands property the city is securing title to earns $30,000 a year, which the city puts back into the trust.)

What does the school district plan to do with its property on Alameda Point?
A district spokesperson says Alameda Unified hasn’t yet decided what to do with the property, which she said is part of a long-range vision for the district.

The Point property the school district is getting includes the Bachelor Officers Quarters, a contributing structure to its historic district, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Will the district be obligated to restore the building?
Since the building is on the National Register of Historic Places, the district will have to list it as an historic resource in its state-mandated review of any project it may wish to do there, according to Lucinda Woodward, a state historian and supervisor of the State Historic Preservation Office's local government and environmental compliance unit. And while Alameda Unified doesn't have any obligation to preserve the building as a result of the register listing, Woodward said, any impact that a project the district initiates may have on the building must be accounted for in the review document. The environmental review is a disclosure document that lists the potential impacts of a proposed project, which means it may not necessarily protect the building. But if the district decides to ignore findings that a project could harm the building, it could face a lawsuit, she said. An attorney for the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society, which sued to set the deal aside over concerns the building would not be subject to the city's historic preservation ordinance, dropped the suit on May 12 after determining that the school district would be required to follow those rules.

Will the Navy be required to clean up the school district’s 20 Alameda Point acres once it’s in the district’s hands?
The Navy was required to complete cleanup of toxics on the site before it could transfer it to the city, which took title in July of 2013. (In contrast, cleanup efforts continue on part of the 12-acre site the school district had originally been slated to get; that property is scheduled to be handed over to the city in 2019.)

The school district initiated efforts to surplus the Island High property in 2010 but never completed them. How is the district able to sell the property to the housing authority now?
The district says state law allows school districts “to exchange properties with other entities without going through the surplusing process” but did not immediately provide specific information about those rights requested by a reporter. The morning after the council voted to move forward with the deal, the district's spokeswoman said Alameda Unified relied on state education code section 17536, which states: "The governing board of a school district may exchange any of its real property for real property of another person or private business firm. Any exchange shall be upon such terms and conditions as the parties thereto may agree and may be entered into without complying with any provisions in this code except as provided in this article."

Where will the Housing Authority get the money to pay for the Island High property? And what are its plans for the property?
The money to pay for the property will come from the $4.6 million housing fund. The city has long sought the Island High property for affordable housing development, and it’s listed as a potential location that could hold as many as 17 new homes in the housing element of the city’s general plan. But residents in the Wedge neighborhood it sits in have said they don’t want homes there and the housing authority’s director, Michael T. Pucci – who wants to build housing on the site and has said Alameda has a need for two-bedroom apartments – has said there’s a lot of public process to come before any decisions will be made.

Related: City, schools leaders set to weigh in on swap deal

Deal to swap land, fix pools being considered


Submitted by David (not verified) on Tue, Mar 18, 2014

It's disingenuous of AUSD to say that no value can be placed on the tidelands trust parcels.

Acceptable uses on tidelands trust property are pretty broad - see the presentation and the excerpt from the state lands commission, below.

It's even disingenuous to say the property has no value as a school - what about a school specializing in the study of the ocean? That's consistent with trust use, and Will C Wood school is already a partner with NOAA in oceanographic studies.

Further, former Councilmember Doug deHaan noted at the board meeting last week that the City of Alameda has land it might be able to trade into the trust, to release the AUSD parcels from trust restrictions, thereby making this land very valuable indeed. There is a precedent for that - the state legislature approved a swap of trust land at Alameda Point back in 2000.

The idea that only Don Perata could accomplish this is silly - Rob Bonta is in the legislature now, and clearly would be the agent to push this through.

Will C Wood School partners with NOAA to Protect the Ocean

State Lands Commission Explains Tidelands Trust

uses on Public Trust lands not only include those traditional and
direct Public Trust uses of commerce by navigation and fishing, but also include uses which facilitate or support Public Trust uses, such as wharves and warehouses. These types of uses were approved by the courts early in the 20th century because they directly promote the public’s trust needs. Later, uses which were incidental to the promotion of the Public Trust, such as the Port of Oakland’s convention center, were held to be consistent with the trust, because, although they were not physically dependent on being near the water, they promoted port business by encouraging trade, shipping and commercial associations to become familiar with the port and its facilities.

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Tue, Mar 18, 2014

Hi David,

Thanks for your comment. I think that more to the point, the district never actually got the Tidelands property, because the state never signed off on the deal (and there was never any legislation inked to give it to the district). So I don't know that anyone can say that the district is giving the property to the district so much as they are relinquishing their (unrealized) claim to it.

You mentioned the Perata bill from 2000, and I figured I'd share a link to the story I did on this in 2012, when the State Lands Commission signed off on the exchange the bill contemplated: http://thealamedan.org/news/state-commission-okays-alameda-point-land-sw.... Basically, the bill was for NAS Alameda and Hunters Point, and it traded out inland parcels for shoreline that I gather would be considered more suitable for the uses typically outlined in the trust grants.

Speaking of those, the uses are specific to each grant, and if you click the link I've got up top on this, you'll see all the grants in Alameda County, each of which lists permitted uses. Changes to those grants are listed as well.

Submitted by frank on Tue, Mar 18, 2014

Hi Michele,

From what I am reading 'here and there' the State might still attempt to lay claim to this $4.6M what happens then? There seems to be a lot of assumptions that this will be a seamless exchange. Are there any guarantees that the State won't at least attempt to lay claim to these Funds.

Reading all this it is a bit like a game of "Three Card Monte"

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Tue, Mar 18, 2014

Hey Frank - let me see if I can get the letter the state Department of Finance sent the city on this scanned and up in a few. In a nutshell, the state was going to take the $4.6 million because it wasn't an "enforceable obligation" - meaning they didn't think it was a bill the city was obligated to pay, like a bond payment. But they relented after the city and school district protested and allowed the money to stay in Alameda and to be used for housing. Info you're looking at is in the first bullet point on page one.

Submitted by David (not verified) on Tue, Mar 18, 2014

If you look at the online maps from the county tax assessor's office, it indicates the two tidelands parcels as "school" which suggests that conveyance from the City of Alameda to AUSD was recorded at some point.

Regardless, it's pretty clear that, in or out of the tidelands trust, these parcels are valuable, and there are, in fact, recent nearby comparables by which to establish a value. The notion that they are worthless and no value can be assessed to them is nonsense.

The whole deal just raises a bunch of questions about why AUSD repeatedly enters these deals to begin with:

1991 agreement - if AUSD is not in the business of developing low-income housing, why did AUSD enter that agreement at all? The one that produced the $4.6 million they are now so desperate to save.

2000 agreement - if AUSD is not in the business of managing tidelands trust property and the rental income, whey did they enter that agreement? If they can't build a school on the land, and its worthless, as they say, why on earth did they enter that agreement at all?

And who says this is the best deal to "save" that $4.6 million? They never consulted the community about it.

I might even make the argument that the money SHOULD go back to the state to help fund K-12 schools statewide and balance the budget. It's not "AUSD" money, it's *taxpayer* money, and given the track record of AUSD and these dumb deals, perhaps they shouldn't be managing any of it.

Submitted by donnajean (not verified) on Thu, Mar 20, 2014

Is it true that there is no new method to get over to the mainland except to "encourage new residents/businesses to use public transportation"? Our existing tube/bridges will be taxed even further? This is despite the fact that this land and the Oakland's both were transferred from the Feds to Alameda/Oakland. Why couldn't this be accomplished?

Submitted by Susan Davis (sr... (not verified) on Fri, Mar 21, 2014

Hi David,

I'm not sure that anyone can answer your question about why "the district" (by which you mean, I think, the district leadership at the time) entered into the agreements of 1991 and 2000. The first agreement was 21 years ago; the second was 14 years ago. The people who entered into those agreements no longer work for the school district. Moreover, the economic, political, and educational landscape is different now than it was then.

What we can say is this: The current agreement, which was negotiated by a different set of people, a) goes a long way towards solving the problems of the earlier agreements; and b) is a much better fit for the needs of all three agencies *today.* Rather than focus on the issues involved with the prior agreements, perhaps it would be most constructive to start thinking about how the three agencies can continue to build on the collaborative, community-focused partnership evidenced in this new agreement.