FAQ: Questions about the swap, answered
FAQ: Questions about the swap, answered
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.