Letter to the Editor: Neptune Pointe developer speaks out

Letter to the Editor: Neptune Pointe developer speaks out

Letters to the Editor

Dear Editor:

Once dubbed the “Coney Island of the West,” Neptune Beach in Alameda was a popular resort drawing tens of thousands of weekend visitors to its beaches, cottage baths, and amusement parks. Sadly, the Great Depression signaled the end of the once vibrant resort and today the Neptune Beach site houses old, abandoned buildings and an overgrown, vacant parking lot. The adjacent road does not contain storm water pipes, or any basins to clean storm water prior to flowing into the Bay. In fact, it has been reported that a sewer line under the road is leaking into the Bay. Tim Lewis Communities seeks to fix these problems and transform the now blighted area into single-family homes, native landscaping and shoreline access that honors the area’s rich history while revitalizing the Crown Beach area.

Up until a few years ago, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) occupied the entire parcel that includes the Neptune Beach property. The federal government determined that while the land served the USDA’s purposes, the use of the land was inefficient. The federal government opted to consolidate its facility onto the northern part of its parcel and sell the southern piece. To accomplish this, the USDA took advantage of a laudable General Services Administration (GSA) program where the government fronts the cost of a move or consolidation and then recoups the taxpayers’ money through a sale of the excess land at a price sufficient to fund the costs. The GSA conducted a well-publicized online auction where five parties, including Tim Lewis Communities and EBRPD, participated openly and fairly. Tim Lewis Communities was the high bidder. We began in earnest to work with the City of Alameda to create a plan for the site that would benefit the city and community, increase its tax base, and provide much-needed housing stock on the West End of the Island. After the city revised its housing element to meet state requirements for sufficient housing sites by designating a number of properties, including Neptune Beach, for residential use, we sought input from neighbors at Crown Harbor to ensure we proposed a residential community that would complement the area’s existing land use, while enhancing and bringing new amenities to its residents.

It has long been our understanding from the federal government that it was selling land suitable for residential use, with the necessary access and utility easements. And this is what we intend to do on this underutilized, unattractive property – restore Neptune Beach to a place where families can once again live and play. Our proposed plan calls for 48 single-family residences. Tim Lewis Communities would fully upgrade the access road (McKay Avenue) and its utilities, including fixing the current substandard and outdated facilities. Using sustainable materials, our home designs will sensitively integrate with and enhance the existing shoreline, beach and park.

While infill of the Bay may have changed Alameda’s landscape, Crown Memorial Beach is still beloved by bikers, dog walkers and sand castle enthusiasts. We believe that by looking to the past in creating a community at Neptune Beach, we will complement the park and give rise to a new era of shoreline living in one of the Bay Area’s most treasured cities.

Jim Meek

Jim Meek is Director of Land for Tim Lewis Communities (TLC), a Roseville-based homebuilder.

Comments

Submitted by Irene D. on Wed, Aug 14, 2013

We already have a community at Crab Cove, and voters have already approved the funding (Measure WW) to upgrade the area without a private developer. The East Bay Regional Park District's park expansion plan will complement the park.

Developer Tim Lewis Communities was keenly aware of the easement problems before it bid on the property. Even the preliminary title report notes that “the easements . . . will terminate when the USA conveys [the] Parcel.”

The GSA’s disposal process sets out a list of guidelines for surplus federal property clearly stating that land “may be made available for other uses through public benefit conveyances” when “there is no further need for the property within the federal government.” However, “if state and local governments or other eligible non-profits do NOT wish to acquire the property, GSA can dispose of surplus property via a competitive sale to the public, generally through a sealed bid or auction.” GSA ignored the first clause and performed the latter.

The city council should remove the residential zoning because the parcel is not eligible to be included in the housing element.

Submitted by Richard Bangert on Wed, Aug 14, 2013

The City of Alameda has no obligation to rezone a property to residential in order to help the U.S. Department of Agriculture take "advantage of a laudable General Services Administration (GSA) program where the government fronts the cost of a move or consolidation and then recoups the taxpayers’ money through a sale of the excess land at a price sufficient to fund the costs." The city could just as easily have rezoned the property as open space, to support the laudable goal of expanding Crown Beach that was voted on long before there was an auction.

Mr Meek says his company will "restore Neptune Beach to a place where families can once again live and play." I don't see any residential structures where people once lived in the archival photo in this Alameda Sun story: http://alamedasun.com/neptune-beach-community-celebration/10886-get-up-c... The question for Alameda is: Do we want to turn this parcel into an area where 48 families can play, or a place where thousands of people can play?

"It has long been our understanding from the federal government that it was selling land suitable for residential use, with the necessary access and utility easements." If that was your understanding, you didn't read the Invitation for Bids that said it would be up to the buyer to secure zoning and easement rights.

Submitted by Allison Martin (not verified) on Wed, Aug 14, 2013

Thank you Irene and Richard for your responses which shed light on the flaws in the above letter from the housing developer. I, along with many Alamedans, voted for Measure WW and want the parcel of land in question to be used as stated in EBRPD's proposal, that is to expand and enhance Crown Beach. The land should be made available for ALL Alamedans to enjoy as part of Crown Beach, not just a few families that can afford new waterfront housing. The City of Alameda needs to admit their mistake and rezone the parcel back to what the voter's want it to be, open space and parkland. If you agree with this, please see our website friendsofcrownbeach.com and our Facebook page for maps, pictures and documents to become familiar with and keep informed on the latest news on this important issue.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, Aug 14, 2013

i know of one mayor(cc) years ago this would never happen. keep that area open to everyone to enjoy.

Submitted by Karen Bey (not verified) on Wed, Aug 14, 2013

Thank you for speaking out. It’s nice to hear directly from the developer, and to hear your vision and your intentions for this historic site. As a long time resident of the Historic Neptune Beach District, I am looking forward to your development.

I appreciate your desire to incorporate the site’s history into your development. The truth is that housing along the shoreline played an important role in the history and charm of Neptune Beach. The amusement parks, the beaches and the bathing resorts drew thousands of tourists to the resort each year and they stayed in the beach front homes, the week-end cottages and the Neptune Court Apartments one of the remaining remnants of the Neptune Beach era.

But unfortunately much of the original site of Neptune Beach sits unattractive and
underutilized as you describe in your article. It’s hard to believe that the area was once one of the most popular resorts in the country.

The West End of Alameda is in dire need of these types of development, and a housing development like what you are proposing would revitalize the Neptune Beach District and encourage other investment. I also believe your development will add tremendous value to the surrounding area. I especially like the style of homes you are proposing to build. They remind me of an area in Newport Beach called “Balboa Island”.

Thanks for your commitment to developing a great project on the West End, and thanks
again for speaking out.

Submitted by Darcy Morrison (not verified) on Wed, Aug 14, 2013

As I read this letter, two words kept resonating in my head: STATE BEACH!!. It's a STATE BEACH!! Mr. Meek has somehow managed to write on this topic without mentioning that this most unattractive parcel is part of a gloriously beautiful state beach. In what way does use of this parcel for housing benefit anybody in the general public in any way whatsoever?

This parcel was supposed to be incorporated into the state park under the Park District's Measure WW which we all voted on in 2008, with the City Council's prior input. The GSA decided to sell the land to the highest bidder, however, and a developer bought it in a SPECULATIVE bid, when it was not zoned residential. The city then helped things along by rezoning the parcel to residential, knowing full well that the Park District (EBRPD) planned to incorporate the land into Crown Beach. Now the developer claims to be "improving" it for us -- it will be more improved if it becomes part of the state park, as it should have.

Submitted by M.Gordanier (not verified) on Thu, Aug 15, 2013

The people of Alameda have voted repeatedly in favor of limiting growth and maintaining parks. We don't need more housing. More development will ruin this place for the folks who already live here.

Submitted by Laurel (not verified) on Thu, Aug 15, 2013

Developers are not in the business to benefit communities they are in the business to make money. Any attempt to convince us that Tim Lewis Communities is doing Alameda a favor is pure spin.

Save the beach, don't sell it to the highest bidder. I'd rather it be a "blighted" area than an overdeveloped private beach. The beach belongs to the people.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, Aug 15, 2013

The development of the area would be a major mistake. Though the area has not been developed for anything so far, we do not need housing there. We need open space and less congestion. The Crab Cove, Crown Beach area needs to be expanded in to more open space, not more.

Submitted by Jim Hotaru (not verified) on Mon, Aug 19, 2013

Looks like the GSA is moving ahead to invoke eminent domain in order to secure ownership of McKay Avenue.

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