Feds to seek deed for road near Crab Cove

Feds to seek deed for road near Crab Cove

Michele Ellson
GSA property

The federal government plans to sue the state to reclaim ownership of a road that a developer who purchased federal property nearby needs to rekindle its home building plans, according to a letter obtained Monday by The Alamedan.

"(C)ondemnation is the most efficient means by which to confirm that the easements underlying McKay Avenue can be transferred with title to the Alameda Sale Property and with the retained Alameda Federal Center land," Andrew M. Goldfrank of the U.S. Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division wrote in a March 11 letter to the state Attorney General's office. Roseville home builder Tim Lewis Communities won the auction with an after-the-fact bid of $3.075 million, but hasn't yet completed the purchase of the property.

In his letter, Goldfrank said the federal government was required to sell the property at auction to recoup its costs for downsizing the federal agency that had occupied it, and that this trumped the state and park district's desire to obtain the land. In addition to assisting the developer in its efforts, reclaiming McKay Avenue would also benefit the federal government, which still operates a United States Department of Agriculture office on a smaller property there, the letter says.

"Either purpose is independently sufficient to sustain a federal condemnation," the letter says.

The letter also accuses the park district of precipitating the dispute by refusing to work with the developer to upgrade utilities under McKay Avenue that both the federal government and the park district share - upgrades the letter says the park district had previously agreed to help make.

A park district official did not respond to a request for comment. The attorney general's office also did not respond to a request for comment.

The letter was the latest salvo in an escalating conflict over the federal government's decision to sell the land at auction instead of giving it to the East Bay Regional Park District, which had hoped to obtain the 3.9-acre property to expand Crab Cove from across the street. The park district sued the city in 2012 in an attempt to undo the City Council's decision to permit homes on the federal property, but the city, park district and developer had recently entered talks to settle the dispute. Meanwhile, a citizens' group is collecting signatures for a ballot measure that would force the city to rezone the land for parks only if approved by voters.

City Attorney Janet Kern said the city couldn't comment on the letter, citing the lawsuit. But Karin Lucas, who is helping to lead the petition drive for the ballot measure, said both her group and the Sierra Club "strongly disagree" with the federal government's plans.

State officials said they wouldn't permit Tim Lewis to use McKay Avenue to support the proposed development, putting the developer's plans on hold and prompting the federal government to suggest in August that they would seek a court's permission to take the road from the state. In a November letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, John P. Devine, a supervising deputy attorney general for the California Attorney General's office, said the state was "extraordinarily troubled by (the federal government's) intent to take public land for a private developer's benefit" and suggested other means for resolving the dispute.

Comments

Submitted by Trixie (not verified) on Wed, Mar 26, 2014

Unbelievable. Unless, of course, you accept corruption in government at all levels as fact. Tim Lewis must be a heavy hitter in the corruption games.