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Open Letter from Save Our City! Alameda

An open letter to fellow Alameda residents from Gretchen and Arthur Lipow – Help Save Our City! A genuine crisis.

Alameda Point, the former Naval Air Station, is Alameda’s most valuable asset. Is the City Council about to give it away to a developer (Sun Cal Companies) and to a hedge fund backer? The land is public land – owned by the people of Alameda and the people of this country. It could, if developed as a Public Trust along the lines of the Presidio Trust in San Francisco, provide parks, recreational areas, sweeping scenic views of the Bay and San Francisco, and not least of all be used for ecologically sound, green purposes that would minimize Alameda’s carbon frontprint. No less important, Alameda Point could be a major cultural center for Alameda with schools and museums, research institutes, a “science city” connected to a major university. We think that the already existing enterprises on the Point which even now brings in $10 or $12 million can be expanded by light industry, possibly using the deep water port which Alameda is fortunate to have. There is a state-of-the-art movie studio already there which the bureaucrats who run the Alameda redevelopment agency (a separate and unaccountable power with a large income of its own) have ignored. Imagine, as we do, a flourishing film industry there (“Matrix” was shot in this studio) with a film school for Alameda students – these are just a few of the ideas that you will find on the website of www.SaveourcityAlameda.org.

The major backer of SunCAL is D.E.Shaw, a hedge fund. Hedge funds are about to go bust big time, everyone who can, has been taking their money out of hedges. The problem now is that these hedge funds are “locking up” investors’ money but they can’t do this for long. A big unknown is how bad will the hedge funds be hit by withdrawals now that the Madoff scandal has been revealed? And there is no chance that the Feds or Treasury Dept. will bail out hedge funds. The Madoff fund was supposedly one the safest but his depositors will lose $50 billion now – the biggest personal fund bust in US history. Alameda needs to act wisely and responsibly during the critical juncture. All economic advisors caution against getting involved with hedge funds and this is what Alameda City Council needs to take heed.

It would be criminal to give away Alameda Point – a piece of land worth billions of dollars – to private interests all to be paid out of public bonded debt while at the same time losing the income that would be available to the hard-pressed taxpayers of the city of Alameda. All of this while the schools are underfunded and the public services, including public safety are starved for funds – money that as we have shown over and over again would be available if it were not for the system of tax-increment financing that reduces the funds available to public services.

A group of Alamedans have banded together as “Save our City” and we have developed a vision for Alameda Point which would bring substantial income to Alameda while preserving the Alameda’s unique character as a livable community. The proposal by Sun Cal Companies and their hedge funder backer starts with 4000 houses and requires that the City undertake at least $700 million for the complete renewal of the roads, gas water and electric lines. The traffic congestion that would result is almost unimaginable –

A massive carbon footprint; converting Ralph Appezzato Parkway and Tinker Avenue into minor freeways. SunCal doesn’t even pretend to address this issue in its proposal.

To put it bluntly: what is involved could result in a massive theft of public land and the potential Manhattanization of all of Alameda. It’s no accident that SunCal has made the repeal of Measure A a condition for its proposal. Supposedly limited just to Alameda Point but even its most vehement supporters concede that it would mean the effective repeal of Measure A for the entire island. From a relatively low density livable community to a high-rise gentrified city. The unique qualities that make this city so special would disappear.

The objective of SunCal and its partners is to get the title to the land and to hold it until such time as the market for houses and other uses becomes possible – they will hold title to this land and Alameda will be locked out – cheated out of ownership of its own property.

Time is short. Here is what you must do NOW. Write to the City Council members and tell them not to approve this piece of land theft. Tell them to support the idea of a PUBLIC TRUST FOR THE PEOPLE — TO USE ALAMEDA POINT FOR THE CITIZENS OF ALAMEDA AND ALL THE BAY AREA. TO KEEP ALAMEDA GREEN.

The Council will be meeting on Tuesday evening, December 16 and again Wednesday, January 7th ARRA meeting where the pro-forma and draft master plan will be discussed. Citizens are encouraged to make their opinions known. Tell your friends and above all tell the Council to take the direction of a Public trust for all the people of the island and the surrounding communities – not a bunch of developers and Wall Street speculators.

Let’s all use our creative energies to get behind a Public Trust – to imagine how it could be used for the benefit of the public and then to put your ideas into practice in an Alameda Point Trust.

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