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Revitalize Alameda Point – Unconfirmed: Alameda City Council to Modify SunCal Initiative and Put it On November Ballot

Update, 6:00pm, June 27th, 2009: Response from Kate Quick, President of the Alameda League of Women Voters:

Well, there is some editorializing and a bit of opinion in Bill’s statement. But essentially, the dialogue did take place, and Lena did say that due to some changes in the conditions now in discussions with the Navy, there may need to be changes to the wording of the initiative, but they may be not substantive. She indicated that there are a lot of possible ways the process could go, enumerated them, and did not endorse any specific course of action. I don’t think the discussion of alternatives means that any of them are necessarily going to happen. I felt that there were many uncertainties in the discussion and it was left that many things could possibly happen.

I do not think it is wise to jump to any conclusions based on this discussion. Kate

Original article:

We were in the midst of writing an article (which we expect we will still publish next week) on how Alameda City Council, the Planning Department, and other actors in Alameda were duped by SunCal into believing that the developer was going to bring forth a simple “change Measure A for Alameda Point” initiative. Then we got an email, from which we excerpt a paragraph below, which shows, if true, just how desperate and pathetic some City Council members are.

Excerpt: (to be verified) :

Great news at today’s Alameda League of Women Voters annual meeting when City Councilmember Lena Tam let it slip that the City is determined to change the Initiative before it goes on the ballot. City lawyers are reviewing the Initiative now for the purpose of determining what can be changed in the Initiative without requiring that it be recirculated.

3 comments to Revitalize Alameda Point – Unconfirmed: Alameda City Council to Modify SunCal Initiative and Put it On November Ballot

  • Bill Smith


    Your title for this piece, Alameda City Council to Modify SunCal Initiative and put it On November Ballot, requires clarification.

    While theoretically it might be possible for the City Council to put the Initiative on the November ballot, practically speaking it is very unlikely – nor do I remember anyone present during the discussion, including Lena, state that anyone was seriously considering putting the Initiative on the November ballot. Instead, the discussion of timing focused exlcusively on 2010.

    To make the Novemeber ballot, the Council itself would have to put the Initiative on the Ballot by August, and to do that the Council would need a completed Environmental Impact Report (EIR). It would likely take months, even years, to prepare approve, and clear the court challenges to an EIR for a project of this size and scale that generates this much controversy.

    I agree with Kate Quick’s statement that it is unwise to jump to any conclusions regarding future Council actions based on today’s informal discussions. What is encouraging, is that one of the Councilmembers who supports the Initiative, has recognized publicly that the Initiative raises serious questions about who exactly would be in charge of development at Alameda Point – the City or the developer.

  • barb

    If the City Attorney is reviewing the 288 page SUNCAL Initiative to determine if there is a need to make changes to the Initiative, those changes are by their very nature substantive.

    Isn’t this what the City Attorney was supposed to do BEFORE rendering the statutorily required “Title and Summary” to be circulated with the Initiative? Changing it now is an admission that the Initiative was misleading, false and omitted key facts the electorate should have had.

    Nothing in the Initiative needs to go to the voters, except to amend Measure A. Everything else can be done by 4 votes of the Council. Are we paying city staff to do this? I think our taxes would be better spent for firefighters rather than our 10 person City attorney staff.

  • Here’s how it works. I saw the Simi Valley City Council put a pro-developer Ballot Measure on their ballot in 1986, with their Ballot Measures A and B, which involved slowing housing growth and limiting but not eliminating the bulldozing of natural hillsides. In or about 2002, they put another pro-developer measure on the ballot to “renew” the City’s growth control, but with huge holes in it. The City Council does not have to pound the pavement to get signatures. They just approve the text of one, and direct the City Clerk to put it on the next election ballot.

    Here’s how things work.

    If the majority of the City Council agrees that a ballot measure should be written, they direct the City Attorney to write the ballot measure. Usually, most of the direction to the City Attorney, as to what the ballot measure is to say is told to the City Attorney, behind closed doors, by the pro-developer council members, Brown Act be damned. The City Attorney writes the proposed ballot measure, in private.

    If the majority of the City Council and City Manager want to make one or more developers happy, the developers’ attorneys sit down with the City Attorney and literally negotiate the text of the ballot measure.

    The public is completely kept out of the ballot measure drafting process. There is no obligation, whatsoever, to follow the language in a previously circulated initiative which “might be on the ballot at the same time”.

    Often, the pro-developer City Council members also secretly review the draft ballot measure, and give their required changes to the City Attorney.

    Finally, when the developers, developers attorneys, City Manager, City Attorney and pro-development members of the City Council like the draft ballot measure, it is put on the City Council’s agenda. Without any meaningful editing of the draft ballot measure, by the City Council members as part of any public discussion of its content, the majority of the City Council vote to put the ballot measure either on the next municipal ballot, the next state ballot or a special election ballot.

    Voila! The parts of the original initiative which the City fathers and mothers didn’t like are gone, and they then campaign for the one the City Attorney has written.

    Though I’ve never seen a Development Agreement be a part of a City Attorney-written Ballot Measure put up for a vote by city residents, there seems to be no reason one cannot be. A Development Agreement is an ordinance, and a ballot measuare is an ordinance.

    Frankly, it’s just sickening that any Development Agreement would be put on the ballot, with its wording a fait accompli, thereby avoiding any public input, whatsoever, on what the Development Agreement says. The whole purpose of the Development Agreement statute, the General Plan Amendment statute, the Specific Plan adoption statute and the state zoning laws statutes require public participation before such actions are inacted. Under the normal process, the public has a meaningful right to object, before the ballot measure is cast in stone.

    There are some procedural requirements in the Government Code which must be followed before a City Council adopts a Development Agreement through a normal legislative process, so there may be some technical minutia which could be used by anti-Point forces to invalidate “the City’s dream ballot measure”, but don’t count on it simply because most Superior Court judges are dolts, in terms of planning, zoning and initiative laws.

    In addition, if a City Council puts a Development Agreement on the ballot, they are supposed to do an EIR on the measure. There is case law to that effect. So CEQA is yet another technical grounds to attack a ballot measure with development agreement put on a municipal ballot by the vote of a city council. I have more hope that a Superior Court Judge who is a CEQA specialist would pull a development-agreement-containing ballot measure off the ballot, if a City Council had not fully followed the CEQA process before putting their “ideal ballot measure” on the ballot.

    Most likely, the City sponsored Ballot Measure will end up on the ballot and if people in Alameda vote to approve it, there will have to be an uphill battle in the Court of Appeal for the opponents to invalidate the ballot measure on those minutia technical, procedural and CEQA grounds.