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City Eliminates Oak Street Estuary Park from General Plan

Dear Editor,

On October 5th, 2010, the Alameda City Council eliminated the Oak Street Estuary Park from the General Plan and canceled any attempt to develop it as an active park.

The Council adopted 5 recommendations from the Planning Department concerning the Boatworks housing development owned by Francis Collins, along the Estuary side of Clement Avenue from Oak to Elm
Streets:

1) They accepted the final EIR on the property cleanup of toxic soil. Cleanup of very toxic materials from the old creosote plant and other contamination will take Collins about 8 to 10 months. The final result has to be certified as clean for residential use by the California State Department of Toxic Substances Control before construction can begin. Council members expressed a lot of concern about making sure that the City would never be held liable if more toxic contamination is discovered later.

2) Any reference to Estuary Park, as described in the 1991 General Plan, is to be eliminated from the current General Plan.

3) Zoning that allowed an active park on the property, a section of land about 300 feet deep (about halfway between the Estuary and Clement Avenue), is to be altered to allow housing there.

4) Collins’ proposal to build 242 housing units there is denied, but he will be allowed to build 182 units, 42 of which are moderate to low income housing. Cleanup plus the high density construction will
eliminate the old warehouse blight. The build-out will take at least 7 years.

Parking for at least one car per housing unit is required. Blanding and Elm Streets will extend into the development though their width is yet to be established. Council required the street extensions to be wide enough to allow space for street parking and bicycle lanes. Sidewalks along the streets extensions and along Oak Street plus additional public parking at the adjacent shopping center are to be established.

5) Collins agrees to stop suing the city. He also agrees to create a 100 foot setback from the Estuary, about 2 acres, as required by the Bay Conservation and Development Council, as a green space
that can be used by the public, though it will be owned eventually by the tenants association of Boatworks and maintained by the tenants association members. The Council was insistent that this
space be accessible by car, bicycle, and foot. The details of its design are yet to be established, though it seems a small parking area will be included.

The City agrees to grant Collins not more than 4.4 million dollars in tax concessions for area cleanup, the green space, and building the 182 units. Details are described in a settlement agreement between the City and Collins.

The 2 acre green space at Boatworks will be owned and maintained by its tenants. As far as I know, this arrangement of a passive public park along the Estuary, owned and controlled by a private organization, is unique in Alameda.

We have yet to see what the new City Council and Mayor will do to create badly needed active park space in our area, referred to by the chief planner, Andrew Thomas, as the Willow Street Neighborhood.

There was a mention that Thompson Field might be made available for public use after school hours, though, in my opinion, that means we would be able to play vollyball there at night since the school uses that field in the afternoons for team practice and track events.

I hope the newly elected governors of our city will be wiser and more energetic about looking for funding. Mayor Johnson had ordered the previous City Manager, Debra Kurita, to form a task force of staff and interested citizens to look for park funding. But Kurita ignored the order and Council forgot about it. Andrew Thomas was unable to interest the Trust for Public Lands in championing an application for Prop 84 funds to buy 4.6 acres of Collins’ land for Estuary Park since he didn’t have — in total — enough money to both purchase and develop the park.

What is to be done for the neighborhood? We have yet to see what benefits return to us from the taxes to be levied on Boatworks to develop social services for its residents and transportation for us all once 100 or more cars are dropped into our area. If City funds are low now, how much money will be available to us for active park space after the City grants Collins possibly more than 4 million dollars in tax concessions?

– Joe Woodard, Alameda

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