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Parks District Goes to Court Over City Actions On Crab Cove Parcel

The East Bay Regional Parks District has challenged City of Alameda zoning for this property near the entrance to Crown Beach. (Google Street View)

The East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD) has filed a writ of mandate in Alameda County Superior Court, challenging the City of Alameda’s rezoning of property on McKay Avenue, near the entrance to Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach. The writ was filed last Friday, November 9th.

The writ asks the court to set aside an Alameda City Council resolution from July which re-zoned property on McKay Avenue, and other parcels in Alameda, for high-density housing. The resolution created new zoning districts that ignore long-standing restrictions against high density housing in Alameda.

The McKay Avenue parcel is owned by the United States General Services Administration, but was declared surplus and put up for auction. A housing developer, Tim Lewis Communities, was declared the highest bidder for the property.

The Parks district says that it tried to bid for the property at the auction to provide improvements to Crown beach, but that at the last minute, the bidding process was changed, allowing Tim Lewis Communities to win the auction.

EBRPD asserts that the rezoning of the property was done without proper notice and without completion of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) analyzing the impacts as required by CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act).

Parks District General Manager Robert Doyle claims that high-density development at the location, right beside the park, isn’t consistent or compatible with the recreational and natural resources operated by district.

Crown Memorial State Beach and the the Crab Cove Visitor Center and a portion of the Bay Trail are currently the only recreational facilities managed by EBPRD in Alameda.

For its part, the City of Alameda issued a statement today declaring the court action frivolous and a waste of taxpayer money. The resolution that re-zoned the land was one that also adopted a new state-required Housing Element, which the State of California has already approved, the City said.

The case is RG12655685 in Alameda County Superior Court.

5 comments to Parks District Goes to Court Over City Actions On Crab Cove Parcel

  • William Smith

    The East Bay Regional Park District needs this park!

    The district has long wanted to use this land to expand the popular visitor center, increase recreational and educational programs, and better separate parking and maintenance facilities from the heavily used picnic areas and beach at Crown Beach, which includes both the Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach and the adjoining mile of beach along Shoreline Drive owned by the city. Taken together, these adjoining beaches are the largest swimming beach on the San Francisco Bay, with over 1.3 million annual visitors. There is no other suitable location for improving the visitor center without impinging on the existing park lands.

    The city, however, recently rezoned the site as multi-family residential, and a private developer has submitted the high bid at auction to purchase it, with plans to build 48 single-family homes there.

    Alameda’s rezoning of the property, along with 15 others in the city, was intended to satisfy state housing requirements for multi-family housing. Development of multi-family housing is one of the best alternatives to sprawl development on open space. But if the new owner builds single-family housing here, it stymies both park improvement and multi-family development. Further, the noise from the Park District’s adjacent maintenance yard would disturb adjacent residences.

    The Park District has sued the City to prevent the construction of residences on the property and to block the long-delayed closing of the sale of the property to the private developer.

    William Smith
    Lead Sierra Club Alameda Activist to
    Expand Crown Beach State Park

  • Barbara

    Is Sierra Club an environmental “guru”? Are they supposed to protect our open space?
    Am I wrong?

  • Vania

    By the way, I forgot to mention that the Park District has an interesting alternative. It can use its eminent domain powers to condemn the Crab Cove Parcel, and thereby prevent the construction of any housing on the property. Of course, at this juncture starting an eminent domain proceeding is not a smart move for the Parks District, because in obtaining a surreptitious rezoning of the property, Tim Lewis Company can argue that he has vastly increased the fair market value of the property over what it used to be zoned for. These developer-pocket-lining maneuvers by corrupt city council members and board of supervisors members are an epidemic across the state, land speculators know it, and shady elected officials know it. These maneuvers greatly harm private land trusts and public agencies, like the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, which try to buy land to preserve as open space.

    Many people think that elected city council members/board of supervisors members receive far more than campaign contributions in return for enriching land speculators’ land value by “up zonings”, but it’s hard to find a successful prosecution for that sort of chicanery, let alone simple quid pro quo of vote selling in return for campaign contributions.

    Someday some land speculator will be caught giving a kick-back (as opposed to a campaign contribution) to a city or county elected official in return for an up-zoning of land which the speculator will ultimately spell to an open space agency or land trust. But I guarantee that the next California “gotcha” case of this sort, against a land speculator and an elected official, will not occur in Alameda County.

  • The following comments were submitted in response to this article. The submitter’s name and identity are known to Action Alameda News, but their name is being withheld by request…

    No Barbara, the Sierra Club has no obligation to protect open space, or do anything else to protect the environment. (Yes I suspect you know that.)

    The Sierra Club is a national non-profit corporation which exercises little if any control over (1) who may join and (2) what its local chapters can say and do.

    As a result, developers, their consultants, their spies and even public agency employees often join the Sierra Club to keep an eye on what they are doing, and in extreme cases “the bad guys” simply hijack Sierra Club local chapters and then vote to support horrible projects. If you think back to recent land use entitlement fights with over big project(s) in Alameda, you’ll remember that there were rumblings that a development company had subverted one of the Bay Area Sierra Club chapters for the developer’s own benefit.

    This is a very serious issue which Sierra Club’s national Board of Directors refuses to fix, both as a matter of philosophy and because some of its board members have already been compromised by little known ties to business interest. Essentially, the Sierra Club seems to not care when its local chapters besmirch its trade name.

    For example, n terms of “infiltrators” of the Sierra Club, just today someone noticed that the new “interim city manager” of Burbank is a member of the Sierra Club. Yet he has a history of being a clever manipulator promoting real estate development local residents simply don’t want.

    Thinking that the Sierra Club national, or the Sierra Club’s California operations, or a local Sierra Club chapter is going to protect the environment or the public health is like thinking a Cub Scout with a pen knife is going to protect you from someone shooting a gun.

    There’s a very ugly situation going on right now in California, far from Alameda, where a prominent officer of a local Sierra Club chapter appears to have sold out to a famous-for-being-dastardly national home builder and in so doing is trying to tank the career of a highly respected Superior Court judge.

    The reality is that the Sierra Club is not just a Cub Scout with a pen knife fighting the good fight. Instead, it’s the Hydra of classical Greek mythology. Unfortunately, there’s no Hercules around to stop the spread of the Hydra by cauterizing each of its necks.

    By the way, I forgot to mention that the Park District has an interesting alternative. It can use its eminent domain powers to condemn the Crab Cove Parcel, and thereby prevent the construction of any housing on the property. Of course, at this juncture starting an eminent domain proceeding is not a smart move for the Parks District, because in obtaining a surreptitious rezoning of the property, Tim Lewis Company can argue that he has vastly increased the fair market value of the property over what it used to be zoned for. These developer-pocket-lining maneuvers by corrupt city council members and board of supervisors members are an epidemic across the state, land speculators know it, and shady elected officials know it. These maneuvers greatly harm private land trusts and public agencies, like the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, which try to buy land to preserve as open space.

    Many people think that elected city council members/board of supervisors members receive far more than campaign contributions in return for enriching land speculators’ land value by “up zonings”, but it’s hard to find a successful prosecution for that sort of chicanery, let alone simple quid pro quo of vote selling in return for campaign contributions.

    Someday some land speculator will be caught giving a kick-back (as opposed to a campaign contribution) to a city or county elected official in return for an up-zoning of land which the speculator will ultimately spell to an open space agency or land trust. But I guarantee that the next California “gotcha” case of this sort, against a land speculator and an elected official, will not occur in Alameda County.

  • Barbara

    That’s enlightening! Thank you.
    Great comments.

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