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City Moves to Counter Citizens Open Space Measure

The City of Alameda is considering steps in response to a citizens ballot measure. (File photo)

The City of Alameda is considering steps in response to a citizens ballot measure.(File photo)

A City of Alameda administration that has loudly trumpeted court wins in recent months is inching towards a November ballot measure to help fend off any lawsuits that may result from the passage of a citizens measure to rezone an Alameda parcel to open space.

“Let this be a reminder that we vigorously defend against all frivolous lawsuits; and that in all cases, we will go after our legal costs,” a stern Janet Kern, City Attorney for Alameda, said in February, after a lawsuit against the city by former Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant was dismissed.

In October of last year, after the court dismissed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city by former Fire Chief David Kapler, the City of Alameda issued a press release quoting Mayor Marie Gilmore as saying, “Alameda taxpayers and the City have been vindicated by this substantial final judgment for over $260,000 against Kapler for his unsuccessful attempt to shake down and intimidate the City.”

David Kapler “learned the hard way,” the City of Alameda said at that time.

However, a ballot initiative led by Friends of Crown Beach, an Alameda advocacy group, that would see federal land on McKay Avenue, adjacent to Crown Beach, re-zoned for open-space, instead of multifamily housing, has city officials running scared.

On July 1st, Alameda City Council will consider a draft “Alameda Open Space Fiscal Responsibility Measure” that City Attorney Janet Kern says is intended “to provide a measure of protection from the possibility that the adoption by the electorate of the” Friends of Crown Beach ballot measure would create a liability for the city.

Kern says the City of Alameda should worry that the federal government, or Tim Lewis Communities, the would-be developer of the 3.9 acre McKay Avenue parcel, referred to as Neptune Point, could sue the city if voters approve a re-zoning of the property.

Open-space advocates say the city measure is just a ruse.

Karin Lucas, on behalf of Friends of Crown Beach, told Action Alameda News, “Alameda voters are very well informed about the City’s attempt to foil the expansion of Crab Cove which was approved in the November 2008 election. The open space zoning measure put on the November 2014 ballot by the Friends of Crown Beach will pass. The proposed city ballot measure and objections to open space zoning of Neptune Point are further evidence that the City is putting Tim Lewis Communities interests first over the expressed wishes of Alameda voters.”

Ironically, there was apparently a new lawsuit filed this week over the property, but in favor of open space.

A. J. Hazarabedian, of California Eminent Domain Law Group, writing for his blog, reported that the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission has filed a lawsuit to prevent the federal government from using eminent domain to acquire McKay Avenue, a necessary step for the United States Government Services Agency to consummate the transfer of the property to Tim Lewis Communities for housing development.

Action Alameda News has not yet been able to confirm the filing of such a suit, but it would be consistent with the State of California’s prior expressed position on the federal taking.

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