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End-Game For Controversial School District Land Swap Becomes Clear

A complicated land swap between the City of Alameda and the school district was a key enabler to the development of the Encinal Terminals site.

A complicated land swap between the City of Alameda and the school district was a key enabler to the development of the Encinal Terminals site.

The end-game for a controversial 2014 land swap between the City of Alameda and the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) is now clear, as the Planning Board for the City of Alameda is set to hold a workshop regarding development plans for a the 22-acre Encinal Terminals site on the northern waterfront.

The complicated deal involved the City of Alameda, the Alameda Unified School District and the City of Alameda Housing authority. Four parcels of land and more than $6.5 million changed hands.

Trish Spencer, now the Mayor of Alameda, was a school district trustee at the time, and, to no avail, urged all parties to slow down the swap process to give the community time to vet the transaction and conduct land appraisals, “so as to avoid a possible loss to AUSD of millions of dollars and irreplaceable real estate.”

Now, the property owners, North Waterfront Cove, LLC (NWC), hopes to redevelop the land with a mix of new uses including residential, commercial, senior housing, and public open space.

But a 6.37-acre tidelands trust parcel, occupying a large portion of the center of the site, stands in the way.

The trust parcel is owned by the City of Alameda, held “in trust” for the people of the State of California, for use in commerce, navigation and fisheries. NWC leases the parcel from the city.

According to the city staff report to the planning board, “The awkward configuration of the public trust at the site renders much of the trust parcel useless for public trust purposes, and leaves a portion of the waterfront in private hands, free of the trust, and severely limits the City’s ability to plan effectively for the sound development of the site. These problems could be rectified through a trust land exchange, in which all the property around the perimeter of the site would be placed or remain in City ownership, subject to the public trust, to ensure that the public owned the land immediately adjacent to the water and would be guaranteed access to the edge of the water in perpetuity, and the interior of the site would be freed of the trust and transferred.”

The complicated swap in 2014 was the set-up for a proposed land exchange, which will enable North Waterfront Cove, LLC – the registered agent for which is Tim Lewis, a Roseville-based developer, to move forward with private development of the land.

Any such trust agreement would require the approval of the State Lands Commission, as well as Alameda City Council.

The city’s housing element ensures that at least 234 housing units could be built on the site, but the site is zoned with the Multifamily Overlay (MF) designation, permitting up to 30 units per acre or roughly 450 units; with density bonuses, that number could rise to over 450.

The planning board meets Monday, January 25th, at 7 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Avenue.

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