Question: Where did the $4.6 million that AUSD has for low income housing come from?
Answer: It came from redevelopment tax increment funds, in accordance with this agreement between Alameda Unified School District and the City of Alameda’s redevelopment agency, the Community Improvement Commission. A longstanding criticism of redevelopment is that it diverts property tax revenue from K-12 schools to subsidize development. In 1991, the way that agencies mitigated that was to establish special agreements to redirect some of that property tax money back to the school district.
The 1991 agreement set up a low-income housing fund for school district employees, and a capital maintenance fund. The balance of the capital maintenance fund was periodically transferred to the school district, but the low-income housing fund just grew, in part because the balance wasn’t enough on its own for the school district to build low-income housing, and in part because most district employees make too much money to qualify for low-income housing.
You can see a 2008 summary of balances of the two funds, as provided by the City of Alameda, here.
Question: $4.6 million sounds like a lot of money. I guess that AUSD was keeping a close eye on it since 1991, huh?
Answer: Actually, no. Back in 2008, then AUSD Superintendent Ardella Dailey told Action Alameda News that AUSD wasn’t required to track the money.
Question: How did the school district get in the business of building low-income housing, anyway?
Answer: The 1991 agreement was in response to the so-called Guyton lawsuit of 1990 against the City of Alameda, over low-income housing. City leaders structured the 1991 agreement as a way to set aside funds to build low-income housing in accordance with the Guyton settlement.
Question: So have all those low income units required by the Guyton settlement been built then?
Answer: Action Alameda News has never seen evidence that all the required Guyton settlement low income units have been built.
Question: So where is all this property located, the property that is the subject of the current swap?
Answer: The so-called “tidelands trust parcel” is actually two parcels smack-dab in the middle of the Encinals Terminal property on the north shore of the estuary, tucked in behind the Del Monte building. AUSD accepted the property in a 2000 agreement, whereby they gave away the Mastick School property to the City of Alameda, even though Tidelands Trust property can never be home to a school – it can only be used for maritime and commercial uses. The California State Lands Commission controls the tidelands trust.
The 12-acre parcel, referred to as the PBC parcel, is on the south shore of Alameda, near the water, roughly southeast of the USS Hornet museum. The former Island High School site is at 2437 Eagle Avenue, not far from Park Street. The 20-acre parcel is on Alameda Point, roughly in between City Hall West and the big whites and bungalows.
This diagram may help you locate the tidelands trust parcels. The current correct Assessor Parcel Numbers (APN) are 72-382-9 (6.4 acres) and 72-382-10 (10.65 acres) for a total of 17.05 acres.
Question: So the school district has had these tidelands trust parcels since 2000?
Answer: Well, yes and no, it’s not quite clear. Minutes from a 2006 Alameda City Council meeting suggest that title to the property was never transferred to the school district from the City of Alameda, because the State Lands Commission wouldn’t approve a school district holding title to tidelands trust land that can’t be used to build a school.
Question: So, because they can’t build a school there, the district is right to trade it back to the city!
Answer: Perhaps. But it raises the question of why the school district agreed to accept the property back in 2000, in exchange for the Mastick School property. (Now Mastick Senior Center.) If the school district made a bad land trade back in 2000, it makes sense to closely scrutinize this deal to ensure they don’t make another bad trade.
Question: But these tidelands trusts parcels are useless, aren’t they? Nobody can build anything there?
Answer: Not quite. There is already a marina, the Fortmann Marina, on the eastern parcel. A summary of tidelands trust doctrine from the State Lands Commission, which administers the trust, reports that many uses are possible: uses on Public Trust lands not only include those traditional and direct Public Trust uses of commerce by navigation and fishing, but also include uses which facilitate or support Public Trust uses, such as wharves and warehouses. These types of uses were approved by the courts early in the 20th century because they directly promote the public’s trust needs. Later, uses which were incidental to the promotion of the Public Trust, such as the Port of Oakland’s convention center, were held to be consistent with the trust, because, although they were not physically dependent on being near the water, they promoted port business by encouraging trade, shipping and commercial associations to become familiar with the port and its facilities.
Question: But at least the school district collected rent revenue from the Fortmann Marina, on the tidelands trust parcels, per the 2000 agreement?
Answer: No. Apparently the school district, despite signing agreement to take title to the land, and collect the revenue, never collected any rent revenue from the businesses located on the tidelands trust parcels. On March 17th, 2014, the school district said it wasn’t in the business of collecting rent, despite previously signing the agreement in 2000.
Question: But isn’t this a great deal? The district is getting money for the swimming pools?
Answer: Well, some people think there’s not enough information to know if it’s a good deal or not for the school district. To start, the school district is releasing $4.6 million to the City of Alameda for low income housing, and getting $1.95 million for the swimming pools and legal costs.
Beyond that, the school district and the City of Alameda are trading land, but most of the land hasn’t been appraised, so the public doesn’t know the value of the land being traded.
One comparable, the March 2013 sale to Tim Lewis Communities of the Encinal Terminals property, the one that basically wraps around the tidelands trust parcel, would place the value of the AUSD tidelands parcel at about $3.2 million, or $500,000 per acre. Tim Lewis Communities bought the property out of bankruptcy court, after Peter Wang filed for bankruptcy. Later in 2013, Lennar bought the Chipman site from Trident partners, for $17 million, or roughly $2.36 million per acre. That property was already entitled for 89 homes.
As of March 6, 2014, the City of Alameda Planning Board was scheduled on March 10th, 2014, to hear a proposal for residential re-use of the Del Monte Warehouse building at 1501 Buena Vista Ave.
Some people think that anything that gets money for the swimming pools is a great deal. Others question if the school district is giving too much away, and fear that public school district assets will be privatized, because the district is giving away prime waterfront development land (the tidelands trust parcel, which hasn’t been appraised for value.)
As of March 1st, 2014, at 9:00 p.m., this table summarizes what we know about the value of the cash and property to be traded, according to the proposal:
|City of Alameda||Alameda Unified School District|
|Grant for Encinal Swim Center Renovations||$750,000||Gives City of Alameda 6.4 acre and 10.65 acres Tidelands parcels||AUSD says no appraisal of value required. However, a next-door comparable, the sale of the Encinal Terminals site to Tim Lewis Communities in March, 2013, at $500,000 per acre would value these two parcels at roughly $8.52 million.|
|City grants AUSD 20-acre parcel at Alameda Point||[AUSD says no appraisal of value required.]||Gives City of Alameda 12-acre parcel at Alameda Point.||[AUSD says no appraisal of value required.]|
|City/Housing Authority gives AUSD $1.2 million, of which $1.15 million is for Encinal Swim Center, and remainder for legal costs.||$1,200,000||Gives $4.6 million to City of Alameda/Housing Authority||$4,600,000|
|N/A||N/A||Gives City of Alameda/Housing Authority old Island High School site|
|Appraisal not released by AUSD. Estimated to be worth $1.2 million|
|Total Cash||$1,950,000||Total Cash||$4,600,000|
|Total Acres||20 acres||Total Acres||29.85 acres|