ALAMEDA -- Building single-family homes near Crab Cove at Robert Crown Memorial State Beach would provide minimal public benefit and undermine the effort to expand access to the San Francisco Bay shoreline, according to the East Bay Regional Park District.
Instead, the park district wants city officials to consider its proposal to build a new visitor center and expand the park through additional open space at the foot of McKay Avenue, where a developer plans to build 48 houses at the site of former federal offices.
"This federally owned property within the footprint of the state park presents the last and only opportunity to improve and expand Crown beach," said Mike Anderson, an assistant general manager with the district, in a June 17 letter to the city as part of preparing an Environmental Impact Report for the housing project.
The comments follow the park district filing a lawsuit over the City Council's decision in July to rezone the neighborhood for housing, saying the change is not compatible with the recreational uses of the park and beach.
Along with McKay Avenue, the approximately four-acre property is bordered by King's Road and by federal Department of Agriculture offices, as well as a park district maintenance shop and Crown beach along its southeastern tip.
Currently, two vacant federal office buildings are on the site and a parking lot covers about two-thirds of it.
The proposed houses would vary between two and three stories on lots that would average about 2,000 square feet. Each would have a garage. McKay Avenue would provide the main access to the development, which would be known as Neptune Beach.
"The proposed project provides minimal benefit to the citizens of Alameda," Anderson said in his letter. "It will result in increased traffic, reduced open space, will impact park operations and resources at Crown beach, and it will mean a permanently lost opportunity to expand access to the Bay shoreline."
About two acres at the site would be open space under the park district's proposal, which also calls for a cafe and an amphitheater that would overlook the bay.
The district's letter follows the Planning Board hosting a hearing to gather public comments for the EIR on June 5, when some nearby residents told the board they feared building the houses would increase traffic and cause pollution that would harm wildlife. The board did not take any official action.
The park district's lawsuit, filed Nov. 8 in Alameda County Superior Court, follows the district failing to obtain the property through an online auction held last year by the General Services Administration.
The winner was STL Companies LLC, which has designated Roseville-based Tim Lewis Communities as the developer for the Neptune Beach project.
City officials said they believe the district's lawsuit is an attempt to reverse the auction outcome.
The neighborhood was one of several where the council adopted zoning changes to meet the city's affordable housing and other residential needs. The changes also brought the city's Housing Element into compliance with state law, which city officials say is necessary to be eligible for grants for transportation and other projects.
Reach Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him on Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty.