ALAMEDA -- State Attorney General Kamala Harris has called on federal authorities to revisit selling property near Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach to a developer, saying she is "extraordinarily troubled" that the street and sidewalk on nearby McKay Avenue also may now end up in private hands.
The move by developer Tim Lewis Communities to build homes on about 4 acres of surplus federal property has triggered community opposition, as well as a lawsuit by the East Bay Regional Park District over the city of Alameda's decision to rezone the neighborhood as residential.
"Ultimately, the federal excess land ought to be owned and controlled by the state of California or the East Bay Regional Park District because that indisputably would be the best and highest use of it," Harris said in a letter Thursday to Andrew Goldfrank of the U.S. Department of Justice. "The question now facing the federal government is how that can be accomplished in a manner that safeguards the interests of all."
The letter was prompted after federal attorneys indicated that the General Services Administration, which auctioned off the property last year, intended to secure the street and sidewalk of McKay Avenue through eminent domain.
"We are extraordinarily troubled by GSA's intent to take public land for a private developer's benefit," Harris said.
The California Department of Parks and Recreation did not receive the required notice from the agency about last year's auction and as a result federal authorities should "revisit entirely the already initiated process of selling 3.89 acres of excess land at the Alameda Federal Center," Harris said.
Harris also said state parks representatives will challenge federal authority to take the property on the grounds that it was not done for public use. But she also notes that state officials have proposed direct negotiations or "quiet title action" to resolve the issue.
Known as Neptune Pointe, the property is located along McKay Avenue and west of Crown Beach and is near the East Bay Regional Park District's Crab Cove Visitor Center.
The neighborhood was one of several where the Alameda City Council adopted zoning changes last year to meet the city's affordable housing and other residential needs.
The changes brought the Housing Element of the city's General Plan into compliance with state law, which city officials say was necessary to be eligible for grants for transportation and other projects.
In their lawsuit, East Bay park district representatives contend the council did not provide proper notice about switching the zoning from administrative and office use to multifamily residential, and that the council approved the change without a completed Environmental Impact Report.
Alameda officials maintain the lawsuit is an attempt to reverse the auction outcome.
The City Council is set to be briefed on the case during a closed session Nov. 19. Both sides will return to court Nov. 26.
The letter from Harris comes just over a week after the San Francisco Bay chapter of the Sierra Club and a citizen's group, the Friends of Crown Beach, announced they were forming a committee to review how they can prevent the construction of approximately 100 residential units on the property.
Among the options are putting an initiative before voters to rezone the area to stop the development, according to the committee.
East Bay park district officials say they hope to eventually secure Neptune Pointe as way to expand the Crab Cove Visitor Center and protect Crown beach.
Contact Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654. Follow him at Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty.