ALAMEDA -- The San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission has moved to initiate legal action against the federal General Services Administration over its decision to use eminent domain to acquire McKay Avenue, the street that leads into Crab Cove Visitor Center and near a site where a developer proposes to build homes.
The commission's decision, which came during a closed session June 5, follows a citizens group who secured enough signatures to place an initiative on the November ballot to rezone the area as open space.
Developer Tim Lewis Communities acquired the approximately 4-acre site during a June 2011 auction of surplus federal property. But the deal remains in escrow because state officials will not grant utility easement rights for McKay Avenue, which prompted the GSA to launch eminent domain proceedings in April.
The commission's decision is aimed at compelling the GSA to show its actions are allowed under the federal Coastal Zone Management Act, which requires federal coastline projects be consistent with state law, or in this case with the commission's San Francisco Bay Plan, according to open space advocates.
The East Bay Regional Park District also bid on the property near McKay Avenue because it wants to expand its Crab Visitor Center under Measure WW, which Alameda and Contra Costa voters approved in November 2008 to protect and expand open space at the district.
"We are gratified that (the commission) decided to take action against the heavy-handed tactics being used by the GSA for the benefit of a private developer of luxury housing," said Karin Lucas of the Friends of Crown Beach, which collected the signatures for the November ballot initiative. "In 2008 Alameda voters decided that this land should be used for expansion of Crown beach."
The developer's winning bid is believed to have been about $3 million.
If the commission can successfully secure a consistency determination, it will temporarily halt the eminent domain proceedings in federal court, Lucas said.
Known as Neptune Pointe, the neighborhood was one of several where the City Council adopted zoning changes in July 2012 to meet the city's affordable housing and other residential needs. The area is no longer included, however, as a possible site for homes in the Housing Element of the city's General Plan.
The park district is currently suing the city over the rezoning, saying it was done without proper notice and without a completed Environmental Impact Report as required by the California Environmental Quality Act.
Reach Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him on Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty.