Several representatives of the City of Alameda have denied all responsibility for the controversy about the Neptune Point parcel of land. For clarification, the roughly 4-acre Neptune Point site is adjacent to Crab Cove at the western end of Crown Beach. Crown Beach, including Crab Cove, is operated by the East Bay Regional Park District.
After the federal government no longer required the Neptune Point parcel, it was put up for sale by the General Services Administration. While Neptune Point was used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it was zoned as "administrative/professional." McKay Avenue, which provides access to Crab Cove and Neptune Point, is owned by the State of California. The U.S. government had reserved utility easements under McKay Avenue to serve its Neptune Point facilities.
When the East Bay Regional Park District became aware that Neptune Point would no longer be required by the federal government, it designated the site for park expansion. The Alameda City Council in September 2008 endorsed the park expansion. Alameda voters approved the expansion and funded it with a 71 percent yes vote for Measure WW in November 2008.
Neptune Point went to auction in June 2011. The park district offered the fair market value price of $1.5 million based on its zoning as administrative/professional property. Tim Lewis Communities (TLC), a high-end developer with other residential projects planned in Alameda, ended up offering $3.075 million, obviously with the intent to use the site for the construction of housing. TLC still has not bought Neptune Point, although the City of Alameda accommodated the developer by rezoning Neptune Point to "residential" on July 3, 2012, thereby increasing its value considerably.
Since then, the park district has filed a lawsuit against the city alleging that the rezoning on July 3, 2012, occurred without the legally required notices and environmental review, and in violation of Measure A, the City Charter provision limiting housing density. Of course, when they granted the new residential zoning, our city mothers and fathers also ignored the voter-approved Measure WW, which authorized acquisition of Neptune Point by the park district and funded it.
The state of California, owner of McKay Avenue, has stated that it will not be able to grant the utility easement rights under the street which TLC requires for its proposed housing development because the state cannot grant such rights for private purposes. The GSA, which, after more than two years from entering into a contract with TLC, still has not received the purchase price from TLC, has now threatened to condemn McKay Avenue so that TLC can get the necessary easement rights. Condemnation proceedings by law are required to serve a public purpose. In this case, the condemnation would benefit a private developer and render the public park expansion impossible.
Our mayor and council members need to realize that they are not innocent bystanders. When they rezoned Neptune Point residential, the following occurred:
1. The City Council members went against their own September 2008 endorsement of the use of Neptune Point for park expansion.
2. They ignored the will of the 71 percent of the Alameda voters who approved Measure WW in November 2008. 3. They took a position against the East Bay Regional Park District, the regional organization that makes invaluable contributions to maintain and enhance our island's natural beauty and livability, all at no cost to the city.
Many Alamedans have called and emailed the council members asking that the city rezone Neptune Point "open space" for park expansion. Again, our city fathers and mothers ignore us -- all for the benefit of a private developer.
Friends of Crown Beach was formed to support the expansion of Crown Beach to Neptune Point. Read more and join us at: friendsofcrownbeach.com.
Karin Lucas, an Alameda resident, is a former City Council member (1983-1987, 1991-1998) and co-founder of Friends of Crown Beach.