Blogging Bayport Alameda

March 13, 2014

What’s the land deal-io

Filed under: Alameda, Business, City Council, Development, Public Resources — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 6:03 am

So I was watching Tuesday night’s School Board meeting and here’s what I was struck with.   One of the arguments that kept coming up, particularly from the neighbors from the Wedge neighborhood because they seem particularly unhappy, is that the School District is getting a raw deal.

It is strange when you consider the narrative that has been repeated during the whole GSA Neptune Point thing is that the GSA and the City and whoever should have bent over backward to accommodate the East Bay Recreational Parks District and essentially hand over the property at whatever price the EBRPD wanted to pay.   Accusations were lodged that the City of Alameda wasn’t working as a partner with the EBRPD and that it was the onus of government agencies to work with one another.

Here with this big deal between all the City of Alameda elected bodies you have this working relationship which — as the Superintendent said — gets property into the hands of the agencies that can best use the property and all the sudden people don’t want these elected bodies to work toward a common goal, rather that they should set up an adversarial relationship and get as milk as much money as they can from the City of Alameda and the Housing Authority.    It seems like such a departure from the narrative that we have been hearing about when it comes to the Neptune Point land deal.

One major thing that came up I think is notable to call out, especially for people who are skeptical about the deal.   School Board Member Mike McMahon points out that the affordable housing fund — about $4 million and change — would have been taken by the state had the School District not laid claim to it through the City of Alameda and though the Housing Authority.   As it is, even with the transfer of the funds the City of Alameda will have to fight the state — legally — to keep the money out of the hand of the state and so, this might be a sum of money the City of Alameda/Housing Authority might eventually lose.  Bottom line is, if the School District had tried to keep it, they would be unable to, therefore it really is only of use to the Housing Authority which has the ability to leverage other funds to construct housing using the money.

Anyway, I think this quote from Board Member Barbara Kahn really speaks to the heart of this deal:

We are not talking about giving this land to Ron Cowan, we are talking about sharing our largess with the City of Alameda and we are one in the same.  We’re two different bodies, but we serve the same community, we care about the same kids, we have the same direction.  We may have different paths to get to the same direction, but all of this talk makes it sound as if there is some terrible conspiracy going on and there is no conspiracy.

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18 Comments »

  1. I missed the school board meeting but was able to read Michelle Ellson’s tweets of the meeting. It’s pretty exciting to finally see collaboration between the City, the School District and the Housing Authority.

    Looks like we might finally get some things done!

    Comment by Karen Bey — March 13, 2014 @ 7:54 am

  2. I am not familiar with enough of the details yet to know whether anyone is getting a bad deal in this swap/deal/transfer, but having one of our pools properly repaired or replaced is a key priority for many in the community.

    Like Karen, I am glad to see cooperation between agencies that serve the same population.

    Now, if the City of Alameda would just stop trying to (needlessly) beat up EBRPD over Neptune Pointe/Crab Cove and cooperate with its long-time local recreation partner, we’d be in business…

    Jon

    Comment by Jon Spangler — March 13, 2014 @ 8:33 am

  3. The wedge community is proposing a community garden. I like community gardens, but in this case they are pitting a recreational hobby (gardening) against larger community needs (housing and long term school sites). If they think there really is a need for additional recreational hobbies, then they should work to collaborate with the recreational provider in town, and discuss converting part of Alameda Park, or Lincoln Park, or McKinley Park to community garden. Measuring one recreational use against another is a much fairer discussion than pitting recreation against housing. It will also give the neighborhood an opportunity to demonstrate they are really in favor of recreation, and not proposing a community garden as a warm and fuzzy tactic to keep affordable housing out of their neighborhood.

    Comment by notadave — March 13, 2014 @ 9:13 am

  4. Notadave: “It will also give the neighborhood an opportunity to demonstrate they are really in favor of recreation, and not proposing a community garden as a warm and fuzzy tactic to keep affordable housing out of their neighborhood.” After following Tuesday night’s meeting I ascribe the latter part of that sentence to be the true story, unfortunately.

    Comment by Kristen — March 13, 2014 @ 9:27 am

  5. Perhaps the Housing Authority can work with the developer to incorporate a community garden in their open space plan.

    Comment by Karen Bey — March 13, 2014 @ 9:54 am

  6. This multi-pronged “land swap” involves much more than just the Island High site. Why must the Board of Education, Housing Authority, and the City Council vote on this immediately? Is it because they must placate developer Tim Lewis who is now the developer of the Del Monte building? This “land swap” will give the city Tidelands Trust property very close to that same Del Monte building. Will the city then sell–or give that property to Tim Lewis?

    Consider that right now the city is in “mediation” with Tim Lewis over his desire to develop the property at Crown Beach…The same parcel that the Friends of Crown Beach and the East Bay Parks want to be zoned for park land. When their ballot measure wins in the November ’14 election, Tim Lewis will have his “consolation prize”–more property near the the Del Monte building.

    On Tuesday night, school board member Barbara Kahn said, “…..there’s no conspiracy here….Ron Cowan is not involved….” It may not involve developer Ron Cowan, but see Tim Lewis directly involved……and not one member of the public had said anything about what developers might be involved….

    While the AUSD is “trading” parcel after parcel for a pittance in return, they are simultaneously getting ready to launch a bond proposal in the November ’14 election. They want we, the citizens of Alameda to fund the schools—-after they give away parcel after parcel—all without even having those parcels appraised!!

    There is such a lack of transparency in this whole process–the school board, city council and housing authority have been meeting behind closed doors for two years discussing this “swap”
    The school board answered NO question at their Tuesday night meeting—NO question. There is no provision for citizens to ask questions and get answers before the city council votes on this on Tuesday, March 18. Is this because the city mentioned the words “We’ll sue the AUSD if you don’t give us what we want?” and the minute a lawsuit is mentioned, they say they must go behind “closed doors because of potential litigation”?

    Why are they afraid to answer any questions? What went on behind those closed doors? What went on in quiet telephone conversations?

    There is such a total lack of trust of people in city hall and the AUSD that the only way to restore any of it is to stop voting on this. Have the parcels appraised….open the discussion…allow members of the public to pose questions and get truthful and full answers.

    Until that happens, count me out on believing one word from city hall, or the Alameda School Board.

    Comment by a neighbor — March 13, 2014 @ 10:07 am

  7. 6. here’s your man. vote Netflix. http://www.beyondchron.org/news/index.php?itemid=12434#more

    Comment by MI — March 13, 2014 @ 11:33 am

  8. Hi, neighbor! Your post seems a bit cynical , but it does point out that Tim Lewis is starting to look like the new Ron Cowan. It’s good that you mention it, since citizen activism is necessary to keep any developer from getting too big for his britches in Alameda.
    And it goes without saying that before AUSD asks for any more public money to fund its projects, the parcels it owns must be appraised.

    Comment by vigi — March 13, 2014 @ 11:55 am

  9. See also:http://alamedamgr.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/the-art-of-the-deal/ for more info

    Comment by vigi — March 13, 2014 @ 12:01 pm

  10. 9. my stomach twitches when anybody thanks Action Alameda for anything, but I could easily add Robert Sullwold as a regular to my internet diet. I realize the Sun lacks the space taken by his blog, but their below the fold breathless “coverage” of AUSD Tidelands Trust today is piss poor by comparison. More editorial thinly disguised as news. Even though Sullwold is writing opinion, Evansoky could learn a thing or two about tone and restraint in framing “news”, but I think such subtlety may prove too allusive.

    Comment by MI — March 13, 2014 @ 1:00 pm

  11. The decision makers that the voters elected (not Action Alameda or vigi) must have all the information they need to determine if this is a good deal — 20 acres at Alameda Point vs. 12 acres, $4M in funds that can only be used for housing vs. money for pools, title to tidelands trust land that is owned by the state vs. land at Alameda Point for a school. For those that want more information and decry the lack of transparency, despite the number of public meetings or the articles in the Alameda Sun, the Alamedan or on Sullwold’s blog, it will make no difference if they have access to the same information because can’t believe “one word from city hall or the Alameda School Board.” Why don’t they get the information from someone they can believe? Check with Trish Spencer or Doug deHaan.

    Comment by BarbaraK — March 13, 2014 @ 1:21 pm

  12. 11. The “decision makers” will be the voters in November. AUSD is skating on thin ice with voters with antics such as lack of transparency on complicated “deals” like this. Add this to the already mistrust following the relocation of the district offices to expensive offices in Marina Village, mistreatment of commercial property for parcel tax issues,obvious lack of preparation by school officials for the community historic high school meetings (no building repair estimates) are just a few things that come to mind that lead to voter mistrust in the fiscal acumen of both the school superintendent and the school district. To vote “yes” on a school bond to make very needed repairs to our current schools, voters need to trust their money will be well spent.

    Comment by Nancy Hird — March 13, 2014 @ 3:55 pm

  13. You can’t have it both ways. To continue to penalize and hold back funds needed to repair school facilities because you don’t agree with all the decisions the AUSD board makes means our school facilities will continue to suffer severe deferred maintenance issues that may never get resolved which only serves to hurt our children in the end. This has got stop — we need to focus on what’s really important and that is the quality education of our children. I think the board took a very bold step — they decided to lead — to move forward so we can move on to the next 100 things on the list that needs to get done.

    Comment by Karen Bey — March 13, 2014 @ 4:06 pm

  14. #14 — “will continue to suffer severe deferred maintenance” — How long does an appraisal take? To my knowledge, not long at all. Let them get the outfit that appraised the DelMonte site and tell us what the AUSD property is worth. I don’t understand, sincerely, how any sort of public property transfer could go forward without a professional appraisal, under any circumstances, even when the exchanges are exclusively between public agencies, which is unlikely here. Does anyone think that this property, adjacent to the Tim Lewis site, is likely to remain in the city’s hands? AUSD should be asking fair market value for their property, not subsidizing the city’s deals.

    Fair market value was also an issue with the Neptune Pointe parcel — EBRPD was constrained from bidding above the appraised value, and the GSA was determined to wring every cent out of the site. The similarities end there, though. The GSA had a legal obligation to make a public conveyance of their surplus property to another public agency, and the site is uniquely situated for the expansion of a major public park. I don’t believe that AUSD has any similar obligation towards the city.

    It seems to me that all the consternation over this questionable “swap” was predictable and avoidable. Fair market appraisals would be a step in the right direction.

    Comment by Darcy Morrison — March 15, 2014 @ 1:27 am

  15. #14 — AUSD has a new FAQ about the proposed agreement on its website that might answer some of your questions. You can find a link to it on the homepage: http://www.alameda.k12.ca.us/.

    Comment by Susan Davis (senior manager, community affairs, AUSD) — March 15, 2014 @ 6:51 pm

  16. Wouldn’t it be better for AUSD to answer questions from the public instead of their canned questions?

    Comment by Jack R — March 15, 2014 @ 7:27 pm

  17. #16 — these are all questions that we have heard from the public.

    Comment by Susan Davis (senior manager, community affairs, AUSD) — March 15, 2014 @ 8:01 pm

  18. This neighbor doesn’t think you answered the right questions.

    6). “There is such a lack of transparency in this whole process–the school board, city council and housing authority have been meeting behind closed doors for two years discussing this “swap”
    The school board answered NO question at their Tuesday night meeting—NO question. There is no provision for citizens to ask questions and get answers before the city council votes on this on Tuesday, March 18. Is this because the city mentioned the words “We’ll sue the AUSD if you don’t give us what we want?” and the minute a lawsuit is mentioned, they say they must go behind “closed doors because of potential litigation”?”

    Comment by Jack R — March 16, 2014 @ 7:16 pm


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