Blogging Bayport Alameda

October 18, 2013

One commission to rezone them all

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

In case you missed it, BART is on strike.  Sigh, so plan that into your commute day.

It’s always when I watch other Boards and Commissions that I think, man, what is the point?   I mean, in theory I get why there should be a Historic Advisory Board and a Rec and Park Commission, but in action they are much less impressive.  Case in point, the last Rec and Park Commission.   For some unknown reason the Commission had on its agenda an item to send a letter to Senator Barbara Boxer to express their opposition to the Feds trying to eminent domain McKay Avenue.   Because open space.

I guess the rationale was, hey we oversee Recreation and Park type stuff so naturally we should lend our support to one side — you know the side that is suing the City of Alameda — and say that the Feds shouldn’t attempt to take over McKay Avenue.   Not only that, their timeline was completely wrong on how everything shook down.  As in they were under the misunderstanding that the land was zoned residential and then sold.   Not so.   It was sold first, then zoned.

So fast forward through some usual suspects during open comment and the Commission then decides to not send a letter to Senator Boxer, instead they decide to send a letter to the City Council urging them to “zone it back to open space.”   First of all, it wasn’t open space to begin with.  It was industrial with some sort of government overlay.   Of course, as I’ve mentioned time and time again, nothing precluded the East Bay Regional Park District from paying the same amount that the developer paid to get the land.   While people keep saying “it’s not worth that much” clearly it was worth that much because someone paid for it.

I actually learned something new that night, apparent the GSA went back to both EBRPD and the developer and both were told their bids were too low.   EBRPD declined to meet what the GSA wanted and the developer did.  I’m not sure what the point of sending a letter urging the City Council to “rezone” is particularly when there is litigation over the whole issue.

Then on the flip slide while they are on one hand decrying the taking of public land to, ostensibly, benefit a private party they also wanted to take up the issue of rezoning the Harbor Bay  Club site to open space to, I guess, prevent Ron Cowan from building houses there.  Now you all know how I feel about this proposed swap, I think it’s pretty dumb, but it’s also not smart to try to rezone someone’s private property to prevent him from doing something that you don’t want.  Because…the current zoning doesn’t allow Ron Cowan to build houses there any way, so it’s pointless.

I mean, seriously if these Board and Commissions are just going to be these little insular clubs where people bring their pet issues there for some sort of random public airing, what is the point?

Shifting gears, tomorrow is the Alameda Point Collaborative annual harvest festival, it starts at 11:00 and goes until 4:00 p.m.   Looks to be a lot of fun.  Pumpkin carving, food, kid carnival and it’s free!   There’s also a Friends of the LIbrary book sale happening at the O’ Club as well so you can get multiple things done on the West End at one time.



  1. Thanks for the mention of the APC event and the Book Sale. They are so close together, families can do both. The selection of children’s books at the book sale at the “O” Club is always wonderful. Not to mention the adult reading – mysteries, technical, novels, bodice-rippers, home and garden – on and on. A whole day of low cost fun right here on the island!

    Comment by Kate Quick,. — October 18, 2013 @ 7:05 am

  2. The two events are an easy walk away from each other. The harvest festival is free.

    Comment by jkw — October 18, 2013 @ 7:26 am

  3. Lauren, Either you haven’t read all the articles and commentaries about the McKay property, or you are deliberately trying to mislead people. This statement is false: “nothing precluded the East Bay Regional Park District from paying the same amount that the developer paid to get the land.” The park district can only pay the appraised value for property. They had it appraised. Appraisals take into account the current zoning. It was zoned government-office.

    That rule is in place for a good reason – so that administrators of a public agency don’t pay inflated prices for worthless land owned by friends. It protects our tax dollars from cronyism. Apparently you don’t think the park district should be under any such restriction – like a developer who can bid high, with a contingency that allows backing out if zoning and easement issues don’t work out. If the park district would have had that freedom – to bid higher, pending approval by voters to pay the higher price, then they would have won because an extra $1.5 million to expand a shoreline park like Crown Beach would have easily been approved – a second time – by voters.

    The original approval in Measure WW did not specify how much the park district could spend for land acquisition out of the Crown Beach project money. If the park district, and voters, had known they were going to be blindsided by the host city with a rezoning to residential, I’m confident the proper wording would have been included in the measure, and approved. The city had a choice – they could have publicly stated to the GSA that they intended to rezone the surplus property as open space in accordance with the wishes of the voters, and in accordance with the city council’s endorsement of Measure WW. They chose a different path.

    Comment by Richard Bangert — October 18, 2013 @ 7:50 am

  4. According to what one of the Park Commissioners said the other night, the developer bid low as well. Both the developer and EBRPD were asked to up their bid, EBRPD balked. To attempt to say that the land was “inflated” because EBRPD can’t or won’t pay more for the property is disingenuous. EBRPD has rules on what they can bid based on appraisals? Fine. Appraisals are not the actual value of the land, the actual value of the land is what someone will pay for the land. This is still a free market right?

    If EBRPD had owned the property they wouldn’t have required the City to rezone the land to open space because it would have been unnecessary. The only party to gain from a rezoning of the land to open space was EBRPD in order to lower the value of the land so that they could get it cheaper. For the City to do that based on some nebulous assessment of the “wishes of the voters” would have been ridiculous. I’m sure everyone who voted for Measure WW did so for vastly different reasons, I’m not so sure that allowing EBRPD to buy a piece of land cheaply was necessarily the impetus for people voting for Measure WW.

    Comment by Lauren Do — October 18, 2013 @ 8:55 am

  5. “Appraisals are not the actual value of the land, the actual value of the land is what someone will pay for the land. This is still a free market right?” Yes, a free market in which public agencies are allowed to compete with a handicap. But apparently some people don’t believe the park district should follow their handicapping bylaws because “that’s not the real world.”

    You make fun of the Rec and Park Commission lending support to one side. To quote city manager John Russo, “This is a dispute between the park district and the GSA.” Some people side with the park district. Some people side with the GSA.

    Comment by Richard Bangert — October 18, 2013 @ 9:25 am

  6. “For some unknown reason the Commission had on its agenda an item…”

    If you go back and watch the September meeting, you’ll see that Irene Dieter spoke during the public comment section and asked for that item to be added to the October agenda. It kind of sounds like a city commission responding to citizen input to me.

    Comment by Tom Schweich — October 18, 2013 @ 10:31 am

  7. If this happened as reported by Lauren (and I’m not suggesting it happened any differently, just being cautious), I’m wondering who the city employee is that should be staff to the Rec and Park Commish, and why that city staffer didn’t set them straight on the details as reported above before they publicly put their feet in their mouths?

    Comment by Not. A. Alamedan — October 18, 2013 @ 11:07 am

  8. Perhaps instead of cheering on EBRPD’s lawsuit against the City or insisting that the City make the EBRPD whole or in a better position than before maybe efforts would be better spent on helping the EBRPD become competitive in situations like this instead of saying, “well there are rules that don’t allow them to compete against private companies.”

    Personally I heard a lot of blame that night being passed to the City from EBRPD supporters for not doing more to help the EBRPD win the land. In the dispute between EBRPD and the GSA the only entity being sued is the City of Alameda.

    Edited to add: the ironic thing is HAD the land been zoned residential first then EBRPD could have bid more because the appraisals would have come in higher.

    Comment by Lauren Do — October 18, 2013 @ 11:10 am

  9. Had it been zoned ‘Open Space’ first as was the intention of Measure WW the appraisals would have come in lower.

    Comment by frank — October 18, 2013 @ 12:09 pm

  10. Since when did measure WW become a measure about changing the zoning in various localities?

    Comment by notadave — October 18, 2013 @ 12:19 pm

  11. 9= frank, that doesn’t make any sense. The zoning followed the sale and the appraisals. Did you expect Measure WW to dictate zoning on Federally owned land before it was sold?

    This discussion illustrates how everyone is having a difficult time understanding the issues. Why should ARPD be different?

    Comment by vigi — October 18, 2013 @ 12:28 pm

  12. Vigi. There has never been a sale. There is a bid. Title of a property is conveyed after the close of escrow. Why did the City rezone before the title had been conveyed?

    Comment by frank — October 18, 2013 @ 1:07 pm

  13. Alameda, doesn’t take very good care of the parks they have and they want all a lot of open space on the base. They don’t have the funding to develop the beltway land. All the grass coming out of the Webster tube is dried out and full of weeds. I sat in a park bench a few times and I have to say I saw 3 hours go by as I read a few times and I also worked for the city of Oakland for a short period of time. I have to say some of the park workers are great others not so much. I wish I would have reported the guy I worked for, but we could have done the 3 hours of work in 1 hour. We would stop for breakfast, take 2 hour lunches, drive around…I hated the job. I use to work for the department of forestry and we were paid for 8 hours of work and we did 8 hours of work…so this just didn’t seem right.

    Did you know that a lot of the EBRPD’s land was donated by a developer.

    I also have to agree with Lauren, “Appraisals are not the actual value of the land, the actual value of the land is what someone will pay for the land. This is still a free market right?”. Since they are selling goverment land…paid for with our tax $’s they should get as much as they can for it. The federal goverment was shut down for how many days because they didn’t have funding? I have worked for the fed’s (Air Force), State and City goverments…some people work had and others don’t…as in all jobs some people skate by…but in the private sector you can’t as much. Sell the land to the highest bidder or get people to raise money to buy it. If you called it Oracle park, Larry probably would have given some money for it.

    Comment by joelsf — October 18, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

  14. #11, I agree, I actually believe that on federal land they are exempt from local zoning to a point. If they wanted to build a 15 story vet hospital on the point they could.

    Comment by joelsf — October 18, 2013 @ 1:39 pm

  15. The whole reason the fed put the property up for auction was to sale it to the highest bidder. If they wanted to do an outright sale they would have done so. It’s their land — who are we to dictate who they should or should not sell their land to?

    Comment by Karen Bey — October 18, 2013 @ 1:40 pm

  16. Again they owned the land but not the easement. Now they want an eminent domain suit to acquire State Land. As it stands now Tim Lewis could complete the land purchase but would be unable to build on it. Of course he doesn’t have to pay for the land if the Fed fails in the Suit. Would you sell your property this way. This will be tied up in the Courts for years. The City Council should have just stayed out of it till all the suits were completed. Their argument was this land was needed for low-mid income housing. They are not getting that.

    Comment by frank — October 18, 2013 @ 2:42 pm

  17. EBRPD didn’t sue the City until after the rezoning was done. Let’s not forget that EBRPD missed many many opportunities to halt the rezoning process during the Housing Element discussions, they elected not to and wanted the City to provide a remedy after the fact. If you are asking — like the Rec and Park Commission — that the City rezone the property back to the original zoning, or even to open space, that is not the City Council staying out of it, that is getting very very involved.

    Comment by Lauren Do — October 18, 2013 @ 3:12 pm

  18. Instead of suing the city and wasting taxpayer dollars, seems to me a public private partnership might work here where both the developer and the EBRPD can win. Why not move in that direction?

    Comment by Karen Bey — October 18, 2013 @ 3:17 pm

  19. Frank #16, Are you sure about that. My parents had an easment on their land and when the property was sold the easment went with it. They would convey the easment to get to the property. Why wouldn’t eminent domain suit work? There is no reason for the state to own the land the street is on. I am tried of the low/mid income housing thing…when they build low/mid income housing everyone else pays for it. Why would the Fed fail in the suit? As I see it they put it out to bid so they didn’t do anything wrong.

    Comment by joelsf — October 18, 2013 @ 3:37 pm

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