Blogging Bayport Alameda

December 5, 2013

Baby it’s cold outside

Filed under: Alameda, Alameda Neighbors, City Council, Election — Lauren Do @ 6:05 am

And just when you thought Alameda was all alone, along comes Berkeley to make one realize that, hey, it’s not Alameda that comes up with these ideas.   Much like some “Friends” are contemplating putting a zoning measure on the ballot to zone Neptune Pointe to open space in order to prevent the Federal government from selling that parcel at a higher value, Berkeley is trying to do the exact same thing to protect a post office the US Post Service is trying to sell because, well,  USPS needs money.   But of course wherever Berkeley is involved the National news loves to get involved.

In fact that first mention I saw about this was on Twitter:

From the Wall Street Journal:

The Berkeley Planning Commission last month approved a measure that would restrict the use of the post office and adjacent government buildings to government agencies or public uses like a theater. Residential use and many other private functions would be banned by the action, which requires City Council approval.

Proponents believe this would dissuade the federal agency from disposing of the facility, given that it would likely reduce the price the building might fetch in a sale. “A building that was built for the public should stay for the public,” said Berkeley Councilmember Jesse Arreguín, the proposal’s sponsor.

The rezoning strategy is being closely watched by other communities resisting sales in search of opposition techniques. But it has drawn the ire of the Postal Service, which calls the measure “unduly restrictive,” an attorney for the agency wrote to the planning commission last month.

He added that the city, across the bay from San Francisco, “appears to be simply trying to ‘increase pressure’ on the USPS to retain the property by chilling the market and driving down the value of the building.” The Postal Service has said it plans to lease storefront space in Berkeley with a much smaller footprint, about 3,000 square feet.

I don’t know if the “public use” argument in Alameda would fly with regard to the Neptune Pointe property because I’m pretty sure whatever government building was there previously wasn’t as open to the public as say, a post office.  Nah, in Alameda proponents of changing the zoning of Neptune Pointe to open space need only say that magic words: park and poof! Instant approval.   Then insist that the language in Measure WW proves that the money for Measure WW should only go to purchasing Neptune Pointe and therefore the City should do everything in its power to secure the property as cheaply as possible for EBRPD and voila!  You’ve “supported” your argument.

Except the open space zoning ballot measure would serve to do the same thing that those wacky Berkeley folks are trying to do.  Chill the market in order to stop future development that opponents don’t like.  Finally from the conclusion of the WSJ piece:

So far, they appear to have succeeded in rattling the market. “This one struck me at the get-go as one to stay out of,” said Patrick Kennedy, an active developer in Berkeley. He isn’t planning on bidding, he said.

Mr. Kennedy estimated that, without zoning changes, the post office would be valued at roughly $10 million. But the rezoning would significantly reduce its value, and it opens up the prospect that the building could even stay vacant should the sale go through because so many income-producing uses would be barred, he said.

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8 Comments

  1. Yes, it’s a sad day for America when citizens start messing with other people’s land values. Things really went off the rail in Alameda when the anti-property rights duo of Jean and Jim Sweeney placed a measure on the ballot to rezone the Beltline Rail Yard. They ended up screwing the railroad company out of nearly $18 million that the railroad was poised to receive from the housing developer who was going to build much-needed regional housing on this blighted part of our city.

    Comment by Richard Bangert — December 5, 2013 @ 8:08 am

  2. 2. well said Richard, though recall we needed a companion ballot measure because it seemed voters might pass a ballot measure which would leave the city in state of financial liability. Just because people vote for something doesn’t mean they are well informed. On WW I voted for it as money for EBEP, but was sort of oblivious to specific projects. I’m pretty sure I read the ballot language, but can’t recall what it said about land acquisition or new parks. It is really common these days for people claim that votes on various things are proof of a mandate by voters for various stuff and in most cases it seems that voters understanding was never that finely tuned. Too busy and lazy to go search for the WW language, hint, hint.

    Comment by MI — December 5, 2013 @ 8:17 am

  3. 2. The companion ballot measure by the city regarding the Belt Line, which would have effectively blocked the re-zoning measure if the city lost the contract lawsuit and had to pony up $18 million, was out of an abundance of caution. I believe people were well informed when it came time to vote because the contract caveat was known. And I might add, the city attorney who pressed the case on behalf of the city, and eventually the courts, bore out Jean’s common sense hunch about what she had found in a dusty box.

    Regarding Measure WW and what voters were expecting, I would agree that most voters could not pass an SAT test on a $500 million park bond measure. But lack of specific knowledge of what a voter is voting on does not invalidate line items in an referendum or make them subject to dismissal. If thorough knowledge was a prerequisite for a law to be valid, half the bills passed by Congress would be invalid. Just because every voter who voted for WW was not consciously thinking about the McKay property, does not minimize the effect of the vote. And I think its pretty clear that if we held a vote in Alameda today on the issue of what should happen at the end of McKay Avenue, the outcome would be overwhelmingly in favor of park expansion. Having more knowledge would favor the park district if we voted again.

    Comment by Richard Bangert — December 5, 2013 @ 9:11 am

  4. Every time Lauren writes about Neptune Pointe I feel the urge to add my two cents to the discussion, but have resisted until today. I am concerned that a few facts seem to be missing from all of the Neptune Pointe discussions:

    • In rejecting an early request from East Bay Regional Park District for a public conveyance of the property, and a subsequent offer to purchase it for fair market value under the “government office” zoning, the GSA departed from its traditional land disposal practices, and possibly violated the law. A federal regulation requires that a disposal agency must first make surplus property available for acquisition by State and local governmental units.

    • In 2008, the Alameda City Council overwhelmingly endorsed Measure WW, which expressly provided for funds to purchase Neptune Pointe to expand the park at Crown Beach. Nevertheless (the left hand not knowing what the right was doing?), City staff chose in 2009 to include the Neptune Pointe property on its proposed list of properties to be rezoned as residential in order to qualify its Housing Element.

    • When the GSA auction was held in 2011, the zoning at Neptune Pointe was still “government office.” Pursuant to that zoning, and constrained by it, EBRPD bid $1.5 million to acquire the property, but was outbid by Tim Lewis Communities by about $300,000. TLC’s bid was speculative, because the preliminary title report available to potential buyers clearly stated that the utility easement over McKay Avenue that the federal government had held would cease if the property left government hands. TLC’s offer was subsequently increased to around $3 million and a closing date was postponed until the easement issue could be resolved.

    • GSA announced in August that, in order to clear a “cloud” on its title, it would pursue an eminent domain action to acquire McKay Avenue. In early November, the California Attorney General’s office advised GSA that it would vigorously oppose any such action because it would constitute an unconstitutional taking.

    Do these facts change anyone’s mind about supporting GSA over EBRPD? They sure changed mine. There is a more thorough recitation of the history of this dispute on the Friends of Crown Beach website (friendsofcrownbeach.com) under the “Facts at a Glance” tab.

    Comment by Jane Sullwold — December 5, 2013 @ 9:44 am

  5. Jane,I don’t think anyone is supporting the GSA over EBRPD. The straw argument has been that the City are the bad guys, when in fact it is the GSA. Most galling of all, the GSA changed their traditional disposal practices in order to capture more money as a response to scandals that came to light about mis-use of GSA funds for extravagant parties, etc. In other words, because they couldn’t manage their budgets appropriately, local communities needed to pay the price.

    Comment by notadave — December 5, 2013 @ 10:52 am

  6. 3. thanks Richard. I didn’t recall specific language about purchasing Mckay having been in the ballot language. I wouldn’t argue that voter knowledge of a measure should change anything, just saying that most folks who voted for WW were probably generally supportive of parks and if McKay had not been specifically mentioned, but only general language about the funds being used for land purchase, that it would be hard to argue that voters were clearly mandating this purchase by extension. If this land purchase was explicitly in the language then there is no argument.

    Comment by MI — December 5, 2013 @ 2:16 pm

  7. Lauren, I hardly go on your site anymore. Originally is was about Bayport and now it is just about politics. The beltline property is not used now and is closed off who is going to pay for it. I can’t pay any more. Just pave a trial though it and let it go…

    Comment by Joe — December 10, 2013 @ 9:21 am

  8. Lauren, I hardly go on your site anymore…wordpress makes it hard because they keep making me change my password…if anyone want to know it is 10 ssssssssss in a row. Originally your site was about Bayport and now it is just about politics. The beltline property is not used now and is closed off to the public and who is going to pay for it. I can’t pay any more. Just pave a trial though it and let the public walk though it and don’t spend money buying more property until they can pay for what they currently have.

    Comment by Joe — December 10, 2013 @ 9:28 am


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