I wrote about the East End Army Corps land transfer in passing here, but John Knox White and Kristoffer Koster have a letter to the editor advising caution. Excerpts from the op ed:
City planners and developers of yore developed the East End shoreline to ensure that the waterways around Alameda were open and available to all residents, not just those lucky enough to be able to afford to buy (or inherit) waterfront property. Six to seven pocket parks were built to allow all Alamedans to reach the bay and estuary and the City owns them.
But somehow, some of the property owner next to a few of these parks have taken them over, privatizing them for their own benefit. This isn’t a new practice, the Alameda Times-Star had a front page story about it in the early 1970’s, calling on the city to return the public’s land to the public.
Right now city council has the opportunity to stop the wholesale removal of three waterfront parks on the east end and ensure that future generations have access to the city’s waterways. But this means that they’ll need to support the Planning Board’s unanimous recommendation and direct the City Attorney’s office to work harder to ensure that the public interest is raised about the interests of six waterfront property owners.
On September 6, staff will bring forward a proposal that for the first time will privatize some of the waters of the estuary, and in doing so, three of these historic waterfront pocket parks will lose the future access to the water. This is because the deal that has been negotiated literally gives the mud under the water to private owners who will end up surrounding the parks. They’ll have docks and access, the public will not. The winners in this deal? People who have fenced off the parks and built structures on public land, who have literally taken over public parkland and claimed it as their own.
They recommend that the City Council support the Planning Board’s recommendations which include:
Vote to ensure that public access to the water, including the future ability to provide fishing and boating docks off Alameda’s pocket parks. With sports like paddle-boarding, kayaking and canoeing growing in urban areas, there’s no reason to reduce the ability for non-waterfront-property-owning alamedans to walk from their homes and get out on to the estuary. Do this by retaining full rights to the estuary properties that abut the City’s existing land.
Before any land transfers occur with the six private property owners who have fenced off these parks. Enforce the code, remove the fences and serve the property owners with documents that document where their private yards are actually public parks. For those who have built some of their private pools on public land. Sign a lease that requires them to pay for using public land and let them know that future pool repairs will necessitate them moving their personal swimming pool off public open space.
If you want to see a rendering of the area, you can see it here. And John Knox White has included and easy handy-dandy way to tell the City Council to support public access.