Nov. 8, 2012 -- Crown Memorial State Beach is arguably one of the crown jewels in Alameda, with incredible views and the longest publicly accessible beach along the San Francisco Bay. For close to 50 years East Bay Regional Park District (EBPRD) has proudly managed this jewel as well as its companions, Crab Cove visitor center and the Bay Trail, for all Alameda residents to enjoy. And we’re prepared to expand public access to these healthful amenities. Now we’re not certain we can.
Recent actions taken by the City to re-zone an important piece of land to accommodate up to 126 condos on McKay Avenue at the west end of the beach not only thwarts EBRPD’s public access expansion interests but also runs counter to the City’s own Parks Master Plan which seeks “to enhance partnerships with East Bay Regional Park District … to develop and manage parks, enhance access to parks and open space, and to acquire additional parkland.”
Just to be clear, EBRPD enjoys and appreciates great support from Alameda residents. In 2008, 71% of Alameda voters overwhelmingly supported the Park District’s Measure WW park bond. Language in that measure specified the allocation of funds to develop much needed improvements to enhance public access to the western end of the beach. We’ve been meeting with Alameda officials for a number of years about this expansion plan. The City’s action to adjust zoning to favor a housing developer’s interest on McKay Avenue was taken without proper notice and without completion of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) as required by CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act). Re-zoning in this area is incompatible with other uses of this neighborhood, namely the community access to Crab Cove and its historic public beach as well as the sensitive mudflats and habitat in the immediate vicinity. At stake is the privatization of one of the last parcels of land that could provide increased access to the popular Crab Cove visitor center, improve traffic circulation and parking, and form a buffer to protect the important natural resources at Crab Cove.
We have expressly sought amicable resolution to this conflict with the City regarding the recent re-zoning action. Unfortunately, their response has not been productive. We have no other alternative but to seek remedy by the courts, thus the District has filed a lawsuit against the City of Alameda.
We hope that the City Council will reconsider its actions and refocus its efforts to work with us in making EBRPD’s expansion plans a reality for the residents of Alameda. Taking away access to this property for all to enjoy is simply heading in the wrong direction.
Robert Doyle is General Manager of East Bay Regional Park District