The East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) today filed a lawsuit suit against the City of Alameda challenging the rezoning of property that would permit up to 126 housing units at the entrance of Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach.
District officials, including longtime Board of Directors member Doug Siden, were disheartened to learn that the City had approved a zoning change of the parcel, owned by the Federal government, to accommodate high density housing development. EBRPD contends that such rezoning of the property located at the end of McKay Avenue was done without proper notice and without completion of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) analyzing the impacts as required by CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act).
General Manager Robert Doyle added that the new zoning for a private development basically in the footprint of the State Beach isn’t consistent or compatible with the recreational and natural resources operated by EBRPD in the immediate vicinity.
“The Park District is the immediate neighbor and has always been an important partner with the City of Alameda. We were never consulted on the rezoning despite repeatedly expressing our interest and concerns with any development at this site,” said Doyle, adding, “Had we been notified the Park District would have taken a strong position that a new high density housing development next to our visitor center, sensitive mudflats, and our service yard would clearly not be compatible.”
“We’ve been talking to the top City officials for several years about this property. Our primary interest is to provide the Alameda community access to more programs, expand the popular Crab Cove visitor center, improve traffic circulation and parking, and to protect the natural resources on the City’s west end of its historic state beach,” he said.
Currently Crab Cove has a small parking area with capacity for fewer than 40 cars, inadequate for the daily buses of school groups and others who gather at the park’s west end.
The Park District tried to obtain the former federal administrative office property through an open public online bid process conducted by the General Services Administration. At the last minute the bid process was changed and it was only then that the Park District found out that an out-of-town residential developer won the bidding.
“More than 1.3 million people visit Crown Beach every year, and over 50,000 go to Crab Cove for educational programs and annual special events like Concerts at the Cove,” said Director Siden. “Instead of allowing a dense housing development at the entrance of the State Beach, we need to be providing the public with more access to our crown jewel.”
“It is very regrettable that we have to resort to litigation to stop what we believe is an incompatible use adjacent to the State Beach and visitor center,” said General Manager Doyle. “We appreciate the City’s need to identify sites to meet its housing goals, but this is not an appropriate location for that purpose. Such a development would impact the State Beach and restrict access by the greater community. The rezoning is a huge impact to this park’s operation, and we should have been consulted,” said Doyle.
The East Bay Regional Park District has operated Crown Memorial State Beach since 1966.
The Crown Memorial State Beach and the Visitor Center and a portion of the Bay Trail are currently the only Alameda recreational facilities managed by EBPRD. Plans for a future regional shoreline park at Alameda Point have not been finalized.
EBRPD Director Doug Siden said, “The Park District’s long history in Alameda, providing local jobs, plus millions and millions of dollars over decades invested into Alameda to operate and maintain Crown Beach makes this especially troubling. I am very disappointed with all of this.”