ALAMEDA -- Residents who oppose a proposal to build homes near Crab Cove Visitor Center at Robert Crown Memorial State Beach will kick off a petition drive Saturday to place a measure on the November ballot that calls for rezoning the neighborhood as open space.

The Friends of Crown Beach say they hope to collect 6,000 signatures of registered Island voters so that they can put the "Initiative for Expansion of Open Space at Crab Cove" before voters.

"Crown Beach is a recreational and environmental public asset that benefits many Bay Area residents and visitors," said the group's Karin Lucas, a former city councilmember. "It would be a shame to squander the opportunity to expand the park for the benefit of a few wealthy homeowners and one builder."

The petition drive, which will be launched at the Aeolian Yacht Club, follows a local chapter of the Sierra Club coming out in support of the ballot measure, which would prevent the construction of up to 48 homes on about four acres of surplus federal property along McKay Avenue near Crab Cove.

The initiative calls for rezoning the neighborhood -- now known as Neptune Pointe -- as open space through Measure WW, which Alameda and Contra Costa county voters approved in November 2008 to protect and expand open space at the park district.

Roseville-based developer Tim Lewis Communities secured the property for about $3 million in 2011 during a General Services Administration auction. The sale has not been completed.


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The park district had hoped to purchase the property for $1.5 million, which initiative supporters say was the fair market value.

"The people of Alameda voted for the East Bay Regional Park District to buy this property when they approved Measure WW in 2008," said Norman La Force of the Sierra Club's San Francisco Bay chapter. "This land is important for the operation of Crown Beach park. Unfortunately, the federal government is ignoring the 70 percent of voters who approved the Crown Beach open space protection by selling this parcel to a private luxury home developer."

The neighborhood was one of several where the City Council adopted zoning changes in July 2012 to meet the city's affordable housing and other residential needs.

The changes brought the Housing Element of the city's General Plan into compliance with state law, which city officials say was necessary to be eligible for grants for transportation projects.

Park district representatives, who are suing the city over the council's decision, contend the council did not provide proper notice about the zoning switch and approved the change without a completed Environmental Impact Report.

Alameda officials maintain the district's lawsuit is an attempt to reverse the auction outcome.

The meeting to launch the petition drive will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the yacht club at 980 Fernside Boulevard near the Bay Farm Island Bridge.

Lucas said campaign representatives will be on hand to answer questions.

If voters approve the ballot measure, the zoning for the area along McKay Area near Crab Cove would be changed from medium density residential to parks and public open space, according to a summary of the initiative by the city attorney's office.

Reach Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him on Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty.

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