HERCULES -- A group of residents of Hercules' Bayside neighborhood wants to overturn some recent property sales by the city, alleging that the deals were crafted in violation of state open meeting laws.

Concerned Citizens of the Bayside Community accuses the council of dealing away three properties to developers without sufficient public disclosure of the brokers, potential buyers, appraisal values, land use and other details the group says should be public; two of the deals have been finalized.

The properties are:

  • Sycamore Crossing, an 11.43-acre, bullet-shaped site wedged between Sycamore and San Pablo Avenues;

  • Parcel C, a 17.27-acre triangle along John Muir Parkway midway between San Pablo Avenue and San Pablo Bay, once owned by Wal-Mart;

  • Victoria Crescent, a 6.37-acre rectangle along San Pablo Avenue north of Highway 4.

    "It is not our intention to engage in litigation," says a letter from residents Charles Davidson, Selina Williams, Brent Marin, Blanca Marin, Harpreet Sandhu, Yuri Teixeira and Adam Rahman submitted Sept. 11. "We are fully aware of the recent budget issues that have plagued our city and the need to sell real property assets to prevent declaring bankruptcy."

    But in a formal demand to "cure and correct" alleged violations of the Brown Act, California's open meetings law, the group asks the council to rescind the votes that authorized the sales or face possible legal action.

  • On Jan. 24, the council authorized the sale of Sycamore Crossing to a subsidiary of Safeway for a gross sales price of $9.27 million, minus the costs of removing a large mound of dirt on the site and other costs. The development of a Safeway store faces significant hurdles, including a restriction placed in the deed by previous owners that bars the sale of groceries and a variety of other products; the city is in litigation over the deed restriction with one of the previous owners, American Stores.

  • On June 12, the council, with Myrna de Vera dissenting, authorized the sale of Parcel C to DeNova Homes for $8.75 million; DeNova wants to build up to 350 homes at the site.

  • On Sept. 25, the council, reporting out of closed session, directed the city manager to begin negotiations with developer City Ventures for Victoria Crescent. Earlier tentative deals with other developers that proposed building 50 to 60 homes there fell apart; one was for $2.35 million, the other for $3.1 million.

    In addition to alleging inadequate disclosure, the residents say the city manager exceeded his authority by marketing properties for uses other than those stated in the Central Hercules Plan and that the city, in effect, is making land-use decisions outside the normal public process.

    The Central Hercules Plan envisions mixed-use development at Sycamore Crossing. Parcel C is designated for a big-box store with several acres of parking. In the mid-2000s, Wal-Mart and the city differed on what the city said was a 64,000-square-foot maximum for the anchor store, within a total store space limit of 168,000 square feet for what was tentatively dubbed Bayside Marketplace. Opponents say they want pedestrian-friendly, new urbanist, mixed-use development at the sites.

    Victoria Crescent has long been slated as a potential retail site.

    City Attorney Patrick Tang said he will review the complaint and report back within 30 days of Sept. 11, the date the city received it.

    City Manager Steve Duran said the Sycamore Crossing and Parcel C deals are valid and that the city has acted in accordance with the Brown Act and kept the public informed.

    Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at Twitter.com/tomlochner.