The parcel on McKay Avenue continues to be a source of controversy.
The "why" seems to defy logic. The East Bay Regional Park District tried to buy the site from the federal Agriculture Department when it learned it would be sold, and for months the two parties argued over the price, each bound by its regulations as to what it could offer or pay.
As I understand it, the EBRPD could offer only about half of the value the Agriculture Department was required to achieve from the site's sale. In addition, there is the issue of McKay Avenue, which has been draining sewage into neighboring properties and the Bay for its life span of more than 50 years and the $2 million price tag to rebuild it for access of whatever the use is to be. Apparently, the Agriculture Department was then instructed to offer the parcel, did so, and sold it to the highest bidder, Tim Lewis Communities.
In the meantime, the city was analyzing vacant land for inclusion in the city's application for state approval of Alameda's General Plan Housing Element -- this approval is essential for city eligibility for such state programs as transportation and infrastructure grants. The McKay Avenue site was included for housing development in the now-approved plan.
Apparently, one can argue the legality of the above actions (and throw away lots of public resources to do so), but based on the above, it seems rational to hope that 48 new homes and a rebuilt McKay Avenue will soon exist in this neighborhood of duplexes and apartments.
The sad part is the EBRPD's continued argument that it was "cheated out of an opportunity to expand the park," so it has presumed to produce a drawing of what they "would have" built there, which is very revealing. It shows continuing existing parking lots, adding two more parking lots and a new park service yard. In addition to these paved areas, the park district's "chipper" is prominently featured with a potential meadow of very small proportion for group picnic areas. All of this lacks the specifics of the source of funds to do these "improvements" and rebuild McKay Avenue.
Tim Lewis Communities has a highly respected reputation as an excellent developer. It is planning to build 48 nice homes on the site and return its status to that of a taxpaying contributor to Alameda's economic well-being, not to mention the likelihood of the residents' contributions to our schools, job pool and shopping sectors, etc. Yes, the city is preparing an EIR and will fully evaluate traffic impacts. It would be even better if the residents worked here and could walk or bike to work. This development appears to be a winner for the city.
I hope all the opposing parties will take a deep breath, weigh the potential outcomes of this matter and support it moving forward. As I understand it, the developer is taking all the right steps necessary to have its application processed, and it will need to move quickly since it has a considerable investment in the site, plans and consultants. Let's all get set to welcome 48 new homeowners.
Helen Sause is president of HOMES (Housing Opportunities Make Economic Sense).