ALAMEDA -- The City Council has called for a report into the financial and other impacts of rezoning property near the entrance to Crab Cove Visitor Center as open space, a move that follows a citizens group gathering enough petition signatures to place a measure on the November ballot supporting the change.

The report, which the council will review on July 1, will explore how the possible zoning change will affect traffic and land use in the neighborhood, infrastructure cost, and the city's ability to attract and retain businesses.

The report will also provide details on putting a companion measure on the ballot that would aim to give the city enough time to secure any funding that might be needed as a result of a zoning change.

The idea behind the report is so "the council can know with their eyes wide open what they are getting into as this initiative process goes forward," City Attorney Janet Kern said.

The council voted unanimously for the report on Tuesday, when it also could have simply adopted the zoning change or moved to put the issue before voters.

"I think we have a duty of due diligence as a council to inform ourselves and inform the public of what this measure would involve," Councilwoman Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft said.

The East Bay Regional Park District wanted to acquire the approximately four-acre site off McKay Avenue near Robert Crown Memorial State Beach, but was outbid by developer Tim Lewis Communities in a June 2011 auction hosted by the U.S. General Services Administration.


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Known as Neptune Pointe, 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 area is no longer included, however, as a possible site for homes in the Housing Element of the city's General Plan.

Mayor Marie Gilmore said she was concerned about the city's vulnerability to a lawsuit as a result of the initiative.

"At the end of the day, we don't own this piece of property," Gilmore said, "and we are potentially effecting another entity's property rights."

More than 6,000 people signed the petition supporting the "Initiative for Expansion of Open Space at Crab Cove."

"This particular place resonates with the people in this area, the whole greater East Bay," said Gretchen Lipow, who helped collect the signatures. "They say, 'Crab Cove? Houses at Crab Cove?' Yep, this (initiative) is a winner."

The initiative calls for rezoning the area as open space as part of Measure WW, which Alameda and Contra Costa county voters approved in November 2008 to protect and expand open space at the park district.

While the council opted for the report, the initiative will still appear on the November ballot, Councilwoman Lena Tam said.

"Nobody is trying to keep this off the ballot," Ashcraft said. "But an informed decision is the best decision."

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

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