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Trust at the Point?

Submitted by on 1, December 18, 2008 – 3:00 pmNo Comment

Speaking of Alameda Point, some of the most vocal opponents of the plan to develop Alameda Point are floating a proposal to turn it into a public land trust.

Arthur and Gretchen Lipow say they want to see something like San Francisco’s Presidio Trust out on the Point, instead of SunCal’s proposed development of around 4,000 homes, retail, office space and more.

Per the Lipows’ flyer:

We want an ecologically sound development that serves the public with open space, wetlands, schools, recreation areas, research parks that are partnered with educational institutions, and light industry. In other words, we want to build on what we already have: A state of the art film studio, wine and spirits tasting rooms, warehouses and other services that currently produce $10 million to $12 million in annual income for Alameda.

Gretchen Lipow said she and her husband are just getting their proposal put together and are meeting with parks people and trust people.

Debbie Potter, the city’s base reuse manager, said the idea of a public trust was briefly discussed by the City Council (sitting as the Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority) after Alameda Point Community Partners pulled out as Point developer in 2006. But it wasn’t considered a viable option financially (the $10 to $12 million the Lipows referenced pays for limited maintenance on the base), and would have taken control over development of the base out of the city’s hands.

And it sounds like doing a trust at Alameda Point could have been even more complicated than establishing one at the Presidio. “From the ARRA’s perspective, it wasn’t seen as a comparable property scenario,” Potter said.

From the city’s 2006 staff report on the Point’s future:

The Presidio Trust was created under unique circumstances associated with the formation by Congress of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (“GGNRA”) in 1972. At that time, the following provision was included in the GGNRA legislation:

    When all or any substantial portion of the remainder of the Presidio [other than Baker Beach and Crissy Army Airfield, which are covered by separate provisions of the GGNRA Act] is determined by the Department of Defense to be excess to its needs, such lands shall be transferred to the jurisdiction of the Secretary [of Interior] for purposes of this Act.

Accordingly, when the Presidio was closed in 1994 pursuant to BRAC 1988, it became part of the GGNR. In 1996, Congress determined that the Presidio should be financially self-supporting and passed The Presidio Trust Act. The Presidio Trust is a “wholly-owned government corporation” run by a seven-member board of directors. The Trust manages the property in accordance with the purposes of the GGNRA Act and in order to achieve self-sufficiency within 15 years.

Equivalent special legislation would be required for ARRA to pursue reuse of Alameda Point consistent with the Presidio Trust model.

Any form of public auction pursued by the Navy would need the City’s cooperation, both as the land use regulator and as the trustee for the public trust. Once Alameda Point is transferred out of Federal ownership, it will be subject to the City’s land use authority. Hence, any development application would require a City determination that it is consistent with the General Plan and Zoning Code and properly conditioned land use entitlements would need to be approved. Furthermore, CEQA compliance would be required.

Public trust lands cannot be conveyed into private ownership. The City of Alameda was granted ownership and management of the public trust lands by an act of the Legislature in 1913 as trustee for the people of the State of California. In 1917, the Legislature amended the 1913 act and authorized the City to transfer land at what is now Alameda Point to the United States. The 1913 and 1917 Acts do not allow the City or its successors to convey ownership of the land to “any individual, firm or corporation.” The City has resolved future public trust issues with the State Lands Commission, the agency responsible for assuring that trustees such as Alameda perform their trust duties, through the Alameda Public Trust Exchange Act (“2000 Act”), which authorizes terminating the public trust on land that is no longer useful for public trust purposes in exchange for land that is useful for trust purposes, and makes the ARRA co-trustee with the City. Therefore, the Navy must work with the City/ARRA to ensure that any auction is compliant with the 2000 Act.

BTW, Lauren Do talked about the trust concept in a post last week (scroll down).

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