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Trust issues

Submitted by on 1, January 8, 2009 – 8:30 amNo Comment

The latest salvo over the suggestion that Alameda Point become a public trust came last night from Debbie Potter, who is the reuse manager for the Point. Just as I reported a few weeks ago, Potter said city staff had already looked at the trust idea, using the Presidio as an example, but rejected it as not viable. At last night’s public hearing on SunCal’s master plan for the site, she offered additional details.

The Presidio became a national park through an act of Congress, Potter said, and it is run by a federal trust and is exempt from local environmental and affordable housing rules and state and local taxes. Potter said it’s the most expensive park to maintain in the national park system.

She said the federal government has given the park $300 million over the last decade, excluding cleanup costs. But even with that money and lease revenues from the site, staff at the Presidio said they don’t have enough to pay for improvements, Potter said. And the historic buildings there are difficult to fix, maintain and lease, she said. And the Presidio needs to be economically self-sufficient by 2013.

Alameda Point, she said, is subject to different federal legislation that requires it to be put to “productive civilian reuse,” including economic development and affordable housing. (What she didn’t mention is that the Presidio is way prettier.)

“(Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s) goal was to turn it into a national park, not to promote job creation and economic development,” Potter said of the Presidio.

Still, several speakers at the hearing said they like the idea of a trust.

Gretchen Lipow, co-founder of Save Our City! Alameda – the group that proposed the trust – said the Presidio is just one example of a public trust, and that others could be examined to see if something similar could be done at the Point. She didn’t offer examples at the hearing.

Her husband Arthur Lipow, also a co-founder, said the format of the public hearing was unfair. He accused city staff, who apparently sent out a press release regarding some of his group’s claims this week, of improper political intervention in the issue.

“Our interest is not in making trouble. We’re interested in saving Alameda,” Arthur Lipow said.

During the hearing, several dozen speakers offered their comments and concerns regarding SunCal’s plan, which would put 4,500 homes, offices, retail and more on the site. Top concerns included the finances of the plan and whether historic preservation efforts would be adequate. Concerns about traffic and efforts to change Measure A were also expressed.

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