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UPDATED Attorney raises legal questions about Point plan

Submitted by on 1, June 11, 2009 – 1:28 pm6 Comments

alameda-point-jetUpdated 1:23 p.m. Sunday, June 14

I’ve spent the last day or so following up on a letter an Oakland attorney sent to City Attorney Teresa Highsmith claiming that the proposed Alameda Point development initiative – the signatures for which are due in by end of the day Monday – has some misleading language in it and that it should be kept off the ballot as a result.

Turns out the attorney, Dana Sack, is also talking with folks in Oakland’s Chinatown district about suing the city or developer SunCal for proposed changes in the development plan that could triple the amount of housing built there – changes he says violate the terms of a 2004 lawsuit settlement with those groups.

“If they sue, they’ll win,” Sack said of the Chinatown groups. “The City of Alameda and SunCal are not going to get away with this.”

City Attorney Teresa Highsmith said that the ballot language is correct and that Sack’s claim is based on a misunderstanding of what’s in the initiative. (If you’re looking for a more detailed rundown on this, by the way, blogger Lauren Do has one today.)

“The conclusion I came to is that he is just wrong,” Highsmith said. “There is nothing internally inconsistent with the initiative.”

Barry Fadem, a Lafayette-based attorney who helped draft the initiative, seconded Highsmith’s point in a letter forwarded to us by SunCal’s reps. Per Fadem:

We encourage any voter to please read the document for themselves.  You will see for yourself that Mr. Sack just needs to “do the math” correctly and he will quickly realize there is absolutely no basis for his allegations. Mr. Sack owes an apology for these false allegations to Kathy Moehring, SunCal and the thousands of people who signed the petition to have this measure placed on the ballot.

Sack sent a letter to Highsmith on June 5 saying that the initiative’s language contains incorrect square footage numbers for the amount of commercial space to be built, which he claims is false and misleading. In the letter, he says Highsmith should either instruct the City Clerk to refuse the signatures or tell the City Council not to certify the measure for the ballot.

Sack told me he also met with groups in Oakland yesterday who sued the city in 2003 over the traffic they worried the preliminary development concept for the Point, which included about a third of the housing that’s listed in the current plan, would create in Chinatown.

He said the city is not following the process laid out in the 2004 settlement between the city and Asian Health Services, the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce and the City of Oakland, and that the amount of development to be proposed in the ballot initiative exceeds what was agreed to there.

Sack wouldn’t tell me who he is working for (“She asked me not to”); representatives of Action Alameda/Save Our City Alameda and Protect the Point both told me they didn’t retain him.

I spoke with Alan Yee, the attorney representing the Oakland Chinatown groups who filed the original suit. He said that city needs to do an environmental impact report before the measure goes on the ballot.

Yee also said the plan was supposed to be presented to a committee made up of the groups and representatives of Oakland and Alameda, but that it has not been. He said he’s been asking for a meeting with SunCal for more than six months, to no avail.

“Hopefully we will meet and confer and work some settlement out short of a lawsuit,” Yee said. (He said the letter will explain the legal issues in more detail.)

Highsmith said that the environmental report isn’t required prior to the measure hitting the ballot because the Point plan is a citizen’s initiative, and is not being placed on the ballot by the city.

She confirmed the initiative had not been submitted by SunCal to the committee.

Highsmith said this afternoon that the signatures to put the initiative on the ballot had not yet been submitted to the city.


  • Jayne Smythe says:

    People have been mentioning the Chinatown agreement on other blogs for over a year! Alameda is responsible to Oakland/Chinatown under previous agreements for TRAFFIC. Everybody has been ignoring that elephant in the room, or smooth talking it away like it doesn’t exist. You put as much new residential and (okay, yeah, we KNOW it will be empty forever) commercial in at the Point as this SunCal plan, what you think that does to the streets in Chinatown? If you all have been waiting for the other shoe to drop and thinking it was coming from Action Alameda or SOCA or whatEVER, then you have NOT been behind the 8-ball!

  • David Howard says:

    We have indeed been talking about the Oakland Chinatown agreement for some time, and brought it up with SunCal and the Planning Board at meetings many times since SunCal became involved. We specifically encouraged the planning board to bring it up with the joint alameda-oakland-chinatown advisory committee group that was set-up pursuant to the settlement agreement.

    For some insight into the trip generation from development at Alameda Point and Alameda Landing, click on my name. Documents commissioned by the City of Alameda – chiefly DEIR documents – show the tens of thousands of trips the City’s own consultants have said will be generated. 29,000 vehicle trips per day based on 1,897 homes at Alameda Point, under the old plan. (No DEIR for SunCal’s plan yet.) If the number of homes is 5,000 or so, roughly 2.6 times 1,897 homes, it’s fair to say the number of trips generated will be double that from an 1,897 home development, or even more.

    Again, with the exception of extrapolating from 1,897 homes to 5,000 homes, these numbers are City of Alameda numbers, not ours.

  • Jill says:

    Obviously the vast majority of the estimated 29,000 trips per day was from non-residential development, because each home is not going to generate anywhere near 15 trips to Oakland per day. Although more homes will no doubt generate more traffic, it is unlikely that 3103 additional homes will generate an additional 29,000 vehicle trips per day. While your point has validity, your numbers are flawed.

  • David Howard says:

    Jill – do you have an estimate of the total vehicle trips under the new plan?

    Your comment just begs the question of the need for an EIR on this project before it goes to a vote of the people.

    SunCal’s project proposes 2.6 times as many people/houses and 33% more (9000 to 10,000 over 6000) jobs. The APCP plan for 1,897 homes included 500,000 sq feet of industrial and commercial space – the new plan includes 2,500,000 sq feet of commercial space. (Or is it 3.1 million square feet?) There is 6 times as much commercial space included in the new plan.

    Here’s an excerpt from an East Bay Express article on the old plan:

    Over the next fifteen years, the Partners hope to build some 1,600 units of housing, four and a half million square feet of industrial and commercial space, and more than 100,000 square feet of retail shops on the 775 acres now called Alameda Point.


  • Jill says:

    Your original post only referred to a change in the number of homes, not an increase in the industrial and commercial space. I was simply pointing out that your math did not make sense based on the information you presented in your post. Note that I did not disagree with your basic premise that SunCal’s proposed revision will generate more traffic, and I am actually opposed to the development (mainly because of the traffic implications).

  • Ken George says:

    Oh Goodie! Let's everyone sue everyone else. Stupid stupid stupid… Oh.. anyone think to mention the 9,000 housing units being built on the Oakland side of the estuary and how, even before completion, they are already impacting traffic through the tubes and at the 880 on-ramps. Anyone care to discuss the idiocy of not including a Downtown Oakland/Broadway/Jack London Square when the 880/Cypress freeway was rebuilt? Bottom line is that we'd all be better off talking about how to do these things in a sensible way rather than making lawyers rich trying to stop others from doing them.

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