UPDATED Attorney raises legal questions about Point plan
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.