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The Chinatown connection

Submitted by on 1, June 22, 2009 – 6:00 am2 Comments

An attorney representing two Oakland Chinatown groups is threatening a fresh lawsuit over the city’s plans to develop Alameda Point.

Asian Health Services, the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce and the City of Oakland sued Alameda in 2003 over concerns that the city’s development plans could cause dangerous and untenable amounts of traffic in Chinatown, which serves as a main route on and off the Island.

An attorney representing the two groups wrote a letter to the city on June 12 saying city officials failed to present SunCal’s plans to an advisory committee set up to monitor the development as required by the agreement.

“During the past six months, the (committee) has made several requests that Alameda present SunCal’s plans to the (committee) for review. However, Alameda has failed to comply,” the attorney, Alan S. Yee, wrote.

Yee, who also chairs the oversight committee (it’s called the Oakland Chinatown Advisory Committee), wrote that the city is required to prepare an environmental impact report before it puts SunCal’s plan on the ballot. If SunCal submits its signatures to the City Clerk and there are enough valid signatures to qualify their initiative for the ballot, the next step in the process would be for the City Council to place the measure on the ballot.

“Preparing an (enviromental impact report) subsequent to the voter’s consideration of the SunCal initiative would deprive the parties and the voters evaluating SunCal’s plans of the benefits of the EIR,” Yee wrote. “It would render any EIR meaningless and violate the Agreement.”

Yee said he wants the city to cease any further action on SunCal’s plans and that he wants to meet with the city to try to resolve things. “If settlement efforts are unsuccessful, we will have no alternative but to undertake legal action,” Yee wrote.

City Attorney Teresa Highsmith couldn’t be reached for comment Friday afternoon. But in a previous interview with The Island she said that since SunCal’s plan is being put on the ballot as a citizen’s initiative, and not by the city, it is exempt from the environmental impact report requirement. Still, she conceded that the plans had not been presented to the committee.

I also checked in with a spokesperson for the Oakland City Attorney’s office, which was also a plaintiff in the original suit. They also couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

I’ve got links to the Oakland Chinatown agreement in this post.

The letter is the latest from an attorney raising legal questions about the Point plan. The city has received two other letters from lawyers who claimed that there are inaccuracies in the ballot language and also that the ballot summary prepared by the city is misleading.

SunCal just announced that is postponing plans to put its development plan on the ballot from November to early 2010.


  • DL Morrison says:

    It's worth asking who gets left holding the bag if the SunCal initiative causes a default on the Chinatown settlement agreement. The agreement is among the Chinatown parties, Oakland, and Alameda, so Alameda would be responsible, whatever the consequences might be.

    It appears that the Chinatown settlement agreement required a one-time tax on each housing unit to fund traffic improvements in Chinatown, so it might be useful to ask as well what the arrangement would be under SunCal? Of course, SunCal promised to spend $200M on "public benefits", most famously on the sports complex, but they can also spend that money on "traffic and transit improvements" both on and off the site, so perhaps that would include any future (and very expensive) mitigations in Chinatown — yet one more demand on that limited pile of cash.

  • David Howard says:

    Every dollar of the $200 million spent on Oakland Chinatown traffic and transit mitigation is a dollar NOT spent on the sports complex.

    Alameda parents, beware of Greeks bearing gifts….

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