City purchases Belt Line property
City officials announced Tuesday that they have closed escrow on the Alameda Belt Line property. The price for the 39.4 acre railroad property was $966,207 – the original $30,000 sale price plus improvements and extensions.
“We’ve fought long and hard to acquire this property, and I’m thrilled that we’re one step closer to our goal of making it available to all Alamedans,” Mayor Beverly Johnson was quoted as saying in a city-issued press release.
City officials have not yet determined what they intend to do with the property. They said the City Council will make a formal determination on that after regulatory proceedings before the Federal Surface Transportation Board, which has jurisdiction over the transfer of railroad property, are done.
Alameda residents voted in 2002 to turn the land into a park. In an update on the website for the ballot measure dated March 26, open space advocates wrote:
Union Pacific has just delivered a grant deed for the Beltline property to the city in return for the money that has been in escrow since last October. Before the rails can be removed from Clement Street and a few other places, the city must disestablish the railroad and go through a few other hurtles (sp) but we are close to taking up the rails. (City Attorney) Terry Highsmith said that we are getting a lot more land than we ever thought we were getting and that there are tenants on most of the parcels. Stay tuned.
In previous postings, they also wrote that they believe portions of the land, which is scattered across the city, could be sold to help finance improvements and that Sweeney and another resident, Dorothy Freeman, were working on a design for a park there.
In June 2009, the California Court of Appeals determined that a 1924 agreement the city made to sell its railroad to Alameda Belt Line – which included a buyback provision – remained in force. The court determined that the rail yard in question was an extension of the railroad and subject to the terms of the contract.
The property includes a 22-acre rail yard that occupies a 300-foot swath from Sherman Street to Independence Way and the rail line, which runs the length of the Island. The money for the property was to come from the city’s open space fund.
The Belt Line’s owners, who stopped operating the line in 1998, had planned to sell the land to a developer for $18 million. But local resident Jean Sweeney found the 1924 agreement the city used to make its case for the land.
Sweeney, who put the measure on the ballot to turn the land into a park, told The Island in an earlier interview that the city will investigate the land for any environmental contamination in an effort to determine whether the Belt Line folks need to do cleanup there.