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Special election pits senior housing, homeless services against open space

Alameda residents are voting in a special election Tuesday on two competing measures that will decide the fate of vacant former federal offices on a 3.65-acre parcel on McKay Avenue across from Crab Cove. Measure A calls for a $40 million project to convert the property, which is near Robert Crown Memorial State Beach, into 90 units of senior permanent supportive housing, a 50-bed respite center for homeless adults and a daytime resource center for seniors.

Measure B would declare the land to be open space, although critics say the chance of it ever becoming a park are slim.

Measure A supporters, including Mayor Ezzy Ashcraft, said in their ballot argument that the 11 former federal buildings and their location “are a perfect match for Alameda’s urgent need for additional senior and homeless services.”

The supporters wrote:

“To ensure the city remains a welcoming place to all, the city must make sure ‘Everyone Belongs Here’ applies both to those with a roof over their heads in Alameda and those who are not so fortunate.”

But opponents, including former Mayor Trish Spencer, said the measure “is another example of the City Council’s fiscal irresponsibility” and isn’t guaranteed to serve any of Alameda’s homeless population. Opponents also criticized the Council for holding a special election on the measure now at an estimated cost of $580,000 to $700,000 rather than waiting for the November 2020 general election, which would be much less costly.

Measure B backers, including former Vice Mayor Doug Dehan and former Fire Chief Robert Lagrone, wrote in their ballot statement that it would support “Alamedans’ open space vision for generations to come.” They wrote:

“People raise their families here because there are safe places on the island, like Crab Cove, to enjoy outdoor activities including bike riding, dog walking and jogging.”

The Measure B supporters wrote:

“Alameda needs this additional land for open space to accommodate growing populations and provide options to address sea level rise.”

But opponents, including Ashcraft and Vice Mayor John Knox White, wrote:

“Measure B will not create a public park. Even with changes in the zoning ordinance and general plan, the site will remain occupied by vacant buildings and paved parking, fenced off from the public.”

They wrote:

“Measure B will not change the ownership of the site and will not cause the land to be transferred to East Bay Regional Park District or the city to create a park” and won’t provide any funds to buy the land or make improvements.

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