Unanswered questions remain over controversial application to prevent McKay Avenue facility.
As Karin K. Jensen reported in her June 17 article, McKay Avenue Facility Debated at Housing Element Workshop, there was contention during a public workshop held by the Planning Board last week. Although the workshop was ostensibly about the Draft Housing Element, the McKay Avenue facility dominated public comment. The proposed Wellness Campus will provide 100 housing units for formerly homeless seniors, and those units count towards Alameda’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). The Alameda Historical Advisory Board approved removing the buildings because the cost of rehabilitating the structures into housing would be too costly.
A done deal?
Previously, in April 2019, Alameda residents voted on competing propositions Measure A and Measure B. Voters chose between between redeveloping the McKay Avenue property into a wellness center for seniors or preserving the 3.65 acres as open space. Measure A, supporting the wellness center, passed with nearly 53% of the vote in favor, and Measure B, supporting open space, failed, with nearly 56% of voters casting ballots against. The City’s webpage about McKay Avenue issues is still available.
At the March 28, 2022 Planning Board meeting for final approval of the project, none of the pubic speakers mentioned concerns about historical significance of the buildings. The project was expected to break ground this summer. However, since the board approved the plan, Alameda resident Carmen Reid filed an application last month to the State Historic Resources Commission to place the building on their list of historically designated buildings to preserve. On the application, she listed ‘Alameda Architectural Preservation Society’ (AAPS) as her organization as the preparer.
This application has proven to be quite contentious. As reported in Jensen’s article, Planning, Building, and Transportation Director, Andrew Thomas said that if the application is successful, the Alameda Wellness Campus planned for the property would no longer be financially feasible.
Many have questioned the timing of the application, considering it to be only an attempt to block construction of the center. A Reddit member wrote “What a transparent attempt to stop the McKay Wellness Center… This is just a Hail Mary attempt to subvert the will of the voters again.”
Others echoed the complaint that the matter had already been decided. A Facebook user commented, “I thought the McKay Ave Wellness Center was a done deal?!” Local blogger Lauren Do has been researching the veracity of the application and posting her findings to her site and Twitter.
Who is behind the controversial application?
Concerns have also been raised as to the originator of the controversial application. We referred to the application as being submitted by the AAPS. In response to our article, we received a copy of a letter from current President of the Board, Karen Lithgow sent to the Mayor, City Council, Planning Board, and Andrew Thomas.
Ms Lithgow writes that Thomas erred in attributing the application to the AAPS. She stated that Ms Reid’s inclusion of the AAPS as the submitting organization was for identification purposes only and Ms Reid should be considered the applicant. Ms Lithgow asked the Alameda Post to update the article to remove references to AAPS submitting the application.
Alameda Point Collaborative responds
After we made the changes to the article, we received another message, this time from Doug Biggs, Executive Director of the Alameda Point Collaborative (APC). The APC manages 200 units of housing at Alameda Point, and was tapped to be the operators of the facility on McKay Avenue. In his message to the Alameda Post, Biggs confirmed that during a phone call, William Burg, State Historian with the California Office of Historic Preservation, asserted that “[Ms] Reid was a consultant to [the] AAPS and [was] submitting the nomination on their behalf.”
Biggs also provided the Post with correspondence between the Vice President of the AAPS, Conchita Perales, and Mr. Burg. In her letter, Ms Perales writes, “On behalf of the AAPS Board I’m resending you said letter (see attachment) and confirm that Carmen Reid is a standing member of AAPS and the Preservation Action Committee. She presented her draft nomination to the Board last year, and we supported her as the lead applicant on the nomination with AAPS listed as the organization… The AAPS Board unanimously supports the nomination.”
City Councilmember cries foul
Alameda City Councilmember John Knox White has been outspoken about the issue. After AAPS sent out the letter above distancing themselves from Ms Reid’s controversial application, he posted multiple messages to his Twitter account.
“[S]hameful that AAPS is now trying to walk this back in such a shifty manner. Is it acceptable for any member to just put their name down on an application and make it look like they have the back end of the organization?” He also tweeted, “[T]his is AAPS continuing to try and have their cake and eat it too.” “I remember being on a non-profit board and us having to very clearly ask certain individuals to stop standing up/writing letters invoking the org’s name because they were not speaking on behalf of the group.”
As there is no clear picture as to who is responsible for this application that is causing so much controversy, we have reached out to the leadership of the AAPS and Ms Reid for comment to attempt to clarify what role the the AAPS played. We have not yet received a response. We will keep following this issue and post updates when we hear back from those involved.