Blogging Bayport Alameda

July 25, 2011

Give it up to me

Filed under: Alameda, City Council, Development, Public Resources — Lauren Do @ 6:06 am

I wanted to circle back around to a City Council meeting that happened a while ago about the Mif land swap.  I didn’t get a chance to cover it in as much detail as I would have liked.

Let me first say that I don’t dislike Ron Cowan.   I know people  have a lot of issues with him and he has built up a lot of resentment with a very large group of Alamedans.   Personally, I don’t have that sort of baggage about Ron Cowan.  So I don’t come from a place of suspicion whenever the name “Ron Cowan” comes up.

But here’s why I don’t like the Cowan swap plan as presented right now.   First, it comes from a premise that the Mif Albright site is the only developable land left on Bay Farm Island and therefore Ron Cowan’s last chance to get his remaining units built.   Second, the plan also is built on the premise that Ron Cowan is owed the right to build these units and therefore the City must find a place for him to put those units. Third, there are other options if Ron Cowan is willing to be more creative.

While the only undeveloped parcel that remains in Ron Cowan’s portfolio is North Loop, I believe that he still owns the Harbor Bay Club.   There is potential for him to move that Club to the North Loop Road site and then develop his remaining units on the old Harbor Bay Club site.  Of course this wouldn’t be a straight transaction and he would have to put up capital to build the replacement club first, but this wouldn’t involve the City swapping park land.

Also, there hasn’t been any consideration by Ron Cowan to utilize the Density Bonus ordinance to maximize the number of units on a smaller footprint if the land swap goes through.  That way, as others have suggested, if the South Course and the Mif Albright could be made better with a new design, the new design should take as much space as necessary and the remaining land could be swapped out and the number of units maximized using the density bonus.

I will note that I understand that way back when Ron Cowan first developed his units on Bay Farm, he was exempt from building affordable units.  I think it is a mistake to continue to exempt him from this requirement that is required of all other developers in the City.   If he was building units on his own property that did not require the City to step in to consider a land swap or a land sale then, fine, he’s within his rights.   But any new development should have to meet the minimum standard that any other development would have to meet.  Given that the majority of new affordable housing units have all been concentrated on the west end, any opportunity for new development should spread affordable units throughout the City.   Or at the very least Ron Cowan should be pay the in-lieu fee to help contribute to the City’s fund to subsidize affordable housing in other parts of the City.  The in-lieu fee is a set amount a developer can pay per unit to opt to not build affordable housing at their project, but to contribute to an affordable housing project somewhere else.   It’s not ideal, but at least it allows developers to not shirk their responsibility to add to the affordable housing stock while they are making a profit.

And finally, there seems to be this perception that Ron Cowan is “owed” the right to build these units.  I know that some folks really think the court ruling said that, but I would argue that is not what it held.  While there was an overall cap of the number of units that could be built on Bay Farm that cap was not a promised number despite his protestations to the contrary.



  1. Why did they close the Mif ?

    Why did they close the Mif ? a young boy asked in vain.
    Why did they close the golf course where I learned to play the game ?

    Ron Cowan wanted land and he made a big demand.
    We could break some bones, if we don’t get those homes.

    He threatened with a lawsuit,
    which Sullwold said was moot.

    Cowan gave Johnson $10,000 dollars.
    “Will it be enough?” he hollered.

    Johnson duly called the secret meetings,
    threatening the staff with weekly beatings.

    Lillard then claimed the “Mif” loses money,
    but Junior Golf just made him look funny.

    Kemper came to town and settled in,
    no need to overdue it much to win.

    Ann Marie kept everyone in the dark.
    Underestimating Tam, soon she would depart.

    Kemper jetted back to find a mess,
    their deal now in tatters, they did stress.

    Kemper said 27, but the council said “Wait !”
    Will we now hear from the others who are banging on our gate ?

    Benny Blake quickly countered, we’ll do 36.
    We have no money, sorry, we put you in this fix.

    Doric out of the backroom now, Tim Hoppen is their man.
    He offers cash and a swap, sixty days to build a plan.

    Doric proposes compromise – 45 holes we can squish !
    We’ll even give you money for a sports field if you wish.

    Russo enters in. Another Cowan crony ?
    Only time will tell, if he is real or phony.

    The answer for the child now clear – Why did they close the Mif ?
    They closed it for to sell it, and fulfill the old man’s wish.

    Developers fund elections my boy, that’s how this game is played.
    It’s not the game of golf – but how politicians are Paid.

    Comment by Joe VanWinkle — July 25, 2011 @ 9:43 am

  2. Well said.
    PS: Why are we swapping a larger parcel with unlimited potential for a smaller parcel with minimum potential as if they were of equal value?

    I don’t think we are so hard up that we need to settle for less than the best use of our property.

    It isn’t our fault that Cowan, et al, didn’t see that their division of their property was going to leave them with an unfortunate site.

    They haven’t actually tied in any of the other people they says will help pay. If you research HBI development you’ll see they promise big, deliver small.

    The money offered (that they haven’t actually got) is paltry.

    Have we even tried putting together a potential package and shopping it? Golf Course and City sports complex, or golf course and houses? Nobody is going to go to the other side of Bay Farm from the main island for a game, but the golf course site is ideal for a complex.

    Comment by Li_ — July 25, 2011 @ 10:11 am

  3. I should have said “Well said, Lauren”, but the poem’s not bad either.

    Comment by Li_ — July 25, 2011 @ 10:14 am

  4. I have no opinion on the issue, but sorry, Dude. The poem needs work.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — July 25, 2011 @ 11:07 am

  5. Lauren, you are somewhat missing the point. To live in Alameda is to have to be ever-VIGILANT about developers who manipulate our elected officials to get what they want, regardless of the impact on the existing neighborhoods. Nothing personal about Ron Cowan. Doric Development does after all go back to @ least May 1955, when Alameda voters by a narrow margin in another one of those special elections approved a plan to fill in existing Bay wetlands to create South Shore (and flood the basements of bayfront homes in the Gold Coast). History just keeps repeating itself. Note the agenda packet for the Special Meeting of the City Council, April 12, 2011. There’s a packet submitted by BCG to challenge Kemper’s management of the golf courses & the agenda item is “discuss options relate to future operation of Chuck Corica Golf Complex..” Not 1 word about an HBI proposal, a land swap or any of Cowan’s proposal which ended up DOMINATING the meeting. Those seated on the dais semed to know all about it, even perhaps to have discussed it. It seemed to non-golfing observers like me that the Planning Dept had had to drop everything @ the last minute to accomodate a non-agendized Cowan item. Thank God the Golf Commision was there to object, b/c this was one hell of a non-transparent way for the public to find out about it! And whatever BCG proposed has been totally forgotten.

    Comment by alameda vigilante — July 25, 2011 @ 11:16 am

  6. The Harbor Bay proposal has been on the table for sometime, and I believe Doric Development submitted their plans to the Golf Commission two weeks ago.

    This is a great opportunity to solve an age old problem and upgrade the Golf Complex. I think the council is moving in the right direction to make sure they understand the land values being swapped and go after profit participation on the build out of the proposed homes.

    Based on the Boatworks development, it’s clear that 12.25 acres is not needed for Doric’s 112 homes. So one has to wonder what his plan is. No residential development plan has been submitted as I can see. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Doric has plans to move their Harbor Bay Club to the proposed 20,000 sq ft office site at the golf complex which would allow him to build out the remainder of his homes, and own and build a world class club house on the golf course. There is no reason to allow him to build a 20,000 sq ft office on the golf course — the highest and best use of the land on the golf course is a club house and a hotel if we can do both.

    I hope the city negotiates hard and makes sure the golf complex retains ownership of the land under the club house and the hotel, and negotiates a long term ground lease with escalation clauses that allow for future revenues plus
    a profit participation agreement with the club operator as well. This is the kind of deal that can help the city offset some of their future budget shortfalls.

    I agree this is a sweet deal for both Doric and Kemper. What they offered was just a proposal as Jane Sullwold told the city council. I was also disappointed that the proposal requires Kemper to put up only $500K to buy into this deal. I personally prefer Kemper — I believe they are one of the top golf club managers, but I believe Kemper can do better!

    Comment by Karen Bey — July 25, 2011 @ 1:23 pm

  7. Any word on the new city attorney recruitment? It seem quiet on the western front. Also talk around CH is that that office has been going through some changes with some staff. What is the scoop?

    Comment by Just as Vigilant — July 25, 2011 @ 4:03 pm

  8. Is the land swap good for Alameda? Members of Alameda Citizens Task Force believe we all need more information. On August 17, we will host a community meeting featuring a debate or a Point/Counterpoint discussion in the Community Room at Alameda Hospital from 7:00 -9:00 P.M. The time, date and subject are firm. Speakers are being recruited on both sides. This is free and open to all. Come learn with us.

    Comment by Nancy Hird — July 25, 2011 @ 5:00 pm

  9. I like the idea of swapping the Harbor Bay Club land with the North Loop land for houses. Creative thinking Lauren!

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — July 26, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

  10. Just as Vigilant. 43 resumes received, first round interviews are this weekend.

    Comment by John Knox White — July 27, 2011 @ 2:34 pm

  11. Typical liberal hypocrite. Ron Cowan is a big donor for Democrats. He buys all he can. But when it comes to affordable housing, he sues to stop it. He wants all those liberal rules to apply to everyone else, not him. He drive an 8 MPG Bentley around town, and want us to buy eco-cars. “I’m Ron Cowan. I always get my way. I am a bully, and I will make your life miserable if you don’t concede. I gave you $250k for your campaign, and you owe me.”

    Liberal hypocrites make me want to puke!

    Comment by Franklin — August 29, 2011 @ 2:26 pm

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