Blogging Bayport Alameda

March 12, 2014

Swap Trek IV: the Voided Homes

Filed under: Alameda, Business, City Council, Development — Tags: , , — Lauren Do @ 6:01 am

So big-ish news, Ron Cowan has now decided that he wants to separate his application to build new Harbor Bay Club from any other development he may propose for the old Harbor Bay Club space.   Meaning that he wants the City to okay the new Harbor Bay Club and forget he ever said anything about building anything at the old Harbor Bay Club space.  Here’s the open letter.

Of course the Harbor Bay Club neighbors are having none of that.  Since Ron Cowan is pretty much synonymous with everything that is horrible about developers in general, they are urging the City to reject that idea because they fear some ulterior motive in this new approach that Ron Cowan is taking.    As in: Ron Cowan will build his new Harbor Bay Club which will then kill the old Harbor Bay Club because people like bright and shiny new things and then it will become blighted and the Ron Cowan will swoop in, point to its blighted state and say “see!  we have to build something else now! mwhahahahahah!”

I won’t disagree that that probably is the plan of Ron Cowan, but at this point, I don’t think the City can push back and say, “Nope.  You have to submit what you are doing for both sites.”   I’m pretty sure that’s not how these things work.

At this point, the City will have to consider the proposed project on its merits regardless of whether Ron Cowan has or will or will never submit a plan for the old HBC site.   I mean, he could just rename the plan to Ron Cowan’s Recreation Center and it won’t technically be the “Harbor Bay Club” new or replacement and how could opponent tie that project to the existing Harbor Bay Club.

What would be a better effort for the Harbor Bay Neighbors is to see if they can scrape up enough money to buy the old Harbor Bay Club themselves to keep it an operating facility — that’s if Ron Cowan will even sell it — or see if they can convince the City to take over the club as a public park and recreation center.  Of course, still with the condition that Ron Cowan will sell it to the City.

There’s nothing really wrong with Ron Cowan’s plans for the new Harbor Bay Club and I’m sure that it will be a draw to the business employees there and if the Google ferry continues out of the Harbor Bay stop, I’m guessing that Ron Cowan wants to be able to lure those folks into the new club.   I don’t think there is much that the Harbor Bay Neighbors can do to stop the current path that Ron Cowan is taking, they should still remain vigilant to make sure that the old HBC club doesn’t becomes blighted.  I’m not sure how they can make sure it gets done, but if there is a neighborhood with plenty of funds and active community members it’s Bay Farm.



  1. City staff has been very clear and consistent that any decision on a new site for the Harbor Bay Club is a de facto decision on the current site. HBIA’s request to seperate the application for the rezoning from the application for a proposed club in the business park is a technicality, not a game changer. The two projects are linked no matter how Ron Cowan spins his version of reality.

    We know the projects are linked, because HBIA said so. They called building of 80 to 160 homes on the current site of the Harbor Bay Club a “necessity” to fund construction of a new club in their FAQs from August 2013. Those FAQs have since been rewriten (as they are with every shift in HBIA’s strategy) to omit that link. Perhaps Cowan’s financial fortunes have dramatically improved in 6 months, but last I checked he still had $7 million in debt on the current Harbor Bay Club.

    The economic play here is still homes where nobody wants them. The only thing that changed is the timeframe. There remains a belief at HBIA that there is no link between the residential development and the club and that they can move their plans for homes from the business park to Packet Landing Road. Unfortunately for Cowan and HBIA, the Harbor Bay Club exists to “serve the residents of the Harbor Bay Isle residential development” (the Planning Board’s words, not mine) and therefore is not portable. The club is not a purely private business no matter how Cowan tries to spin it.

    If Cowan and HBIA want to leave the residential development and build a club somewhere else, that’s fine. In fact, I will personally chip in for gas money. But, if they do, there should be no illusion that an opening to come back exists.

    Comment by Tim Coffey — March 12, 2014 @ 7:14 am

  2. We also offered to discuss buying the Harbor Bay Club last year and were rejected.

    Comment by Tim Coffey — March 12, 2014 @ 7:41 am

  3. If Ron Cowan wants to take the Harbor Bay Club out of Harbor Bay then he can give us back the 44 acres of open space we gave up due to his economic hardship. In fact, we’ll make him the same deal the City made him and cut it down to 10, (the current site of the Harbor Bay Club.) Then we can all go home!

    Comment by Donna Fletcher — March 12, 2014 @ 8:27 am

  4. Ron Cowan’s transparent attempt at sleight-of-hand will not pass the smell test, and the Planning Board as well as city staff will jump all over him if he tries to push this piecemeal approach through.

    If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck–and s***s like a duck…….

    Comment by Jon Spangler — March 12, 2014 @ 10:23 am

  5. Ron Cowan will end up doing what ever he want because everyone at City all from the Mayor down are supporting unlimited unrestricted development .
    They are the one which went and recruited Suncal ……that said it all.

    Comment by Joel Rambaud — March 12, 2014 @ 11:30 am

  6. Why does Ron Cowen have such a negative reputation in Alameda? Harbor Bay homes seem very nice and the area is well developed. We enjoy going there for sporting events and when visiting friends. Is he only disliked by anti-development people or is it broader than that? Does anyone have an answer to what he gets so much negative press?

    Comment by William — March 12, 2014 @ 11:58 am

  7. This is a good primer piece on why Ron Cowan has a such a negative rep. Probably a lot of it has to do with this ties to Don Perata too, I’m not sure where the visceral hate for Perata comes from either, but I’m sure other people have opinions.

    Comment by Lauren Do — March 12, 2014 @ 12:03 pm

  8. #5 It occurred to me that this revised plan might have been suggested by someone with the City.

    Comment by frank — March 12, 2014 @ 5:30 pm

  9. #6 We are pro community not anti-development. You need to read the Timeline of the HBC on our website at

    We have nearly 900 supporterd who strongly believe the community must have a voice in its future. We have no other agenda.

    Comment by Tim Coffey — March 12, 2014 @ 7:58 pm

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