Did anyone catch the Alameda Magazine article about the new Harbor Bay Club? I guess sometimes it takes people from not within Alameda to cast a different eye on a controversial topic. I have to say, I totally enjoyed the article even though I’ve grown pretty apathetic to the whole Harbor Bay Club drama. Some highlights:
Of course, Alamedans are notoriously fickle when it comes to development. Some opposed remodeling of the Alameda Theatre, but later fell in love with it. Others were initially leery about building a new city library. These days, many are hostile to development at Alameda Point.
In November’s election, Alamedans once again applied the brakes to development on the Island, this time rejecting the pro-development impulses of then-Mayor Marie Gilmore. As part of that shift, members of the Harbor Bay Neighbors worked hard to elect two City Council members who reportedly had pledged not to support the Cowans, Councilman Frank Matarrese and Gilmore’s replacement, new Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer.
The group known as Harbor Bay Neighbors strives to present a united front. Its website cautions members “to hang tight with us to show our maximum strength as a cohesive community” if a representative of Harbor Bay Isle Associates should call them. “It’s important we are heard by the people who really matter in the decision-making process—our association board members, elected officials such as our mayor and city council, and the City of Alameda Planning Board—in a public forum where everyone hears the same thing at the same time.”
Members also are reluctant to discuss the issue with reporters. Several people who have been publicly critical of the project did not respond to interview requests, and others deflected questions to the group’s spokesman, who initially deflected repeated calls from this magazine. Such reticence even included Mayor Spencer, whom the group said it endorsed based upon her opposition to club expansion. In a recent interview, the prominent club member declined to state her opinion of Cowan’s project, saying she was waiting to see the environmental report.
I don’t know if Harbor Bay Isle Neighbors should be happy or worried that their ace in the hole is now waffling on her campaigning position of being against the new Harbor Bay Club. I’m going to go with worried since she hadn’t needed to see the environmental report during the campaign to be definitively against the project.
Group spokesman Tim Coffey eventually agreed to discuss the project, making it clear that he views the club proposal as a mere ruse by Harbor Bay Island Associates to build more homes. Coffey also said he doesn’t believe that Cowan can’t upgrade the current club. “You don’t see positive businesses having to shut down to completely remodel,” he said. “That’s pretty rare.”
The critics claim that the club can’t be moved due to the wording of that 1976 master plan. Yet inspection of that document reveals that it granted the owner the right to sell the club but said nothing about moving it.
Probably also didn’t help that the Alameda Magazine’s editor ran an editorial supporting the new club too.
In a not ideal scenario but one that gets some people what they want, the Harbor Bay Neighbors have suggested that if the Cowan’s don’t believe that keeping the old club would be financially in their favor, they recommend selling the club. In an email that was sent to the HBN mailing list, the email concludes with:
If the Cowans and HBIA really want to do what is right for Bay Farm – and really, all of Alameda – sell the Harbor Bay Club. They clearly do not want it. We do.
I’m not sure who exactly would buy the old club, but it’s an option that I’m not quite sure has been pursued yet. Again, I don’t know who would want to purchase an old fitness club to run it as a fitness club, but it’s worth a shot. Then the Cowans can build their new club and the battle of the clubs would be rather epic.