Blogging Bayport Alameda

October 9, 2015

Got the Harbor Bay Club goin’ up

Filed under: Alameda, City Council — Lauren Do @ 6:09 am

On Wednesday night the big Harbor Bay meeting was puzzling and amazing all at the same time.  The best thing about this was watching the drama unfold particularly when you don’t really have a dog in the fight, horse in the race, or any other animal related saying.

First was the color coordinated shirts. Blue for the Harbor Bay Associates supporters and red for the Harbor Bay Neighbors. Then there was Andrew Thomas show where he brought everyone up to speed on how the City got to this particular place. After that came the 30 minutes of from the HBIA and 30 minutes from HBN. The HBIA presentation was a huge dog and pony show complete with fancy videos and everything about how great the new club was going to be which seemed really out of place because everyone had agreed that the night’s discussion would not be about the new club that HBIA wanted to build but rather the Packet Landing site where the current Harbor Bay Club exists.

HBN — for a neutral observer not attempting to suck up to win the votes of Harbor Bay voters in the next election — would find the arguments offered by this group to be pretty unconvincing.  They insisted that Harbor Bay Club had to stay where it was because it was somehow owed to the community.  Then they had an architect come to attest to the fact that, yes, the Club at the current site could be remodeled.  Apparently this struck no one on the HBN leadership as weird to remodel someone else’s business for them and announce this as though it is meaningful.  And then there was the parade of Bay Farm HOA Board Members.  This is apparently super important in Bay Farm parlance, but rather meaningless for the rest of us serfs (even those of us that belong to an HOA, I don’t know if I would, personally, readily announce that I was on the Board of an HOA, but that’s just me).

Anyway, the City Council didn’t talk as much as they usually do.  And, in fact, Trish Spencer was cautioning everyone against speaking and just asking questions.  Then she asked the most convoluted question that sounded like a whole bunch of words that she chose at random and mushed together.  Big kudos to the City Attorney who apparently has a masters degree in Trish-speak.  Jim Oddie asked a bunch of questions to — people tell me — get things on the record.  Frank Matarrese styled this vote as leading because the community asked them to be decisive.  Tony Daysog sucked up hard to HBN saying that they had made the affirmative argument that Packet Landing should stay commercial recreational; they didn’t.  And Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcraft suggested that after this process had ended that HBN and HBIA should work together instead of against one another toward a common good.

Frank Mattarrese made a motion to affirm the current commercial recreational zoning at Packet Landing and there were four votes in favor and one abstention.  Guess who abstained.


Harbor Bay Neighbor’s own candidate of choice, the candidate they had celebrated that would be on their side and support HBN 100%: Trish Spencer.  No reason given, no explanation, just an abstention.  I imagine that the HBN framing engine is hard at work attempting to rationalize that abstention in a way that shoehorns somehow how supportive Trish Spencer is even though she failed to vote in the interests of HBN.

Oh, also, one of the leaders of HBN tweeted out last night in response to a tweet stating that the Harbor Bay Club is a business that can do business however they want, including building a new club in an area appropriately zoned that HBC could simply close the doors tomorrow.  Well, that’s not such a far fetched proposition.  A community in Walnut Creek is facing down an eerily similar problem:

Leisure Sports recently notified club members it will close on Jan. 31, 2016. In the meantime, the company plans to ask the city of Walnut Creek to change its zoning status from recreational to residential, tripling its value.

“Look to do some sort of residential housing, potentially an empty nester-type product, or a standard residential product,” O’Brien said.

But in this case they’re not even offering to build a replacement club, just shutter the existing one.


  1. You don’t get it. Cowan is suggesting FM and TS would be disqualified from voting based on the city attorney’s dubious opinion that an anti HBC opinion on the campaign trail somehow means they can’t vote. Meawhile MEA, JO, and TD want those Harbor Bay votes more than they want Cowan’s money. They were the ones who drove this hearing. After all, votes from HB contributed to TS’s victory. Ultimately this will all lead to a lawsuit by HBC. Thus an abstention makes sense.

    The HBC lawyer was terrible, and threatening at the same time ex. we care about the community and recreation and traffic, but, but but- we could turn it into a hotel if we don’t get our way.

    Overall, I thought it was a well run meeting where both sides got a reasonable chance to express their views.

    Comment by Captain Obvious — October 9, 2015 @ 6:39 am

  2. And there it is:

    After all, votes from HB contributed to TS’s victory. Ultimately this will all lead to a lawsuit by HBC. Thus an abstention makes sense.

    Comment by Lauren Do — October 9, 2015 @ 6:59 am

  3. To show just how much voters near Packet Landing felt in the 2014 election here is a recap.

    In an election where the citywide turnout rate was 50%, turnout in the Packet Landing precinct was 60% and Mayor Spencer won the precinct by 155 votes. Her winning margin in the election was 120 votes.

    Comment by Mike McMahon — October 9, 2015 @ 7:42 am

  4. Capt. You’re narrative is missing the fact that the mayor literally interrupted council member Oddie when he called for the meeting in order to call even more enthusiastically for the hearing.

    At that meeting Ezzy Ashcraft’s comments were “aren’t we already planning this?” and Tony Daysog was silent.

    A slightly different narrative.

    Comment by jkw — October 9, 2015 @ 8:13 am

  5. What galls me is the sense of entitlement shown by Ron Cowan and company (Doric, HBA, etc.) over the years, as if Bay Farm Island was somehow its own private kingdom in which HBA (Ron Cowan) can do anything it (he) wants–zoning codes, development agreements, and city and state laws be damned.

    HBA’s failed attempt to dismember the Corica golf complex–solely in order to make more profits–was planned in secret with then-Interim City Manager Gallant for months before it was made public. HBA also failed to live up to agreements with AUSD and the City of Alameda–with us–to provide public benefits (schools) it agreed to provide as part of the original development plans. With all of the efforts HBA has made to push the limits of its legally entitled development rights, how can HBA expect its neighbors and Alameda residents to treat it–or its representatives–as trustworthy?

    In this health club proposal, HBA now expects Alamedans–especially the people who live within Harbor Bay–to believe that their motives are pure and community-driven, and is attempting to buy our support with an endless stream of well-managed (but clearly manufactured) PR, from swamping the Alameda Sun’s letter-to-the-editor and op-ed pages to producing slick videos. (I still wonder whether HBA “bought” the Sun’s support in order to get special treatment with its extra-long, three-part “opinion” pieces.)

    I think HBA needs to live with the current zoning and demonstrate some genuine community good will with regards to Alameda’s public processes–not the plastic PR imitation of “good will” it usually produces and thinks we will swallow. Sadly, I’m not sure I have ever seen anything like that from the bosses of our largest real estate empire.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — October 9, 2015 @ 9:03 am

  6. generally I never have anything good to say about our Mayor so, I think she did the right thing by not commenting on this issue at the meeting and by her abstention. Now if it comes before the council she can say and vote without any baggage.

    Comment by John P. — October 9, 2015 @ 9:31 am

  7. The HB Club seems originally intended to be a recreational facility for residents of HB Isle, who live within walking and cycling distance of it. Once the club is moved to North Loop Road, that will no longer be true. If I was a resident of HBI, the presence and location of the club would certainly have been a factor in deciding to live there. As an outside observer, it sure looks like a bait-and-switch perpetrated on the HB neighbors to me. You move there for the amenities, and Cowan takes the amenities away. The only clear reason for HBIA to move the club is to maximize the number of members, hence profits; and HBIA doesn’t care where those members live or come from.

    It was said that “we can’t tell someone how to run their business”. But a master development is not just a business. People live in it. And if the business that built it is not sensitive to the needs of the inhabitants, that business is being run irresponsibly.

    Comment by vigi — October 9, 2015 @ 9:49 am

  8. If they end up doing a full EIR for the new HBC site, a remodel like the one HBN favors should be proposed as a CEQA alternative (either by HBN during the public process or by staff before then), as EIRs are supposed to study alternatives that lessen significant impacts of projects.

    Comment by AK — October 9, 2015 @ 9:52 am

  9. I personally like the idea of moving the club so that it can build a larger, more modern facility and expand its membership. My only regret is that it’s not somewhere on the golf course adding even more value to our newly designed 45 hole golf complex.

    The larger picture is that the Harbor Bay Business Park needs an asset like this. Businesses at Harbor Bay Business Park are expanding and investing millions of dollars, and things like restaurants and a fitness club are an important amenity to attract even more companies and retain the ones we have.

    Regarding the current facility, I think councilmember Oddie made an important point that was ignored. I worry about what could end up at the current facility.

    Comment by Karen Bey — October 9, 2015 @ 10:48 am

  10. 8. They won’t have to do a full EIR for the North Loop site. It fits in the zoning for the site and the overall project had its EIR done ages ago.

    The club is going to move. HBIA wanted to get the rezoning done at the same time by building public support for a new club so that they could maximize the value of the old site. That isn’t quite happening, but they still want to make gobs of money off of all the potential business park customers so they will move forward with the new site regardless, IMO.

    Those council members trying to manage expectations were right. Once the club move is a done deal. The almighty neighbors will have to decide what they want in its place that HBIA is actually willing to do. If they build a Fairfield Inn w/ a day spa it will pass zoning muster. Would the neighbors prefer that, or would they rather have housing? I predict it ends up being an assisted living facility (with shuffleboard- RECREATION!). Everybody likes old people who don’t drive.

    Comment by BMac — October 9, 2015 @ 12:52 pm

  11. I’m so glad I don’t live in Harbor Bay. This whole argument is pitiful.

    Comment by Linda — October 9, 2015 @ 8:28 pm

  12. I have one more comment about the Harbor Bay Club and Ron Cowan. My comment won’t be popular given the sentiment people have about the club and Ron Cowan,
    but here goes:

    I’d like to give kudos to Ron Cowan for what he’s accomplished at Harbor Bay. The beautiful homes, the 45 hole golf complex, Amelia Earhart – one of the best schools in Alameda (with a state rank of 10 out of 10), the business park, the nature trails, and the ferry terminal make Harbor Bay one of the best planned communities in the bay area.

    It’s no surprise to me, that as a real estate developer and a businessman he would want to take advantage of this very hot market and develop his remaining lots. That’s what any developer would choose to do in this market. Yet he’s called evil, entitled, etc. and the list goes on. He may not have kept every promise he has made, but the value he has created for the homeowners and business owners at Harbor Bay is not something to be overlooked.

    Sales tax is the fourth largest source of General Fund revenue, and as per the March 31, 2015 sales tax report, Harbor Bay was the largest sales tax generator in the entire city at 24%, a 36% increase from the previous year.

    This should be welcome news for a city that was talking bankruptcy just two years ago.

    Comment by Karen Bey — October 11, 2015 @ 3:41 pm

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