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Cowan on Mif: No thanks

Submitted by on 1, February 26, 2009 – 8:00 am10 Comments

21I finally got around to checking in with local developer Ron Cowan regarding a proposal to swap 12 acres Cowan owns on Harbor Bay for the just-closed Mif Albright golf course. Cowan said he hasn’t been seriously approached by the city regarding any swap, and even if he were, he’s not interested.

“I’ve heard those rumors too,” Cowan said. “As far as we’re concerned, we’re not interested in a swap.”

Cowan said he’s never been “approached on this seriously” by the city, and even if he were, his plan is to build homes on the 12 acres he currently owns – once the economy turns around.

He said his original plan for Harbor Bay included homes on the land.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m going to build on that land,” he said.

I called Mayor Beverly Johnson but couldn’t reach her for comment Wednesday. Johnson said she wanted the city to consider the development, dubbed Harbor VI, in its mix of options for the Mif Albright site. But council member Doug deHaan said he doesn’t want to see it on the agenda again.

A group that included local business owners and the heads of some nearby homeowners associations brought the proposal to the City Council last week, hours after they were scheduled to discuss a potential deal in a closed-door session. (The item was postponed because council members Lena Tam and Marie Gilmore were out sick.)

The group opposed Cowan’s plans to build 104 homes on the plot he owns, which sits between one of his housing developments and a slice of the Harbor Bay Business Park. The Planning Board turned down his request to rezone the land from business to residential use this past May.

The proposal came as the council discussed its options for the land – options that include reusing the course as a park, recreation fields, a BMX park or open space. Golf Commission president Jane Sullwold asked the council to allow the contractor it hired to run the Chuck Corica Golf Complex, Kemper Sports, to look into whether they could reopen the course and run it at a profit.


  • David Howard says:

    Er…so why were homeowners from Bay Farm Island standing up at the podium in front of City Council the other night supporting the idea? They must have had someone to prompt them?

    And why was there a closed session agenda item at the special city council meeting on the same night that read:


    Property: 1855 N. Loop Road and 1 Clubhouse Memorial Drive

    Negotiating parties: Village VI and Golf Course (Mif Albright)

    Under negotiation: Price and terms

    • Sure David, let me walk you through what I know. The folks from Bay Farm are the same folks who opposed Cowan's plan to put homes in the midst of the existing business park, and they would like to see those homes go elsewhere. I asked Barbara Price, who led the group, specifically if she and they were there on Cowan's behalf, and they said they were not.

      As far as the agenda items goes, since it was a closed session – and these agenda items don't really spell out in any great detail what will be discussed – I can't make any assumptions at all about what the specific discussion would have been, had it happened. But I will update people on the facts as I can bring them to light.

  • David Howard says:

    Pshaw! In that City Council meeting, Doug deHaan CONFIRMED that the closed-session discussions were indeed about the exchange of the Mif Albright course and the Cowan 12 acres. It's on tape – go watch it. It comes after Jane Sullwold of the Golf Commission spoke – it might be in response to her statements, I forget.

    As for Barbara Price – she is a paid consultant/lobbyist, and she doesn't show up at these meetings for free. If she wasn't representing Ron Cowan, ask her who she WAS representing.

    • Well, okay. Do you have any specific evidence that a land swap is taking place? Do you know the extent of any negotiations between Cowan and the city? Do you have any evidence that Barbara Price is working for anyone besides the group of people she said she was there to represent? Or that the group of folks who were there supporting the idea were there on the behalf of anyone other than themselves?

      If you have any specific proof of any of these things, believe me when I tell you I'm interested. But without that proof, all I can say is what I know, which is: The council was slated to have a closed door session about a land swap. The mayor supports the idea, Doug deHaan does not. A group of homeowners and business owners out there who don't like Cowan's proposal to build houses next to the business park who were led by, as you said, a consultant, said they'd like the city to consider the idea. Cowan has said he is not interested in a swap. If I find out anything else, I'll report it. And if you have anything concrete, please send it my way.

  • David Howard says:

    Good grief. Even without deHaan's confirmation of the matter, the rumors about a Mif Albright land swap have been circulating for years and years. It's a completely reasonable inference to put 2+2 together with the rumors and the description of the special council meeting, and the well-documented history of the coziness between Mayor Johnson and Ron Cowan. This has been covered time and again in the East Bay Express.

    As for Barbara Price… who else has a vested interest in what happens to the Ron Cowan 12 acres that he tried to put "Harbor Bay Village VI" on? Who hired Barbara Price last year to oppose that effort? On who's behalf did Barbara Price present a video to City Council in opposition to the proposed Harbor Bay Village VI re-zoning from commercial to housing?

    You can't really believe that Barbara Price was there as a paid consultant for a small handful of residential property owners do you? The Islandia HOA rep admitted that they have not had a vote of residents in their HOA. (If Islandia HOA residents had voted in favor of that position, then I might see that they came up with HOA money to hire PK Consultants, but even that's doubtful. But Islandia HOA residents did not have a vote on the issue.) It takes deep pockets to hire PK Consultants – who has an interest in the matter and also has deep pockets?

    I'm in favor of keeping Peet's roasting facility in Alameda, and if Council and Cowan were smart, they'd lobby Peet's to move their HQ from Emeryville to that 12 acres, so Peet's no longer has to worry about somebody building houses there and creating residential neighbors that might complain about roasting smells and truck noise. And if Alameda, instead of Emveryville – whose per-capital retail sales tax revenue the City covets – can capture online retail sales tax revenue from Peet's re-locating to Alameda, then all the better.

    • Well David, I think you used two key words here: rumor and inference. I don't deal in either. As a reporter it can be frustrating to be bound to just the facts you can prove or the answers people are willing to give, even if you really believe otherwise. But it's be far worse for me to put something out there just because I think it's true and then find out I was dead wrong.

  • David Kirwin says:

    Ah Michele,

    I believe you are continuing to say "A group that included local business owners and the heads of some nearby homeowners associations brought the proposal to the City Council last week"

    If you want to report the clear truth why aren't you stating the names of these people who head the HOA's instead of their titles? By using the titles you promote the falsehood that they are acting upon the will of the HOA body, which as pointed out is not true – They acted as individuals serving their own personal interests and there were no discussions or votes on that Cowan land swap issue by the HOA membership at any formal meeting. This is a ‘fact’ which was only admitted (live on video) during the CC meeting when asked the direct question by Vice Mayor Doug de Haan. These HOA “leaders” tried to create the illusion the HOA membership supported this idea for Cowan but had to admit otherwise – Why do you try to again create that illusion by promoting a falsehood?

    Are you a truthful reporter or a blogster serving an agenda other than reporting truthful news? It appears you are the former; we have a need of the latter.

    BTW – Who is footing the CASA advertisement bill for your site? – APT, Public Works Dept, or the Planning Dept?

  • David Kirwin says:

    I'm sorry you deleted my reply to this, seems most of my responses to your blog site never get past your moderation.

    Instead of asking me to rewrite it, please just respond honestly to the last post, taking into account my obvious mistake in the one line to reflect my intent: "It appears you are the latter; we have a need of the former."

    Why do you persist in promoting the untruth that these HOA presidents were representing the HOA's? It was very clearly pointed out at the CC mtg that there had not been any discussion or vote at any HOA mtg concerning the issue. They tried to make it seem they were representing the HOA membership, but thankfully Vice Mayor de Haan had the presence of mind to directly question if there had actually been a discussion/vote of those HOA's. Then they had to admit there was not. It is scandalously dishonest for these HOA reps to try to appear they are speaking for a group when they are only promoting their own opinion.

    Why do you continue to promote the lie? Why don't you answer the other questions in my last post?

    • David, your are correct that I did not name the folks who came before the board in my last two articles on this subject, and I'm sorry you feel my articles give the impression that thy were there representing the HOAs, which, as you pointed out, they were not. That certainly was not my intention, which was to focus on what seems most important – that the council is considering this and how likely it is that it will happen.

      As to the names, I'd like to direct you to my original post on this ("Could Cowan get Mif?") which ran last Wednesday. All the names are in there.

      I'd also like to point out that I don't recall ever moderating out any of your comments, and that I was the one who emailed you about having mistakenly deleted the comment, in an effort to make sure your voice is heard.

      Have a good weekend.

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