Mif closure back on council agenda
Alameda golfers are teed off about a fresh proposal to close the Mif Albright nine-hole golf course at the end of the month, which was announced on New Year’s Eve and will be considered by the City Council at a special meeting Wednesday night at City Hall.
City staff is saying the course is a money-loser that needs to be shut down, an assertion the duffers dispute. The City Council opted to reopened the briefly-shuttered course for a six-month trial period to see if it could make money under the private company that has run the Chuck Corica Golf Complex for the past year.
But golfers who have written in to The Island this past week are convinced the proposal is part of a plot to downsize the golf complex and trade the 12-acre Mif to developer Ron Cowan for a similarly-sized property he owns out by the Harbor Bay Business Park – a plan they say could hurt the complex’s future efforts at survival.
City leaders shut the short course on November 30 on the recommendation of National Golf Foundation Consulting and Forrest Richardson & Associates, the consultants they hired to help them determine how to increase revenues at the golf complex. But they reopened the course for a six-month trial period that began on May 31, to see if Kemper Sports, the private manager the city hired to run the complex this past year, could turn a profit there.
Parks chief Dale Lillard and Interim Finance Director Glenda Jay wrote in a staff report that the course lost $21,104 over the last six months it has been open, excluding $31,397 the city spent to get it ready for play. They’re proposing that the council shut the course and put short tees on the complex’s Jack Clark course for beginning golfers and seniors to play.
But Robert Sullwold, who has been working with his wife, Golf Commission President Jane Sullwold, to save the course, said that first amount includes fixed expenses like staff and management fees that wouldn’t disappear if the course were closed. He said the course is actually making money.
And the Sullwolds said putting short tees on the 18-hole Clark course won’t help seniors who can’t walk the distances between holes and that placing beginner golfers on the course will slow play for everyone else.
Jane Sullwold said she thinks the move is part of a strategy to downsize the complex to 27 holes form its current 45, which she said could lead to the loss of at least two major amateur and junior tournaments held there and could make it tough to expand the complex’s revenues in the future.
NGF and Forrest Richardson said development of the Mif could be key to fueling major rehabilitation of the aging golf complex. They recommended the city explore allowing a developer to put a hotel and conference center on the land, a plan they said could help fund millions in improvements they said are needed at the complex.
But the City Council has also discussed a proposal to trade the land to Harbor Bay Isle developer Ron Cowan for his acreage in the Harbor Bay Business Park, a proposal Cowan told The Island in February 2009 he had no interest in but one the council has since discussed in a single, closed-door session. (No action was taken on the proposal during the session.)
Even if the course is closed, city leaders face limits on how the land could be used in the future. The City Charter forbids the sale of city parkland without voter approval … though it does appear to have a bit of a loophole allowing the sale or disposal of a public park if another park “of comparable size and utility” is created. Here’s the language:
Sec. 22-12. Notwithstanding any other provisions of this Charter to the contrary, the public parks of the City shall not be sold or otherwise alienated except pursuant to the affirmative votes of the majority of the electors voting on such a proposition; except that the City Council may (a) lease or grant concessions or privileges in public parks or any portion thereof or building or structure situated therein, or (b) grant permits, licenses or easements for street, utility or any other purposes in public parks or any portion thereof or building or structure situated therein or (c) sell or dispose of public parks or any portion thereof if, after a public hearing or hearings in each case, the City Council determines that another new public park has been or will be designated by the City Council for public park purposes and opened to the public for public park purposes. The City Council shall determine that said “new public park” is of comparable size and utility and serves the same service area with substantially the same amenities and improvements. As used herein “public parks” means any and all lands of the City which have been or will be designated by City Council for public park purposes and/or recreational uses and opened to the public for public park purposes and/or recreational uses. “Public parks” also includes the Alameda Golf Complex.
More to come. Oh, and if you’re planning on attending or watching on the ol’ boob tube, the council has opted to start its meetings a half hour earlier this year, at 7 p.m. See ya then.