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Council agrees to explore Mif Albright swap plan

Submitted by on 1, April 13, 2011 – 12:03 am11 Comments

The City Council agreed on Tuesday night to explore a proposal from Harbor Bay Isle Associates to swap land the developer owns on North Loop Road for the city’s nine-hole Mif Albright golf course.

In a letter to city leaders last week, Harbor Bay’s chief executive officer, Ron Cowan, offered up to $9 million for Chuck Corica Golf Complex improvements and sports fields on the North Loop Road property in exchange for the right to build 112 homes on the Mif site.

The developer, which has submitted a formal application to the city seeking action on the plan, will have 60 days to offer more details, including where they would place a new Mif Albright course. Participants in Tuesday night’s meeting said a portion of the golf complex’s existing South Course is being considered, though they said the city could be forced to cut into Godfrey Park or bump up against wetlands or burrow owl habitat if it chooses to move the Mif course.

“The only reason we’re even willing to entertain this proposal is for the upfront capital and for the potential benefits to the rest of the sporting community,” Mayor Marie Gilmore said after an executive for KemperSports, which is managing the golf complex, said up-front financing for improvements the golf complex needs isn’t available.

Gilmore said she wants to see where a new Mif course would go; plans for sports fields on the North Loop property and for homes on the Mif property have already been submitted, Planning Services Manager Andrew Thomas said.

Harbor Bay President C. Timothy Hoppen said his firm has retained a golf architect to sketch out plans.

City Councilman Doug deHaan said he’s concerned that exploring the proposal will further bog down efforts to secure a private operator for the golf complex and ink a deal with the Alameda Junior Golf Association to run the Mif Albright course. He said he thinks it would take a year for Harbor Bay’s proposal to gain the approvals it needs to move forward, a timeline Thomas confirmed.

The council agreed to move forward toward a term sheet allowing the junior golf association to run the Mif, a document that will serve as a precursor to an actual lease that’s now due before the council in 60 days. But they have not yet decided whether to put the golf complex lease back out to bid. The city is currently negotiating with KemperSports, which has managed the complex for the last two years, for a long-term lease.

Kemper offered to pay for $5.8 million in improvements over 10 years, offering $500,000 of its own money to finance upgrades in the first year of its lease and using profits from the complex to pay the rest of that amount. Kemper Vice President Ben Blake also offered a plan to maintain the complex’s two existing 18-hole courses, jettisoning an earlier proposal to maintain just 27 holes.

“The community didn’t like that idea. And we’re sensitive to that,” Blake said when council members asked him why the company was now offering a 36-hole plan.

Golfers offered mixed opinions on the Harbor Bay proposal. They questioned where the money Harbor Bay is offering will come from and whether it will be enough to pay for the things they’re offering. They also asked whether the course, which now sits on a 14.4 acre plot, will fit on the eight acres they say is available.

“I think it would be wonderful to come up with a scheme that is a win-win-win for all concerned. But I have deep reservations about this plan,” Golf Commission President Jane Sullwold said.

Youth sports leaders said they’re interested in a plan that could offer sports facilities they have long sought. But they also expressed support for the junior golf association’s efforts to take over the Mif.

“If Ron Cowan wants to buy off the sporting community, in my mind he’s going to have to pay a lot more than $3 million (for fields), because that’s not going to do it,” said Pat Bail of Alameda’s Youth Sports Coalition. “The Alameda sporting community wants fields, but not at the cost of what’s right.”

The City Council decided in 2008 to seek a private company to lease the golf complex, and it ultimately chose to negotiate a lease with Kemper. But a deal has yet to be struck. The council also decided to negotiate with the junior golf association to run the Mif course.

Meanwhile, the Planning Board had turned down Harbor Bay’s request to rezone 12 acres on North Loop Road for a housing project dubbed Village 6 after business owners complained that homes would encroach on their commercial efforts. Cowan told The Island last week that a few days after that decision, city staffers had asked him to consider trading his property for the Mif instead of appealing to the City Council.

“This is one of the last projects we are trying to complete under the orig Harbor Bay agreement,” Hoppen said Tuesday.

Blake said that while his company had an “ongoing dialogue” with Harbor Bay, he wasn’t aware of the company’s plan until it emerged in the media.

“The process has led us to an interesting point, and we’re here to find a solution,” Blake said. “The new proposal from Harbor Bay is also an interesting – a new wrinkle to the discussion.”

Separately, the Golf Commission’s Sullwold raised fresh questions about transfers the city has made out of the golf complex’s budget. She said the city has been double-dipping into the golf complex’s budget to pay debt service on previous complex upgrades, and she questioned charges for city services made after Kemper took over the golf complex. The redevelopment authority governing Alameda Point also took a $300,000 loan to study a new course there.

Acting City Manager Lisa Goldman said the loan would be repaid, though she said the city still incurs costs at the golf complex.


  • John says:

    “She said the city has been double-dipping into the golf complex’s budget to pay debt service on previous complex upgrades, and she questioned charges for city services made after Kemper took over the golf complex.”

    It’s the City’s piggy bank and people that had never seen the Golf Course were charged to golf course “working” in other departments in city in years past. What’s so surprising about this.

    I’m sure Kempers Labor costs in running Golf Course are 50% lower than when City ran it and they have done a great job under the circumstances with some great employees. They did a great job in showcasing for Commuters.

    “The redevelopment authority governing Alameda Point also took a $300,000 loan to study a new course there.”

    Didn’t we play this tune a few years ago. Someone wanted to build Resort Golf Course and Hotel at point but it was turned down because we didn’t want it competing with our Golf Course and City Revenues. Now we take 300K loan to study new course there. Whose pocket did that 300k go to?

    • John,

      You are correct, the $300k loan discussed in the story was for the golf course exploration from a few years ago.

    • Ron Salsig says:

      Many years ago it was feasible to build a true “Links” golf course on the Northwestern Territories of Alameda Point. It satisfied the demands to create a natural habitat for the Least Tern. Had we built that course, designed by Kyle Phillips (who has since become one of the most famous golf architects in the world), the PGA Tour would be playing in Alameda this week, not in the hills above Hayward. PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem told me this.

      The decision not to build the course had nothing to do with competition with our existing municipal facility. The economy turned on 9-11. Money to build disappeared. Ironically, the poster boy for the event this week, televised world-wide on Golf Channel, is Alamedan James Hahn.

  • Jack B. says:

    Of note last night: Ron Cowan’s representative, when describing their land swap proposal, mentioned “swimming” as one of the public benefits — although the rest of discussions were about golf course improvements and sports fields.

    Since Alameda’s public pools are currently on death watch, I hope that pools becomes part of the discussion for this deal in addition to (not instead of) golf improvements and sports fields.

  • John Piziali says:

    Jack B. I know that I may sound very cynical, but at this point the developers people will say or promise anything just to get the deal started. My advice to anyone in this community is that if it isn’t in writing and legally bound then it means nothing to a developer. Dealing with developers for eight years on the planning board the one thing I learned was to not trust anything they said or showed you in a meeting.
    They would show us the most beautiful drawings and tell us of their dream to make our city a wonderful place to live. Virtually every time the finished product wouldn’t even come close to what was promised.

    In this case the developer should be made to not just pay for part of the sports fields but the entire sports fields to completion. Also is the land that the developer is proposing to trade worth as much as the land the M.I.F. sits on now. One other thing that has me wondering about this “eleventh hour proposal” is the fact that this developer has been trying to get hold of this land for the past several years, this is commonly know in Alameda. That big binder that the planning director held up during the meeting took time to put together and I’m sure that the developer has been in touch with the city about this project for awhile. Of course this is all just my opinion.

    One final note, Jack B. and the Alameda sports community should in this case listen carefully to what Pat Bail had to say last night.

  • Jon Spangler says:

    The Golf Commission Report (item 3A on last night’s agenda) paints a sad and sorry tale of errors, double-dipping, and other mis-steps going back to the 1990s that helped create the current “emergency” at the Chuck Corica Golf Complex.

    You can find the Golf Commission’s detailed report here:


    It is extremely heartening to see the current City Council and the Acting City Administrator correcting and rectifying those mistakes quickly and effectively: Lisa Goldman told us last night that she expected to repay the outstanding $300,000 loan from the golf course funds to ARRA “by the end of this fiscal year.” Amazing.

    I think one of the benefits of the increased accountability and transparency we have seen in city government recently is an improvement in the quality of decisions made, in part due simply to the change in practice at city hall….

  • Jack B. says:

    Hi John P, thanks for your comments. You bet I listened to Pat Bail last night… she spoke right after me. As you may know I’m quite “cynical” myself and I would analyze any kind of deal very carefully (similar to what we did w/ AlamedaPointInfo.com ).

    And I think you are right that this has been in the works. As the article above states, they already have plans for a sports complex (I presume w/out a pool, I’m still trying to find out.)

  • fergus jones says:

    Yes, Madam Mayor, you should pursue all opportunities for upfront capital which should be applied to public/community benefits. In this day and age of current and future budget cuts, possible new revenues should be explored vigorously. With that said, I am not sure you are looking at the cash timing correctly, I doubt that your buddy Cowan will give the City money upfront. It will most likely be tied to the schedule of a development build-out. Remember, it is not his own money. As such, someone else is pulling the strings and controlling the timing of all expenditures. Maybe Lennar and Rodney are back in the picture (behind the scenes of course). Follow the money closely. Right now, to me, it feels a bit like a shell game.

  • Kate Quick says:

    I was impressed by the civility of last night’s meeting. Many addressed the Council with great thoughtfullness and the Council appeared to be listening closely. More than once Mayor Gilmore said that the community of interest would be given information and listened to throughout the process, and more than once she stated clearly that exploring Mr. Cowan’s proposal was not a committment to any action. The staff was given quite a long list of things to do to complete information needed by the Council and the community in making their decision. I haven’t seen such a good summarization, clarification and honest dialogue in some time. The Mayor was respectful, allowed some people a little extra time, and managed the meeting very well. This is how government should look; kudos to all who participated!

  • Jack says:

    Swimming can be part of the financial package. It may not go on the land, but that doesn’t mean the city can ask for money in this deal to resolve recreation issues that aren’t on site…

  • Jack says:

    I mean it doesn’t mean the city “can’t” ask for it…

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