Developers wants city to rezone health club for up
to 80 new homes on Alameda’s Bay Farm Island.
ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL | A controversial proposal to rezone commercial waterfront property on Bay Farm Island for construction of up to 80 new homes has long energized community opposition since it was first proposed in 2013. But despite no current application for rezoning the nine-acre property, the Alameda City Council could decided Wednesday night to reaffirm its general plan and scuttle the developer’s plan for additional high-price housing at the site of the aging Harbor Bay Health Club.
Either the City Council can maintain its general plan for the Harbor Bay development on Bay Farm or direct staff to produce potential amendments at a later date for allowing for the health club on Packet Landing to be rezoned, said a staff report. A new Harbor Bay Club would then be built on another site on North Loop Road, also on Bay Farm Island.
The developer withdrew its plan to the city on March 10, 2014 amid strong opposition from Harbor Bay homeowners who asserted the proximity of the club to their homes was a right included in the purchase of their homes. In addition, the construction of up to 80 new single-family homes is a traffic burden, they argued. In both cases, the city disagreed, said a staff report, asserting the health club is a private business and the additional traffic from housing is nearly equal to that attributed to the current club.
Lawyers representing Harbor Bay Isle, though, argue in a letter that the city risks “pre-judging” their future application and Wednesday’s hearing could violate its right to due process. In a tersely written section of the letter sent to the council Oct. 2, an attorney for Harbor Bay Isle Associates wrote, “Such a vote also would be powerful evidence in any later challenge to council action that the council had made up its mind on October 7, 2015 based on no facts, no evaluation of impacts and alternatives, and no proper record. We hope that, upon consideration, the council will think better than to create such a clear record that it had predetermined an issue that had not yet been presented to it.”
A similar rationale for council objectivity was offered by some mayoral and city council candidates last year who were viewed as supported by Harbor Bay Isle Associates. During one notable candidates forum last fall, former Mayor Marie Gilmore, declined to answer questions over the Harbor Bay Health Club’s potential move and rezoning of its current location. Doing so, she said, would offer an opinion on the matter likely to later come before the council for deliberation.
While the letter from Harbor Bay Isle Associate’s lawyers hint at legal action against the city, a group of homeowners calling themselves Harbor Bay Neighbors (HBN) also registered a similar threat on their website last Monday. “There is a vocal group of HBN Supporters advocating for legal representation. We have held them back so far, but they could sue the city if [the] council crumbled to the threats of HBIA,” said the posting. “This council then has a decision. Do they stand up on behalf of the citizens of Alameda or do they turn their backs on the residents they are obligated to represent?”
Meanwhile, Harbor Bay Island Associates say they were surprised by the content of Wednesday night’s agenda, including a staff recommendation to maintain the current general plan at the Harbor Bay development. Instead, they understood the special meeting was only a public forum for residents to register support or concerns. “If [Harbor Bay Isle Associates] really didn’t know what this meeting was about, they weren’t paying attention,” said the Harbor Bay Neighbors group. “We all knew exactly what the context of Wednesday’s meeting was well in advance of the agenda.”
In fact, during a regular meeting last Sept. 15, the City Council voted to schedule a meeting for mid-October on rezoning issues at the current Harbor Bay Club.
This whole thing was a set-up by city staff. Ron Cowan has a history of filing “friendly” lawsuits, the only purpose of which is to move discussion of his development projects out of the public eye and into closed session with City Council.
There was his lawyer up there, saying, “don't throw me in that briar patch!”
Note that Jim Oddie, who blathered about abstaining because a 'yes' vote would be a meaningless “feel good” vote, voted yes anyway. What a ham.
The only one with any sense on the council was the Mayor, who knew that any vote that night was absolutely meaningless, and only opened the door to liability with Cowan down the road, when he comes back a new proposal for the Packet Landing site.
Bay Farm Island residents should be careful that they got what they wished for – a meaningless affirmation that sets up the playing field in Cowan's favor.