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Mayor Temporarily Foiled in Her Latest Bid to Save Ron Cowan’s Bacon

Last night, in a special closed-door session, Alameda Mayor Beverly Johnson was (temporarily) foiled in her latest attempt to do a favor for her developer friend and supporter, Ron Cowan. Johnson is pushing for an exchange of the Mif Albright Golf Course land with Cowan’s less-valuable Harbor Bay Village VI property. Presumably, this is a favor from the Mayor to Cowan.

In the closed-door meeting, City Council was discuss terms for exchanging the 12 acre Mif Albright course with the Harbor Bay Village VI land further West on Bay Farm island, which is roughly the same size. The item was 3-C:

3-C. CONFERENCE WITH REAL PROPERTY NEGOTIATORS (54956.8)

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

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

Under negotiation: Price and terms

City Staff removed it from the agenda for last night, to be re-considered at a future date. Perhaps because Council members Lena Tam and Marie Gilmore were absent.

Last year, Bay Farm Island residents and businesses, led by Peet’s Coffee, objected to a request from Ron Cowan and Harbor Bay Isle Associates to re-zone the Village VI property from commercial to residential, and allow Cowan to build anywhere from 104 to 227 homes. The rumors of an exchange of this type have been circulating for years, and often include mention of Harbor Bay Health Club, which might be re-located to land now occupied by the Mif Albright course, freeing up that land for building more houses. To that end, the City has been stressing – and possibly exaggerating – the declining finances of the Mif Albright course.

But some residents and local golfers have also accused the City of “cooking the books” to make the Mif Albright course appear in worse financial shape than it actually is, in order to make the exchange more palatable to Alameda voters. On last night’s regular City Council meeting agenda, there was an item discussing alternate uses of the Mif Albright course, all of which, City staff stressed, cost money that the City doesn’t have. Ergo, the theory goes, the only viable option is to give this more valuable land to Ron Cowan, and take from his neck the albatross that is Harbor Bay Village VI. Golfer and Alameda resident Jim Leach said “the assessment of the cost [to run Mif Albright] was very, very skewed and mis-leading” and that “this is the least transparent thing that’s going on in the city that I can imagine….I’m sorry to say so, but I think that this is very under-handed and it lacks public input.”

Golf Commission Chair Jane Sullwold disputed the City’s analysis that the Mif Albright course is a money loser and asked if the professional golf course manager Kemper Sports could perform a study to see if the Mif Albright could be re-opened, and include that as one of the go-forward options for the Mif Albright. Finally, she brought into the open the real reason for closing down Mif Albright – so that the City could exchange it with Ron Cowan. To this, the Mayor, incredibly, replied “We’ve heard those rumors too!” This statement from the Mayor only two hours after such an exchange was on the agenda before her in closed City Council session and then moved to a future date!

In the end, Council asked that the Golf Commission and the Parks and Recreation Commission perform studies to evaluate the potential to re-open the Mif Albright. And the backroom horse-trading discussions vis-a-vis Ron Cowan are deferred to a later date.

2 comments to Mayor Temporarily Foiled in Her Latest Bid to Save Ron Cowan’s Bacon

  • Steve Taddei

    I’m starting to get concerned about the motivations of Mayor Johnson. I’m hearing about her political asperations and her relationship with Ron Cowan. I think she believes that she can go on to higher office without the support of the local golfers but if she loses Ron Cowan’s support she’s finished.

  • The Mayor made a political calculation about Alameda when she decided to record the robo-call on behalf of SunCal. Namely, that’s she’s termed out of office next year in the City of Alameda, so Alameda residents – and their votes – mean little to her. So she abandoned the residents of Alameda to pursue whatever her Next Big Thing is – consultant to SunCal, Alameda County Supervisor, whatever.

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