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Golf Course Land Swap Proposal Sparks Passions, Accusations

Developer Ron Cowan’s proposal to exchange 12 acres of land on North Loop Road for a portion of the Chuck Corica Golf Complex, and a modified version of that proposal made public by the Alameda Youth Sports Coalition last week is fueling passions among those who care about the golf course, development in Alameda, and youth sports.

Last week, the Alameda Youth Sports Coalition put a twist on Ron Cowan’s proposal, suggesting that the coalition develop and manage the sports fields proposed for the North Loop Road site, and receive endowment money from the transaction to maintain the fields ongoing, and initiate development of a sports complex at Alameda Point.

Alameda activist Gretchen Lipow said, “I think the sports complex is a great idea, but we have to deal with the land swap first before we can look at the sports complex. The City of Alameda shouldn’t be giving away or exchanging municipal land without a vote of the people.” Action Alameda News also spoke with other critics of the deal who declined to give a statement for publication.

Ron Matthews, a member of the board of directors for the Alameda Youth Sports Coalition, and President of Alameda Little League and President of Alameda Wolverines Pop Warner Football, told Action Alameda News, “Alameda is way behind all other communities when it comes to investing in its youth and our city leaders have recognized that. Our Alameda Youth Sports Coalition was formed to help address this glaring weakness and lobby for better conditions. Specifically, we need lighted all-weather fields, period. They are an expensive investment at first, but over time they save tremendously in lower maintenance costs. This land deal will help us move forward for the kids, and opposition reminds me again how people are willing to selfishly overlook our youth. This deal isn’t about Ron Cowan, it is about our youth needs, and not just our golfing youth either.”

Alameda resident and parent of a youth golfer Joe Van Winkle has accused the city of double-charging the golf complex for contributions to the general fund and has improperly reported surcharges to the State of California controller as a golf operating expense. He says that transfers to the city have drained the golf complex’s reserve funds, giving the impression that the complex is in a poor financial condition. Further, he says that the City of Alameda is violating its own ordinance, No. 2934 by transferring improper amounts from the golf complex to the city’s general fund, and that over the past 10 years, the city has charged the complex too much by $1.7 million. He wants that money returned to the golf enterprise fund.

Van Winkle provided a detailed presentation from March of this year to back up his claims, as well as a string of e-mail exchanges between himself and Alameda City Manager John Russo and Controller Fred Marsh. He says he’s still waiting for answers from city officials.

For its part, the City of Alameda has said that after the end of the 2011 calendar year, it will no longer transfer funds from the golf complex to the general fund.

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