Cowan is a controversial figure in Alameda, perhaps best known as the developer of Bay Farm Island, and more recently for his attempts to achieve land swaps on Bay Farm to achieve his final Alameda development goals.
According to minutes of the WETA board, available on the WETA website the facility’s naming after Cowan started as a proposal by board vice chair James Wunderman, to name a ferry after Cowan.
Wunderman is a Governor Brown appointee to the board, and president and CEO of the Bay Area Council.
WETA executive director Nina Rannells brought Wunderman’s suggestion at the March meeting back before the board to the May meeting, wherein she explained that naming a boat after Cowan would contravene the established practice of naming vessels after star constellations.
Rannells suggested perhaps re-naming the Harbor Bay Ferry Terminal after Cowan.
Wunderman didn’t think that idea was a good one, and noting that Cowan was in ill health, wanted to pursue the discussion with the board about naming a vessel.
Alameda firefighters union local 689 president and WETA baord member Jeff DelBono said, according to meeting minutes, the “request was a special circumstance. He said he had gotten to know Mr. Cowan who has done a lot for the Harbor Bay community and WETA should recognize him before he is gone. He said he would like to see one of the Harbor Bay vessels named after Mr. Cowan sooner rather than later.”
USCG vice admiral (ret.) and WETA board member Jody Breckenridge suggested dedicating the new maintenance facility after Cowan, offering a “less politically charged and more
permanent, geographically appropriate gesture that would endure well beyond the life of a vessel.”
Breckenridge, as chair of the board, asked WETA staff to re-schedule the discussion for the June meeting.
The matter evidently didn’t come back before the board until August 4th.
Wunderman and DelBono motioned and seconded, respectively, to name the new Alameda Point facility after Cowan.
An alternative motion from board member Anthony Intintoli, and seconded by Breckenridge, to institute a “Leadership Wall” program at the maintenance facility, with Ron Cowan named as the first honoree didn’t carry. Wunderman said the leadership wall idea wouldn’t be a sufficient honor for Cowan.
According to the meeting minutes, “DelBono said he agreed with Vice Chair Wunderman about Mr. Cowan’s contributions. He said Mr. Cowan is a visionary and a dreamer who wanted the ferry service to be the most important transportation in the Bay Area and he deserved to be honored with a building in his community. He said he recognized that Alameda was a political place and that some in the community may disagree with the decision to honor Mr. Cowan and added that this was not a concern in his decision on the matter.”
Board member Timothy Donovan of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 6 and a speaker of the state assembly appointee to the WETA board agreed with Wunderman and DelBono and the renaming motion passed.
Construction of the Water Emergency Transportation Authority Ron Cowan Central Bay Operations & Maintenance Facility, at Alameda Point, is underway and is expected to be completed in January 2018.
Executive Director Nina Rannells