Developer drops plan to build homes on club site

Developer drops plan to build homes on club site

Michele Ellson

Updated at 10:07 p.m. Monday, March 10

Harbor Bay Isle Associates has asked the city to pause its controversial application to build 80 luxury homes where the Harbor Bay Club now stands, the company’s president confirmed today – and the company is asking the city to speed approvals on its proposal to build a new fitness club on North Loop Road.

“We just said, ‘That’s enough,’” Harbor Bay Isle Associates president C. Timothy Hoppen said Monday. “We never intended to get into a fight with the community. That was never our goal.”

In a letter to the city Monday, the company’s attorney, Daniel F. Reidy, said the withdrawal request was prompted by “the considerable levels of confusion and misplaced concerns about the proposed project that have surfaced in the community due to misunderstandings and erroneous interpretations about the history, background and context of the City’s approvals for Harbor Bay Isle and the Harbor Bay Club about the City’s prior agreements with the developers of Harbor Bay Isle.”

“This current climate … has seriously jeopardized the prospects for a careful and reasoned evaluation of the merits of the proposed project or reasonable alternatives,” Reidy wrote. The developer had proposed that an environmental study also consider the impacts of a hotel and conference center on the club site.

The company will instead focus its efforts on building a new fitness club on North Loop Road, Hoppen told The Alamedan on Monday, saving the question of what to build on the nine-acre Packet Landing Road site for a future date.

“We always felt the highest and best use (for the property) would be the housing. But we’re more than happy to study any other alternatives that (neighbors) feel would go there,” Hoppen said.

Thomas told the Planning Board on Monday that a hearing on the club proposal could take place in May.

The club proposal will only be required to undergo a design review by the Planning Board, while the homes needed additional approvals and environmental review, Hoppen said.

The head of a neighborhood group that has opposed the projects said he wasn’t surprised by the withdrawal, but expressed shock that plans for a new club will move forward.

"Their plans for 80 to 160 homes never meshed with the integrity of the Harbor Bay Isle residential development and offered zero positive benefits to the community. HBIA's plan clearly was to reshape our community solely for their benefit,” Tim Coffey, head of Harbor Bay Neighbors said. "However, I am shocked HBIA would proceed with just their application to put a health club in the business park … (t)hese projects are not independent of each other.”

In an e-mail blast to supporters Monday evening, the neighbors group called withdrawal of the housing proposal an "end run" around the public process and said the proposal for the new club and the fate of the property where the existing club sits are inextricably linked.

The projects had been submitted together, but Harbor Bay Isle Associates later asked the city to consider them separately.

Opposition to Harbor Bay Isle Associates’ plan to construct homes on the Packet Landing Road property and to relocate the 35-year-old fitness club has bloomed since the company announced the proposal last April, culminating in a formal request submitted by Harbor Bay Neighbors on March 3 to deny the applications. Coffey said the Planning Board was to consider the request on April 28.

Opponents of the club's move have called the club a community asset offered in lieu of park space and a selling point for homeowners who bought nearby.

Coffey said an e-mail blast to supporters of the group has resulted in dozens of e-mails to members of the City Council calling on them to reject the applications. It wasn’t immediately clear Monday if the hearing would still be held to consider rejecting the remaining application; Planning Director Andrew Thomas couldn't be reached for comment Monday.

The proposal to build a new club and to construct housing on the existing club site is the latest in a string of proposals the developer has put forward since 2007, when Harbor Bay Isle Associates sued the city, claiming it had the right to build more homes. A proposal to build homes on the North Loop property was rejected by the Planning Board, while the City Council shot down a plan to give the developer the Mif Albright golf course to build homes on in exchange for the North Loop property and money to build sports fields on it.

Plans to move the club to the North Loop property date back to 1998, while the idea to build homes on the Packet Landing site first surfaced in 2002, company representatives have said.

Comments

Submitted by Ann Cooke (not verified) on Mon, Mar 10, 2014

The absolute BEST use of the site currently occupied by the Harbor Bay Club would be a PARK. It would be used by many, including school aged kids from nearby Alameda Earhart & Bay Farm. What a shame that the owner did not handle repairs and renovations for this lovely club WHEN they were needed. It is no small surprise that the costs to do do now are exhorbitant! If the current club is razed, I hope that consideration to create a new Park is given.

Submitted by Tom (not verified) on Mon, Mar 10, 2014

When the current club "falls to the ground" from continued lack of expenditure of capital maintenance funds then the property will again be up for housing. Two clubs will not survive and the old one is most likely to fail first. ee

Submitted by C. (not verified) on Mon, Mar 10, 2014

My theory is that they want to market the club to the business park workers and make it a nearby amenity to attract more commercial tenants to rent vacant office space. They can more easily churn through club memberships - with people starting and stopping - but paying fees up front. They probably figure that if homeowners want to belong to the club badly enough they will happily trek over to the business park. I wonder how long before they want to open the foot of Island Drive up linking it with the road just on the other side of the gate leading to the business park? That's all just speculation on my part - but I can't think of any other good reason for them to relocate it to the business park other than they want to draw members from the business park offices more readily. I agree an open space/park would be the preferred use of the current club land - but why couldn't the tennis courts and pool stay and be taken over by the recreation department - much like the Lincoln and Franklin pools?

Submitted by Matthew (not verified) on Tue, Mar 11, 2014

I used to work at islandia association at the end of island drive last summer and I can tell you without a doubt that the developers intent to open up that gate at the end of island right next to kindrcare. They want to open up quiet island drive to the traffic and have it be a straight shot from the bridge to the water down island drive with their new " club " on the way. It's disgusting and greedy.

Submitted by J (not verified) on Tue, Mar 11, 2014

The attorney's letter is galling. His mischaracterization of the dispute as "misunderstandings, misinterpretations," etc, is disingenuous. As a lifetime Alamedan and current club member, I strenuously oppose this move.

Submitted by Alameda Resident (not verified) on Tue, Mar 11, 2014

It would be a shame to open up the club to so many business park workers. I thought part of the value of the club was that it offered "Residents" a nice club to go to. If the club can no longer "maintain" its current location (and says it can't rebuild at the current fees) then I agree that a park would be a nice alternative. Or perhaps Alameda city councel can look for a new Higher End club to take over the space and demolish/rebuild in the same location. I think more "residents" would join if a new club were to open with state of the art facilites/spa/pool.

Submitted by Laura (not verified) on Tue, Mar 11, 2014

A park won't be happening there folks, because we're now the City of Homes and Beaches.

The City has been actively rezoning municipal parcels to residential, which increases land value by 3 times, thus putting acquisition of new park lands out of ARPD's price range.

Submitted by Alex (not verified) on Tue, Mar 11, 2014

If the end of Island Drive is opened to create a thoroughfare to Harbor Bay Business Park, watch the property values of Islandia Townhomes plummet! Watch more accidents happen in this very peaceful and safe residential neighborhood. Perhaps Ron hopes this happens so that people will move and he can grab THAT development to turn it into more 'luxury' (translated: more profit for him) homes, too. Bay Farm doesn't NEED more development. Go elsewhere to make more money!

Submitted by Susan K (not verified) on Thu, Mar 13, 2014

The community needs the Harbor Bay Club site to remain a recreation area. I would favor the City recreation department taking over and running the site. Without these facilities, Harbor Bay does not have enough recreational facilities, especially tennis courts and swimming pool. If the Club is abandoned by HBIA,the city should require HBIA to maintain the property and buildings so that they do not become a fire hazard or attractive nuisance. I would prefer to see the Club remain open until the property is sold so that it is not left vacant.