Proponents, opponents jostle over Harbor Bay Club proposal

Proponents, opponents jostle over Harbor Bay Club proposal

Bill Chapin

Image from the Community for a New Harbor Bay Club website.

Things have been relatively quiet lately in the battle over the Harbor Bay Club. In the last year, there have been no hearings or votes taken on the proposal to move the Bay Farm Island athletic club to a new site near the Harbor Bay Business Park.

But behind the scenes, proponents and opponents have been hard at work solidifying support, refining their messages and contacting city officials in anticipation of when the development plan comes before the Planning Board. That showdown will likely happen in September, Planning Director Andrew Thomas said, once the city has completed the environmental impact report.

Harbor Bay Isle Associates’ proposal for a new club has remained contentious even after the developer withdrew its application to build homes on the club’s current Packet Landing Road site near the Bay Farm Island Bridge. As a result, the board will only consider construction of a new athletic facility on North Loop Road, beginning with a design review.

Even so, the process will entail a discussion of both sites, Thomas said. If it were just a matter of someone asking to build a fitness club in the business park, “nobody would care about it,” he said. “There wouldn’t be all this discussion and controversy.”

Opposition to the move has coalesced in the form of a grassroots organization, Harbor Bay Neighbors. Leader Tim Coffey says the group is mostly made up of Bay Farm residents, but it also includes some families who live over the bridge in the Fernside neighborhood and beyond. Many of those who live near to the club have written e-mails to city officials, expressing concerns about losing close access to recreational facilities, the changes that redevelopment of the property would bring and the effect both might have on property values.

Harbor Bay Isle Associates and Harbor Bay Neighbors both say they have signed up more than 1,000 supporters. They have competing websites that offer arguments for why the club should move or stay put.

If there is one thing the sides can agree on, it’s that Harbor Bay Club is in need of an upgrade. Harbor Bay Isle Associates says the 36-year-old facility, which was established as a tennis club, is out of step with the membership’s current needs. Plans for the new club call for half as many tennis courts, double the swim lanes and three times as much studio space for spinning, Pilates and yoga classes. Other amenities would include expanded locker rooms, a larger outdoor spa and poolside cabanas.

Harbor Bay Neighbors also wants to see these sorts of improvements, according to the group’s statements, but believes the facility can be renovated or rebuilt at its current location.

This is Harbor Bay Isle Associates’ third attempt since 2007 to do something with its North Loop Road property. The developer unsuccessfully sought permission to build homes on the site. The city also rejected a land swap that would have granted Harbor Bay Isle Associates the ability to build homes on the Mif Albright golf course.

Coffey said these previous plans show that the latest proposal is still about residential development. “Moving the club is just a means to an end,” he said. “This is about putting more homes on Bay Farm.”

Harbor Bay Isle Associates President C. Timothy Hoppen said the company does still ultimately hope to build 80 single-family homes on the current club property, but “we’ve been looking for a place to build a bigger and better club” since 2002. Initial plans for the golf course redevelopment also included a new Harbor Bay Club, he added.

“We have outgrown the infrastructure,” he said. “We want to make it a facility that will serve the whole Harbor Bay Isle community—including the business park, which is obviously growing.”

He said Harbor Bay Isle Associates’ studies have shown 80 homes would be the highest and best use for the Packet Landing Road site once a new club opens, but the company is open to other ideas.

Harbor Bay Neighbors further argues that the club should not be allowed to move because it is an integral part of a master-planned community.

“Just because they own the property doesn’t mean they can do anything they want with it,” Coffey said. The club has “a 35- to 40-year history as a community asset, and (the owners) are trying to gloss over that like it never existed.”

Coffey said historical planning documents show the city intended for the club to provide recreational facilities for Harbor Bay Isle residents after park space was eliminated to provide additional housing. The club has also been touted as an amenity for those buying homes in the neighborhood, he said.

But Hoppen contends this is no different than Safeway deciding to build a larger grocery store up the road. And he said the new club would be more centrally located for the larger Bay Farm community.

“This is just the next phase of the master-planned community,” he said.

Plans for Harbor Bay Isle have gone through several changes over the course of its development, Thomas said, and making those changes is within the city’s purview. At the same time, he said, “it’s a legitimate argument for the neighbors to say, ‘This was part of the deal, we don’t like the idea, so vote no.’”

These are the arguments that the Planning Board will have to weigh come September.

To learn more:

• Community for a New Harbor Bay Club: wewantanewclub.com
• Harbor Bay Neighbors: harborbayneighbors.wordpress.com

Comments

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Tue, Jul 28, 2015

The Harbor Bay Isle Club Belongs in the Present Location

Is moving the Harbor Club Isle to an undeveloped and undesirable plot of land, dangerously close to Oakland Airport runways, the only viable option? The answer is No.

This is really all about Ron Cowan and Harbor Bay Isle Associates' (HBIA) unsubstantiated and false entitlement to build more homes in an established Planned Unit Development. Their plans have little to do with accommodating current club members or anyone else. Moving the club is indisputably linked to building more homes on Harbor Bay Isle, regardless of the impact.

Ron Cowan and HBIA have twice before attempted to build more homes in Harbor Bay Isle and to no avail. Rather than continuing to serve their self-interests, Cowan and HBIA should upgrade the current club or sell the existing club to new owners; owners who see the potential in serving the community for which the club was originally intended.

Dave Terry
Harbor Bay Isle Resident