Residents: Harbor Bay Club was promised recreation space

Residents: Harbor Bay Club was promised recreation space

Michele Ellson

Updated at 2:35 p.m. Tuesday, October 8

Opponents of a proposal to build 80 luxury homes where the Harbor Bay Club now stands are saying the club was offered long ago in lieu of planned recreation space and that residents would lose their primary recreational space if the club is moved into the Harbor Bay Business Park.

City documents offered by Harbor Bay Neighbors’ Tim Coffey show that developer Harbor Bay Isle Associates won city approval in 1976 to consolidate planned recreation centers for each of the development’s four “villages” into a single private club in which membership was optional, reducing public recreation areas in the development from a planned 44 acres to 18.2 acres.

“We believe that Harbor Bay Isle Associates stipulated to a set of conditions that they’re now trying to dissolve, essentially,” Coffey said.

Coffey, whose Centre Court neighborhood backs up to the club, said it is one of the things that makes the community unique.

“No other community of its size has something like this. You take it away, and Harbor Bay Isle becomes just another neighborhood,” he said.

Harbor Bay Isle Associates’ Kathy Moehring said opponents’ concerns will be addressed in the report and through hearings the company expects will take place over the next nine to 12 months.

“It’s a really good project, and it has to be out there on the merits of the project, and not all this anecdotal information,” Moehring said. “I just want people to let the process happen, and let the city do their job.”

The developer is proposing to build a new club on nine acres it owns on North Loop Road, which sit between the business park and homes about a two-and-a-half-mile drive from the club’s existing Packet Landing Road location.

The impact the new developments could pose to existing recreation space is one of the things that will be studied as part of an environmental impact report, and the city is now taking public comment on what else the report should examine. The city is accepting the public’s input through October 29 on what impacts should be studied for the report, and will also take suggestions at a Planning Board hearing on October 28.

An initial study of the proposed development’s potential impacts that was released late last month determined that a full environmental study would be needed; the 208-page study says impacts to residents’ recreation needs and traffic are among the impacts that should be looked at in the environmental impact report.

Environmental impact reports typically detail impacts to traffic; wildlife; air, water and soil quality; archaeological resources and more in an effort to determine the degree to which a proposed development may create an impact and ways it might be addressed. They are used as a tool for policymakers – in this case, the Planning Board and the City Council – to determine whether to approve or request changes to a proposed development and also, what if any mitigations may be required to blunt its impacts.

Harbor Bay Isle Associates has long sought the city’s permission to build what they’ve characterized as a final set of homes on Harbor Bay Isle, unsuccessfully pursuing proposals to build homes first on the North Loop Road site where they are now contemplating a new Harbor Bay Club and then, on a portion of the Mif Albright golf course. They’ve said their current proposal, to build homes on the existing club site and a new club on North Loop Road, will help the developer retire the remaining debt on the Harbor Bay Isle development and replace the aging club.

But the swelling ranks of residents who oppose the development proposal – Coffey put the number at 800 – have said they’re fearful it could create traffic and safety impacts for existing residents and a nearby school.

Harbor Bay Isle Associates owner Ron Cowan claimed in an e-mail leaked to a local blogger and published September 30 that his company was “expressly clear” the project had the city’s support but that Mayor Marie Gilmore had since become “scared” of the development proposal. Gilmore would not comment on the e-mail. Another local blogger confirmed Thursday that the e-mail was authentic.

City Manager John Russo, who confirmed to The Alamedan that the e-mail was authentic and said he has not responded to it, said city staff will process Harbor Bay Isle Associates’ development application fairly.

“I’m telling you, there ain’t no fix in,” Russo said. “What we have is a duty to process the application fairly, to point out impacts, to analyze proposed mitigations for those impacts and to lay out all the benefits and burdens of any project, whether it’s from Ron Cowan or anyone else. And that’s what we’re going to do.”

The Community Master Plan for Harbor Bay Isle originally included a village commons located on an island in the lagoon that winds through the development, along with smaller community centers that were supposed to serve as “small scale social centers for neighborhood residents.” The village commons was to contain a 12,000-square-foot clubhouse that included space for meetings, workshops, billiards, music and a kitchen for “catered affairs” along with a physical education complex and storage for 60 sailboats.

But in 1976, the Planning Board and City Council voted to allow the developer to substitute the Harbor Bay Club for the village commons, and to more than halve the amount of public land they were required to provide.

Proposed expansions of the club were approved in 1982 and again in 1991, both times with the condition that members who didn’t live on Harbor Bay Isle would be phased out. A little fewer than half of the club’s roughly 3,900 members live on Harbor Bay Isle, an FAQ on the club’s website says.

“The purpose of the Harbor Bay Club is and shall continue to be to provide quality recreation facilities for the residents of Harbor Bay Isle residential development,” a Planning Board resolution approving the 1991 expansion proposal says.

In addition to the club, Bay Farm Island is home to a 32-acre Shoreline park, six-acre Leydecker Park, four-acre Tillman Park and two-acre Harrington Field, along with 5.45-acre Godfrey Park, which is partially bounded by the Chuck Corica Golf Complex. The Harbor Bay Isle development also has a community center.

Comments on what should be studied in the environmental impact report can be offered to City Planner Andrew Thomas at (the city is asking that “Harbor Bay Residential & Athletic Club Project” be written in the e-mail’s subject heading). The Planning Board hearing begins at 7 p.m. October 28 in council chambers on the third floor of City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Avenue.

Related: Developer seeks permission to build new homes on Harbor Bay