Golf swap deal on council agenda Tuesday
Golf swap deal on council agenda Tuesday
A controversial proposal to trade most of the city’s nine-hole Mif Albright golf course to developer Ron Cowan for cash and land he owns on North Loop Road is slated to come to a vote Tuesday night.
The City Council will also consider negotiating with two firms, KemperSports and Greenway Golf, to manage the entire Chuck Corica Golf Complex – a job the city had has sought to fill since 2009.
Councilman Doug deHaan has said repeatedly that he will vote against the swap proposal, and Councilwoman Lena Tam told a reporter on February 21 that it’s “not likely” that she will support it, either. City Attorney Janet Kern told the council that night that the proposal needs four votes to pass.
Mayor Marie Gilmore said she has her doubts about the proposed swap, but that she won’t make up her mind until everyone’s had their say at Tuesday’s meeting.
“Nobody’s come out and said they were for it,” Gilmore said of herself and her dais-mates. “I would say it’s probably an uphill battle.”
Cowan's Harbor Bay Isle Associates now wants 12.2 acres of the 14-acre Mif course and the right to build 130 homes on it, and he’s offering his North Loop Road property plus $7.85 million in exchange. He had originally offered up to $9 million and sought to build 112 homes.
A group of youth sports leaders who would manage a proposed sports complex to be built on Harbor Bay Isle’s property are supporting the plan, though Gilmore pointed out that the group doesn’t include some of the sports leaders whose teams may stand to benefit from it. The proposed swap is opposed by golfers and also Bay Farm Island residents, who sent council members scores of e-mails last fall decrying the additional traffic and housing they feel more homes would bring.
“I believe the Golf Complex has sacrificed enough for the sake of the City in the form of the more than $10 million that has been drained from golf into the City’s general fund over the past 15 years, leaving the courses in serious need of repair. It is not fair to ask golf to make further sacrifices, but that is exactly what the swap requires,” Golf Commission President Jane Sullwold wrote in an e-mail to golfers.
The sports leaders, who have applied to create a nonprofit foundation to develop and manage the fields, said in a February 23 letter to the city that they envision lighted, all-weather soccer fields and a football field that would also have bleacher seating for up to 1,600 people, plus a Little League diamond on the North Loop property. The signatories include Babe Ruth commissioner Pat Bail – an early opponent of the swap plan – along with Wolverines and Alameda Little League president Ron Matthews, Wolverines General Manager Junior Tautalatasi, Alameda Youth Basketball president Randy Marmor, soccer coach Steve Adams and lacrosse coach Matt McFall.
“The future of Youth Sports in Alameda is in severe jeopardy and our youth deserve better, they deserve quality playing fields and leadership that realizes that our City cannot afford to add any more fields so it makes it all the more critical for the City to delay any pending decisions until the above has been fully examined,” the group wrote. “In the final analysis, every youth sport in Alameda from golf to soccer will benefit from this agreement.”
In a report to the council, City Manager John Russo said Harbor Bay Isle would pay $4.35 million toward youth sports fields on North Loop Road and the city would add $650,000 in impact fees from the Mif development, for a total of $5 million.
The remaining $3.5 million being offered by the developer would be used for improvements at the golf complex, though golfers are questioning that number, saying much of the money would be spent on reconfiguring the courses to fit in homes. Russo said KemperSports, the golf complex’s current manager, would match those funds if selected to run the complex long-term.
He didn’t offer a recommendation on how to vote on the swap, though he did recommend the council negotiate exclusively with Kemper if a swap is approved.
“From a purely financial perspective, the Land Exchange Option is a very attractive option,” Russo wrote. “However, the Land Exchange Option also raises a number of significant public policy issues and concerns for the community that the City Council must consider.”
If approved, Harbor Bay Isle would begin submitting applications for the development project by the end of this month, and the city would work to approve them by September 30.
The Cowan and golf sagas intertwined in 2008, when Cowan said city staff suggested the swap idea after the Planning Board declined to recommend a zoning change that could allow him to build homes on the North Loop property. At the same time, city leaders were looking for ways to make the 45-hole complex more profitable.
A year earlier, a consultant told the council that the golf complex needed $10 million in improvements to remain competitive – money city leaders, who used golf funds over the years to fund City Hall improvements, the Alameda Belt Line litigation and a study to determine the feasibility of an Alameda Point golf course, said they didn’t have. In October 2007, the council approved a settlement that required city leaders to consider rezoning the property to allow Harbor Bay Isle to build homes on it.
The council decided in March 2010 to negotiate with Kemper, which has managed the complex on a temporary basis since December 2008, to operate the golf complex’s two 18-hole courses on a long-term basis. Council members also voted to negotiate with the Alameda Junior Golf Club to lease and manage the Mif course.
Cowan went public with the swap proposal in April of last year, just as the council was set to consider moving forward on a deal with Kemper and deal terms with Alameda Junior Golf. Gilmore said at the time that the council was considering the swap only for the upfront cash it would give the city to fix up the golf complex and the potential for new youth sports fields, which council members said they couldn’t afford otherwise.
Kemper had told city officials that they didn’t have up-front money to invest in the golf complex and that they wouldn’t be able to obtain financing to make fixes right away. They are offering to manage the entire complex and to offer $5 million for improvements, an amount that would include $500,000 in cash from the company up front and $500,000 in profits from operating the complex for each of the next five years.
Austin-based Greenway Golf, a boutique company managing seven properties that wrote the city in February 2011 to inquire about the management contract, is offering a $6.7 million investment in renovations, which the company would cover with cash, golf complex profits, a city contribution of $750,000, value engineering to reduce costs and a $1 million investment from an earth moving company.
Kemper, which manages dozens of golf courses across 28 states, is offering a minimum of $50,000 in annual rent, which would rise to $499,000 in 2018 when renovations are complete and $588,000 in 2032. They’re offering the city 7.5 percent of gross revenues up to $4 million and more if revenues are higher, and investments into a capital improvement fund during the course of the lease, which they would seek to hold for a decade with options for two 10-year extensions.
Greenway is offering rent of $75,000 a year rising to $300,000 annually by 2015, when they anticipate they’ll finish renovations. They’re offering 8 percent of gross revenues up to $4 million or $300,000 and more if revenues are higher, plus investments into a capital improvement fund. They haven’t specified a time frame for their proposed lease deal.
Meanwhile, the leaders of Alameda Junior Golf are now saying they no longer want to take over the Mif course. In a January 9 letter, president Norma Arnerich said the club’s board decided the course should be managed by whoever the city selects to take over the golf complex.
The Chuck Corica complex lost an estimated $75,050 in 2010-11, according to the city’s budget for this year, which showed revenues of $3.6 million. A chart provided by the Golf Commission last April showed the complex’s operating revenue at $2.6 million in 2000-01 and $170,508 in 2007-08, while the city took about $1 million each year for other expenses.
Regardless of how the vote on the swap goes down, Gilmore said the council needs to focus on where the money for needed golf course improvements will come from.
“We haven’t solved the issue of fixing the golf course,” she said.
Chuck Corica and Ron Cowan: A timeline
May 2007: City Council receives a report from National Golf Foundation detailing the need for $10 million in renovations at the Chuck Corica Golf Complex, including $2 million for a new banquet facility
October 2007: Council approves a settlement with developer Ron Cowan requiring them to consider rezoning 12 acres he owns on North Loop Road for residential development
May 2008: Planning Board declines to recommend Cowan’s property be rezoned; Cowan says that shortly afterward, city staff approached him about a potential land swap
December 2008: Council hires KemperSports to manage the golf complex for a year while a more permanent manager is sought. The city sought proposals for a long-term manager in July 2009
February 2009: The proposed swap makes its way onto the council’s closed session agenda, prompting questions from golfers
March 2010: Council votes to negotiate deals with KemperSports to operate the golf complex’s two 18-hole courses and with Alameda Junior Golf to lease and manage the Mif Albright short course
January 2011: Kemper offers a plan to manage a 27-hole course, angering golfers; they offer no up-front cash to renovate the complex, despite city deal specifications seeking an upfront investment
April 2011: Just as the council is set to consider approving a revised Kemper deal for managing both 18-hole courses as-is, Cowan asks the council to consider a swap; council puts its plans on hold so the swap can be explored
October 2011: Mayor Marie Gilmore asks city leaders to consider alternatives to the deals on the table; a request for new proposals to manage the golf complex is released in December
January 2012: Alameda Junior Golf informs the city that they no longer wish to lease the Mif Albright short course, saying it should be run by whoever is chosen to operate the entire golf complex
February 2012: Newly created Alameda Youth Sports Foundation offers support for proposal that they develop and operate sports fields that would be built on the North Loop property if the council approves the swap
March 6: Council to decide whether to okay the swap and who they will negotiate with for long-term management of the golf complex; candidates are KemperSports and Greenway Golf