City Council Rules on Harbor Bay Club

Zoning change not recommended

The City Council voted to affirm the existing commercial and recreational use zoning for the parcel that houses the current Harbor Bay Club (HBC) at the special council meeting last Wednesday, Oct. 7.

Ron Cowan and the Harbor Bay Isle Associates (HBIA) development company, wants to move HBC to North Loop Road in the Harbor Bay Business Park and build 80 homes on the current site. To do that the current zoning needs to be changed to residential use.

The five council members (Mayor Trish Spencer, Vice Mayor Frank Mattarrese, and councilmembers Tony Daysog, Marrilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and Jim Oddie) voted 4-0 to reaffirm the current zoning status of the site on 200 Packet Landing Road.

Spencer elected to abstain her vote.

During the two-and-a-half hour meeting, supporters and opponents of affirming the existing zoning were each given 30 minutes to state their reasoning. However, many opponents explained why they want a new club, but not why the council should rezone the Packet Landing site.

Alameda resident Sanford Marshall, who was an opponent of the affirmation, said he believed "with Alameda growing in population, a new Harbor Bay Club would make Alameda feel like a community to those new residents." Another resident Barry Park said the new club would be better equipped to handle the city’s swimming needs than the two current swim facilities, Emma Hood and the Encinal swim centers.

Even Harbor Bay Isle Associates attorney Marshall Wallace presented a 10-minute video that focused mainly on the new and luxurious amenities the new club would have, but very little for why the zoning should be changed. During the council’s communications portion of the meeting Spencer asked Wallace what was his reasoning for showing the video if it neglected to mention rezoning — to the applause of the audience — but Wallace could not muster up much of an answer.

City Planner Andrew Thomas provided the council with reasons to change and maintain the current zoning. Thomas said one reason to change is that the city, along with the entire Bay Area, is in need of new housing. The club occupies nine acres of land that would go to new housing. Thomas, however, also stated that the housing would not likely be affordable housing, which the city needs. He also said having a residential zone, neighboring another residential zone (Centre Court) would be good for the city. Thomas also reiterated to the council and those watching that the council does not control local business, but does land use.

The Harbor Bay Neighbors (HBN), a Bay Farm homeowners group, were the main proponents of keeping the current zoning status. Tim Coffey of HBN said rezoning would change the character of the neighborhood. "Rezoning the site would remove all community recreation space from the residential development," said Coffey.

Susan Blank, an Alameda resident on Bay Farm, argued that rezoning would negatively impact Earhart Elementary School. "There are 624 students at Earhart Elementary," said Blank. "The school doesn’t have the space for new students 80 new homes would bring."

Traffic was also a big topic at the special meeting, but both sides used traffic as a selling point for their cause. Ray Davis of Red3 Consulting, a traffic engineering company, said traffic would lessen if the club is moved to North Loop Road because the current club accounts for 1,300 to 1,600 vehicles a day — to the laughter of many in the audience. Thomas said new homes would increase traffic, but would not be as massive as many have predicted. Those for maintaining the current zoning said traffic along Island and Doolittle drives would be greatly impacted by 80 new homes.

The council brought up several issues during the communications portion of the meeting. Spencer said "every property owner may request a change in zoning" if they approve a zone change.

Daysog voted to affirm the zoning because "Mr. Coffey and residents made a strong defense for the status quo." Oddie, explained to residents in attendance that the council’s decision will not prevent a zoning change in the future.

The council chambers at City Hall was packed for the meeting, which led city officials to open a conference room at the nearby Alameda Free Library so people could watch the proceedings via a live webcast.

Contact Ekene Ikeme at eikeme@alamedasun.com.