To Build or Not to Build

To keep up with changing trends in fitness, the Harbor Bay Club wants to reinvent itself. So what—or who—has been stopping it?


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Photo by chris duffey

 

Cowan counters that the first thing appraisers do in valuing a house is look at comparable sales. Building $1 million-plus homes next to ones worth $500,000 will only raise the values, he said. The homes won’t be McMansions, he said, but two-story homes ranging in size from 2,200 to 2,600 square feet.

Cowan has responded to his opponents by launching his own information campaign, using the club’s website and announcing a new website, www.WeWantANewClub.com, that was set to debut as this article went to press. The website is designed to serve as an information clearing house for those Alamedans who support the club’s proposal.

Club member Eric Delore, who also runs the Alameda Island Aquatics youth swim club, is one of them. Harbor Bay rents Delore’s club two lanes for an hour and a half per month for $300. But that’s not enough space, he said, and it pits kids against adults in the club’s one pool.

The 110-member swim club now has seven kids per lane every day. At the new location, it could have 25 swimmers working out at a time.

“Pools in Alameda are in such short supply,” Delore said. “They go down a lot and kids don’t have enough places to swim.”

Club member David Courtland also favors the move. “You have to stay relevant in any business,” said Courtland, 53, a club member since 199, whose two kids grew up playing tennisbthere.

Courtland said he has talked with opponents and gotten a mixed messag,.

“A lot of people I’ve talked with say they aren’t happy about not being able to walk to the club anymore,” he said. “But right after, they say it would be nice to have a new facility.”

How unified or divided Harbor Bay residents are on the issue is truly hard to determine, with advocates and opponents claiming an edge, and lobbing insults and innuendos and whispers of lawsuits. Roughly 20 separate homeowners associations form the membership of the Community of Harbor Bay Isle Owners Association, and four of those associations’ boards have opposed the club move to date.

Consider the attitude of Harbor Bay resident Richard Dudzinski, a nonmember who has lived in Harbor Bay for 15 years.

“Let’s start off with the good stuff,” he said. “First, I think Ron Cowan did an awesome, awesome job with the development of Harbor Bay Island. It is a flagship. That’s why we live there. The architecture is great; the lagoons are marvelous; the green grass areas are unmatched in the Bay Area.

“What I’m afraid of is that if Ron Cowan has his way, and I don’t know why, he will destroy everything he has built. Moving the Harbor Bay Club to a different location is just crazy. All we want is for him to fix his club up.”

On the other hand, former San Franciscan Sanford Marshall compared the prospect of a new club with the value of having Trader Joe’s or Trabocco Kitchen and Cocktails at South Shore Center.

“The current club has a complete nice lawn and waterfront views, but candidly, it’s a little dated,” said Marshall, whose family has had a membership for nine years. “I believe a health club is what we call a third place, a place other than work or home where people can feel a part of the community.”

“When I saw that Trader Joe’s was there, it was a slam-dunk for us to move to Alameda,” he said. “We’re looking for social entertainment, but we still want the small-town feel. I don’t think a luxurious new health club will take away from that.”

Judith M. Gallman contributed to this article.

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