One of the favorite scare tactics of Ron Cowan and Harbor Bay Isle Associates is the claim of an indisputable right to build more homes in Bay Farm.
The only problem is their “right” does not apply to building more homes. It applies to the processing of their re-zoning request. They are entitled to expedited processing and that is all.
Still, Cowan and HBIA use that liberal interpretation as a blunt instrument to influence those who want to believe the company would not mislead them.
Unfortunately, not all of our city leaders understand this issue. That means it is up to us to educate them.
From the very beginning, Cowan and HBIA referenced their “indisputable right.” See the fifth paragraph here from their letter to the City Council on April 16, 2013 announcing plans to replace the Harbor Bay Club with 80 new homes.
An “indisputable right” sounds iron clad and a little scary, but it is completely untrue.
Robert Sullwold, an attorney and Alameda resident, analyzed the legal basis for HBIA’s “right” during HBIA’s campaign in 2008 to swap the Mif Albright golf course for property in the Harbor Bay Business Park. By the way, it is the same property in the business park where HBIA now wants to move the Club.
Sullwold found: “HBIA has no unconditional legal right to construct additional housing units on Harbor Bay Isle. It does have the right to apply to re-zone property it owns from commercial to residential use. But neither the Planning Board nor the City is legally obligated to approve such an application. Rather, they are required to evaluate it using the criteria generally applicable to re-zoning applications, including benefits to the community and environmental impact.”
You can read Sullwold’s entire analysis here.
Here is another interpretation of HBIA’s “right.”
For many years, current Planning Board member John Knox White kept a blog. A posting from March 2009 – years before he joined the Planning Board – completely dismisses HBIA’s claims.
Quoting directly from the court decision in “Peets vs. The City of Alameda,” Knox White found: “The City Council maintains its discretion … to make a decision as to whether to approve or deny” a re-zoning application from HBIA. “The City’s … powers are not constrained.”
You can read his post here.
HBIA’s gross misrepresentation of the facts has permeated our community. Some of our City leaders actually believe this “right” to be what HBIA says it is.
We need your help to educate them. You can do this by sending emails to the City Council and writing letters to the local newspapers. If you want support for submitting your letters, please let us know.
This conversation about the future of our community should be based on facts.