The upcoming decision on the land swap between Harbor Bay Isle Associates (Ron Cowan's company) and the city (for the Mif Albright golf course) will be a significant and controversial one.
No matter how the council votes to proceed, I think that Alamedans from all perspectives would agree that if the council votes to approve the agreement and begin negotiating a contract with HBIA for a swap, the city needs to receive its fair share in the deal.
It has been acknowledged by a majority of the council that this deal is being pursued to produce as much income as possible to support needed golf, parks and recreation uses, therefore the financial gain in this transaction is of paramount concern.
I believe that the appraisal of the Mif that the proposed agreement is based on is inaccurate and incomplete in several significant and meaningful ways. As indicated in the city's staff report, the appraisal for the land is based on assumptions that are not relevant to the current negotiations and significantly undervalue the land. Further, the appraisal makes assumptions about other parcels that may not be accurate, but are causing a large part of the community to question the Mif valuation, and the intentions behind it.
No matter what position you have on the deal, it is in the city’s best interest to do its due diligence before agreeing to it, and this means doing a second (and I’d humbly suggest a third) appraisal before the council sits to discuss this issue. Done expeditiously, this would move the item to Oct. 18, the additional appraisals could be posted on the 11, giving the community a week to absorb the information before the meeting.
There are two likely outcomes: 1) The new appraisals confirm the existing appraisal, all that is lost is two weeks or 2) the new appraisals show that the city’s land is worth more than previously thought, and that city is able to renegotiate an agreement that allows the city to bring in more funds.
It’s win-win. In the worst-case scenario, the city is seen responding to wide-spread community concern about the appraisals and doing its due diligence, in the best, it’s increasing the benefits gained in the swap.
I urge Alameda's city council to continue the item to Oct. 18 and immediately contract to produce two additional appraisals for the Mif site so that the city can make certain that any deal that is negotiated is in the best interests of the interests of the community.
John Knox White
For a more detailed critique of the assessment see Knox White's blog post on the issue.