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Letter to the Editor: City Should Seek Additional Appraisals of Mif before Making Deal with Cowan

Alameda resident John Knox White says the city should get a second and third opinion about the value of the Mif Albright land before negotiating.

Dear Editor: 

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.

Respectfully submitted,

John Knox White

For a more detailed critique of the assessment see Knox White's blog post on the issue

Denise Shelton September 26, 2011 at 05:00 PM
This makes sense. The City has already stupidly paid way over market value for the Islander. Maybe they could be a little more savvy on this one.
John Knox White September 26, 2011 at 07:44 PM
Good news, the city has just announced that they will be continuing the Mif item until 10/18 while they obtain an additional appraisal.
Kate Quick September 26, 2011 at 08:00 PM
Thanks for doing this John. I was thinking along the same lines and had not spoken up, but I am super glad that you did. I think the correct appraisal is the key to getting a deal that gives good return to the City. We cannot afford anything less at this time.
Karen Bey September 26, 2011 at 10:52 PM
John, actually (3) appraisals is a good idea as well. Another reason I believe the community is not supporting this deal is because it’s being presented as a MIF land swap - one that appears to mainly benefit the developer, instead of a major new project that will enhance the golf complex, increase revenues to the city, and help make Alameda a travel destination. Something like this would be more exciting: “Major new improvements will completely transform the Alameda Golf Complex. The new plans call for a new world class 20,000 sq ft clubhouse and spa designed by architect Bob Altevers. The new club house will house a restaurant and spa, and be ideal for banquets, wedding receptions, corporate meetings and much more. Also planned as part of the project, is 112 new homes to be built by XXXXX. The city plans to ground lease the club house site and partner with XXXXX to develop, construct and operate the club house. The city’s participation in the profits of the project is expected to increase revenues for the city which has been struggling to find ways to offset future projected budget deficits. The new club house is expected to break ground in the spring of 2012”. The golf course is a major “Tourism Asset”. With America’s Cup looming around the corner, an exciting golf course project like this could put Alameda on the map and help make Alameda become a major Bay Area travel destination.
Eve Pearlman September 27, 2011 at 12:41 AM
This afternoon I received an email from the city's deputy city manager, Alex Nguyen. Nguyen wrote, "At Mayor Marie Gilmore’s request, City Manager John Russo is commissioning an additional appraisal of the Mif Albright property prior to bringing the staff report before the City Council for policy direction. Now that council agendas are published 12 days in advance of a City Council meeting to provide the public ample time to review all relevant information, the golf-related items must be moved from Oct. 4 to the Oct. 18 City Council meeting. The reports, including the new appraisal, will be available to the public on Oct. 6, 2011."
Alana Dill October 01, 2011 at 08:04 PM
I'm glad the City Council is taking time to review our options thoroughly. I think that if a residential building complex does go through, there should be a stipulation that it offers shuttles to BART every morning and evening.

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