Alameda wants a mulligan on lawsuit against operators of its prestigious Bay Area golf course

ALAMEDA — A legal battle that drove relationships at Alameda’s municipal greens into the rough may soon run its course.

Accusations of poor management, parochial retaliation and a “systematic campaign” to control the historic greens at Corica Park evolved last year into a pair of opposing lawsuits filed by Alameda officials and the business they enlisted to run it.

But an Alameda County Superior Court has tipped its hand that the city’s arguments aren’t up to par.

Corica Park is a city-owned, 333-acre golf facility, which was leased in 2012 to Greenway Golf Associates (GGA) to manage operations of the two 18-hole courses, 9-hole course, driving range and clubhouse on Bay Farm Island.

After GGA’s founders—George Kelley, Ken Campbell and Marc Logan—spearheaded a facelift of the greens in 2018, Golf Magazine dubbed Corica Park one of America’s best city-owned courses, calling it “golf’s version of Festivus: it’s the country club for the rest of us.”

But trouble began brewing after Umesh and Avani Patel acquired enough shares of GGA to become majority owners in April 2020.

In a March 21 letter, then-City Manager Eric Levitt and Amy Wooldridge, Alameda’s director of recreation and parks, accused GGA and Umesh Patel of violating their lease—active through at least 2053—by pausing construction of the North Course, and demanded the company provide a final schedule of the build-out.

The Patels said the delay wasn’t of their own volition.

ALAMEDA, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 3: Corica Park Golf Course owners Umesh Patel and his wife Avani Patel walk along the golf course at Corica Park Golf Course in Alameda, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

Logan, who was Corica Park’s last founding shareholder and chief agronomist, first sued GGA earlier in March over disputes about management of the company’s finances. The Patels put him on administrative leave while the case headed for court, pausing his work redesigning the North Course during litigation.

Logan and the Patels were able to “amicably” settle in December, and a new design and construction team will resume the North Course’s re-design in 2023 since he is no longer a partner at Corica Park.

For now, that resolution appears to have left Alameda officials in the weeds with their own lawsuit, since it piggybacked off of claims within Logan’s complaints. Attorneys representing the city used that evidence to request a temporary restraining order allowing them to audit GGA’s books and the ability to terminate Corica Park’s lease agreement if construction to complete North Course renovations did not resume.

In November, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch found that Alameda officials erroneously used ongoing litigation between GGA’s shareholders as evidence that they defaulted on their lease, without any other findings to support the claim—wrongfully interfering with GGA’s operations in the process.

Additionally, the judge ruled that GGA has presented evidence that they did comply with their lease obligations. Unless Alameda can show otherwise, GGA is entitled to the “quiet and peaceful enjoyment of the Golf Complex without objection or interference from the city,” Roesch said.

Alameda amended its complain earlier this month, and a case management conference is scheduled for Friday.

City spokesperson Sarah Henry said the city will continue to pursue its claims, and rejects the idea that officials acted in bad faith.

“This is not true—the litigation is still at the very early pleading stage, and at this time in the litigation, the court was required to assume all allegations in Greenway’s cross-complaint were true and accurate, without the city being able to take discovery and present additional facts or evidence,” Henry said in an email. “The city looks forward to demonstrating that it has consistently acted in good faith in vindicating the public’s rights at Corica Park and has never inappropriately interfered with Greenway’s golf course operations.”

Last year, the Patels said they felt like the city was retaliating against them for ruffling longtime golfers’ feathers, especially after the couple shrank the number of the clubs’ reserved tee times to accommodate more people from across the Bay Area. Those feelings prompted them to file a cross-complaint in September, accusing the city of directing a “campaign of harassment, false or baseless accusations, and character assassination” towards GGA and the Patels.

“It’s not a new playbook—people, especially people of color, get pushed off public land by maligning their character, questioning their ability, auditing their finances and trying to find that ‘aha’ moment where you can take it back,” Umesh Patel said in October. “This city, I think, has embarked upon on a terrible journey of harassment and prejudice.”

But looking ahead to 2023, Clark Brigham, GGA’s director of communications, said that the team is focused on moving forward and revitalization—through expanding “socially inclusive” programs for youth and the community, and restoring the native environment on the island’s municipal greens.

“The future of Corica Park looks incredibly bright for the golfers and people of Alameda, who are the true owners of Corica Park,” Brigham said. “Golfers are thrilled that the quality of the golf courses are at an all-time high, and we can’t wait for the thoughtful redesign and completion of the second nine on the North Course this year.

“Corica Park is thriving.”

ALAMEDA, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 3: Golfers prepare to tee off on the 11th hole at Corica Park Golf Course in Alameda, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
ALAMEDA, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 3: Golfers prepare to tee off on the 11th hole at Corica Park Golf Course in Alameda, Calif., on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group) 

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