ALAMEDA — A legal battle is disrupting relations at the Alameda Municipal Golf Course.

Questions about the day-to-day operations of Alameda’s 333-acre Corica Park complex have sparked allegations of discrimination, breaches of contract and a “systematic campaign” by established politicians and players to regain control of the historic greens, according to reports. Opposing lawsuits filed by the city and the golf course operators in Alameda County Superior Court.

What started as internal disputes over financial management morphed into demands for bureaucratic audits of the company’s books and threats to terminate the course’s 40-year lease – actions that current officials say are motivated by “parochial political interests hoping to protect his friends with preferential access. ”

Corica Park, a city-owned course, was leased in August 2012 to Greenway Golf Associates (GGA), which operates the property’s two 18-hole courses, 9-hole course, driving range and clubhouse on Bay Farm Island.

After GGA founders – George Kelley, Ken Campbell and Marc Logan – spearheaded a greens facelift in 2018, Golf Magazine rated Corica Park that year as the “Best Municipal Course Renovation” and one of the best city-owned courses in America in 2021.

But soon after Umesh and Avani Patel bought Kelley and Campbell’s minority stakes in the company and eventually resumed operations in 2020, city officials gave them the cold shoulder and started sending notice of breach of lease, claiming the Patels neglected the golf greens and illegally rushed to take control – an allegation that flies in the face of the opinion of the city’s own legal counsel.

The Patels say they are being unfairly targeted, especially after they began trying to increase access to public open space to a wider and more diverse set of players.

For the first time in five years, the GGA has increased green fees at all levels in 2021, including the costs of several long-established Alameda golf clubs that previously enjoyed cheap access to tee times from choice. Umesh Patel said the changes make Corica Park’s price more competitive with nearby courses, help fund multimillion-dollar renovations and support new programs, including opportunities for disadvantaged young people to play for free.

ALAMEDA, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 3: Golfers from St. Joseph Notre Dame in Alameda practice their putts before a match at Corica Park Golf Course in Alameda, Calif., on Monday, October 3, 2022. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

The Patels, who lived in Alameda for 21 years before moving to Oakland, said they don’t want to oppose the city but believe a lawsuit is the only way to fight what they believe be retaliation for ruffling the feathers of longtime golfers. , especially after reducing the number of club tee times to accommodate more people from across the Bay Area.

“This is not a new playbook – people, especially people of color, are kicked off public lands by slandering their character, questioning their abilities, auditing their finances and trying to find that moment. “aha” where you can take it back,” Umesh Patel said. “This city, I think, has embarked on a terrible journey of harassment and prejudice.”

In a March 21 letter, City Manager Eric Levitt and Parks and Recreation Director Amy Wooldridge accused GGA of breaching its lease by suspending construction of the North Course and demanded the company provide a final schedule. construction.

The Patels say the delay is not of their own volition. Logan, the course’s chief agronomist who is now a minority shareholder and owner, was the construction project manager. But once Logan sued GGA over disputes over the management of the company’s finances, the Patels placed him on administrative leave while the case is disputed in court.

If the Patels can successfully settle down with Logan, they say he can return to work as an independent contractor or consultant. But if that fails, GGA will hire a new construction company.

While some holes remain closed and cart access is restricted in the meantime, the condition of the rest of the course is anything but poor.

Nick Wolf, Alameda High School’s head golf coach who also runs small group lessons and youth mentorship in Corica, said there was no comparison to other regional links, such as the Monarch Bay Golf Club in San Leandro or the Lake Chabot Golf Course in Oakland.

“Corica is much better in terms of manicure and upkeep – they’re in great shape,” Wolf said. “The thing that I think a lot of the public have a problem with is just that they haven’t finished it, but in terms of the quality of the course and the track, I feel like everyone everyone loves him.”

ALAMEDA, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 3: A golfer hits his approach shot on the 14th green at Corica Park Golf Course in Alameda, Calif. on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)
ALAMEDA, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 3: A golfer hits his approach shot on the 14th green at Corica Park Golf Course in Alameda, Calif. on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

The city’s March 21 letter also alleges that GGA’s attorney lied and said the Patels did not have a majority of the voting shares in April 2020 and did not obtain prior written consent from the city ​​officials for this type of change in the decision-making process of society.

However, the Patels tried to inform the municipal authorities.

In an April 2020 memo from Mark Slater, GGA’s corporate attorney at the time, former Alameda acting attorney Michael Roush confirmed that city approval was not required. for minority stock purchases, acknowledging that “Mr. Patel just wanted to be transparent with the city about the acquisition.

Still, the city stands by its claims and has filed its own lawsuit against GGA and the Patels. Largely based on Logan’s allegations, Alameda is demanding a full audit under threat of terminating the golf course lease.

“The city, as steward of the community’s public assets, has a responsibility to determine whether these allegations are substantiated and therefore is requesting a full audit of Greenway’s finances,” Alameda spokeswoman Sarah Henry said. in a press release. “The city categorically denies the claims raised in Greenway’s counterclaim and looks forward to asserting the rights of the city and the community in the litigation.”

But Patel argues that while the city has no contractual right to see its financial statements, city staff have rejected its offers to have the records audited by a third party and settle disagreements. Until that happens, he feels his only choice is to fight back.

“This is a terrible abuse of power, and I have done my best to settle these claims,” ​​said Umesh Patel. “I didn’t want to become the public face of the course, but honestly, I felt it was so imperative that just for the sake of our souls, we had to resist this.”