The boat slips are gone from the lake side of Konocti Harbor inn on Clear Lake near Buckingham Park, Friday Sept. 6, 2013. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

New plan for Clearlake's shuttered Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa

A Lake County resort that became the largest concert venue on the North Coast before it was shuttered in 2009 may be getting a new shot at life.

The Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa, which drew thousands of fans for outdoor concerts by such bands as ZZ Top and Styx, is in the process of being sold to San Francisco-based Resort Equities LLC, said Grant Sedgwick, president of Resort Equities.

"We have a contract agreement to purchase the property, but we are in what's called a contingency period where we're doing all the physical inspections, engineering inquiries, looking carefully at the buildings," Sedgwick said.

The purchase price was not disclosed.

The sale is contingent on county approval of permits sought by Sedgwick, which involve tearing down some buildings and erecting others, while replacing many of the hotel rooms with timeshares, he said.

Lake County Supervisor Rob Brown called the proposal a "perk-it-up" for the community, which has been struggling with high unemployment rates.

"People are still suffering in Lake County," Brown said. "This is going to make people feel much better about Lake County and what the possibilities are for the future."

Resort Equities, which employs about a dozen people in California, specializes in the development and sale of shared-ownership luxury properties, Sedgwick said.

Die-hard Konocti fans may have to adjust to a bit of change to the lakeside retreat under Sedgwick's vision. Resort Equities plans to demolish the Vista Cloud building, Beach Cottages and Lakeside Haven Apartments, removing more than 100 hotel rooms, according to the plans submitted to Lake County.

"The building architecture will be completely more contemporary," Sedgwick said. "These buildings date from the '60s and '70s and they kind of look that way. The furnishings need to be replaced. It needs to be much more focused on energy conservation."

The plans call for creating 164 new timeshare units on the 58-acre site, with about 60 of those to be built in an area on the site that was not previously developed. Those 15 buildings would be built according to demand over the next five to seven years. Construction in that area, which encompasses about 2 percent of the property, would entail removing trees on a somewhat steep slope, the proposal said.

Resort Equities intends to rebuild the marina and dock that were destroyed in a recent storm and expand the number of boat slips. The company also plans to restore the popular concert program and to expand the activities available onsite.

"Everything from cooking classes and wine pairings to downhill bike riding and water skiing," Sedgwick said. "Vacation interests and styles have changed over the last 50 years. If you take a week off, you want to do more than sit on the beach, you want to be a lot more active."

Konocti was closed in 2009 after its owner, Local 38 of the United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters and Journeymen, was forced to sell after a federal lawsuit settlement. The suit claimed the union mishandled members' benefit plans by diverting an estimated $36 million into renovating and operating Konocti Harbor.

Greg Bennett, general manager of Konocti, did not return repeated calls for comment.

Some Lake County officials are welcoming the proposed changes, which could revitalize a tourist destination that once brought needed jobs and dollars to the area.

"It's extremely important that this place open and that they're successful," Brown said. "Konocti has always been a base for jobs and recreation and tourism for Lake County, and it's not just about the jobs for the people that work at Konocti Harbor. It's jobs on the outside. Restaurants, gas stations and grocery shops. It's just rippled through the whole county."

The resort typically employed 200 to 250 people year-round, with as many as 700 employees during the peak summer season.

The county's hotel tax revenue is now just under $600,000 annually, about half of what it was in 2008 and 2009, said Alan Flora, deputy chief administrative officer for Lake County.

Next, Lake County's community development department will send the plan to various agencies and entities for comments. Flora does not anticipate opposition from environmental groups.

"This isn't a new resort," Flora said. "This vision doesn't really involve tremendous new environmental impact."

Sedgwick believes timeshares can succeed in Lake County because they typically have higher vacancy rates than hotels, he said.

On the opposite banks of Clear Lake, Wyndham Resort Development Corp. operates WorldMark, a property that offers timeshares in Nice. According to Sedgwick's research, that resort has about a 70 percent year-round occupancy level. WorldMark did not return a call for comment.

Rates for buying timeshares have not yet been determined, Sedgwick said. Customers who buy a timeshare would be able to swap with owners of timeshares in other tourist destinations, he said.

(Staff Writer Glenda Anderson contributed to this report.)

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