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Lori DeOrnellas, left, and Alva Antonini talk about the eminient closing of Hidden Hills Health & Racquet Club on Monday, May 5, 2014. Members were sent letters telling them to clean out their lockers without any real explanation of why the owners decided to close the club which has been around for 30 years (Jim Stevens/Bay Area News Group)

HAYWARD -- Members of a longtime tennis club are rallying to try to stop its closure at the end of the month.

When the owner announced in late April it would close Hidden Hills Health and Racquet Club, the tennis players began circulating petitions and talking with local leaders to try to keep it open.

"The club's been there a long time, and a lot of friendships have formed," club member Alva Antonini said. "We can go to other places, but our family is being displaced."

The 10-court club on Carlos Bee Boulevard, which opened in the 1970s, is behind the City View Apartments, now owned by Essex Property Trust. One court will remain open for use by apartment tenants, Antonini said.

Club members believe Essex wants to build more apartments where the courts are, but the company has not revealed what it will do.

"The only comment we are providing at this time is the Hidden Hills Tennis Club is closing based on a business decision and we have no current plans on the future use," Essex spokeswoman Barb Pak wrote in an email.

Club members pay $60 a month, or $110 for a couple.

"We offered to pay more dues if Essex would keep it open, but they said they had already made their decision," Antonini said.

The company that owned the club and apartments before Essex tried to close it at the end of the '90s. Club members sued because they had lifetime club memberships. When Essex bought the property, it settled with the club members, agreeing to keep the courts open for 15 years. That 15 years is now up.


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Diane Pelicas was one of the members who agreed to the settlement.

"I thought, in 15 years, hell, I'll be 74; I won't be playing tennis. And here I am," she said as she headed onto the courts earlier this week.

The club members' one remaining hope involves the conditions the city set when the apartments opened in the 1970s. In a document filed as part of the lawsuit 15 years ago, the developer said the tennis courts would be available to people other than apartment residents.

Opening the club to everyone was key in getting the city's OK to build the apartments, Ronald Cowan said in court documents. He was CEO of Doric Development, which built the tennis club and 560-unit apartment complex.

A large group of Hidden Hills members on Tuesday asked the City Council to help keep the club open, basing their hopes on Cowan's statement about public access.

"Staff is researching the issue," Mayor Michael Sweeney said. "I want to assure you they're looking into the records."

City Manager Fran David said she hoped to have more information to present to the council next week. The staff is digging through old files to learn what conditions the city required of the developer in exchange for approval to build the apartment complex.

The club has about 170 members, ranging in age from 4 to 84, and 60 kids in its junior program.

"I worry about what will happen to the seniors," Antonini said. "For many of them, it's a home away from home. They'll come and play a little tennis and then socialize with their friends. It's their social network."

John McKim became a member when he retired in 1995. The 81-year-old Castro Valley resident isn't sure if he will join another club.

"I don't know. There's Mission Hills, but it's 18 miles down Mission Boulevard. There are also public courts, but it's hard to coordinate getting people together," he said.

Contact Rebecca Parr at 510-293-2473. Follow her at Twitter.com/rdparr1.