Stay tuned this week as we share answers to your burning questions from Albany City Council candidates. Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items about the election. Don't forget to mark your calendar for two forums in October to help you meet the candidates. See our full Abany 2012 Election Guide here. Have more questions? Comment on individual candidate profiles to ask for more information.
Assume Albany has a chance to attract national big-box retailers, either down by Target or along San Pablo. There will be EIRs, protests, plus pleas by citizens and educators to improve the tax base. What general direction do you tend in, and how do you balance all the opposing positions?
TOD ABBOTT (PATCH PROFILE)
This question is very different when applied to Cleveland Avenue or Eastshore Highway than when applied to San Pablo Avenue. While concerns about a large retailer near the freeway would likely mirror those that were raised when Target was proposed (mostly about competition with local merchants — a concern that has largely not panned out), I think such a development on San Pablo would have much more to be concerned about. Development on San Pablo will most likely back onto homes so scale, height and parking concerns becomes very important. Frankly, I feel a true Big Box retailer (such as a Home Depot or large Walmart) on San Pablo would not be in the best interest of Albany and I would need to be convinced to support such a development. Note, this does not apply to the proposed UC Village mixed-use development. That development cannot be labeled a “Big Box” retail under the normal use of that term.
PETER MAASS (PATCH PROFILE)
“Big box” is of course a relative term, which the question doesn’t define. Our zoning and perhaps more importantly, the reality of our commercial zone property ownership, likely precludes something like a Walmart or other large retail store happening anywhere in Albany. Larger, “anchor” stores such as the Whole Foods proposed by UC, or the planned Safeway store on Solano can have a positive effect on the surrounding commercial zone, as well as negative impacts we need to try and mitigate. As wonderful as the idea of having only locally owned small stores in our commercial districts may be, I think that it is not likely to succeed based on my observations and study of today’s economy. Something larger is needed to draw people into a commercial zone, where they may then stick around to visit the smaller retail shops, restaurants, etc.
PEGGY THOMSEN (PATCH PROFILE)
The Target store provides an important revenue stream to Albany. I would be open to looking at reasonable proposals from responsible retailers for the Eastshore Freeway area. Some national retailers utilize local vendors which allows those entrepreneurs to obtain a market for their goods. I would look at the economic benefits in relation to the environmental impacts. My bottom line is to try to figure out what will be best for the city in the long run.
SHERI SPELLWOMAN (PATCH PROFILE)
I will support local independent businesses over big-box retailers in Albany because they add unique character to our city, they have less environmental impact, and they do more to encourage local prosperity. Local businesses, as opposed to big-box retailers, retain more money within our local economy as they make more purchases from other local businesses. They also have a greater commitment to and investment in our community. Maintaining our small city charm increases our desirability as a city, which benefits our property values and property taxes, which is our greatest source of revenue.
ULAN MCKNIGHT (PATCH PROFILE)
I believe strongly in small business development. I do not believe Albany should be chasing large national chains. Albany has zoning for a reason — we want to preserve our small town flavor. It is our primary distinctive advantage. Why would we want to change it just because a bunch of folks with lots of money tell us to?
I want to keep Albany local.
MICHAEL BARNES (PATCH PROFILE)
First of all, one person’s big box is another’s large supermarket, so I will just say that to me a big box is a Costco (I shop at the one in Richmond) or a Walmat (never been inside one, Walmart is too anti-union). I can’t see putting a Costco on San Pablo. But I was in favor of a Whole Foods. As you can tell from my Patch posts (listed on my website) I am big on smart growth, and regional efforts to halt energy-inefficient grow in the Bay Area’s exurbs. That means urban infill and walkable high-density neighborhoods along public transportation corridors in cities like Albany. See onebayarea.org, for example.
Smart growth would also help grow Albany’s tax base. I see the current situation as unbalanced, and I think smart growth would help restore the balance. So I favor finishing the mixed use project and completing the Solano Safeway as ways to help reestablish balance.
While I might have some tendency to be concerned about how local businesses would deal with the competition, I have to note that the Albany Chamber of Commerce has been in favor of the mixed use project.
NICK PILCH (PATCH PROFILE)
Big-box retailers may bring in significant revenue, but they also may generate a significant number of new car trips. Some locations are better than others for big box because of this concern. Regardless of location, big box retailers must provide excellent pedestrian and bicycle facilities to mitigate the effect of more car trips.
I favor a proactive stance towards development. City staff and Council Members should be courting developers who practice sustainable development. Staff and Council Members should approach developers with a good idea of what kind and scale of development is wanted at various locations in Albany, and coach them as to the challenges they may face. Staff and Council Members should insist on, and take part in community outreach so that any potential problems are surfaced early. Legitimate concerns should be addressed early and we must insist that established city policy be followed in the development.
Attracting developers and companies that wish to build office space should be considered. The increase in car trips would occur only during commute hours, and could be mitigated by good connections to transit. Plus, office workers would contribute to the local economy.
Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items about the election. Don't forget to mark your calendar for two forums in October to help you meet the candidates. See our full Abany 2012 Election Guide here.