There are two initiatives going forward to put the issue of the proposed UC development at Monroe and San Pablo to the public vote, on the basis of the zoning changes made by the council and the development agreement itself. Many residents are disappointed at the lack of responsiveness of the City Council to their concerns at City Council meetings over years of negotiations.
The amount of work already invested in this issue by commissioners, city staff and the city council is not lost on us and it must be frustrating to those who have been slogging through this process for so long to have a large public outcry at the last moment, but the democratic process is tough when we all have so many demands on our time. The people are waking up.
I was among those who attended council meetings on the issue in the spring (before a long visit to family in the UK, from which I've just returned). While I was away, things heated up and I am happy to be part of the group pressing for these referenda. And although I introduced and champion the ideas of Transition in Albany, I do not represent the opinions of others who relate to , which is part of a worldwide arising of awareness rather than a discrete organization.
We would like time to understand the issues thoroughly, to ask the council to revisit the proposed (57,000 square feet has been mentioned - the same size as the Whole Foods in Brooklyn, NY, pop. 2.5 million, and twice the size of the Berkeley store), and seriously consider the "environmentally superior" alternative of a smaller, scaled down store, which, if locally owned, would have the added benefit of keeping the profits in our own community.
We are concerned that the Texas corporation-owned assisted living complex will be much too expensive for our own seniors (with a starting price of $5,000 or so per month). It sounds too massive - four stories overshadowing the Albany Little League Fields and crowding Codornices Creek. Worse, as part of the agreement the council has given away our right to ask for affordable senior housing units, either as part of the complex or as payment in lieu.
The increased traffic all this will produce is a real worry, especially for people in West Albany who already deal with various kinds of fallout from the freeway. The presence of daily diesel trucks delivering to this immense grocery store does not appeal to us. We understand that Albany is already an asthma hotspot and we would rather move in the direction of cleaner air and more open space.
And what about the ? Weren't we supposed to be reducing our carbon footprint instead of increasing it? Some people say growth is good. We say growth is good only when it is in proportion, carefully considered to do the least harm, and in the best interests of the local community it serves.
It seems that this development is designed to serve the University at the expense of the community. While the City may indeed need more tax revenue, we think the hidden costs of this project will end up biting us in the heel. And while the land belongs to University of California, they can't put commercial development on it without zoning permission from the City of Albany, so we have leverage.
Let the citizens have a voice in deciding whether this is the best course for Albany. Or, since a ballot could end up being expensive, the city council has the option of rescinding the agreement.
If you are an Albany voter, please go to www.keepalbanylocal.com to find out how you can sign the petition for these referenda or, better yet, help us to collect signatures. We need to collect at least 1,000 signatures of Albany voters before the end of Aug. 15 and our progress so far is heartening. Will you join us?