Column: Not the Right Time for Referenda

Two council members have spoken out against a petition that is circulating regarding a mixed-use development in University Village. Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an update when we post more on this topic.

Now is not the right time for . The project has been under public consideration for the past five years. Based on community input at properly noticed meetings, changes have been made to the project since its inception. Compromises by both UC and the city have been reached, and the council approved the zoning changes necessary to let the project go forward. Now, unfortunately, a small group of Albany citizens along with people from other places are circulating petitions for a referendum on the zoning change and one on the development agreement. We ask Albany voters not to sign the petitions.

The project, characterized as a “Mega Mall” by petitioners is not a mall at all.  Instead, it has a maximum of 85,000 square feet. It will bring more than $400,000 a year to the city with a net of about $200,000. This $200,000 is about the same as the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab project, the 6 million square foot projected project once proposed at the waterfront. The petitioners registered no public complaints about the size of the LBNL project.

Importantly, the project will also bring needed senior housing to our area. A number of Albany residents have told us this looks like a hopeful option for them. They want to stay in Albany and want the conveniences of such a facility. Further, the project helps Albany meet a long standing regional housing commitment and does so at the same time it helps meet sustainability goals to reduce carbon emissions by supporting transit-oriented-development.

Whole Foods Market is a large, out-of-state business; what the petitioners do not note is that the market provides an outlet for local organic vendors, 100 plus at one of their new Silicon Valley stores. Additionally, until very recently, no other market was interested in the site.

The project provides a large public good in that the Albany Little League fields will be preserved for future generations. This currently impacts 600 boys and girls directly and 2,000 indirectly as loss of fields impacts girls’ softball and girls’ and boys’ soccer.

Also, the project will provide much needed construction jobs and ongoing jobs in the senior and retail facilities. Many of these jobs will go to local residents.

Is the project ideal? No. We wanted inclusionary housing, but the law does not provide that when  the senior housing is rental. The height will be four stories; we would have preferred three, but we brought it down from five.

Finally, the time has passed for petitioners to ask the council to put the measures on the November ballot; thus a special election would be required at a cost of about $60,000 from the city’s general fund that could be spent instead on services for residents. We ask Albany voters to say no if asked to sign the petitions currently being passed. Now is not the time for referenda.

Albany City Council Members

Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an update when we publish future stories on the Whole Foods project. Learn about the proposed Whole Foods and senior housing development here.

Caryl O'Keefe August 17, 2012 at 05:54 AM
Karin, Dennis says perfectly the major problem with us ALL voting - the improbability of very many being informed about this complex issue. Another reason is the cost of a special election, estimated by the mayor at $60,000 (it's too late to get on the Nov ballot. The City would have to pay Alameda County Registrar of Voters for a special election). Third, concerns about a misinformation campaign. The flyer I was handed today when asked to sign petitions had wrong info despite corrections provided days ago on PATCH. Misinformation would make it frustrating and confusing for voters. Objective information including the Draft and Final EIR is at this City link in 60+docs from several years for this project: http://www.albanyca.org/index.aspx?page=521. Also, you asked about affordable housing. Maybe you meant inclusionary housing, which isn't in this project because CA appellate court rulings have invalidated requirements for inclusionary housing in rental units (like what's proposed here). If you meant affordable housing, see this: http://www.albanyca.org/index.aspx?page=385.
don August 17, 2012 at 11:12 AM
SKIP MOORE do you know albany village uc berk land and rental of students to none moneys goes to albany and students stay and vote all the taxes in and they leave as their here short time and we end up paying the tax we didnt want stuck with now remember albany race track they paid good part of home owners taxes they paid around million in taxes now also note this new complex will give is what 200 hundred thousand we should have left the track alone don
Timothy August 17, 2012 at 03:46 PM
It was 1450 signatures at the end, and 1392 were accepted as valid, registered Albany voters.
B August 18, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Hear, hear!
tr August 19, 2012 at 12:00 AM
reminds me of the 60s complaints about yankees registering black voters in the south. it makes me disapointed that council members did not represent the opinions of people who live here.


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