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
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