Mayor and Vice Mayor's Statement: Why to Pause Before Signing the Mixed-Use Development Petition

Mayor Farid Javandel and Vice Mayor Marge Atkinson issued a statement on the University Village San Pablo Avenue development project. Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an update when we post more on this topic.

After Albany spent more than four years reviewing, revising, and redesigning the San Pablo Avenue senior housing & grocery store/retail plan, the City Council to allow this long-awaited project to move forward. Some people are now asking “” and to put the project before voters. 

Before signing such a petition, let’s pause to remember the thousands of hours that Albany residents put into making the best project possible for the community. And give some thought to the unbudgeted that a referendum election would cost Albany from its General Fund. 

For the Albany residents on the waiting list for Albany’s only senior housing, this brings the hope that they can stay in their community when they can no longer stay in their homes. Albany families can be close to their parents who need assisted living services. 

For neighborhoods without a grocery store in walking distance, it means close access to fresh food and goods. A grocery store like Whole Foods provides opportunities for local entrepreneurs to sell their products. 

For Albany homeowners and other taxpayers, it means tax-exempt property is put on the tax rolls, estimated to bring more than $450,000 in gross annual revenue to the tax base, and $200,000 per year net after the cost of added services. 

For the School District, it means not building tax-exempt housing for UC students with children on this University property to add to the burden of the school system, but instead providing a tax base for bond measures, parcel taxes, and development impact fees. If the current proposal is rejected, UC could simply build more student housing without zoning changes or other approvals from the City, thus increasing the burden on the School District and adding service costs to the City without offsetting revenues. 

The project also means helping support the businesses on the south end of San Pablo Avenue, among others, with revitalization of this former World War II barracks area. When completed, there will be 320 full-time new, on-going jobs created – which is critical in this economy. 

For Little League, it means assurance—at last—that they will have field space. For construction workers out of work, it means a job—paid at prevailing wage. And University Village students and their families will receive much-needed rent subsidies from project revenues. 

It means Albany residents continuing to work together to further improve the project as it goes through its next approval phases. Let’s move forward to bring senior housing, groceries, jobs, city revenue and other benefits to Albany as planned. 

August 13, 2012 

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.

Tony Kontzer August 17, 2012 at 08:23 AM
Madisonian, thanks for making me go back and check my facts...I will admit that I wasn't aware of the latest flurry of activity this past Spring. Still, the only real problem I see with what I wrote is the word "prevented." In retrospect, "stonewalled" would be more accurate. The page you linked to shows that the Safeway project was first presented to the public more than 4 years ago, in June 2008. And the latest staff report from May endorses it, but the remaining steps--P&Z commission review, environmental review, public hearing--are time consuming. It will be probably be another year--or longer--before Safeway can move forward. It has been an almost equally painful process compared with what Whole Foods has endured. And that's okay with me, even though one's a project I'm 100% behind and one is, well, not. Just to be clear, though, I'm not even sure yet if I'm against the Whole Foods project in concept. But I am definitely against allowing it to move forward on the basis of what I believe to be grossly underestimated traffic projections and some unproven claims about the need for additional grocery shopping alternatives. (And along those lines, I believe a couple of well-placed small, neighborhood grocery stores would address any such needs and be more in keeping with what the community is striving for.)
Michael Barnes August 17, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Tony, As someone who lived in University Village with a young child, I can assure you there is a big need for a grocery store nearby. I would have loved to have put my son on my shoulders or in a stroller and walked to a grocery store. I suspect hundred of village current residents could confirm that.
Ed Fields August 17, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Alan, Thanks for your thoughtful posts on thread, even though we most likely disagree on much about this project. However, I believe Section 9237 has been nullified by court decisions which allow anyone eligible to be a California voter to circulate a referendum petition.
Linda August 17, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Peggy, I'm impressed that you have the facts straight. Why do you think that so many of our neighbors are misinformed? There is a draft development agreement and other public hearing documents freely available to all. It's not that the information is not there. Why is it not being read?
nb August 17, 2012 at 04:49 PM
All you folks with the insider-outsider discussion: Were you born and raised here in the immediate Bay Area? You moved here, made it good, and now are entitled to call yourself locals. You chose to move to the Bay Area because you didn't dig your own birth community or because the Bay Area was the place to be. Who cares if you lived here 25 or 40 years. People were paying property taxes, living and working here before you showed up. And it was much more pleasant. People who are born and raised here over generations have historical, lived memories of class issues and politics that you'll never completely understand because you are not from here. If you actually participated in the discussion about issues, rather than your perceived bubble of owning Albany somehow, it would be helpful. It's obvious that Albany's commentators for the most part are of a certain means. Entitlement? Arrogance? Who? What? UC is a regional university and a state institution in the midst of a 5 year commercial corporate partnership plan. The Belmont Village-Whole Foods- combo is part of this plan-catering to UC faculty, administrators' assisted living needs with 17 units for Albany's wealthiest thrown in for careful measure. I am glad you think you are benefiting. What about the people who aren't? Do you actually even think about those people? They are your neighbors and in your community.
nb August 17, 2012 at 04:51 PM
Another snarky comment: Here's a shout out to the researcher of the new 3 million dollar grant for basic research: Poor people can decide what they need and are. Urban farming is a trend among those folks who are vocationally, not academically, inclined. Veterans', peoples' of color, and young peoples' organic and sustainable farms are thriving economies world-wide. And they don't need genetically engineered corn, soy, wheat, or fish and other species' genes in their seeds to be successful! Additionally, folks who don't have kids or who have never spent nights in an emergency room with a failing asthmatic child might refrain from commenting on air quality. You don't know what you are talking about.
Kirsten Schwartz August 17, 2012 at 05:07 PM
A word on democracy: Ulan, it IS expensive. Athens had a working direct democracy (you want war: you come to the assembly and vote for it) although it only lasted for 30 years. But most humans living in and around Athens were slaves. No, not black slaves; slaves of every color. Athenians had the time to be active civic members because they didn't have to work, or not the grunt work most of us have to do. It's hard to imagine a (key word) working direct democracy such as you advocate while most of us are raising kids and working and taking care of apartment, or house and yard. And look what our Californian direct democracy--the d***** initiative process--has yielded: Proposition 13, that destroyed the tax base for police and fire departments and our schools, and that also made it almost impossible for the state legislature to raise taxes (takes a 2/3 vote: impossible). Voters are foolish and easily swayed by Albany-looking people carrying clipboards (I have been a foolish voter and signer in my time, also, I freely admit). We elect representatives and pay them so they can do research and (hopefully) come up with good ideas and the power to put them into place. I like Nancy Pelosi; Leon Panetta (for whom I campaigned back in the 70's in my home county of Santa Cruz); there are many others. I want these people--whom we elect--to do the research and sit in committee meetings FOR me. I don't have the Athenian slaves to give me that much time.
Robin Onaka August 17, 2012 at 05:30 PM
I agree with you, Margaret. My boyfriend is an executive chef/asst. administrator for an assisted living facility for seniors in Monterey. He is always saying that organically grown produce, poultry, meats, etc. are the safest and most healthy foods, and that he wishes the facility would use vendors that supply those items. The residents at this facility pay a lot to live there and they also have an in-house medical staff. I bring up this point about medical services because there was a comment above that said medical personnel at these types of facilities (in SF) "are not certified in basic EMT skills or CPR and they will rely on the fire department to provide those services." I find that disturbing and will ask boyfriend if this is a commonality in assisted-care senior centers.
Damon Lisch August 17, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Well, nb, that was a bit snarky, but then again, I suppose I asked for it by questioning your premises and calling your ideas "silly". My only real concern right now is in making sure that my corn isn't harmed and my students aren't harassed. I hope you understand that the fact that I have to worry about those issues has made me pretty grumpy and biased against your point of view.
Bart Grossman August 17, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Excuse me nb but what you are proposing is a referendum in Albany right? So it does make a difference if this initiative is coming from people with a stake in Albany or people with a grudge against the University who are using Albany to grind their axes.If you wondering why some of us might feel a little used check out this comment below from a website called Occupy Concord http://Occupyconcordca.org? Obviously this person doesn't know what s/he is talking about as the approved plan doesn't open up the Gill Tract to development. Clearly, this person doesn't give a crap about the impact on Albany. Reply-To: Occupy the Farm <gilltractfarm@riseup.net> Sender: “Occupy the Farm” <gilltractfarm=riseup.net@mail120.us2.mcsv.net> X-Mailer: MailChimp Mailer – **CID8bc2e11917c72f493e91** Hey farm folks, Things are heating up again at the Gill Tract and in the Occupy movement: * We are gearing up for actions as the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street approaches on September 17. * We are organizing and mobilizing students as they return to school next week. * We are submitting a letter to Whole Foods by the end of the week, demanding that they pull out of the Gill Tract development or face our wrath. * We are circulating petitions to rescind the Albany City Council’s rezoning decision that opens up the Gill Tract for commercial development. * And the Victor Martinez Community Library in Oakland has been occupied! New gardens are already underway!
Robin Onaka August 17, 2012 at 11:14 PM
And to add to this, Occupy the Farm is planning on showing up this Sunday, Aug. 19, at the Gill Tract from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. to harvest whatever produce is left from the last time they were there.
Erika Lockhart August 19, 2012 at 03:52 AM
I'm completely over the "Occupy the Farm" movement. It resulted in days of news helicopters over the area. Complete negation of quality of life, as far as I'm concerned. I wrote the FAA about it. I work on Alcatraz Island with the National Park Service. The noise from those helicopters affected nesting bird populations there, as did fireworks for Fourth of July. Most people don't realize this but Alcatraz Island is the 2nd biggest nesting site for Western Gulls in California. We had 75 nesting pairs of Snowy Egrets, many Black Crowned Night Herons (and I saw one of the juveniles today from about 6 feet away!), Pigeon Guillemots, Great Blue Herons, Canada Geese, Mallards, and two kinds of Cormorants, plus Ravens and other birds. The birds are important because their presence is an indicator of the health of the Bay Area. Nesting populations have been down because of a shortage of fish (food), and perhaps because of other factors. Sems to me a lot of people have blinders on about how their behavior affects the environment.
Bart Grossman August 19, 2012 at 04:40 AM
It's particularly sad when those people are presenting themselves as champions of the environment. There's a line we cross as human beings when we become true believers, hold others responsible and stop looking at our own behavior. That's when we become most dangerous.
Erika Lockhart August 19, 2012 at 04:52 AM
Hear hear!!!
Andrew August 20, 2012 at 11:01 PM
I don't know much about either side of the argument concerning Whole Foods. I am a bit mystified that people have so much time on they're hands that they can become passionately against a grocery store being built on an empty lot. With the exception of waiting an extra 90 seconds at the San Pablo intersection I don't know what is going to be changed so dramatically by the existence of the store. If I were to be pissed off about anything it would be that after 4 years of research nothing happens because a few activists don't believe they are profiting enough off this new commercial space. Now that I think about it there is absolutely nothing on the stretch of San Pablo except Christopher's Nothing Fancy and just think of all the business they are going to get.
Jim Kirkpatrick August 25, 2012 at 06:59 AM
Updates please
A Berkeley Parent August 27, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Emilie, can you (or another journalist) please update what happened here? Did the petition get enough signatures or not?
Ross Stapleton-Gray August 27, 2012 at 05:07 PM
If the petition got enough signatures, I'd like to see the City Council play hardball: make it very clear that if there's a special election, the costs incurred are because of this group and what to me seems like a con: citizens sold a bill of goods (I very much doubt that anyone asked for a signature was advised that the City would be out at least $60K if there's a referendum, say) with fuzzy warm words about empowerment. I'd also like the City to see if there's a legal hack, e.g., vote to rescind the previous decision, then take a new vote on a near-identical measure, with an additional amendment to publish an advisory about how petitioning can be a stunt by possible outside interests.
Alan Riffer August 27, 2012 at 05:23 PM
The Alameda County Rgistrar of Voters is reviewing the papers to determine whether there are sufficient signatures. The County's deadline to report back is near the end of September.
don September 10, 2012 at 01:07 AM
exactly my view i wont vote those 2 in next time we are the people they work for us and do what us people want and this ant one of them let us vote then sit down and listen to us we need safeway first been here long time we have so many people to purchase another store would rob safeway think of first repair whats been here then maybe add more we quit albany race track which paid double the amount your stateing of we would get now so whos stupid facts what gains sounds like more nose more people and more trouble i like this city i dont want to ruin it again i dont care of what other citys have we are albany this city has everything now and we enjoy this city been here all my life had bussiness here over 40 yrs retired now been in city politics do what the people of albany wants and thats not building complex stores or other in bay free space viewing
Robin Onaka September 10, 2012 at 01:16 AM
What do the neighborhood concerns of Berkeley and El Cerrito have to do with Albany's?
don September 10, 2012 at 01:16 AM
well do drive to where you want to shop not here we need not have a million different stores so yes go to oakland thats fine idea ok john don
don September 10, 2012 at 01:21 AM
andy do you live here do you love it here is it a friendly city no other city has what we have do you feel this walking down solano do you want to change all that try that walk in another city now how do you feel not same is it huh
don September 10, 2012 at 01:32 AM
this is what ive been saying mayor needs to go and her other council person im so glad of albany patch so now we can watch what our city council are doing to wreck our nice city with albany patch they cant now get away with much we the people will now be all over them an albanian
don September 10, 2012 at 01:37 AM
no jeff we were not there because of closed doors we didnt get any invite did you so i and other neibors which i asked had no idea things like this was going on do you now understand whats now being said we had no say we had no info of meeting who and where did they send this invite not radio tv and i didnt see it with albany patch do you now understand whats going on
don September 10, 2012 at 02:28 AM
well i signed and it too was a neighbor so marsha skinner your not for albanys good i wont vote you next time made mistake last time go ahead start paper work on your pension wont be long
don September 10, 2012 at 02:44 AM
madisonian:i would rather pay the 60k thats a h better than spending millions right so yes im for that vote bring it on so we will save the millions their trying to get from us
don September 10, 2012 at 02:46 AM
problem is people on council work for ther own magic
Ross Stapleton-Gray September 10, 2012 at 02:50 AM
Punctuation: conversation's necessary condiment.
Marsha Skinner September 10, 2012 at 03:12 AM
Since Don is naming me, I will respond : Don, I think you're confused. My name has not been on the ballot since 1994 When I served, it was on the Board of Education We received a stipend of under $200 per month, and access to the school district's benefit plans. Eventually, I will receive a small pension, but it will be for my full-time corporate employment, not for my 8 1/2 years as a Board Member. Your experience, having a neighbor bring the petition, evidently was different from mine. I was approached at the same private party as Peggy, and again by the same woman at the Albany Library. I asked her where she lived. It's not in Albany. The fellow who came to our door lived in Newark. The person who approached me on Solano Avenue also told me that he did not live in Albany


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