I walked into a brand-spankin' new Whole Foods on Ocean Avenue in the city recently. That single store has transformed the Ingleside neighborhood of San Francisco. I walked all the aisles before picking up a premium beverage. The age-, gender-, and ethnically diverse staff were busy and helpful and everyone seemed totally positive.
I cannot understand Albany residents' opposition to such an establishment (and am well-aware that Whole Foods has understandably given up). Couldn't the residents have accepted the proposal and cooperated in the design of a cool, attractive, eco-, bike-friendly little retail area on San Pablo? Maybe we could have even had parking spots with charging stations for electric vehicles. I've heard people suggest that Whole Foods might not have stayed and may have been replaced by something else in years to come. That would not have happened. That location would be a huge success for Whole Foods.
San Pablo has almost nothing going for it. We've got liquor stores, nail salons, graffiti-ridden bus stops, gas stations, and aged chain-link fences. And if the racetrack goes, what then? Where's the revenue for our city? California's sinking because so many issues get put to the popular vote. Could the Albany-Berkeley area, and perhaps all of California, be in danger of strangling itself with a direct democracy that is frankly dysfunctional?
I went to Albany Patch and looked at the results of this question: "How do you see the Whole Foods withdrawal from the University Village development project?" Twenty percent of respondents clicked, "A big win for Albany." Seventy-four percent of respondents clicked, "A huge loss for Albany." Maybe the obstreperous minority in this town needs to be a little more sensitive to what the majority actually supports.
Truthfully, I don't really care. We'll keep shoppin' at TJ's. I just really wonder if the end result would have been something everyone would have liked. I'm told people were completely up in arms when the proposal was made for the Transamerica Pyramid, and now look: it, with the GG Bridge and Coit Tower, is a symbol of San Francisco. The Berkeley spirit of just sinking teeth into and then ripping apart every single issue is starting to bother me.
Look what "Occupy the Farm" accomplished: in addition to a horrible chain-link fence, people visiting Albany from the freeway are now greeted with numerous blue signs that read "No Trespassing." I'm not saying OtF's intentions weren't good. I'm saying that the actual end result (as a result of UC's handling of the issue) is worse than what we started with. Perhaps we are irritated by the behavior of UC because they're like we are: intractable and implacable.
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.