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Council Candidates on Density, Urban Growth

Stay tuned this week as we share answers to your burning questions from City Council candidates. Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items related to the November 2012 election.

Stay tuned this week as we share answers to your burning questions from Albany City Council candidates. Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items about the election. Don't forget to mark your calendar for two forums in October to help you meet the candidates. See our full Abany 2012 Election Guide here. Have more questions? Comment on individual candidate profiles to ask for more information.

The Association of Bay Area Governments is moving ahead with plans for Bay Area communities to increase density through zoning changes to allow second units on residential lots and also removing the two space off street parking requirements. Albany is already among the most densely populated communities around the bay, with more than its share of on street parking problems. What is your opinion about a more crowded Albany, the impact on schools and emergency services, and added costs to the city? 

PETER MAASS (PATCH PROFILE)

ABAG and the State predict a roughly 20 percent growth rate for the Bay Area in the coming years. They would like to spread these new residents around in the existing urban areas in order to preserve open space and lessen the carbon footprint of this growth. ABAG cannot directly change our zoning standards, but as time goes on they will use a carrot and stick approach of withholding state and federal funds to induce changes for a more favorable housing growth environment. Federal and state funds are the type of funding resources that can be used for things such as road repair and other infrastructure. While parts of Albany are currently dense, there are areas where density could be increased in a way that could have a positive impact for our community. Providing housing in the form of mixed-use development along Solano and San Pablo Avenues can meet the housing goals and provide an immediate consumer base to support all of the small stores we would like to see thrive. After six years on Planning and Zoning, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is time to revisit our Measure D parking requirements and address how we can make street parking work for everyone.

PEGGY THOMSEN (PATCH PROFILE)

Even though Albany is one of the most densely populated cities in the Bay Area, the Association of Bay Area Governments has designated housing goals for Albany and the other cities based on state requirements. Some kinds of housing along our transit corridors could help meet the requirements without impacting schools. Emergency service costs should be covered by revenues from projects.

SHERI SPELLWOMAN (PATCH PROFILE)

Since Albany is already one of the most densely populated cities in the Bay Area, I would resist outside pressure for us to increase our density and further burden our schools and emergency services. Choices to add residential units will have to take these priorities into careful consideration. 

ULAN MCKNIGHT (PATCH PROFILE)

Albany can become denser without losing its small town charm. We have zoning for a reason. I do not believe we should alter our zoning when a large developer wants to build unless Albany receives an 'exceptional amenity' in return.

Our current zoning allow for increased density. I will work with Planning and Zoning to increase our density without loosing our small town flare.

MICHAEL BARNES (PATCH PROFILE)

Several thoughts, so let me take your points in order:

1) Albany already has many second units on residential lots in the form of converted garages that were not permitted. So ABAG’s changes might just be codifying something that has been going on for years. 

2) I think Berkeley’s on street parking problems are worse than Albany’s.

3) Crowding is a negative and loaded term, let’s talk density instead. I’m OK with more density as per my reply to the question above.

4) More kids in Albany is a problem. The number of kids within Albany keeps growing in ways not predicted well by demographic models. More kids will mean new schools for AUSD, and that will be a problem. Where would be put them? Will we add second or third stories to building on existing school sites?

5) I think smart growth needs to be predicated on providing net income for the city. Net, that is, after increased public safety and other similar costs.

NICK PILCH (PATCH PROFILE)

More housing does not necessarily mean more parking woes. Successful housing developments have been done with very limited parking. Renters or buyers of such housing units understand that they will have to walk, bicycle, or take transit for transportation, rather than rely on a car. We have the transit access to make this possible in Albany.

I would want to analyze whether certain new housing developments could generate enough revenue to cover the costs to the school district and to the city. I would be concerned about the impacts to the schools, emergency services, and other city services.

TOD ABBOTT (PATCH PROFILE)

With our schools at or nearly at capacity, emergency services already strained by budget-related staffing and equipment challenges, and every city department running on a minimum budget it is difficult to imagine how our city could absorb the impacts of increased density. However, we understand that ultimately, higher density will be necessary -- if for no other reason than that higher density means greater efficiency, and will be needed for the environmental goals of the region (green house gasses and pollution do not respect city borders).

No one is proposing that this increased density will appear overnight or that we will not have ample warning and means to minimize the impact. Each project will need to be evaluated individually to be sure that it is located appropriately, and agreements negotiated so that environmental and other impacts will be minimized with measures paid for by the development. Options include mixed commercial/residential development that generate revenue, prioritize senior housing to minimize impacts on schools, and so on. I have confidence that with Albany’s talented staff and the full participation of Albany’s citizens we can welcome more people to the city without losing what makes Albany special.

Click "Keep me posted" below for an alert when we publish items about the election. Don't forget to mark your calendar for two forums in October to help you meet the candidates. See our full Abany 2012 Election Guide here.

Michael Barnes October 10, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Although I like this Q&A format with one question at a time and seven answers, it doesn't allow the candidates to refer the reader to their other responses, especially if the other response hasn't been published yet. That's what I did above in item #3 in my reply. Here is what I was referring to: As you can tell from by Patch posts (listed on my website) I am big on smart growth, and regional efforts to halt energy-inefficient grow in the Bay Area’s exurbs. That means urban infill and walkable high-density neighborhoods along public transportation corridors in cities like Albany. See onebayarea.org, for example.
Karl October 11, 2012 at 01:43 AM
I'd like to see the candidates respond to follow up questions that are written in the comments section.
Michael Barnes October 11, 2012 at 03:48 AM
Is that you Eric? I'll be happy to reply to anyone who uses their real name.
Tatter Salad October 11, 2012 at 06:05 AM
" I'll be happy to reply to anyone who uses their real name." Now, now Michael; - I hope you'll base your consideration of answering on the quality of the question, not the use of a nom de plume. After all, we really can't tell whose names are 'genuine' and whose arn't, now can we? and who would believe that my real name is Isaac Bickerstaff and my dog is better looking than I am?
Michael Barnes October 11, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Tatter, Actually, you are an exception because you have such a long history on the patch. And your comment display a lot of knowledge of Albany, so I suspect you've been here awhile. So ask away!
Stephanie Travis October 16, 2012 at 05:13 AM
I disagree with Mr. Pilch's statement that "Renters or buyers of such housing units understand that they will have to walk, bicycle, or take transit for transportation," Why would buyers or renters have any such understanding, particularly in Albany with its lack of stores and job opportunities? I also think your statement shows a great deal of insensitivity to the disabled,
David Sanger October 18, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Albany may like to think of itself as a small town and we do foster a local ambiance and allegiance, but really we are a neighborhood and local jurisdiction within a major metropolitan area. There are certain powers our elected City Council and School Board have, but much of what affects the city is decided at the county, regional and state level. I would be interested in hearing from the candidates how they see the city interacting with regional and state planning authorities such as ABAG, BCDC and MTC etc.

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