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.
What do you believe the city ought to do to address the population residing on the Bulb? Do you see the Voices to Vision summary statement as a mandate to take steps to "fix" the waterfront? If so, what can you as a councilperson do in that regard? If not, what do you think Albany can or should "do" with the waterfront?
SHERI SPELLWOMAN (PATCH PROFILE)
I think the growing homeless population on the Bulb is an issue that needs to be addressed. I am very interested in working with the City’s Homeless Task Force, to find compassionate and respectful ways to support our homeless population and help them find services they need. Human/social services in Albany are offered through agencies and organizations other than the city, including the city of Berkeley, Alameda County, faith‐based organizations, and non‐profits. I will assist in identifying contacts, resources, programs and grants that are available to address this situation.
ULAN MCKNIGHT (PATCH PROFILE)
I participated in the Voices to Vision process and strongly support its findings. Albany wants a vibrant waterfront that generates income while preserving open space and community access.
The Homeless Task Force is comprised of an exceptional group of community members who do not normally participate in city politics. I have great hope for this group and will be excited to work with them to create solutions for Albany's homeless including those who currently stay on the Bulb.
MICHAEL BARNES (PATCH PROFILE)
In my wildest dreams I’d like to see the homeless population on the Bulb moved to some decent housing, and the Bulb fixed up as a park or some other public facility and used in such a way that it will no longer be a magnet for the Bay Area’s homeless population. More realistically, for now, I’d like to see the city provide more back-up for the churches and advocacy organizations that are helping out on the Bulb.
Voices to Vision didn’t focus on the Bulb, and it certainly did not provide a mandate for anything. According to former Mayor Allan Maris, only 110 Albany residents fully completed the Voices to Vision process. That’s about one percent of registered voters in Albany.
I’ll save some of my thoughts for the question below, but I think the Bulb, the neck, the beach and the racetrack-owned property all raise very different questions. For example, the neck was set aside as habitat for burrowing owls. Now that it appears burrowing owls never made the neck a home, it’s time to think about what comes next for that piece of land.
NICK PILCH (PATCH PROFILE)
I believe the city should take steps to try to find new residence for those residing at the Bulb. While the Bulb may be providing them some measure of a place to live, the Bulb is not a campground and it lacks proper facilities to maintain public health. Additionally, Albany citizens are less and less comfortable going there to enjoy their waterfront. Care should be taken to do an accounting of all available services from the state or county (homeless services, mental health, etc.) to determine if we could avail ourselves of such services. We must first attempt to use whatever services may be out there, then reassess and move on to next steps given whatever outcome of the first attempt to use outside services.
The Voices to Vision summary statement is a vision, not even a plan, and certainly not a mandate. I support the Voices to Vision outcome. I think staff and City Council should be proactive about reaching out to local, sustainability-minded developers to assess interest should the Stronach Group decide to sell. Also, I think staff and City Council should reach out to the Stronach Group to ask what, if anything, they may be thinking of proposing next. We should not wait for developers to come to us—at that point we can only react.
TOD ABBOTT (PATCH PROFILE)
Frankly, until we have a solid plan for the Bulb and are ready to make it happen, there won’t be much we can do about the population on the Bulb. The encampments have been removed over the years, and they return months or years later. Were we to build a shelter to house the current Bulb residents, others would move in. I’m hopeful the report from the Homelessness Task Force will offer more options.
My feelings on Voices to Vision are complicated. I appreciate what it was trying to do, and believe it was well done, but I’m concerned that less than 400 people participated in Phase 2 of the process (when the specific recommendations were developed). While I do think the summary statement broadly captures what Albany residents would like to see, I’m not sure I could consider it a "mandate.”
As for what Albany can "do" with the waterfront, I have no specific agenda. It's clear that the majority of the land should be open space and the revenue generated must at least match the current revenue. Other than that, any plans must include active solicitation of input from Albany residents and has to meet their approval.
PETER MAASS (PATCH PROFILE)
Over the years that I’ve lived in Albany, the homeless population has cycled up and down, reflecting variations in both economic times and city law enforcement policy. The transient population on the Bulb is at historic highs, and it’s time to deal with this situation. This needs to be done with compassion and, hopefully, shelter can be found in either Albany or in neighboring communities for Bulb inhabitants. Let’s also hear from our Homeless Task Force before we proceed. “Voices to Vision” produced a definitive idea on what the community feels is a reasonable mix of commercial and open space. If we incorporate that 75/25 "vision" into our next revised General Plan, it will be useful to future developers. Given global climate change and the expected ocean rise in the next 10/20/50 years, the only area we should be talking about for any type of commercial development is where the Golden Gate Fields grand stand currently sits. I believe that a hotel/conference center that met very high LEED and design standards (think Frank Gehry, Koolhass, I M Pei, Zaha Hadid, or other world class architect) could work very well with that site and provide needed income to our city’s government and schools.
PEGGY THOMSEN (PATCH PROFILE)
The city ought to take humane steps to remove the population from the Bulb. We currently have an ad hoc committee working on the issue. They should consider previously successful, as well as possible new, models in their deliberations.
The Voices to Vision summary statement is not a mandate; it describes the vision of citizens choosing to participate in the open process. We need to make the accessible portions of the waterfront safe for all who want use this parkland.
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.