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Council Candidates on Waterfront Development

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. 

Assume there was another set of proposals from Golden Gate Fields to replace the track with a mixed-use development that Could be built with varying amounts of land covered by each of housing, offices, retail and open space. Consider tradeoffs among four factors—amount of open space at the Entire Albany waterfront, net revenues to the City, the City's housing goals, and Albany's Climate Action Plan goal. What reasoning and combinations of land coverages for each of those four land uses would lead the candidate to vote to send the proposal(s) to the voters for a Measure C vote? 

ULAN MCKNIGHT (PATCH PROFILE)

I have spent years speaking with urban planners about our waterfront. I agree with the suggestions of Voices to Vision. During 'Albany Eats' the other day I spoke at length with a friend who is a planner and we discussed ideas we both share.

I see a number of smaller buildings for our knowledge workers and creatives. Each would be three to four stories and hold 20-50 offices/industrial spaces. I see a small hotel of 20-50 rooms on Fleming Point with majestic views of the bay and a restaurant. I envision another restaurant or two near the water's edge with outdoor seating and communal space. I would love to see small local retail that caters to those using the open space. A bike/skate/sports shop would fit perfectly.

My main focus will be to keep all development small and as local as possible. Our waterfront could become a great source of revenue for Albany and encourage our small businesses to grow.

MICHAEL BARNES (PATCH PROFILE)

I think the most practical use of the racetrack property in the long run is to have it become a tidal wetland. This wetland will help protect the shoreline against storm surges generated by climate-change induced storms and sea level rise.

Most of the waterfront lies no more than about four feet above the high tide line. It is becoming increasingly vulnerable to flooding. My advice is to wait for the sea level rise and climate change projections of the fifth assessment report (AR5) of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The reports are due in late 2013. At that point we can assess flooding risks. I am not optimistic that there will ever be any sort of development on the waterfront. 

For a reality check, I suggest visiting the waterfront at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 13. There will be a 7.2-foot high tide at that time. Let’s see how the waterfront looks then. Of course, the strength and direction of the wind matters, too. But I’ve seen flotsam marks in the lower parking lots that indicate that they are already flooding during winter storms.

NICK PILCH (PATCH PROFILE)

I support the Voices to Vision outcome. I believe it is the best representation of what the citizens of Albany want at their shoreline. To the extent a development fell within these Voices to Vision guidelines, I would support it. I believe any development should be built under the best current sustainability guidelines and practices. I hesitate to support housing at the waterfront. Housing there would be cut off from the fabric of the city due to I-80, and would suffer for it in a number of ways, such as to encourage more automobile usage for transport rather than public transit or walking or bicycling.

TOD ABBOTT (PATCH PROFILE)

My priority for waterfront development is for open process. Whatever happens there must happen with as much input as possible from Albany residents—beginning as early as possible in the planning. The leverage we have is the required Measure C vote. Any significant change to the waterfront must be approved by the voters of Albany. So, as a councilmember, I would ensure aggressive education of and outreach to the people of Albany during the development of the project. I would support a Measure C vote for any project that meets our climate and revenue goals and was developed with the close participation of the people of Albany.

One specific comment. Albany is incredibly lucky to have a waterfront that has not been built-up with development. However, I believe some sea level rise is inevitable. Without protection most of the waterfront will be underwater in a few decades. If we want to preserve this as accessible open space, we will need to allow enough development to generate the money needed to take the measures necessary to protect the area from the rising water (such as the LBL plans proposed).

PETER MAASS (PATCH PROFILE)

I think that my answer to the previous question gives readers an idea of where my position on the waterfront lies. I would recommend to any future developer, that before the city considers spending time and money on their proposal and starts the Measure C process, they first talk to all of the interested groups, including the local business community, the schools and environmental groups. If the developer can get some degree of buy-in by these groups, the odds of success will increase dramatically and the cost to Albany in resources and amity will go down.

PEGGY THOMSEN (PATCH PROFILE)

I would look at the types of uses the developer was proposing, the amount of a revenue stream to the city and school district, the amount of open space to be provided, the potential land use configurations, the consideration of rising bay waters, and the participation in action items affecting the project in the climate action plan. Also, I would want to convene a task force like that used for the LBNL project at the developer's expense. That process allowed the developer to present information and the committee to request information not provided; it also allowed a cross-section of citizens to come together to discuss various aspects of the project. Then I'd go to the voters for a vote under Measure C.

SHERI SPELLWOMAN (PATCH PROFILE)

The findings of the Voices to Vision process determined the majority of Albany residents favor 75 percent open space and 25 percent development at the waterfront. I strongly support both the findings and the process that incorporated large-scale input from the community. I think maintaining and improving the public park at the waterfront is a great use for that land. I want any future commercial and/or residential development to utilize urban village design principals including green building, green design, safe bicycle routes, safe pedestrian routes and easy access to public transportation. Any future development will need to consider the most current information regarding climate change and how it will affect our coastline. We will have to use this data to prepare for changing weather patterns, sea level rise and coastal flooding, to inform our decisions in long-term urban planning.

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.

Trevor Grayling October 04, 2012 at 02:59 PM
The Lawrence Berkeley Lab proposal offered almost the 75% open space that the Voices to Vision process outlined, certified green buildings, Bay Trail, and so on, yet it was still vigorously opposed by both the Sierra Club and CESP. So we now know that these groups want no development at all at the waterfront, unless it's a few buildings right next to the freeway, which no sane developer would build.
Tatter Salad October 09, 2012 at 09:47 AM
Trevor, I believe you are correct in the Sierra Club opposing development at the waterfront; but what is worse is that ALL the elected and sitting candidates that carried them as a sponsor have also been key in blocking the rebuilding of the AT&T cell tower.

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