.

Developers Pull Plug on Second Campus Project Efforts, Pending 2012 Berkeley Lab Decision

Golden Gate Fields developers said, in letters to Albany's city manager and the University of California, that they were disappointed with the lab's decision to push its second campus site selection into 2012.

Beginning Nov. 30, the creators of a vision to turn Albany's waterfront racetrack into Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's proposed second campus will take a step back, and no longer will fund the city's outreach efforts for the project or provide additional information to the lab.

In two letters dated Nov. 22, the day Berkeley Lab announced it would , the Stronach Group's development team expressed disappointment with the delay. 

(Both letters are attached to this story in the PDF section. They are part of a report scheduled for a .)

Team member Ari Huber wrote in a letter to the University of California at Berkeley, that "Given the extraordinary expense of our efforts to date, we believe we have gone as far as we reasonably can be expected to go in providing the Lab with the information needed to assess the relative merits of the Golden Gate Fields site. Accordingly, we await the Lab's choice of a preferred site prior to incurring further costs."

The Stronach Group has not released information about costs related to its own extensive design and outreach process, which has included weekly sessions with the public, community phone surveys, geophysical testing and detailed site plans and revisions.

But, as of October, according to city documents, the team had to reimburse consultant and staffing costs incurred by the city alone in its Voices to Vision 2 process to engage and inform Albany residents about waterfront development at the racetrack. 

DEVELOPER: COLLABORATION, DETAILED APPROACH HAVE BEEN KEY

In his letter, Huber also described the team's efforts since Berkeley Lab's May 2011 decision to include  on vying for selection as the second campus site.

He pointed to a "collaborative process" in which developers made an "extraordinary commitment of time and resources" in responding to information requests from the public; sought input from Albany and Berkeley residents and officials; and "engaged local citizens, elected officials and city staffs, community leaders, and public interest groups." 

Huber also wrote that the Golden Gate Fields site plan demonstrates qualities that are "quite simply beyond the reach of ."

Developers have pointed to stunning vistas, attractive communities and superior geophysical attributes—in the form of, for one, bedrock running along the eastern area of the site—as just a few of the reasons the it would be the right choice for Berkeley Lab.

Huber's letter was positive in tone, depsite some public concern about the project's impact on Albany and a recent report finding that the city could see only $300,000 annually from the endeavor. 

Of the development plan, he wrote, the team has "every reason to believe [it] will be embraced by the community." (The lab has said in its decision-making process.)

MONEY FOR CITY OUTREACH EFFORTS IS TAPPED

Huber also wrote to Albany City Manager Beth Pollard. He told her that, due to the "extraordinary expense" of the process, "we are anxious to avoid incurring further project-related costs" pending a decision by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory "that would justify those expenditures." 

Most recently, the Stronach Group has been reimbursing the city for its costs related to a charged with investigating the ramifications of waterfront development at the track, as well as the Voices to Vision 2 process that started earlier this year. 

As of Nov. 30, developers will no longer cover these costs. 

It's unclear whether sessions with Fern Tiger Associates, scheduled for December 2011 and into next year, will still happen. 

Huber said developers would continue paying for these activities only if Berkeley Lab chooses Golden Gate Fields as its preferred site, and if developers reach an agreement with Berkeley Lab about the second campus deal.

VOTER INITIATIVE STATUS? 

Development at the waterfront likely also would be dependent on a major change to business-as-usual for Albany politics. Under Measure C, voters decide the fate of proposed bay-side changes at the end of the city's zoning approval process and environmental reviews.

Attorney Cleve Livingston said, during the Nov. 6 Golden Gate Fields Task Force meeting, that the Stronach Group development team was working on drafting a voter initiative to change this process to give the City Council, rather than the voters, the final say. Following voter approval, as well as the regular zoning process and environmental reviews, the City Council ultimately would decide whether to move the project forward.

(Livingston is .)

Livingston said developers hoped to share a draft on Nov. 13, but could not commit to doing so. 

At the group's Nov. 20 meeting, consultant Fern Tiger said she had not received any updates about possible initiative language since Livingston's comments on Nov. 6.

On Nov. 28, development team member Wei Chiu confirmed that initiative plans are on hold pending the lab's decision.

Weekly community open houses hosted by the developers also are on hiatus, Chiu said.

Read more about the process for selecting the proposed second campus of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory on Albany Patch here.

Want updates when we write future stories on this topic? Click the "Keep me posted" button below.

If there's something in this article you think , or if something else is amiss, call editor Emilie Raguso at 510-459-8325 or email her at albany@patch.com.

Peggy McQuaid November 28, 2011 at 02:40 PM
The December 4th City Council Workshop which will focus on the Stronach Group proposal for the LBNL Second Campus -- providing an update on the Task Force process and information known to date, as well as information not yet provided, but seen as key by Task Force members is still scheduled.
Emilie Raguso November 28, 2011 at 07:36 PM
Thanks, Peggy! I wasn't sure if Fern would still do this. I wonder if that means the city will pay for this? Or if she'll just be open to donating time in the interest of closure? (I have no idea... but I can check with her when I get back into town.)
lubov mazur November 28, 2011 at 07:38 PM
Thanks Peggy.
michael randolph November 29, 2011 at 12:07 AM
I would not spend any more ether. What did they really get for that cool half million?

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »