Why?

Why are we opposed to this development agreement? 

We believe the people of Albany, not corporate interests, should determine how our city should grow and develop, and that a vibrant, healthy community and economy depends on community engagement and decision-making.  Significantly and beyond this position, we also believe the current development agreement contains many components that are detrimental to Albany’s future and warrant a closer inspection by its citizens.

1. This development agreement could potentially increase the degradation of the small businesses of Solano Avenue and our quality of life

Neither the City Council or the UC have attempted to partner with our business community in crafting this development. Despite the fact that Albany’s small-city charm and the urban village model are the markers for healthy, vibrant communities of the future, the proponents of this development are aiming to establish a big box retailer that will compete directly with our local business community and whose profits will send the majority of its proceeds back to Texas, not Albany.

2.  This 120,000+ sq ft development is in disproportion to our town of 1 square mile and 18,539 residents. 

At 57,000 square feet, Whole Foods alone will be the size of a pro football field – 5,000 sq. feet larger than the projected Brooklyn location and twice the size of the Berkeley location.  Albany does not posses the road infrastructure to accommodate the projected increase in traffic – an additional 1,500 5,000 motorized vehicles on Albany’s roads per day.

3.  The development agreement relies on deception.

a.  Whole Foods is not specifically designated in the Development Agreement.

The zoning approval does not specify the company that would occupy this development.  Thus the predicted revenues from this project cannot be based upon Whole Foods’ profit margin.

b.  Senior Housing is not a part of this development.

The portion of the project that has been described as “Senior Housing” actually represents the interests of the Belmont Corporation, a Texas chain that provides high-cost for-profit care for elderly dementia sufferers and other medically fragile patients. The minimum cost to live there is approximately $5,000-$6,000 per month before add-ons. In no way does the project mitigate Albany’s lack of affordable senior housing. However, the developers have been exempted from our affordable housing ordinance, and adding insult to injury, were granted a density bonus (which precludes rental developments from affordable housing exemptions) by the City Council, who wrote into the Development Agreement language further exempting the development from any future requirments for affordable housing. Due to increased noise levels and pollution from traffic, the assisted-living complex is slated to be a closed window system with air conditioning, adding even more DIRTY air, power and noise pollution to our community.

4.  This development agreement will create an addition burden on our police department, paramedics and fire department.

Many cities report that big-box retailers generate large numbers of police calls, creating new costs for local government and reducing police presence and response times in other areas. Shoplifting, check fraud, and traffic accidents are the most common causes. Each call can absorb hours of police time, creating new costs for local government and reducing police presence and response times in other areas. According to several studies, tax benefits of a big box store would be outweighed by increased cost in city services, fire, paramedics, and police. The projected annual tax revenues of $200,000 to Albany will not cover the increased cost to city services. (09/5/2012 – CLARIFICATION: the projected net revenue from this project is $200K/yr – after costs generated by additional burdens to City Services and Law Enforcement are deducted from the projected gross revenue of this project.  This information was updated on our flyer on August 9th, but unfortunately not on our website.  We deeply apologize for this significant error.)

5.  This development agreement will accelerate the decline of our charming, livable and walkable village, and transform it into a large-scale suburban mall community.

Property values on Solano Avenue and in Albany’s residential neighborhoods will be adversely affected by increased vehicular and diesel traffic, poor air quality, and increased risk to pedestrians and cyclists, among other things. The traffic impact on West Albany streets will make them dangerous and deadly.

6.  This development agreement will further exacerbate the traffic conjestion on San Pablo and Buchanan/Marin.

Traffic and pollution increases will be “significant and unavoidable,” according to the Environmental Impact Report. The project is estimated to generate up to 8500 metric tons of CO2 and the project will bring more diesel particulate pollution into in an area (i.e. an additional 5,000 motorized vehicles on Albany’s roads per day) that is already saturated with air pollution with one of the highest asthma and respiratory DISEASE rates in the state, especially among children. Both Marin and Gilman intersections at San Pablo are already rated LOS F, representing over-saturated conditions where traffic flows exceed design capacity –  CalTrans mitigations are not likely to change this. Further, the pollutant emissions from the increase of traffic cannot be mitigated by the City of Albany or CalTrans.

***UPDATE – STATUS OF REFERENDUM***

On Thursday, August 16th, Keep Albany Local submitted over 1400 signatures in support of our referendum (to also view the complete ordinance/development agreement at issue, please click HERE) to the City Clerk!  1392 were deemed valid by the City Clerk and sent to the Registrar of Voters, who as of August 17th, have 30 days to verify the signatures. Woohoo!!

We’ll also be updating our website with the following information:

1. The Environmentally Preferred Alternate Plan for this development;

2.  How Albany residents can participate in Keeping Albany Local; and

3.  A blog featuring articles and research on maintaining an economically sustainable and vibrant local economy.

Lastly, we want to thank each and everyone of our neighbors for their support in this endeavor.   Albany, you’ve truly outdone yourself this time!

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