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    Commentary: “What a mess we avoided here in Albany”

    Albany resident Bill Dann wrote an article commenting on the latest news of the possible ownership handover of the Golden Gate Fields racetrack:

    The Berkeley Daily Planet front page headline reports: “Golden Gate Fields for Sale as Magna Reorganizes.” It was only a few short weeks ago that GGF was reassuring us that the property was not up for sale.  That may or may have not been true back then, but it’s surely wrong today.

    Now is not the time for us to put our heads in the sand and trust the Canadian owner, Mr Stronach, to do what is right for Albany.  We need a plan.  Now.

    Witness what’s happening to the sister mall to be built alongside Santa Anita racetrack:  still stuck in the planning process four years later.  Recently the EIR put forth by Rick Caruso for the mall at Santa Anita was found inadequate after a lawsuit was filed.  And it’s back to the drawing boards–unless they terminate the whole project afterall.

    We also discovered through the waterfront visioning process that Magna had not long ago contracted with a bidder to start the process for building a casino at GGF along with the mall.

    What a mess we avoided here in Albany.   It was folly to support a mall then, just as it’s folly to terminate the visioning process today. We need a plan for the waterfront. Pronto.

    Unfortunately, it likewise may prove shortsighted for Albany voters not to have passed the property transfer tax increase this last election; otherwise, Albany would benefit from the sale of GGF this time around.  (When the previous owner, Ladbroke, sold the track to Magna, Magna avoided paying increased tax on certain parcels by retaining ownership in, and then buying up Ladbroke Holdings.)

    To accomplish what is best for Albany, from time to time we surely may need close relations with our higher elected officials on the county, district, and state levels; as well as, the expertise of outside organizations.

    *Bill Dann is a member of the Waterfront Committee. He is also the co-chair of Citizens for the Albany Shoreline.

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