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    Waterfront survey open till Friday midnight

    The Albany waterfront

    By Barbara Grady

    After a round of community meetings about the Albany waterfront indicated that residents want both expanded open space and a continuation of tax revenue-generating activities, residents now have a second chance to voice their opinions. They have two days left to respond to a detailed survey about their hopes for the 190 acres of land along the San Francisco Bay. (Go to www.voicestovision.com to respond to the survey)

    The City of Albany’s “Voices to Vision” process has been trying to determine if Albany residents want the land to be open for development or preserved as open space and park land — or some combination of the two. Consultant Fern Tiger Associates has run the Voices to Vision process which started with 38 town meetings last spring.

    This second, current phase of the online survey ends at midnight Friday Nov. 20 when the www.voicestovision.com survey will be turned off. All residents were mailed a postcard giving them a password to access the site. If you no longer have the card, please call 510-444-4567 or email info@voicestovision.com.

    In the first phase of Voices to Vision, “Everybody indicated additional open space but some people thought just another 20 acres and others 85 or 90 acres,” said Fern Tiger, owner of Fern Tiger Associates.

    “There appeared to be real interest in making sure that site preserves the amount of tax revenue it currently provides,” she continued. Most years, the Albany Waterfront draws tax revenue from Golden Gate Fields, $1.14 million last year plus about $600,000 in school parcel taxes. However, this year Golden Gate Fields’ owner Magna Entertainment Corp. is in bankruptcy proceedings under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy code so it has not paid all of its tax bills. According to Magna, there is a tentative plan to put Golden Gate Fields up for sale in February of next year.

    The fate of the Albany waterfront has been a subject of debate in this city for many years. The Albany bulb – an extension of land jutting out almost a mile from Buchanan Avenue – was once a landfill but has become a tree and bush covered peninsula that many people hike and bike. The area around it is either owned by the East Bay Regional Park District or the City of Albany or Golden Gate Fields. Developers sought approval a few years ago to build a shopping plaza and condominiums on the site. But citizen opposition to those idea quashed the possibility of getting a zoning change to permit that commercial development. The debate about waterfront development got so rancorous that the City of Albany hired Fern Tiger Associates to help it determine which way Albany should go.

    The City with Fern Tiger Associates, plans to hold another series of community meetings in January of next year to consider the range of options that residents voiced interest in for waterfront development.

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