By Jordan Sampietro
Would you be surprised to learn that drinking alcoholic beverages on the streets and sidewalks of Albany is legal? People are legally able to stroll down Solano Avenue or walk by a school with a beer or Jack Daniels whiskey in hand. According to the Albany Police, our city lacks something called an Open Container Ordinance which would make drinking in public illegal. All of the cities that surround Albany have Open Container Ordinances in place: Berkeley, El Cerrito, Emeryville, and Richmond. One police officer I spoke with said Albany may be the only city left in Northern California that doesn’t have an ordinance.
The City of Albany’s Social and Economic Justice Commission will be considering an Open Container Ordinance at its meeting March 10 at 7 p.m. at City Hall on San Pablo Avenue.
This loophole in Albany law is causing some very real problems for certain Albany neighborhoods and a growing threat. The Orientation Center for the Blind at the north end of Adams Street, a school for the newly non-sighted, suffers the impact of this loophole when young hard-partying crowds especially on weekends leave broken liquor glass strewn across the property which then greets non-sighted students and staff. I’ve learned that the broken glass is not only a dangerous hazard on the Orientation Center for the Blind property, but also on the sidewalks of Albany that they use as training ground to learn mobility skills where one false move can result in a bloody foot injury. Even innocent guide dogs are put needlessly at-risk by this dangerous liquor litter.
In a different neighborhood near Albany Hill, twenty-somethings of all backgrounds park their cars in the evening and drink beer and liquor, party hard and loud on the streets in my neighborhood before moving on to their favorite corner bar in Albany. On most mornings, my neighbors and I are left to clean up the broken liquor glass, bottle and beer can litter off the sidewalks and streets. It’s both a severe nuisance, but also public safety hazard for walkers in Albany of all ages and types, and their pets who join them.
The problems seem to be growing, and are also completely avoidable with a simple ordinance. That’s why in January I asked that the Albany City Council adopt an Open Container Ordinance to provide the basic peace and public safety that we have come to expect in Albany. It’s clear our laws haven’t kept up with the times and “sleepy” Albany is getting more urban problems and it needs to stay current. If this issue matters to you, I urge you to show up and express yourself next week, March 10th at 7 p.m., the City of Albany’s Social and Economic Justice Commission meeting where the proposed ordinance will be discussed.