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    Voices to Vision report on Waterfront out

    April 14th, 2010


    View Albany Waterfront in a larger map

    The Albany Waterfront future, as envisioned by Albany residents. Blue markers indicate areas residents want converted to, or preserved as, open space. The area enclosed by the blue line represents the approximate space most residents would allow to be developed to generate tax revenues.

    By Barbara Grady

    A two year study aimed at figuring out what Albany residents wish for the city’s 190 acre waterfront concluded this week with a report to the City Council indicating most people want a major expansion of public park space.

    The “Voices to Vision” community engagement found that 62 percent of residents who participated want to expand open space by at least 75 acres, according to Fern Tiger Associates, which did the study. That would mean a total of 163 acres of parkland, wetlands, trails and supporting structures at Albany’s waterfront, an area that now includes the Albany bulb, the Golden Gate Fields race track and parking lot and the Eastshore State Park plateau.

    However, ‘Voices to Vision” also found that half of participants hope that enough development occurs on the waterfront to maintain current tax revenue generated from the site: approximately $1.7 million now received from Golden Gate Fields.

    Of course, any community vision depends on a developer’s inclination to follow that idea or a local government’s willingness to implement it. Right now, 102 acres of the waterfront is privately owned by Golden Gage Fields racetrack owner Magna Entertainment Corp. The bulb is owned by the city and the plateau by the state. Magna, which has been in Chapter 11 Bankruptcy proceedings since last year, has entered an agreement to give Golden Gate Fields to its largest shareholder, MI Developments Inc., in exchange for repayment of debt. MI is a real estate operating company which manages commercial and industrial developments. However, any major new development on the Golden Gate Fields property would require a zoning change and therefore city approval. That is why the city sought to determine residents’ interests.
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    Waterfront survey open till Friday midnight

    November 19th, 2009

    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)
    Read the rest of this entry »


    Golden Gate Fields Sale uncertain

    November 14th, 2009

    Horses and trainers prepare for a race at Golden Gate Fields

    Horses and trainers prepare for a race at Golden Gate Fields

    By Barbara Grady

    The Golden Gate Fields race track is scheduled to be auctioned off for sale on February 25 in a U.S. Bankruptcy Court proceeding designed to let its owner Magna Entertainment Corp. sell assets to raise funds.

    But whether a sale of the Albany horse racing venue actually takes place is still up in the air, officials said, and dependent on negotiations with bidders. As Magna, the largest owner of horse race tracks in North America, has put other race properties up for sale as part of its reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, it has met both success and obstacles. Two weeks ago it sold its Lone Star Park in Maryland with bankruptcy-court approval for $47.9 million. But a planned sale of its Pimlico Race Track in Maryland – home of the famous Preakness races – has been delayed as Magna bypassed its lead or stalking bid bidder.

    “There’s still a lot of questions surrounding the auction and how it is going to take place,” said Robert Hartman, Golden Gate Fields general manager. “I’m not sure if Golden Gate fields will in fact be up for auction on Feb. 25,” he said.

    Magna Entertainment filed a voluntary petition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection in March, stating that excessive debt and interest expenses. Golden Gate Fields and all of Magna’s horse racing venues have continued operations during the Magna restructuring.

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    City looks at dog issues at Albany Waterfront

    August 9th, 2009

    By Caryl O’Keefe

    Albany waterfront visitors, and those who might be visitors if conditions were different, will have a chance soon to offer suggestions concerning dogs on the publicly-owned 88 acres at the waterfront.

    The City of Albany’s Waterfront Committee (WC) on July 27 voted to ask City staff to provide a report of conditions and issues related to dogs at the waterfront. This vote followed extensive discussion of a report prepared by committee member Francesco Papalia. Papalia researched waterfront conditions by interviewing park visitors onsite this spring. He concluded that Albany’s waterfront is “a de facto off-leash dog park without any enforcement of any rules.” (read Papalia’s report at These public parklands are contiguous, with few boundary markers, so Papalia’s report encouraged coordinated rules for an ordinance.

    Read the rest of this entry »


    Albany joins East Bay Green Corridor

    July 8th, 2009

    By Barbara Grady

     The City of Albany has joined the East Bay Green Corridor Partnership, which should open the way for Albany to participate in the green jobs creation and green business recruitment that its neighboring cities of Oakland, Berkeley, Emeryville and Richmond pursue.

     Joining should also help Albany to benefit from $76 million in federal Stimulus money awarded to the Partnership for weatherization, green job training, bio-energy research and carbon capture endeavors.

     “We are a small city,” without the space or clout to attract large businesses, said Albany Mayor Marge Atkinson. “But by leveraging strengths with the other cities and sharing information,” Albany can participate and benefit by the burgeoning green economic activity, she said.

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    Commentary: A new vision for the waterfront comes out of your participation

    May 1st, 2009

    Albany Mayor Marge Atkinson and Vice Mayor Joanne Wile wrote the following letter responding to the commentary Albany’s public funds should not be used on a disappearing waterfront published on Albany Today earlier this week.

    “Both of us, along with all the members of the City Council, have supported a visioning process, so that we can hear everyone’s ideas, including those who think we should do nothing.”

    Dear Readers of Albany Today:

    We are glad to see that Albany’s “Voices to Vision” community visioning process with Fern Tiger Associates is already generating ideas.  We respect Mr. Barnes and Mr. Blanchard, the authors of the latest opinion piece in Albany Today, about this planning process.  We hope that they will participate in the community meetings in their neighborhoods and express their ideas. Read the rest of this entry »


    Commentary:Albany’s public funds should not be used on a disappearing waterfront

    April 26th, 2009

    Charlie Blanchard and Michael Barnes, two former members on the Albany School Board, wrote the following opinion article on the waterfront issue. They warn about the risk of high tides flooding the Albany Waterfront and oppose using the city’s  public funds to develop the land.

    “As Albany residents,the two of us do not want our tax dollars spent to acquire and upgrade land for parks that will soon  be submerged. And we certainly wouldn’t want to live there, either.”

    The controversy surrounding the Albany waterfront is presented as a choice between two opposing positions — commercial development or parkland. But these two positions are not really so different. They are both models of development. Read the rest of this entry »


    Quarrel on Albany’s waterfront subsides

    October 10th, 2008

    The Albany Waterfront is a paradise for off-leash dogs, but not for as many kids and families. The land’s future is being shaped, as Albany conducts a $600,000 project to abridge disagreements and develop a common vision for it. Photo by Linda (Linjun) Fan.

    Residents would often divide into two sides and fiercely attack each other when the waterfront planning issue was brought up on public meetings in Albany. But recently the quarrels seem to be subsiding, as a city-hired consultant began to engage residents to build consensus on the most controversial issue in town. Read the rest of this entry »