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Albany Advocates Say Town’s

Friday April 11, 2003

In his piece “Big Box Targets City” (Daily Planet, April 4-7), John Geluardi raises a number of issues regarding the construction of a Target Store on Eastshore Highway in Albany. 

Though well written, a number of points deserve clarification. 

Mr. Geluardi begins by saying the city of Albany is “cash-strapped.” In truth, all cities in California face varying degrees of economic challenges due to the recession and political decisions made in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. 

However, given the situation, Albany is doing exceptionally well. Don’t take our word for it — come see for yourselves. 

Our business district, located on Solano and San Pablo avenues, is overwhelmingly composed of mom-and-pop shops, modern boutiques and a diversity of wonderful restaurants, virtually all independently owned and operated. Though we have been hard hit by competition from big box malls north and south, we do not believe a Target Store in the industrial section of our town will pose a threat to our district. 

In order to maintain the small-town ambiance that makes Albany unique, we need additional sources of sales tax revenue, and we believe that Target will provide a good shot in the arm. Many people shop at Target, including working families in Albany and Berkeley. This new location will provide convenient access for them, reduce driving time and save gas. 

Contrary to Mr. Geluardi’s article, Target Stores, Inc. is not building a “sprawling retail complex.” They are constructing a two-story emporium on what is now a vacant industrial lot situated between railroad tracks, Interstate 80 and Berkeley’s Solid Waste Transfer Station. 

Yet some in Berkeley have concerns about the project. 

Community Environmental Advisory Commissioner LA Wood expressed surprise that Target would locate so close to Berkeley’s transfer station, which he says “has had issues of airborne particulate matter and odors.” If there are issues arising from the garbage and recycling center in Berkeley, it is up to Berkeley to settle them. 

Mr. Geluardi also raised the question of Cordornices Creek — a beautiful and important part of our watershed that must be protected. It’s interesting to note that the location of the Berkeley transfer station 20 feet from Cordornices Creek, including a gas station for their vehicles, was approved by the Berkeley City Council. 

Target Stores, in contrast, voluntarily agreed to protect the creek and its environs, maintaining a setback that is 60 feet to 70 feet from it. 

Then there is the traffic issue. Mr. Geluardi quotes Assistant City Manager for Transportation Peter Hillier who, referring to the Gilman Street Interchange from Eastshore Highway, said, “It’s a very old and awkward intersection,” adding he was surprised that Albany did not take into consideration “the increased risk of collisions” there. 

The fact is that Albany and TMG Partners consulted with the city of Berkeley while drawing up plans for the Eastshore Highway development, especially concerning traffic issues. They even hired Berkeley’s own traffic study consultants to review their consultant’s conclusions. In fact, Albany took the extraordinary step of having three separate reviews of plans before finalizing them. 

Albany also spent nearly $4 million to create access to Eastshore Highway from Buchanan Street and Interstate 80 and opened up what had been a dead-end street to facilitate the flow of traffic. We are confident that Target Stores will bring many benefits to our community and to Berkeley as well. 

In closing, we want to welcome the revival of the Berkeley Daily Planet. It is an important newspaper with excellent writers, including Mr. Geluardi, and we hope it is widely read. 

Sherman Lim is the president of the Albany Chamber of Commerce and James Carter is executive director.