Albany Council Approves Waterfront Ballot Measure

By Richard Brenneman
Friday April 07, 2006

The Albany City Council Monday approved creation of a burrowing owl habitat at the base of the Albany Bulb and extended a ban on cannabis clubs for another year. 

Both measures passed on 4-0 votes. Councilmember Jewel Okawachi was not present for Monday’s meeting. 

The owl habitat was mandated as a condition of approval of the Gilman Playing Fields, a joint project of several East Bay cities on park land within Berkeley city limits. 

An endangered species, the burrowing owls had been spotted nesting on the site, and constructing the new habitat was a condition of the mitigations spelled out. 

The Albany Council also approved $20,000 to prepare a ballot analysis of the potential impacts of a proposed November ballot measure that would limit development on the city’s waterfront. 

The funding will kick in only if initiative sponsors turn in enough signatures to place the measure on the ballot, said City Administrator Beth Pollard. 

The initiative, sponsored by environmentalists and park activists, would pose a threat to plans by Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso to build a themed shopping mall on the northwest parking lot of Golden Gate Fields. 

Caruso and Magna Entertainment, the Canadian racetrack firm that owns the Bay Area’s last remaining horse racing venture, has also partnered with Caruso on a similar project in Southern California. 

The other Bay Area track, Bay Meadows in San Mateo, has been approved for conversion into a condominium development. 

The proposed Albany measure targets 102 acres including the race track and the parking lot site. 

The proposal also calls for creation of the Shoreline Protection Planning Process, and the implementation of a citizen task force to draft a specific plan limiting development outside the 500-foot shoreline ban now in effect. 

A coalition of groups is gathering signatures to place the measure on the November ballot..