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Flash: Albany Mall Opponents Deliver November Ballot Signatures

By: Richard Brenneman
Tuesday May 16, 2006

Foes of the proposed upscale mall planned at Albany’s Golden Gate Fields handed in nearly three times the needed signatures needed to qualify a November ballot initiative measure that would stop the proposal. 

Members of Citizens for the Albany Shoreline (CAS) presented a box containing 445 pages of petitions bearing 2,445 signatures to City Clerk Jacqueline Bucholz Tuesday at noon. 

That figure is nearly three times the 950 signatures needed, or ten percent of the city’s registered voters. 

Robert Cheasty, a former Albany mayor and CAS co-chair, said the group collected more than 2,800 signatures, but weeded out any that might be questionable in any way. 

Bucholz said Contra Costa County officials have 30 working days to verify signatures. 

The Albany Shoreline Protection Initiative is designed to thwart plans by Canadian-owned Magna Entertainment Corp., owner of the track, and Los Angeles developer Rick Caruso’s Caruso Affiliated, Inc. 

The joint venture has announced plans to create an upscale open air mall on the parking lot on a site Cheasty and CAS members say should eventually become part of the Eastshore State Park. 

Their initiative would bar development along a 600-foot-deep band along the shoreline, impose a moratorium on any shoreline development and create a public planning process that would end in a plan for the area that would be presented to the voters. 

Caruso has been a frequent guest at coffees and community gatherings in Richmond, where he has been speaking in support of his project. 

Caruso and Magna are also paired in a similar venture at Magna’s track in Santa Anita, and by the end of March, the firms had spent $3.3 million in promoting the two projects. 

Any development along the Albany shoreline must be approved by voters, a condition imposed by another initiative, Measure C, which voters passed in 1990. 

Measure C would also require another public vote should the developers succeed in defeating the CAS initiative. Under Measure C, all waterfront development must be submitted to the voters.