I must protest the entire page given over to Mr. Cheasty’s Sept. 26 commentary on Golden Gate Fields. The CAS/CESP/Sierra Club group are at it again with their by-now-familiar list of scare tactics and misstatements. I think you owe it to your readers to correct the record. Let’s look at just a few of those scare tactics and misstatements:
• The Caruso plan offered a “minimum amount of privatized open space.” The reality: The Caruso plan offered a new park at Fleming Point and a new Shoreline Park, with restored beaches, public restrooms, completion of the Bay Trail, and a restored fishing pier, for a total of 17 continuous acres of parkland along the shoreline. It also offered restored—and expanded—wetlands north of the race track, a YMCA building, a Farmers’ Market, plus open-air public meeting space and a public amphitheater.
• A “mall” on the waterfront would “sap the economic vitality” out of Solano and San Pablo avenues. The reality: The Caruso plan called for upscale retail and upscale restaurants. These would not be a threat to the budget restaurants, nail salons, realtor offices, apartment buildings, medical offices, gas stations, and so on, that make up the businesses on Solano and San Pablo avenues. In addition, the planned shuttle between El Cerrito BART, the development, and Solano Avenue would have brought more foot traffic to Solano. It’s interesting to note that the Albany Chamber of Commerce did not oppose the Caruso plan.
• A mall would “saddle the community with a traffic nightmare on Gilman Street.” The reality: No one knows what the effect on traffic would be, either due to the Caruso development or the CAS/CESP/Sierra Club development. Let’s not forget that their proposal includes development also! If the Albany City Council had guaranteed the completion of an environmental impact report (paid for by Caruso), we would have known the reality about traffic impact, both for the Caruso plan and the CAS/CESP/Sierra Club plan.
• It places a racino on the shoreline. The reality: The Caruso plan included no gambling. Gambling is covered by state law, not local law, and the people of California have handily defeated any and all attempts to increase casino gambling in California. This scare tactic simply isn’t relevant to the discussion.
• CAS supported development would “easily provide greater revenue to Albany than the track currently does.” The reality: It’s interesting to note that, for the past year, the CAS/CESP/Sierra Club group has only offered to replace existing revenue from the racetrack (currently about $1.6 million). Suddenly, they—plus their two candidates for City Council—are in unison saying that their development would increase revenue. They offer no details whatsoever to support this assertion.
• A hotel/conference center “would bring in more tax revenue to Albany (both city and school district) than the current track operation, including the property tax revenue.” The reality: Do they just make things up as they go along? Regarding a hotel, a study commissioned by the city in 2004 was ambivalent—at best—about the viability of a hotel in that location. Regarding a conference center, again, there are simply no facts provided to support the idea that this would be viable. And do we really want a thousand cars all trying at the same time to get into a conference center parking lot at 8:30 on a weekday morning for a conference that starts at 9? Talk about a “traffic nightmare” on I-80!
My blood runs cold when I think of how reckless and cavalier the CAS/CESP/Sierra Club people are regarding the financial well-being of Albany. We have streets full of potholes, storm drains that overflow, fewer trees every year, an unfunded five-year Capital Improvement Plan, unfunded school programs, a structurally weak Veteran’s Building, and so on, and so on. I can only hope that the new city-run waterfront-planning process will smoke out once and for all the appalling weaknesses in the ideas emanating from CAS, CESP, the Sierra Club, and their two candidates for City Council.
Trevor Grayling is a member of the Albany Waterfront Coalition and the Sierra Club.
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