Albany Waterfront Coalition

For Responsible Improvements to the Albany Waterfront District

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AWC Review of Caruso Affiliated Development Proposal, July ‘06

When Caruso Affiliates (the developer hired by the property owner) asked for public input on its plans, the AWC made many suggestions to enhance open space and improve aesthetics. After many other citizens and groups made comments, Caruso provided the plan pictured below, with development set back 300 feet from the shoreline.

Caruso Affiliated had intended to submit the plan to the City of Albany for development on the 33-acre parking lot in the NW corner of Golden Gate Fields, which the AWC includes here not as endorsement but as information.

However, given that the City Council would not commit to completing an Environmental Impact Report at the developer’s expense (see Caruso Affiliated withdraws Waterfront Development Proposal), Caruso Affiliated announced that they would not submit the development plan.

Below is the proposed plan and accompanying details:


Latest proposal from Caruso Affiliated

List of proposed features:

  • New park at Fleming Point and new Shoreline Park, with restored beaches and public restrooms, for a total of 17 continuous acres of parkland
  • Buildings nearest the shore are one-storey only and 300 ft from mean high-tide
  • Buildings to qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification
  • Bay Trail connection
  • Restored fishing pier, with kayak access
  • Restored, and expanded, wetlands north of the race track
  • Safe, level access to the waterfront for the young and elderly
  • Shuttle to Solano Avenue (and perhaps El Cerrito BART)
  • New YMCA facility (subject to YMCA approval)
  • Open-air public meeting space and amphitheater
  • Reduced size of race-track grandstand (1/3 to ¼ smaller)
  • Approximately 150 residential units (lofts and 1-bedroom)
  • Upscale shopping and dining opportunities
  • Movie theater with stadium seating
  • Restaurants and coffee shops with Bay view, protected from the frequent winds
  • Glassed-in farmers’ market with Bay view

Caruso proposal (July ’06) addresses these AWC goals:

1. Reclaim the Waterfront for all residents, including the young and the elderly. This must include a fully accessible and well-maintained expanse of park land along the shoreline.Yes1
2. Complete the Bay TrailYes1
3. Preserve and protect the wetlands as a valuable environmental resource. Yes2
4. Encourage thoughtful development of under-utilized portions of the Golden Gate Fields property that will:
4A. Provide an inviting and pedestrian-friendly atmosphere.Yes3
4B. Protect Solano Avenue. Any retail development must provide unique shopping opportunities that will complement -- not compete with -- Solano Avenue businesses.Unclear 4
4C. Preserve current tax revenues for the City and Schools. Any plan MUST preserve the present level of funding for the City and Albany schools, without interruption.Yes5
4D. Increase tax revenues for the City and Schools.Our basic city infrastructure is deteriorating, due to insufficient funding. There are numerous unfunded projects. In the face of increasing State and Federal requirements, our schools are struggling to restore lost programs.Yes6
4E. Not rely on state funding. Any realistic plan must be self-funding. State and regional agencies indicate that they have no funds for new park projects. Yes7
4F. Conform to sustainable design principles, as set forth in the LEED program of the US Green Building Council.Yes8
4G. Recognize the probability that the racetrack will stay in Albany, as the owners repeatedly confirm.Yes9
4H. Not require new local taxes on Albany property owners and residents.Yes10
4I. Not include casino gambling. No casino, racino, card room, or other expansion of gambling.Yes11


1. Reclaim the waterfront for all residents; complete the Bay Trail: Yes. The plan provides 17 acres of groomed, irrigated, and maintained lawns and shrubs, plus a public restroom. The Bay Trail travels the length of the park.

2. Preserve the wetlands: Yes. The plan restores and maintains the wetlands, adding approximately 1 additional acre in the process.

3. Provide a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere: Yes. Paved and tiled walkways, seating areas, trees, amphitheater with funicular, cafes, manicured lawns, no cars or other traffic, good lighting, shelter from the wind, and so on, will encourage pedestrian strolling and provide an inviting atmosphere for all ages. This is a feature of all Caruso developments.

4. Protect Solano Avenue: Unclear. The high-end retail businesses and restaurants planned for the development will not compete with most businesses and services on Solano Avenue, such as the budget restaurants, nail salons, medical services, realtors, and apartment buildings.  The few higher-price restaurants, plus the Albany Twin movie theater, might have more competition. However, the proposed shuttle to and from Solano Avenue from the development may bring more foot traffic to Solano Avenue; so the actual effect is unclear. Note that the developer proposes a cross-marketing plan to jointly promote both the development and Solano Avenue.

5. Preserve current tax revenues: Yes. The development does not impact the activities of the race track. Therefore, the revenue stream from the racetrack will be unaffected.

6. Increase tax revenues: Yes. We will see increased tax revenues to the City of approximately $2 million per year from the development. (Assumed gross of $500 / s.f. of gross leasable area [GLA] per year, appropriate for high-end retail.  At a GLA of 425,000 s.f., and sales tax to the City of 1% of gross sales, the resulting revenue to the City from sales tax alone would be approximately $2,125,000 per year.) 

7. Not rely on State funding: Yes. All development, including the parks, wetlands, beaches, and so on, will be financed by the developer. There is no requirement for State funding.

8. Conform to sustainable design principles: Yes. The plan calls for any new development to conform to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. Caruso Affiliated has LEED-certified designers on staff.

9. Recognize the probability that the racetrack will stay in Albany: Yes. The development assumes that the racetrack will stay, and it provides greater sightlines and access to the track from the development.

10. Not require new local taxes: Yes. The estimated increased tax revenues from the development should reduce the need for the City to propose any more tax increases on residents to fund the recently-approved Five-Year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) or any other improvements.

The park will be maintained by the developer at no charge to the City. They will also provide their own security services. The developers will remain on-site – as is their custom - as managers of the property.

11. Not include casino gambling: Yes. The Caruso proposal does not include gambling. Casino gambling is forbidden under the Constitution of the State of California.

Additional Considerations

  1. An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) would be required under state law before adoption of any development plan. The cost of the EIR process, estimated anywhere from $1 to $1.5 million dollars, will be borne entirely by the developer.
  2. Increased Traffic: The plan requires careful review in this area. Traffic patterns would be determined by the type of development. For example, high-end retail might produce an even flow of traffic throughout the day, and the movie theater might produce an even flow during the evening. The Environmental Impact Report will estimate traffic impacts and provide for mitigations, which the developer would pay for. However, these mitigations may not completely solve the problems caused by increased traffic.

    Note that any development, including that proposed by the CAS Initiative, will have an effect on traffic in the area.

About the Developer

Caruso Affiliated has built -- and continues to operate -- six developments in Southern California. Below, is a picture from the Caruso development, "The Lake at Thousand Oaks," taken by an AWC member. This is provide to give readers some sense as to how the waterfront might look. (Imagine the shoreline on the right, about 300 feet from the buildings.)