Albany Waterfront Coalition

For Responsible Improvements to the Albany Waterfront District

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News Update

We aim to provide accurate, factual information on actions and decisions taken by the City Council, its commissions, and committees, and other interested parties, concerning the Albany Waterfront District. Do you see any errors or omissions in our reporting? If so, please email the Webmaster.
5-Mar-09: Owner of Golden Gate Fields files for bankruptcy
17-Nov-08: Council cuts City services by $122,000; leaves Fern Tiger budget untouched
21-Apr-08: Council approves $590,000 waterfront visioning contract with Fern Tiger
5-Mar-08: Waterfront Committee chooses Fern Tiger Associates to prepare work program
24-Jan-08: Waterfront Committee: Latest Appointments
6-Nov-07:Council Ignores Final Waterfront Report from Consultant, Approves Preliminary "Vision"
13-Sept-07:Magna Entertainment working on a proposal to improve profitability of GGF
1-Sept-07:City Council awaits draft "Planning Work Program"
23-Jun-07:AWC Presents Recommendations to Waterfront Planning Project Manager
21-May-07:City Hires Project Manager To Prepare Work Program For Waterfront Planning
27-Mar-07:State Parks face $1.2 BILLION Maintenance Backlog
19-Mar-07:Council to lead Waterfront-Planning Process, Hiring Project Manager to Define scope of Work
5-Mar-07:Magna Entertainment Announces New CEO, plus Year-End Financials
1-Mar-07:Waterfront Committee wants to replace Planning & Zoning as Waterfront-Planning Lead
25-Feb-07:Golden Gate Fields to Spend $8 Million on New Track Surface
11-Jan-07:Waterfront Committee: New Appointments
11-Dec-06:Sierra-Club Candidates Now Control City Council
18-Oct-06:Eight Planning and Design Consulting Groups submit Qualifications to Lead Waterfront Visioning
1-Aug-06:Judge Throws Out CAS Initiative
24-July-06:Council to proceed with City-directed Waterfront Planning
17-July-06:Caruso Affiliated withdraws Waterfront Development Proposal
                        
                        

5-Mar-09: Owner of Golden Gate Fields files for bankruptcy

Magna Entertainment, the owner of Golden Gate Fields, has filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. It plans to sell the Golden Gate Fields race track, along with other race tracks and additional assets. The company has defaulted on a number of loans, including one from the Bank of Montreal that is secured by the Golden Gate Fields property.

Magna intends to borrow $62.5 million from MI Development, the majority shareholder, to fund ongoing obligations while the restructuring is under way.

Officials at Golden Gate Fields insist that the track is profitable and always has been.  The addition of approximately 80 extra race days, due to the closure of Bay Meadows, will increase revenue further.

Currently, Golden Gate Fields generates approximately $2 million for the City of Albany and the School District per year.  This comes from an assortment of parcel taxes, betting taxes, and sales taxes.  Should the race track close prematurely, the City schools would only receive income from the parcel taxes.

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17-Nov-08: Council cuts City services by $122,000; leaves Fern Tiger budget untouched

At the 17-Nov-08 meeting, the City Council voted 5-0 to make across-the-board cuts to City services and expenditures of $122,000 to make up for a projected deficit in the General Fund budget for the current fiscal year, 08-09.

Due to lower revenues from property taxes, sales taxes, property-transfer taxes, and earnings on investments, a projected surplus of $4,625 became a deficit of $106,725. A Council budget subcommittee recommended approximately 30 cuts to most City departments and activities, which the Council approved. For details, see the First Quarter Fiscal Year 08-09 Financial Statements and Projection.

The Council did not discuss any alternatives to the budget subcommittee's recommendation, although some comments from the public suggested at least postponing the $600,000 waterfront-visioning contract. However, that budget item remained untouched.

Neither Council nor staff mentioned the June 2008 projection of a $216,000 deficit for the next fiscal year beginning July 1, 2009. Prior to this date, staff must propose —  and the Council must approve — modifications to expenditures to balance the 09-10 budget.

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21-Apr-08: Council approves $590,000 waterfront visioning contract with Fern Tiger

At its 21-April-08 meeting, Albany Council voted (Yes: Lieber, Atkinson, Wile; No: Javandel, Okawachi) to approve the recommendation of the Waterfront Committee and spend an estimated $590,000 on a waterfront visioning contract with Fern Tiger Associates (FTA). Of the $590,000, approximately $300,000 was already put aside in an earlier budget. However, the remainder of $290,000 has not been identified. It was "hoped" that the city-hall renovations might come in under budget so that some of those monies could be used. Note that the total is still only an estimate and may be exceeded.  A number of speakers who generally approved the visioning process still considered the cost excessive.

According to the Waterfront Committee wishes, FTA will consider only "visions" for the waterfront that assume that the Golden Gate Fields (GGF) racetrack goes away. However, Robert Hartman, manager at Golden Gate Fields, noted that the number of race days at the track will almost double in the 08/09 racing season, making the track more profitable than it already is. He reiterated the company line that the racetrack is not going away.

The visioning process, and associated budget, provided by FTA can be found on the Waterfront Visioning Process page of the City's website.

Phase I of the process calls for extensive interviews (50-60) with "stakeholders" in the process, plus a city-wide survey to gather visions from a range of Albany residents. However, it is not clear at this stage what percentage of the GGF property would be available for parkland, because some portion of the property must be devoted to commercial development of some kind in order to finance the entire purchase and development. Early guesstimates for the purchase alone — without the substantial development costs — came to $100 million; so the percentage of the property needed for development to offset this and all other costs could potentially be quite large.  Of the $590,000 budget, only $52,000 (mid-point) is available for working with consultants and sub-contractors in order to gather a wide range of economic and environmental analyses.

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5-Mar-08: Waterfront Committee chooses Fern Tiger Associates to prepare work program

At its 5-Mar-08 meeting, the Waterfront Committee chose the Oakland-based consulting firm, Fern Tiger Associates, to prepare a work program and budget for the "grounded visioning" for the waterfront.  Fern Tiger will work with the committee and council staff to prepare the program, which will then go to the Council for approval.

The company's principal, Fern Tiger, said she recognized that the waterfront has been a divisive issue for many years, and that the challenge was to "once and for all create a process that can work, that is meaningful, and that leads to a conclusion that everybody wants."

The vote was 5-2 for Fern Tiger, with Clay Larson and Francesco Papalia preferring either of the other two consultants, Design, Community, and Environment (DCE) and RRM Design Group (RRM), who were also short-listed and made presentations to the committee.

Clay Larson said he questioned whether Fern Tiger had the technical expertise needed: "The two other firms are experts at land-use planning, at taking ideas and giving form to those ideas, and telling people what it's going to look like in terms of actual development. It's not clear to me that Fern Tiger has the land-use planning expertise.  Their reputation is for having the skills for taking divisive situations and getting consensus; so that's good. But I think they will need to get some assistance in terms of typical land-use planning concerns." Papalia agreed with these comments.

The majority chose Fern Tiger based largely on their work in Maui, where they got heavy community involvement in a visioning process, and this in a county with the lowest community involvement in Hawaii, which has the lowest community involvement of all the states.  See their website for details on this and other projects.

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24-Jan-08:Waterfront Committee: Latest Appointments

With the appointment of two new members, the makup of the Waterfront Committee is now as follows:

  • Brian Parker (Chair): Nominated by Wile. Treasurer of CAS. Election campaign manager for Marge Atkinson (the Co-Chair of CAS) and Joanne Wile.
  • Bill Dann: Nominated by Lieber. Co-Chair of CAS.
  • Kathy Diehl: At large member.
  • Steve Granholm: Nominated by Atkinson. Board of Directors of CESP.
  • Clay Larson: Nominated by Okawachi.
  • Francesco Papalia: Nominated by Javandel
  • Eddy So: At large member.

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6-Nov-07: Council Ignores Final Waterfront Report from Consultant, Approves Preliminary "Vision" program

The Council ignored the Final report from the planning consultant, Neuwirth & Associates, and approved the recommendation of the Waterfront Committee to go with Scenario #3 from the Preliminary report, "A Grounded Visioning Program for the Waterfront," with an estimated cost of $500,000 and a timeframe of 18 months.

Neuwirth calls it a "grounded vision" by virtue of being "grounded in resource analysis and administrative realities." It would be based on an intensive public participation and educational process. The community would be exposed to successful waterfronts elsewhere through presentations and discussions. The outcome would be a vision of the waterfront with specific goals and objectives for future land-use changes.

However, the Preliminary report also states that the process will "simply become another expensive and futile exercise" if Magna Entertainment is not fully committed to the process. This is unlikely, since Mayor Lieber announced at an earlier Council meeting that he would oppose any development on the waterfront while the racetrack is in existence. In addition, the Sierra Club, CESP, and CAS have made it very clear from their comments and proposals that they want and expect the racetrack to go. Since Magna has stated repeatedly that the racetrack is here to stay, the likelihood of Magna engaging in the process is virtually nil.

Thus, the position of the AWC is that it is pointless to spend taxpayer money on a "visioning" that will produce a report that will simply sit on a shelf, just like a number of earlier visionings that similarly ignored the reality that someone else owns the property.

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13-Sept-07: Magna Entertainment working on a proposal to improve profitability of GGF

In a conference call with investors, Frank Stronach, who holds the controlling interest in Magna, noted that the rate of return on the GGF property was simply not in line with the size of the property. He promised investors that he was "working on that, and hopefully within half a year we will have a very good answer on that one." This means that Magna is working on a proposal to improve the profitability of Golden Gate Fields, exactly how we don't know. We should expect some kind of announcement by early Summer '08. This proposal may not be to the advantage of Albany.

The AWC is concerned that the Council majority, along with the outside interest groups Sierra Club and CESP, may have created such a hostile us-versus-them environment, that Magna sees no advantage in talking with the City. Thus, the City appears to have no influence at this time on Magna.

Contrast this with the Mayor of Berkeley who, according to The Journal of 9-Nov-07, "realizes that Golden Gate Fields is an important corporate neighbor, and he wants to work with it where he can." Since part of Magna's property (the horse barns) are in Berkeley, and that area is zoned commercial, Albany runs the danger of seeing the horse barns transferred to the Albany waterfront, while the Berkeley portion is developed. Thus, Albany could see all the disadvantages and none of the advantages of waterfront development.

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1-Sept-07: City Council awaits draft "Planning Work Program"

The City is awaiting a draft "Planning Work Program" from Donald Neuwirth, the Project Manager.  It is anticipated that the Planning Work Program will include a budget, scope of work, plans for community meetings, and an estimated timetable. This draft will go to the City Council for review, some time in September.

Subject to Council approval, the planning consultants who responded to the City’s initial Request for Qualifications will then be contacted and asked to bid on the overall waterfront-planning project, based on the details provided in the Work Program.

You can read about these planning consultants, the types of projects they have worked on, and get some ideas of the methodologies they use, on the City of Albany website, under "Response to Request for Qualifications from Consultants."

When a consultant is selected, and the actual planning process begins, updates and information will appear on our City Planning page.  Information prior to the actual start of the process, and general waterfront news, will continue to appear on this "News Update" page.

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23-Jun-07: AWC Presents Recommendations to Waterfront Planning Project Manager

At a public meeting on 23-Jun-07 in the Edith Stone room of the Albany Community Center with Donald Neuwirth, the Project Manager who is preparing a draft "Planning Work Program" for the City’s waterfront planning process, AWC President Howard McNenny presented the following recommendations concerning the Scope of Work for the proposed City-run Waterfront Planning Process:

Recommendations for Key Issues and Principles for the proposed Waterfront Planning Process

June 22, 2007

In response to the City of Albany’s request for input from local organizations, the Albany Waterfront Coalition is pleased to offer the following suggested points to consider and to incorporate into the final Scope of Work for the proposed Waterfront Planning Process:

  1. The Planning Area (in terms of developing alternate designs) should generally include, and be limited to, all privately held lands west of the I-80 freeway and within the city limits of Albany (The Albany portion of Golden Gate Fields).   However, site circulation and Bay Trail design will inevitably require some suggestions related to land within the Berkeley city limits, and one or more planning alternatives may have to make assumptions with respect to the Berkeley lands, if those plans assume that the race track closes before development can begin.
  2. The planning process should also take into account current development plans for all publicly held lands west of the freeway, including the Bulb, the Neck, and the Plateau.  Although these areas are not within the jurisdictional control of the City, it is important to be aware of current planning by other agencies for these lands.
  3. Requests should be made of the City of Berkeley as to what current plans they have for lands within their jurisdiction that could have an impact on Albany’s planning, and this information should also be included as context for our planning effort.
  4. A special effort should be made to analyze potential physical linkages between any development proposed on the Waterfront and the commercial portions of Albany and possibly Berkeley.  (This will likely involve the participation of a transportation consultant on the planning team.)
  5. A minimum of 4-5 development options should be analyzed in the course of the planning process, and should include (1) the status quo, (2) the vision circulated by CESP and the “Shoreline Team” in the last election, and (3) whatever plan the property owner wishes to have considered.  A fourth and possibly fifth planning option would be whatever might be created as a result of design workshops in which the planning consultant would work with community participants.
  6. At least one scheme, and preferably more than one, should be based on development that complements the existing racetrack.  This is the only way that development can be phased, in the event the track were ever to close down, and insure a continuous stream of revenue to the city and the schools.
  7. It is vitally important that the range of options to be considered not be limited only to “revenue-neutral” options (meaning options that at least produce revenue to the city and schools now generated by the track, adjusted for inflation).  At least one, and preferably more than one, should be an option that enhances revenue to the city and to the schools.
  8. All development options should be objectively analyzed in equal depth, and no option should be considered the “favorite”, or “preferred” option at this stage.  The final determination as to what development plan should be carried to the next step inevitably rests with the landowner, and ultimately is subject to ratification of the electorate under Measure C.
  9. It should be made clear to the planning consultant that there are some principles that can be agreed upon by virtually all parties, and should be included in all alternative plans.  These principles include the continuation of the Bay Trail, protection of wetlands, no casino, and (to the maximum extent possible) environmentally sustainable design features and planning.
  10. The planning consultant should include in his proposal the contacting of all public agencies having jurisdiction over this property or portions of this property, including BCDC, the Army Corps of Engineers, California Fish and Game, Regional Clean Water Board, etc.  Results of this contact should be part of the final report, and should include opinions as to the feasibility of obtaining approval of the various aspects of each of the plans.  A complete list of permits that are likely to be required should be part of the analysis of each plan.
  11. The California Department of Parks and Recreation should also be contacted regarding their desire and ability to participate in any aspect of the proposed plans, including any financial assistance in planning, land acquisition, construction, and operation of the park components.  A discussion of this agency’s plans for the Bulb should also be part of the study, including projected timing of any improvements.  Similar contact with East Bay Regional Parks should also be part of the study.
  12. All components of each plan must be analyzed in terms of development costs, including proposed public parks, open space, public facilities, etc.  Financial analysis for each plan must include such components, and source of funding identified.
  13. Potential sources of revenue (agencies, foundations, individuals, etc.) for any aspect of a planning alternative that cannot be self-funded by development should be identified, along with professional opinions as to the likelihood of such funding, and potential amounts that might be expected.
  14. To the extent that any of the plans require a change of existing zoning, and particularly if any of the plans requires or implies a down zoning or creation of “no-build” zones, a legal opinion of the feasibility of doing so, and any potential liability to the City, should be included in the planning analysis.  The City Attorney may be considered as the source for such legal opinion.
  15. All options should be analyzed for their impact on city finances, and also for their impact, if any, upon existing city businesses.  This will require the participation of a well-qualified economic consultant.  A matrix showing the relative impacts of each scheme for side-by-side comparison will be particularly helpful.
  16. All options should also be analyzed in terms of their internal economic feasibility--that is, whether each of the plans being considered makes economic sense for a potential developer, considering the likely cost of the land, the time factor in obtaining permits, the likely cost of construction, and the projected return on investment.  For this, a well-qualified development and marketing consultant will presumably be required.
  17. A traffic study should be included in the analysis of the planning options.  This will require the participation of a traffic consultant.
  18. A geologic and seismic risk analysis should be included as part of the study, which will address the feasibility and relative cost of building on different portions of the waterfront property, and the general limitations of construction on landfill and marsh areas versus non-landfill areas.
In addition to the issues addressed above, the Albany Waterfront Coalition wishes to offer our strong opinion as to the type of “ground rules” for citizen participation that would be appropriate for the planning process, in order to insure a constructive process. Discussion should best be confined to what a person wants (or does not want) and why.  Ground rules should prohibit groundless characterizations of other’s beliefs.  Factual misstatements, when they occur, should be noted and corrected.

In furtherance of citizen education, we suggest creation of an “information package” about the waterfront so that those participating are better informed.  (Currently, there is a lack of general understanding of basic facts of geography, land ownership, land use requirements, existing improvements, revenue types and amounts, etc.)  For public meetings we suggest a package with a virtual tour of the waterfront, and key points from the City’s waterfront planning report.  The package could be presented in a session that immediately precedes all public meetings to obtain input.

Finally, we suggest that it may be useful to obtain the broadest possible range of opinions by the use of well-designed questionnaires mailed to random households.  Questions should be non-leading and objective, and designed to elicit honest opinions of what changes people would like to see on the waterfront.  Our observation is that the highly motivated individuals that have the time or make the time to attend meetings tend to represent limited viewpoints, and that the opinions of those whose active lives preclude attending City meetings are also important.

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21-May-07: City Hires Project Manager To Prepare Work Program For Waterfront Planning The City Administrator, Beth Pollard, has chosen Donald Neuwirth of Neuwirth & Associates, San Francisco, to serve as Project Manager in preparing a draft "Planning Work Program" for the City’s waterfront planning process. The City is currently finalizing details of Mr. Neuwirth's contract. It is anticipated that Mr. Neuwirth will provide 100 hours of consulting for this project, over approximately three months, at a cost to the City of $15,000.

It is anticipated that the Planning Work Program will include a budget, scope of work, plan for community meetings, and an estimated timetable. The draft will then go to the City Council for review. Subject to Council approval, the planning consultants who responded to the City’s Request for Qualifications will be contacted and asked to bid on the overall waterfront-planning project, based on the details provided in the Work Program.

Mr Neuwirth was the Planning Manager for the EastShore State Park planning process; and he also worked with the City of Albany on the planning of the sports fields at Gilman Street.

At the Waterfront Planning Consultant Selection Group special meeting on 30-Apr-07, Mr. Neuwirth responded to questions by saying that he:

  • Wants the owners of Golden Gate Fields, Magna Entertainment, to take part in the planning process; and he believes that they will see it in their interests to engage in an open, fair planning process.
  • Has worked extensively with local governments, over 50 in all over a 40-year career. Has been involved in projects involving some development in Southern California (but not with Magna or Caruso).
  • Is aware of the divisive nature of waterfront issues in Albany, and wants to reach out and talk with all stakeholders, whether they are either organized groups or simply interested individuals.

Jeff Bond, City Planning Manager, noted that he will facilitate contacts between interested parties and Mr. Neuwirth.

Beth Pollard noted that planning will be “focused on the GGF property, at this time” with “no caveats” as to whether the race track stays or goes.

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27-Mar-07: State Parks face $1.2 BILLION Maintenance Backlog In a report issued today, the California State Parks Foundation announced that, due to lack of funds, there are almost 8,000 state-park maintenance projects that have been unfunded as far back as the early 1980's. This in spite of the $400 million approved by voters last year in Proposition 84 to improve existing parks and create new ones. In 2006, Governor Schwartzenegger had proposed $250 Million in state funds as a down-payment on the backlog, but this was reduced to only $90 Million due to state budget woes.

Park advocates in Sacramento are attempting to put together another bond measure to raise another $400 Million for park improvements. However, it is not known at this time how successful this attempt would be, nor is it clear exactly where or how the money would be spent if it were available.

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19-Mar-07: Council to lead Waterfront-Planning Process, Hiring Project Manager to define Scope of Work

Notes from the 19-Mar-07 meeting of the Albany City Council, Agenda item 7.2, "Waterfront Planning Process":

(Speakers roughly in order in which they spoke.)

David Arkin (Chair, Planning & Zoning Commission) stated that:
  • Planning & Zoning (P&Z) is the appropriate body to conduct the waterfront-planning process.
  • We should encourage the landowner to participate, but not rely on this.
  • We should study a broad range of alternatives for the waterfront.
  • There was a “perception of collusion” surrounding previous planning efforts, which was their downfall.

Brian Parker (Chair, Waterfront Committee) stated that:

  • We need a work plan (budget, scope, timetable, nature of community meetings and meetings with Magna Entertainment) in order to get realistic competitive bidding from planning consultants, who will then drive the overall, detailed waterfront-planning process.
  • We need a Project Manager to develop the work plan.
  • We should constrain the work up front: No mall, no casino, no development near the shoreline.
  • The Waterfront Committee should take the lead role in the waterfront-planning process.

Councilmember Javandel stated that:
  • P&Z should manage the waterfront-planning process.
  • Agreed that we should bring in a Project Manager to help define the work plan.
  • Since we already have a planning-consultant selection committee, we should use them to find the Project Manager.
  • The Council should not pre-judge any waterfront concepts.

Councilmember Wile stated that:
  • We should get a Project Manager to define the work plan, and then decide which agency should lead the overall waterfront-planning process.

Councilmember Atkinson stated that:
  • We should hire a Project Manager
  • Have the Project Manager work with the Waterfront Committee to define the work plan.
  • The Waterfront Committee should steer the waterfront-planning process; otherwise, there will be “too many bosses.”

Councilmember Okawachi stated that:
  • The City Charter requires that P&Z handle much of the planning process.

Mayor Lieber stated that:
  • He doesn’t believe that the horse-racing business of Magna Entertainment (owner of Golden Gate Fields) is viable. Thus, Albany needs a plan to protect tax revenues, should Golden Gate Fields leave; so that any lag time in developing a plan for new revenues would be reduced.
  • The Council should “take the central role” in directing the waterfront-planning process.
  • He opposes any development on the waterfront while Golden Gate Fields continues horse racing.
  • He supports the hiring of a Project Manager (part-time) to develop the work plan.
  • He wants to place a hold on the planning-consultant selection process until we have developed the work plan.
  • He wants the Waterfront Committee to be the lead agency of the work-plan phase.
  • Council needs to give clear direction. This should not be an open process for every possible plan, because it’s about what the majority wants, since we can’t please everyone.
  • He supports the overall goal of maximizing open space on the waterfront.
  • We need to pursue state bonds to be ready to aquire the GGF property, should it become available.

Motion: That the City Administrator, in consultation with the waterfront-consultant selection committee, be instructed to hire a Project Manager to define the work plan. This Project Manager would work with both P&Z and the WC on this process. The work plan would then go to Council for review. Passed: 5-0. Motion: That the Council be the lead agency for the waterfront-planning process. Passed 3-2 (Yea: Lieber, Atkinson, Wile; Nay: Okawachi, Javandel)

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5-Mar-07: Magna Entertainment Announces New CEO, plus Year-End Financials

  • New CEO: Magna Entertainment Corp (MEC), a Delaware corporation, is the owner of Golden Gate Fields racetrack. The corporation announced that it has appointed Michael Neuman as Chief Executive Officer of the Company.

    Mr. Neuman succeeds Frank Stronach. For several months, Mr. Neuman had been an advisor to Mr. Stronach on MEC's strategic and operational priorities. Mr. Neuman's business career includes leadership of companies in Canada, the US, and Europe in telecommunications, internet, broadcasting, consumer products and services, and business-to-business environments.

    Mr. Neuman was most recently President and COO of EchoStar, which operates DISH Network in the US. Before EchoStar, Mr. Neuman was President of Bell Mobility, a wireless telecommunications operator in Canada, where he led that company through a period of significant growth in revenue and profit.

  • Year-End Financials: For the year ending 31-Dec-06, the Company had a net loss of $87 million, on revenues of $702 million. This is compared to a loss of $105 million on revenues of $604 million in 2005. Revenues increased in 2006 by 16%. A stated goal of the company is to reduce debt through the sale of "non-core" (non-racing-related) properties.

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1-Mar-07: City Waterfront Committee meeting.

Notes from the 1-Mar-07 meeting of the City of Albany Waterfront Committee:

  • Waterfront Planning: Waterfront Committee (WC) member Bill Dann noted that the committee voted on 1-Feb-07 to ask the Council to replace the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) with the WC as the lead group for the City's waterfront-planning process. However, the P&Z Commission voted — unanimously — to retain its lead role at its last meeting.

    Since a majority of the WC members are on record as favoring "Open space at the waterfront," some Albany residents fear that the WC may unduly influence and restrict any "visioning" or planning that takes place.

    The request by the WC to replace P&Z in the lead planning role is on the Council agenda for March 19.

  • Interim Bay Trail: The possibility of an Interim Bay Trail throught the Golden Gate Field's parking lot is now almost nil, after termination of the condition set in a license agreement between Magna Corp. (property owner) and the Park District. Magna's condition to license a trail was to allow some development on its waterfront parking lot; when their developer withdrew due to opposition in July 2006, the license term could not be met.

    About $100,000 of public funds has been spent for planning an interim trail.

  • Burrowing Owls: City Staff reported that 8 acres (almost 50%) of the Plateau will soon be fenced off with wire mesh to provide a protected habitat for burrowing owls. The City of Berkeley, a partner in this venture, will be surveying the site next week.

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25-Feb-07: Golden Gate Fields to Spend $8 Million on New Track Surface

In order to decrease the incidence of injury, California's state racing board has mandated that all race tracks install synthetic surfaces. Golden Gate Fields plans to do so later this year, at an estimated cost of $8 million.

Bay Meadows, which is earmarked for commercial development, will not upgrade its track at this time.

There are a number of systems available. They are all about 80% sand; the remainder is a mixture of fiber, rubber, and wax. There is a complex supporting substructure and drainage system underneath, which ensures that the track remains level and that water runs through it.

Golden Gate Fields chose the "Tapeta Footings" system, designed by horse trainer Michael Dickinson, because of its ability to handle long periods of rain.

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11-Jan-07: Waterfront Committee: New Appointments

With the appointment of new members to this committee by the incoming City Council, the makup of the Waterfront Committee is now as follows:

  • Brian Parker (Chair): Nominated by Wile. Treasurer of CAS. Election campaign manager for Marge Atkinson (the Co-Chair of CAS) and Joanne Wile.
  • Bill Dann: Nominated by Lieber. Co-Chair of CAS.
  • Kathy Diehl: At large member.
  • Steve Granholm: Nominated by Atkinson. Board of Directors of CESP.
  • Jeri Holan: Nominated by Okawachi.
  • Eddy So: At large member.

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11-Dec-06: Sierra-Club Candidates Now Control City Council

The two candidates backed by the Sierra Club, Marge Atkinson and Joanne Wile, were elected to the City Council in the November 2006 election. They took the oath of office at the 11-Dec-06 Council meeting. Along with Robert Lieber, they form a new "Save Our Shoreline" 3-2 majority on the council.

In one of their first actions, the new majority overrode an established Albany tradition and voted against then-vice-mayor Farid Javandel from becoming mayor, voting instead for Councilmember Robert Lieber. In addition, they also voted for Councilmember Atkinson to become the new vice-mayor, despite the fact that she had no experience on the Council.

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18-Oct-06: Eight Planning and Design Consulting Groups submit Qualifications to Lead Waterfront Visioning

Responding to requests from the Planning and Zoning Commission, eight consulting groups submitted their qualifications to lead the City's waterfront visioning process. Most of them claim prior experience in bringing together disparate community opinions to form a united vision that everyone could get behind. Several of the groups are local and some are international, with local offices. You can read their detailed qualifications on the City's Waterfront Planning webpage.

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1-Aug-06: Judge Throws Out CAS Initiative

Judge Winifred Smith, Alameda County Superior Court, has prevented the CAS Initiative from appearing on the November ballot. She ruled that the Initiative proponents did not comply with California state election laws.

It was unclear whether CAS would appeal the 1-Aug-06 ruling, but Albany City Attorney Robert Zweben said that it is unlikely that the ruling would be reversed.

According to The Journal, 4-Aug-06, Mr Zweben also noted that “the city would have become embroiled in expensive and time-consuming litigation had the Initiative passed.”

Howard McNenny, president of the Albany Waterfront Coalition and an architect, noted that, “This initiative did not meet AWC goals dealing with environmental and funding concerns, as described on our website. This ruling will now allow the city to re-group and put together a planning process that will include a broader range of input, including that of the landowner, as opposed to a process dominated by a small group of special interests.”

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24-July-06: Council to proceed with City-directed Waterfront Planning

At the 24-July-06 meeting, the Albany City Council adopted (with amendments) Resolution #06-50, Endorsing and Directing Staff to proceed with a City-directed Waterfront Planning Process.

According to the Staff Report, the goal of the process “would include evaluating and identifying desired alternatives [at the waterfront] that can realistically be implemented.”

Initial cost to the City would be approximately $300,000 to fund preliminary studies and community workshops. However, a full-scale planning process, including a CEQA analysis, would require the City to provide substantial additional funds, perhaps on the order of $1 million.

The Staff Report also noted that “if the [CAS] Initiative passes, there will be significant questions as to how to proceed since the Initiative planning process is not an open, all-encompassing waterfront planning process.”

Speakers at the meeting were roughly evenly divided on the wisdom of the Council adopting the resolution.

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17-July-06: Caruso Affiliated withdraws Waterfront Development Proposal

At the 17-July-06 meeting, the Albany City Council failed to adopt Resolution #06-46, a Proposal to process a development application by Caruso Affiliated that would lead to a completed final EIR report. Council member Jewel Okawachi could not find a seconder for the resolution.

Afterwards, Caruso Affiliated, the developer, announced that it would not proceed to fund such an expensive process without assurance that it would not be abandoned mid-way. The company simply sought an assurance that the EIR would be completed. It did not ask that the Council endorse the EIR, simply that the completed EIR would be presented to them.