The Newspaper of the San Francisco Bay Chapter
JAN. - FEB. 2005
New Albany councilmembers explore prospects for city environment
On Nov. 2, Albany residents elected two of the Sierra Club's three endorsed candidates to the City Council: Robert Lieber and Farid Javandel. To find out what it might mean for the Albany environment to have these two environmentalists on the Council, we asked Tina Gerhardt, media and communications coordinator of Citizens for East Shore Parks (CESP), to interview them.
Not surprisingly, both councilmembers-elect spoke first about the waterfront. Javandel said, "I'd like to see the Bay Trail put through the Albany section of the Eastshore State Park, connecting it with the existing sections in neighboring Berkeley and Richmond. Not only is the Bay Trail good for recreation, but it also sets the tone and expectations for the waterfront. As to development at the waterfront, there's a question as to whether the racetrack is going to stay. So, for the time being I'd prefer amenities at the waterfront that will support the function of the park: restrooms, a snack bar, etc. I support facilities that solidify and encourage the use of the park first."
Similarly, Lieber opposes "development with the race track - as that would lead to more and more development, and we would lose the opportunity for a park. If Magna proposed a development in line with our vision of 15% development by the freeway, traded for open space and park, with the race track moved to Magna's new Dixon track, that would be wonderful for us all. The worst-case scenario would be that they sell to a Native American tribe to build a casino, and we would be faced with uncontrolled development. I'm very disappointed with the Richmond City Council and their decision to go ahead with the Upstream casino plan. I think they're going to end up with a massive housing development on their shoreline - or even worse, with the casino they want."
Each leader then mentioned the future of the University of California's Gill Tract. Javandel called it "an enormous agricultural opportunity. It's a tremendous learning opportunity for kids who are in such an urban environment. It's good for them to see environment, agriculture. We need to remind UC that their mission is not housing but education."
Lieber elaborated, "Although we don't have a history of having much control over what the University does, I would like the Gill Tract to be developed in a way that could be utilized by the whole area. It could include a small animal farm, like Ardenwood down near Fremont or the Little Farm in Tilden. It would be in tune with the UC mission of education. It could be a treasure. UC Berkeley also has some plans for development of storefronts along San Pablo, which do not go along with the University's mission. I'm not opposed to the plan, but we need to work closely with them to assure it is in tune with Albany's needs and doesn't adversely affect our community."
Gerhardt asked the electees about changing the configuration of Marin Avenue to provide safer access for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Lieber responded, "Last week the Albany City Council approved having Marin Avenue reduced to a single lane of traffic and re-painted with a center-turn lane. It is a one year experiment and I hope it is successful. I'm really supportive of biking and think we need to look at how we can make this a better city for both bikes and pedestrians."
Javandel added: "Creating the left-turn lane and the single lane of traffic are great improvements to provide safer access to the Eastshore State Park. These are great revisions for that particular site. In the bigger picture, too, it calms traffic. Some people have expressed concern about the reconfiguration and that it will slow traffic. But I actually find it more relaxing to drive when traffic is slow or calm."
When asked about other environmental issues they would like to address as councilmembers, Lieber pointed out, "I'm really pleased with the outgoing Albany City Council and the fact that they've approved the new zoning ordinances. The community has really come together on this issue. For example, we were able to lower the heights on buildings along San Pablo from four stories to three. Also the new codes maintain residential areas on both Adams and Kains Avenues. After many years of hard work I think we got it right."
Lieber also brought up "recycling and composting. We're still not meeting the goals that we need to meet. I'm going to explore recycling and composting through businesses. I don't think that it's going to cost the city anything to do this, and I am sure our business community would be up to the challenge."
Javandel added, "We should always look for opportunities to daylight creeks and to create parks where we can. For example, to establish the Pierce Street park would be great. It would be great even to get a long-term lease from Caltrain, who owns that swatch of land."
© 2005 San Francisco Sierra Club Yodeler
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