I support this project. I support it because of the revenue and vitality it will bring to this part of Albany.
I am very disappointed by the news of Whole Foods pulling out, however
It looks like Whole Foods is not going to be the anchor retail tenant. For those many others also expecting a Whole Foods, I understand the disappointment. However UC also stated that Whole Foods would provide graduate students in UC Village a place to shop, which was always a stretch.
UC is confirming its support ("undiminished commitment") for the project. UC says "We feel very optimistic about the extent to which other partners will be interested." The project is not dead. I love many of the ideas that I've heard for other tenants. This is an opportunity to find a tenant that can provide goods the residents of the Village can more readily afford as well as generate revenue to support student housing and the City.
I'm following this project closely, and I have followed it closely for the 4-5 years since the project was first proposed. I am very interested in the economic and other benefits this project will bring the city. It is projected to increase the City's revenue by $450 thousand gross, and $200,000 net (which accounts for the increased cost of services, such as police and fire, due to the project). For comparison the City's total revenue for 2011 was about $27 million (http://www.albanyca.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=19230).
The above refers to just the direct revenue increase. It is likely there will be indirect revenue increases as well due to increased business activity along San Pablo Avenue in the vicinity of the project. In addition, the City negotiated with UC for it to provide Little League fields in perpetuity as part of the project. This would be the first time there is a long term arrangement regarding the fields, which exist currently on a year-to-year basis at the grace of UC.
However, I'm concerned the city has not done enough to make sure UC is doing everything it can to include good environmental sustainability features. In literally the last three minutes before the project was approved at 1 am, some of the environmental requirements that had existed for three years were weakened, or perhaps even eliminated, without any opportunity for public question or comment.
As a result UC may get out of installing renewable energy facilities, such as solar photovoltaic systems, and it may get out of making sure that the project has reasonable internal and external bicycle access. These provisions allowed the project to conform to the city's Climate Action Plan (CAP) and reach its CAP goals. We must ensure that we get a project that is good for Albany in every way possible.
I am on the governing body of two organizations, Albany Strollers & Rollers and Carbon Neutral Albany. The organizations were satisfied about the guarantees in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) going into that City Council meeting. Following the vote the organizations sought further negotiation with the City, but the City did not return to the negotiating table in a timely manner (there is only a 30-day period in which to contest the EIR). Consequently the organizations regretfully filed a law suit since this was the only way to continue to seek negotiations regarding the last minute changes. The goal of the law suit is not to stop the project.
Since the law suit was filed, the City and UC have returned to the negotiating table. Progress is being made and it appears a settlement can be reached soon without the law suit going to a full trial. The organizations do not wish to delay this project any more than is necessary to reach a settlement.
Note: There is another lawsuit filed and 2 referenda that have been filed. At this time I do not support these efforts. The lawsuit appears to seek to stop the project. The referenda will likely at least cause a great delay in the project, if not stop it completely.