CESP is currently focusing our efforts on two major segments of the East Bay shoreline: Richmond's extensive shoreline and Albany's waterfront.

In each of these projects CESP will be working with local groups and environmental organizations to preserve open space, provide access to the shoreline and create shoreline parks and trails.


Patti Garcia: GGAS Teacher Training

Richmond

Fate of Richmondís Shoreline ó General Plan

Richmond hopes to protect 5 miles of wetlands

City of Richmond General Plan Website

Land Battle Stirs Richmond

RICHMOND - A proposal to preserve a small stretch of shoreline in this East Bay city has divided the community, pitting developers and Richmond's growing Hispanic population against conservationists and the city council.

The conflict involves a privately owned parcel of largely vacant marshland on the edge of the working-class city. Earlier this year, a new draft of Richmond's general plan moved to designate the land as open space to protect wildlife and prevent degradation. The property's owners balked at the open-space plan, but it wasn't until a developer teamed up with one land holder in a proposal to build 19 soccer fields and a "Latino-oriented shopping mall" that tensions arose.  See the Full Story >>

North Richmond Shoreline

North Richmond rezoning could bring development to shoreline open space

CESP supports open space and park use for the North Richmond Shoreline which contains some of the last pockets of pristine tidal land in the East Bay.

The North Richmond shoreline, which stretches from Pt. Pinole to Wildcat Creek Marsh, contains 500 acres of tidal marshes and 800 acres of mudflats. Three creeks - Rheem, San Pablo, and Wildcat Creeks - empty into the San Pablo Bay at the shoreline. This unique ecosystem is home to many threatened and endangered species and millions of migrating birds every year. The largest eelgrass bed in the entire San Francisco Bay is just offshore; it is a breeding habitat for many species of invertebrates, waterfowl, and fish. Click HERE to download a PDF describing key North Richmond shoreline properties.

CESP advocates the creation of a Shoreline Scenic Protection Zone from the land on the bay side of the Richmond Parkway until it intersects the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. From there, the Scenic Protection Zone would be made up of the land west of the railroad tracks as far north as Point Pinole (SEE MAP ).

The creation of a parkland destination will raise the image of Richmond, improve the quality of life and raise property values. CESP wants to restore community access to a protected shoreline, which will provide much-needed recreational opportunities to residents of adjacent neighborhoods. CESP would like to see the North Richmond Shoreline transformed into one of the outstanding jewels in the Bay's necklace of shoreline parks.

Please see our Action Alert page to find out how to get involved today!

Click HEREto download a PDF of CESP’s vision for the North Richmond.

North Richmond Shoreline

Sunday, Aug 6, 2006 - Los Angeles Times ~ Saving the Marsh ~ Whitney Dotson was 5 years old when he moved into the brand-new house his father bought on Jenkins Way in Parchester Village. It was the early 1950s . . . Read the full story >>

Richmond Breuner Marsh Restoration & Access

The East Bay Regional Parks District is developing a restoration and public access project at the Breuner Marsh at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline. This is the time to see what is being proposed and to share your comments!

Key project goals are to restore historic San Francisco Bay wetlands, close a key gap in the San Francisco Bay Trail, and develop other public access facilities. An initial study, project description, and check list indicating possible environmental impacts resulting from the project are available on the EBRPD website: http://www.ebparks.org/planning#breuner.

You may submit written comments, no later than 5 pm August 12, 2011 to: Brad Olson, East Bay Regional Park District, 2950 Peralta Oaks Court, Oakland, CA 94605, or via email: bolson@ebparks.org

[pdf]

Improvements for Pt. Pinole Park

In October 2010, the East Bay Regional Park District begins Phase I of a multi-phase project to build a second entrance area and other amenities at Point Pinole. The new entrance will be near the center of the park's eastern boundary at Atlas Road, providing better access and more recreation opportunities to visitors. The main portion of the Phase I project includes constructing a bridge over the railroad tracks, setting the stage for additional phases of park improvements such as a parking lot, picnic areas, and a future interpretive center in this new location. The bridge will serve as both a vehicle and ADA compliant pedestrian bridge, which also connects to the San Francisco Bay Trail.
                                                        See the Full Story >>



North Richmond Shoreline Restoration and Public Access Project is Underway

Citizens for East Shore Parks (CESP) vision for open space and recreation on Breuner Marsh is finally becoming a reality. On June 1, field investigations for the preliminary design and EIR for the initial Breuner Marsh habitat restoration and development of public access and recreational facilities on the North Richmond shoreline began. CESP has long fought for mitigation funds to be spent in Richmond and is excited that the project to restore this jewel of the Richmond shoreline has finally begun.

The project was set in motion after the Board of Directors of the EBRPD designated much needed money in the amount of $300,000 from Measure WW Development funds. This funding increased the budget to $675,000 and will pay for the planning for the first phase of the project. The initial field investigations will provide guidelines on how to best proceed with the restoration project on the 218-acre Breuner Property.

The project will be completed over a multi-year period in order to phase in construction to minimize harm to special-status species habitats.

The first phase will include planning for restoration of tidal saltmarsh and coastal scrub habitats, along with recreation improvements involving a small staging area, new bridge over Rheem Creek, picnic area and improvements to existing shoreline trails. The recreation improvements will center on extending the San Francisco Trail from Goodrick Avenue, across the Breuner property and Giant Marsh to the Bay view Trail at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline. Additional bridges and/or boardwalks will be required to mitigate harm posed to sensitive habitat areas by any trail improvements.

The restored tidal marsh, including a transition zone which will function as future marsh with sea level rise, may be about 30 -40 acres, and the total area for restoration, including enhanced upland grasslands and coastal scrub will likely be more than 50 acres. In addition to the Clapper Rail, the fully state and federally protected Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse is known to be present and will benefit from the wetlands restoration efforts.

The proposed project is estimated to cost a total of $7,000,000, with $3,000,000 required for the first phase and another $4,000,000 to complete the project. EBRPD staff will apply for approximately $2,000,000 in grant funds from the Castro Cove Trustee Agencies and the US Fish and Wildlife Services, and additional Measure WW funds in order to design, permit and construct the project.

Newly-hired trainees from Richmond will be part of the Questa Engineering team working on this project. CESP looks forward to seeing the North Richmond Shoreline rehabilitated for wildlife and the public to enjoy.

Breuner Marsh - To Become Parkland at last!

Breuner Marsh Restoration (pdf)

The Breuner property, the cornerstone of the North Richmond Shoreline, is one of the most important expanses of undeveloped shoreline in the Bay Area. It shows the Bay as it once was: an open saltwater marsh and coastal prairie, filled with wildlife. The endangered Saltmarsh Harvest Mouse and California Clapper Rail and many other species of flora and fauna call the Marsh home.

The two-year trial involving the East Bay Regional Park District's acquisition by eminent domain of the Breuner Marsh on the North Richmond shoreline ended on March 28, 2008. The jury decided that the value of the approximately 217 acres was $6.85 million.

According to the District's appraiser, the fair market value of the land, currently zoned for open space and preservation, was $1.5 million. The property owners' attorneys argued that the city of Richmond would approve rezoning of 27 acres of the property to allow residential use, making the land worth $18 million. In reaching its verdict, the jury chose an intermediate value.

The trial took three weeks and, together with the year-long legal battle, cost the District more than $600,000 in attorneys' fees. Assistant General Manager Bob Doyle has been involved in 14 similar cases for the District and says that this case was the longest and most costly. The Park District was willing to take on this difficult and costly fight as an environmental justice effort to support the community that wanted this shoreline habitat permanently protected.

The case was complex because it covered issues involving endangered species, environmental impacts of development, and the city of Richmond's desire to maximize tax revenues. It was further complicated because the Richmond City Council actively opposed the acquisition. Park District officials indicated that when there is speculation regarding the potential rezoning of a parcel, it is more difficult to acquire land. The conflicting testimony can be confusing for a jury.

The property owners will retain approximately 20 acres of land in the property's southeastern corner, plus a floating easement to enable them to have access to the parcel. This area is currently zoned "Office/Industrial Flex," and may be proposed by the owners for development in the future. The property owners have also indicated that they plan to appeal the judgment.

On May 6, 2008, the District's Board of Directors unanimously approved funding the jury verdict, as well as interest on the verdict amount from the date of possession which amounts to an additional $700,000.

Although the end result is that acquisition of the Breuner Marsh cost more than expected, the good news is that upon payment of the verdict, the District will own the property. More than 200 acres along the North Richmond shoreline is permanently protected, public access and open space will be provided, and restoration of this priceless area is only a matter of time.

Thanks to all the East Bay citizens whose tireless efforts and unwavering support helped make this dream a reality.

To read more about the eminent domain process at Breuner Marsh click here.

Please click here for the Lower Rheem Creek concept map.

The Mouth of Breuner Marsh
Breuner Marsh in the Afternoon

Point Molate

News:  Chevron Donates Easement To East Bay Regional Park District for Bay Trail
            CESP's Pt. Molate DEIR comments

History
Point Molate is a former U.S. Naval facility that was closed in the 1990s along with the massive base closure effort of that decade. As part of closing the base, the Navy had to go through the BRAC process (Base Reuse and Closure) which required a clean up of toxics and turning over the facility to the public in the area. In 2003, the Navy turned the property over to the City of Richmond. Richmond has considered a number of uses, including open space. After many public meetings with the Blue Ribbon Committee the city adapted a plan for limited development of the old Winehouse Winery and associated buildings. Point Molate is located just north of the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge on the San Pablo Peninsula. The eastern half of Point San Pablo is owned by Chevron, which had been a supporter of open space on Point Molate, but in connection with a recent change in Chevron, has voiced concerns about any uses of Point Molate that will bring the public to Point Molate and now supports "restricted open space."

In 2004, the City of Richmond ignored the Blue Ribbon Committee plan it had adopted and signed an agreement with a consortium to develop Point Molate as a casino. However, CESP filed a lawsuit against the City of Richmond citing its failure to conduct an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prior to entering a binding agreement with the developer (Upstream) as a violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). With the support of the East Bay Regional Park District and the State of California, CESP succeeded in blocking a binding agreement between the City of Richmond and developers without an EIR. To date, the EIR has not been completed.

CESP supports open space and park use for Point Molate and recommends including it in the Eastshore State Park or in a system of shoreline parks. Our vision entails that the area be protected as a preservation and recreational area to the maximum extent possible. This includes public access to the Richmond shoreline for all citizens of Richmond. In particular, the Point Molate site should be protected and developed in accordance with the recommendations of the Reuse Plan of the Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee, as adopted by Richmond City Council in 1997. Any development in this area should be sustainable and centered around the historic winery.

CESP continues to stringently oppose the development of this site for a Casino/hotel complex or for housing as Upstream has proposed. Any development rights should be transferred to other properties in Richmond.

Point Molate Shoreline Protection Agreement

On October 19, 2010 CESP signed the Point Molate Shoreline Protection Agreement to settle the current lawsuit we filed January 2009 challenging the Pt. Molate development.

As an organization focused solely on the protection of the East Bay shoreline, our original goal was to stop the project altogether. But, over the course of the lawsuit and ensuing negotiations, major environmental protections were identified and put into place.

For 18 months, CESP representatives met with leaders in the Guidiville Tribe and Upstream developers to examine whether we had common ground for resolving our differences. We were pleased to discover a shared interest in maximizing open space and restoring native flora and fauna along the Richmond shoreline.

So, after years of litigation and rigorous negotiations, CESP, and with the support of Sierra Club and Golden Gate Audubon, has signed a settlement agreement with enormous potential to accomplish good things at the shoreline. A courtroom victory could not have provided such benefits because of the limitations of CEQA (environmental protection) lawsuits and under the federal Base Realignment and Closure (or BRAC) process there is a requirement of economic benefit from the closed Navy facility.

Robert Cheasty, CESP president said, "CESP's goal is to expand shoreline parks and open space in the East Bay. This Agreement accomplishes that in the Richmond area."

More than three fourths of the 412- acre site will be restored and protected in perpetuity.

Buildings will be placed only in areas previously used by the Navy, avoid sensitive habitat areas, and be set back from the Bay to allow for a continuous shoreline and expanded Bay Trail.

More than $48 million will become available for shoreland acquisition, habitat restoration, park creation, and recreational access, including $5 million for the Bay Trail.     See the Full Story >>

Bay Trail gains 2 more miles of shoreline

The public will have future access to nearly 2 miles of shoreline along Point Molate in Richmond that have been off-limits to pedestrians for decades.
 See the Full Story >>

Voice Your Support for Pt. Molate Open Space

The DEIS/DEIR for Point Molate Resort and Casino Project was released July 10, 2009.

Please SPEAK UP for OPEN SPACE and let the City Council know that you support:

  • Open space at Pt. Molate
  • Public access to Pt. Molate
  • Safe and Healthy outdoor recreation
  • Protection of natural habitats at Pt. Molate
  • Implementation of the San Pablo Peninsula Open Space Study
  • Development at Point Molate to be consistent with the Reuse Plan developed by the Blue Ribbon Advisory Committee.

To download or get a copy of the 3-inch thick EIR report, visit http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/index.aspx?nid=1863

See Point Molate in the News:Environmental Review Details Richmond Casino Alternatives
                                           Toll Plaza Delays Called Main Richmond Casino Impact
                                           Richmond Casino Plans
                                           Yeas Outnumber Nays at Point Molate Casino Hearing

Click here for pictures of Point Molate and Point San Pablo.

Click here for an update on the Point Molate Lawsuit.

Click here for an additional update on the Point Molate Lawsuit.

[pdf]

Improvements for Pt. Pinole Park

In October 2010, the East Bay Regional Park District begins Phase I of a multi-phase project to build a second entrance area and other amenities at Point Pinole. The new entrance will be near the center of the park's eastern boundary at Atlas Road, providing better access and more recreation opportunities to visitors. The main portion of the Phase I project includes constructing a bridge over the railroad tracks, setting the stage for additional phases of park improvements such as a parking lot, picnic areas, and a future interpretive center in this new location. The bridge will serve as both a vehicle and ADA compliant pedestrian bridge, which also connects to the San Francisco Bay Trail. The proposed project addresses the interests of local residents and, when all phases are complete, provides the access, programs, trails, and improvements envisioned by our larger community while protecting the natural values and features of the park.

Dates:

  • October-December2010: tree removal of eucalyptus, a non-native tree species, and placement of fill dirt for construction of bridge and parking areas.
  • Summer2011-Fall2012: Bridge construction, gravel parking area, and utilities added at the Atlas Bridge Road area of the park.
  • After2012(futurephases): Picnic areas, playground, interpretive center as funds become available.

Funding: Funds for Phase I are from the Park District's Measure CC and WW bonds, the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) and funds derived from the City of Richmond for bridge construction.

If you have questions about this project, please refer to the District's website www.ebparks.org/pointpinole, or contact Chief of Design and Construction Diane Althoff regarding the project at 510-544-2304 or Park Supervisor John Hitchen regarding the trail routes at 510-237-6896.


Zeneca (Cherokee)/ Campus Bay - Plans for Clean-up Continue

The Zeneca /Campus Bay properties border a 3/4 mile east-west stretch of the Bay Trail north of Pt. Isabel and south of Richmond's Marina Bay. Swiss pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and Stauffer Chemical Company manufactured hazardous chemicals at the site until 1997 when the facility was shut down. AstraZeneca failed to appropriately clean up the site and the property to this day remains one of the most toxic sites in the Bay Area. The adjacent University of California Richmond Field Station site also has confirmed metals, VOCs, PCBs, and pesticides in soil and groundwater.

Richmond is currently developing a new General Plan that will determine the future of the Zeneca site. Despite its Superfund status, the Campus Bay portion of the Zeneca site is proposed for housing in the City's General Plan process. CESP supports a General Plan option that retains the Zeneca, UC Field Station and the private lands in the Hoffman Marsh as open space until an appropriate clean up is done. Lands adjacent to Hoffman Marsh, such as Liquid Gold, should be designated as open space.

Risk assessment of the South Richmond Shoreline at the Zeneca/Cherokee and Campus Bay/UC Richmond Field Station sites continues under the direction of the state Dept. of Toxic Substances Control. (www.envirostor.dtsc.ca.gov/public)

The Richmond Southeast Shoreline Area Community Advisory Group (CAG) invites public participation at its monthly meetings, held at 6:30 pm on the 2nd Thursday each month at City Council Chambers, 440 Civic Center Plaza Basement. CESP encourages those concerned about the future of this environmentally endangered site to attend.

More Info:

Albany

Albany Shoreline

photo by Larry Tong

The 190-acre Albany waterfront is a distinct feature of the Eastshore State Park and the greater East Bay shoreline, as well as the site of a proposed Bay Trail expansion. The available options for the waterfront are now wide open, given the recent bankruptcy of Magna Entertainment Corporation, owner of the 102-acre Golden Gate Fields racetrack and parking lot, which has long divided the Eastshore State Park into two halves. A coalition of environmental groups—including CESP, Citizens for the Albany Shoreline and the Sierra Club—share a common vision of the Albany waterfront entailing mixed land use for both parkland and development, with the majority of the waterfront closest to the shoreline preserved as open space.



Golden Gate Fields Public Meeting With Developer Lawrence Berkeley National Lab Second Campus

Golden Gate Fields, 1100 Eastshore Hwy, Albany, CA 94710 (Horse Wizard Room)

September 12, 2011 / September 19, 2011 / September 26, 2011

4:00pm-7:00pm

We need YOU to come out to upcoming meetings with the developers of Golden Gate Fields (GGF) to tell them that you and the rest of the residents of Albany want them to honor the Voices to Vision results: 75% parks and up to 25% development!

The current large-scale development proposal at the GGF site on the Albany-Berkeley Shoreline allows only about 50 acres (out of 140) of the property for the shoreline park and much of that is squeezed in between the buildings and along the freeway. This would severely limit 'public' access to the parkland. The plan also calls for 300 feet of parkland along the west shore- but BCDC already guarantees 100 feet of this land.

Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) Phase one proposal calls for 500,000 square feet and then over the next decades adding another 1.5 Million. At other sites under discussion that amount of development can fit on 15-20 acres with building heights at around 4 to 5 stories maximum, some lower. The problem is that GGF is proposing extensive additional commercial development that will add to its bottom line but reduce the amount of public access to parkland.

While we are open minded about the proposal to bring LBNL's new campus to the Albany-Berkeley Shoreline, we would not support a development with only 35% parkland that ignores the wishes of the Albany community as expressed in Voices to Vision. Albany spent more than a year and $500,000 to define the community's vision of the shoreline which resulted in a plan that includes 75% of the land for park/open space and 25% for development. Please see Voices to Vision report.

IN ADDITION, written communication to the City is much encouraged:

  • Send a letter via E-mail to Mayor Javandel and all of city council (cityhall@albanyca.org) and to the city manager, Beth Pollard (bpollard@albanyca.org).
  • As well as a written letter to: Mayor Javandel and City Council and to the city manager- Beth Pollard. City of Albany 1000 San Pablo Avenue Albany, CA 94706

We have a wonderful opportunity to complete the Eastshore State Park and get the LBNL Second Campus for Albany - If the City and the developers honor YOUR Vision for the Waterfront from the Voices to Vision process!

Key issues discussed and questions to raise:

  • We must have 75% parks and only up to 25% development
  • Development should NOT be on Fleming Point
  • LBNL development can fit within the current track without expanding onto Fleming Point, the shoreline or the creek watershed.
  • Additional commercial development (over and beyond LBNL) needs to be on ONLY 8-9 acres to give Albany the needed revenue. Golden Gate Fields only generates $600,000 in tax revenues from the tax on the horse race gambling.
  • If LBNL wants to 'own' the land, it should agree to pay the $1.1 Million in property and parcel taxes for the city, schools, and library.
  • If LBNL owns the land it does not legally have to comply with Measure C or Albany's zoning laws. Insist that if LBNL comes to Albany it has to contractually agree in a development agreement to comply with Measure C and Albany's zoning laws.
  • Publicly state that any change to the waterfront zoning will go to a Measure C vote only after a full EIR is done as is legally required.


Albany Waterfront Visioning - Voices to Vision

The long-awaited Albany waterfront re-visioning process began with Phase One in May 2009 with 38 community meetings and 650 participants that concluded July 1, 2009. Voices to Vision disseminated its publication to all Albany residences in addition to having displayed a 1/1200 scale waterfront model at the community center/library. The City of Albany sponsored Voices to Vision, "a process designed to engage the Albany community in an informed dialogue about its vision for the city and its waterfront." In Phase Two 450 people took an online survey, and in January 2010 375 Albany residents attended more community forums. Non-resident forums were held January 19. On April 5, Fern Tiger & Associates presented a summary of study results City Council, followed by a public hearing. On April 19, 2010, the Albany City Council unanimously voted to accept the Voices to Vision Report and to treat it as a living planning document that reflects Albany residents' waterfront vision. Check for more info at: http://www.voicestovision.com/

Albany Hopes Community Input Will Resolve Waterfront Debate

For more than 40 years the city of Albany has been caught in a game of tug-of-war over its waterfront property. But the city hopes that a new campaign to solicit community input will break the stalemate and provide a shared vision for the community's shoreline.

More than 375 Albany residents attended the city's Community Center and Senior Center over the Jan. 9-10 weekend to participate in the last round of community meetings aimed at finding common ground in a battle over the property that has pitted environmentalists against corporate developers. The meetings were the final phase of Albany's Voices to Vision program, which was designed to help find a strategic vision for the waterfront's future.

Next month, 102 acres of land owned by the bankrupt Magna Entertainment Corporation - most of which is occupied by Golden Gate Fields and its adjacent parking lots - will be put up for auction. The city hopes these community discussion sessions will provide the next owners with a blueprint for what Albany residents want for the the shoreline property.

 See the Full Story >>

Auction News: Golden Gate Fields to go up for auction

Albany waterfront visioning begins

by Steve Granholm, CESP board member

On April 21 2008, in response to the hard work of many citizens, the Albany City Council voted to begin the Albany Waterfront Visioning Process and selected Fern Tiger Associates (FTA) to lead the effort.

For years, the future of the privately owned Golden Gate Fields at the waterfront has been one of the most contentious issues facing Albany. Recently, after the property’s owner proposed two large developments which were vigorously opposed by citizens, the City Council decided to develop a common vision for the future of the waterfront.

This vision is to be based on an intensive public participation process, and grounded in a detailed resource analysis and the administrative realities for the property. The outcome of the process will be a Waterfront Vision with specific goals and objectives for future land use changes. This Vision will be less detailed than a Specific Plan so that approval would not require an Environmental Impact Report or a Measure “C” vote.

The City will encourage the landowner to participate in this visioning process. It is timely to develop a vision for the site that has broad support from citizens. The racetrack owner, Magna Entertainment Corporation, has recently experienced serious financial setbacks due to downturns in the horse racing industry, so there may be serious interest on the part of the owner in finding alternative uses for the site.

Fern Tiger and Associates were selected, in large part, due to their demonstrated success in designing and leading public participation processes to reach consensus in divided communities. FTA will begin by interviewing a broad cross-section of involved citizens, the racetrack owner, and owners of adjacent properties. At the same time, FTA will gather data on the environmental, social, and economic aspects of development at the waterfront. They will design and facilitate a public engagement process, which may include small informal gatherings, weekend community workshops, a waterfront education program, and presentations/discussions at community meetings and public hearings. The final report will describe the “Guiding Vision” for the waterfront, and will summarize the public input and resource analysis that led to the Vision.

The hard work of concerned citizens has paid off and the community-based visioning process has begun. With your continued support, a consensus will be reached for a world class waterfront that will benefit future generations.

NOTE: newspaper fact sheet will be mailed out in May, and the group meetings will be done in June

Golden Gate Fields / Magna Entertainment Corporation

What is the future of the Albany Shoreline at the racetrack?

Magna Entertainment Corp (MEC), the owners of Golden Gate Fields (GGF) declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy last March and will auction Albany's horse racing track next February (More auction details).

As part of ongoing effort to raise funds to repay creditors, MEC got bankruptcy court approval to put Albany's GGF up for sale on Feb. 25, 2010. Bids are due Feb. 10, 2010.

This presents a fantastic opportunity for the community to have those lands (or some part of them) incorporated into the Eastshore State Park.

Magna, which owns 14 tracks in the U.S., has put up GGF, Gulfstream Park in Florida, Lone Star Park in Texas, and Baltimore's Pimlico racetrack-host of the Triple Crown's Preakness Stakes, for auction/sale to shrink the company's debt load.

The bankruptcy has been looming for years as horse racing steadily declined all over the U.S. and Magna kept piling up debt. Its downward financial spiral came this spring as MEC's investors and the investors in Magna's parent companies refused to continue bailing out the horseracing operations.

Magna's last ditch stand to save horseracing by adding shopping malls and casinos at all its racetracks failed miserably. When they tried to do this in Albany it set off a range war between the pro-developers and environmentalists resulting in the ousting of the pro-development city council.

MEC's day-to-day operations will continue uninterrupted throughout the Chapter 11 process. The racing operations may stay on even if the land is sold as it is an existing use that produces revenues and does not require massive changes on the waterfront for now. However, even if the track does not close, the unused north parking lot could be sold to the Park District and incorporated into the Eastshore State Park.

Magna's investors (including the Magna property arm M.I.D.) have announced that they want to develop the property should they gain control of it after the auction. (See, Berkeley Daily Planet, 4/1/09: Richard Brenneman)

Golden Gate Fields Auction Set for April 3

Golden Gate Fields Owner Nixes Annual Report

Fate of Golden Gate Fields Uncertain

Hearing postponed in Magna bankruptcy

Background: Golden Gate Fields is a horse racing facility with a racetrack, grandstand and parking facilities located in Albany in the middle of the Eastshore State Park. (Its horse stables are in Berkeley.) Throughout each of the changes in ownership, the property has been used as a horse-racing track since it opened in 1939, with a brief interruption during World War II. Since its heyday in the mid-1900s, the sport of horse racing has been in steady decline. Today, most tracks struggle with declining attendance and with other sporting events commanding an increasing share of the entertainment audience. Also, since much of the betting now takes place through the internet, there has been a decline in the amount of revenue the City of Albany receives, which only arrives through bets placed at the tracks.

At the end of the 1990s Magna Entertainment Corporation, a Canadian-based company bought the Golden Gate Fields Racetrack. Magna initially envisioned rejuvenating the Bay Area’s horse betting industry but Golden Gate Fields consistently fails to turn a profit. In the face of staggering losses Magna entered into an agreement with Southern California mall developer Rick Caruso to build a shopping mall in the north parking lot of Golden Gate Fields in 2005. As a result, Albany citizens work together with Citizens for East Shore Parks, Citizens for the Albany Shoreline and Albany Mayor Robert Lieber to place considerable pressure on Magna to abandon the mall plans and convert Golden Gate Fields into open space.

CESP, CAS and the Sierra Club circulated the Albany Shoreline Protection Initiative petition to block the building of the mall. The initiative called for, among other things, a 600 foot undeveloped setback from the shoreline and a moratorium on development without a public waterfront planning process. The initiative campaign succeeded in collecting more than 2,400 signatures - about a third of the Albany electorate!

With overwhelming community support for the initiative, the Albany City Council moved to place the matter on the November ballot. Magna succeeded in convincing a Superior Court to block the initiative on a technicality. However, the Albany community was unified in opposition to the Caruso mall development plan.

This community unity and action contributed to the election of two progressive candidates to the Albany City Council: Marge Atkinson and Joanne Wile, creating a progressive majority in City Council to protect the shoreline. In the face of increasing community opposition and a new City Council Caruso abandoned his mall plans in 2006. This progressive City Council prompted an independent community planning process for the waterfront to empower citizens to decide the future of the waterfront.

Private consultant Don Neuwirth drafted four alternatives for the Albany waterfront. CESP, the Sierra Club and Citizens for the Albany Shoreline (CAS) supported a Visioning Program.

The City Council recently approved a Visioning Program along the lines that CESP, CAS and the Sierra Club advanced. The Visioning Program will:

  1. First identify and obtain economic and other relevant information it feels is important for the public to make an informed decision about a community vision;
  2. Engage in an open planning process for a community vision;
  3. Put the Albany Waterfront Committee in charge of the planning process; and
  4. Make no change in zoning until the developer/landowner legally guarantees a plan to preserve the maximum amount of park and open space including Fleming Point.

This Visioning Program comes at a good time. Magna has publicly stated that it may propose a new plan for the property because it is currently losing money. CESP hopes we can create a vision that addresses the future of the property should the track close. We will be participating in the City’s future visioning program.

To view the Visioning Program of the Neuwirth report click here.

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