By Paul Kamen
Update, April 2: This was indeed an April Fools’ Day story. We hope you enjoyed!
Original post, April 1: In an early morning press conference hosted jointly by the Berkeley and Albany city councils, it was announced Friday the city of Albany is on track to become Berkeley’s ninth council district.
“Albany has always been thought of as the northern suburb of Berkeley,” explained Albany Rotary Chamber Chair and U.C. Professor of Geosociology Aileen Wright. “The two cities have common historical roots: If not for a misunderstanding about garbage disposal in 1909, Albany would never have been incorporated as a separate town. In fact, Albany’s original name was Ocean View, same as the Ocean View that became part of Berkeley. Culturally, the two cities have become more-or-less indistinguishable.”
“I’m tired of having to explain to people from all over the U.S. that I have nothing to do with that city in upstate New York,” complained Mayor Pete Maass of Albany. “From now on, I’ll be a Berkeley politico, and everyone the world over knows exactly what that means.”
“More to the point,” added Professor Wright, “We will finally be able to pass off responsibility for public health, housing, waterfront planning and homeless services to the folks in downtown Berkeley. Besides, Berkeley has a much nicer City Hall. That thing on Buchanan Street looks like it belongs in a strip mall.”
Other upcoming changes were summarized by a brochure that was passed out at the meeting, explaining the various benefits of the consolidation: Berkeley will have a bowling alley once again. And pick up some great bars. And former Albanians will now, finally, live in a town that has a Whole Foods. Albany schools will be consolidated into the Berkeley Unified School District, allowing Albany High to become the site of several high-rise condominium towers, pending expansion of the Berkeley Downtown Area Plan to several newly designated “downtown” locations in the new District 9.
The composition of the expanded Berkeley City Council will be established in November via a ranked-choice election to see which of the five Albany council members will get the District 9 seat. The other four will form a Transition Commission, along with appointees representing the Berkeley districts, to help smooth out the integration of services.
“Does this mean parking meters the full length of Solano, not just on the upper blocks?” asked one of the attendees. “Of course!” Berkeley Transportation Commission consultant Ronald Soup answered cheerfully. “By charging market rate for parking, you will always be able to find a space right in front of the store or restaurant you wish to patronize.”
Urban futurist Kay Sera, speaking on behalf of the Historical Name Preservation Society, explained that Albany Hill will be no more. The hill will revert back to its original name: “El Cerrito Hill.” However, Albany resident Oxford Komma, representing the lobbying group Citizens for Lost Causes and Pointless Pedantry, objected on the grounds that “Cerrito” and “Hill” together is a redundant construct. “It’s as bad as ‘The La Brea Tar Pits,'” he moaned. “And besides, the hill is not even in the town of El Cerrito. It’s going to be terribly confusing.”
“I could care less what city the hill is in,” shouted a person from the audience later identified as Tad Snarkee, a Berkeley resident.
“You mean, you couldn’t care less,” Mr. Komma replied.
The brochure also included a revised plan for the Albany Bulb, including a 300-berth marina utilizing the existing lagoon and jetty structures, plus a yacht club and high-rise hotel and condo towers. “We have kept this alternate plan under wraps for several years, ” said Professor Wright, “and we have a narrow window in which to approve it, before we hand the Bulb over to State Parks at great expense to taxpayers.”
Turning to more substantive issues, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates pointed out that Albany’s population is 18,539 according to the 2010 census. Currently Berkeley districts are about 14,000 each, so it will be necessary to add approximately 500 citizens to each Berkeley district while the new District 9 is trimmed by 4,000. Kriss Worthington was ready with a plan for new borders for his District 7, but several members of the mayor’s progressive majority block pointed out that a 10-member Council could lead to hopeless deadlocks, and they recommended eliminating District 7 altogether. Worthington objected, and countered that perhaps a “weak mayor” system would serve the voters better, returning the council roster to nine, one from each district, with a rotating mayor. From there the discussion devolved into an argument about who had the largest hands.
“Albany politics have always been dog-eat-dog,” sighed Albany Realtor Fresco Pappagallo. “But I think we will find that after we are assimilated into Berkeley, it will be exactly the reverse.”
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