2030 soon? Depends who you ask. Through the buzz of the Albany
2030 visioning forums I’ve heard people say that it’s both
too close and too far to be focusing on.
need something we can act on now,” say those who think it’s
too distant, too pie in the sky.
about planning for the next generations?” say those who think
it’s too close. Shouldn’t we be planning for some of the massive
changes to come from climate change and peak oil, things that
will be affecting our grandchildren but may not have fully
hit in 20 years?
In journalism we say that if you’ve pissed two opposing sides
off equally, you probably did a good job, so I don’t consider
this divergence to be very problematic, especially because
it’s arbitrary. There’s nothing special about 2030. Presuming
it’s a good plan, implementation of Albany’s comprehensive
plan will start immediately (unless there’s a delay where
we have to put people who want to implement it in power) and
its impact will likely carry on for longer than 20 years.
What 2030 is, beside a branding tool, is something concrete
to hang our hat on when we try to look up from our shoes and
next week’s agenda and generate a vision for our city that
we can all bend our planning toward, rather than cobbling
together a piecemeal set of responses to a grab-bag of complaints.
I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed talking with some
fellow Albanians at last Saturday’s 2030 planning forum and
doing just that.
It’s hard. I heard reports from some of the other meetings
that the time allotted to discuss vision quickly slipped into
interim steps. “Have a functional anti-gang program in place”?
I mean, yes, we need that, but is that a top-ten feature of
the Albany you want to live in in 20 years? I know some of
us are impatient for action, but dreaming small cuts off possibilities
before they are even considered. Our reach must exceed our
But I must say that though I think this is a danger, that
I was far more heartened than frustrated by the experience.
I saw some incredible spirit coming up from a group of people
who not only cared about their city, but really, truly liked
it and believed in it. I have often been known to say
that it feels like the city has a self-esteem problem, so
the enthusiasm, optimism, and meeting of the minds I heard
on Saturday about what we liked about Albany and envisioned
for Albany was powerful, welcome, and somewhat unprecedented.
(Our discussions about the top challenges/opportunities were
important too, but they get so much more air time in general.)
We talked about loving Albany’s size—large enough to have
truly urban benefits, culture, walkability, public transit;
small enough to not be overwhelming and offer quick access
to outside green space that comes with smaller scale. We talked
a lot about how much we like the people here, and the pervading
friendly lack of pretentiousness. We talked about location—in
a great capital region, and at a convenient crossroads of
a larger region. We talked about affordability without compromised
livability and how the housing bubble—and bust—mostly passed
us by. We talked about our wonderful local businesses and
public spaces like libraries and parks and our diverse (along
just about any of the lines you could mean that) population.
And the top vision that the Saturday group voted on at the
end encompassed many of these ideas—we envisioned an Albany
for the people (and more broadly the mix of people) who live
here now (i.e. not suddenly shifted for the richer/poorer,
etc.) but where everyone in the city is living in a “neighborhood
of choice,” a safe, walkable, amenity-filled neighborhood
that is somewhere they want to be; somewhere full of opportunity
for people at every stage of life. It’s a good thing to be
able to generate a vision that is in large part about protecting
and enhancing what’s good about your city and wanting to extend
it to everyone.
Other vision elements people came up with included a vibrant
green jobs sector, access to the waterfront, being an arts
and culture center, having a progressive, enlightened school
system, a transparent, responsive government, and making better
use of our historic and natural resources. There is, of course,
plenty of room for improvement and I hope we keep these big
goals in mind when we get to specifics in phase two.
There will be a more complete accounting of these meetings
from the planning consultants who are collecting all the responses,
of course. But before then, if you have something to add and
didn’t make it to the forums, it’s not too late. You can still
host a house party and submit the collective wisdom of your
neighbors, colleagues, etc. to this phase of the process if
you do it within the next two weeks. Go to Albany2030.org
or call the city’s planning department (434-2532 ext. 35)
to find out how.