ALBANY -- The city took the first step last week in the long process of incorporating the Albany bulb into the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park.

The City Council on June 3 voted 5-0 to authorize the mayor, vice mayor and city manager to meet with representatives of California State Parks and the East Bay Regional Park District to discuss making the bulb, a former garbage landfill that extends into the Bay, part of the state park.

The action is the next step in a process that will take years to resolve.

Larry Tong, inter-agency planning manager for EBRPD, said that the meetings will set out the next steps for transferring the land. Albany is responsible for cleaning up the site before turning it over to the park.

Tong said issues that need to be addressed include the homeless population currently residing on the bulb. The city has announced a plan for homeless outreach with its current ban on camping to be enforced beginning in October. Other issues include safety issues with debris, what to do about public art currently on the site, water quality issues and the ongoing controversy about dogs.

Albany currently owns the property, which was created out of landfill. Much of the bulb is concrete and rebar debris. The former dump was closed in 1984 after litigation between the city and the landfill operator. A large homeless population that took up residence on the property in the 1990s was removed by the city, but a new population has settled there in recent years. A colony of artists also has used the debris on the site to create works of art that dot the site.

The bulb is separate from Albany Beach, which is already part of the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park. Plans for improvements on the beach have been working their way through the regional park district.

The city originally signed a 66-year lease agreement with the state parks in 1985 that has never been executed.

Proposals for a shoreline park around the Bay date back to the 1990s. In 2002, a revision of the general plan for the Eastshore State Park was released to the public. It included the bulb as part of the park.

The bulb is to be a "conservation area" in the park, a designation that is intended to preserve natural habitats while also allowing some public access.

The plan is available on the district's website, ebparks.org.

The general plan sets out several objectives for the bulb. They include protecting habitat and removing non-native plant species, removing safety hazards (including unstable piles of debris, unsafe structures and protruding rebar) while minimizing the consequences of removal on wildlife, prohibiting vehicle access beyond the roundabout on Buchanan Street, maintaining an integrated trail system, creating a vista point/seating area at the west end of the bulb and reviewing the "practice and products associated with unauthorized artistic expression" on the bulb before removing them.

In English, that last point means that every piece of art on the property will be reviewed before removal.

The EBRPD manages the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park under a contract with the state. The original five-year contract was recently extended to 30 years. The land for the park extends 8.5 miles along the East Bay shoreline from the Bay Bridge to Richmond.

The city, EBRPD and California State Parks will all have to agree to transfer the land to the park.

---