Albany City Council to vote on Gill Tract zoning

Vote could determine whether or not land is used for commercial use

Linh Phung/Staff

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The Albany City Council will convene Monday to address upcoming commercial developments that may take place on UC-owned land in the city.

Following months of controversy over the land known as the Gill Tract, the City Council meeting will address the future of the development project on a portion of the land not used by UC Berkeley researchers. The University Village Mixed Use Project  will include the land surrounding the San Pablo Avenue and Monroe Street intersection, with parcels to the north and south. The project includes the creation of a senior housing complex and mixed retail center in the north parcel of land and a Whole Foods Market in the one to the south.

“We’re putting in place some of the policies and measures that planning and zoning will deal with administratively,” said Councilmember Peggy Thomsen. “We’re looking at re-zoning the property, adopting the overlay district and agreeing to give the university some concessions in return for some concessions from the university.”

Albany Planning and Zoning Commission has recommended that the council approve certification of the Environmental Impact Report, zoning changes, planned unit development and the development agreement.

“The City Council has been talking to us about this, and they’ve given us the direction to prepare all of the documents,” said Albany Planning and Building Manager Jeff Bond. “If the council turns it down, then the project will not be able to go forward or the university will have to redesign it.”

Members of Occupy the Farm, who established an encampment on the land in late April, say they do not believe that the meeting will lead to a fair outcome for the community.

“(The city and UC) have given no indication they’re going to make good on promises to have a community, collaborative process on what’s happening there,” said Occupy the Farm spokesperson and UC Berkeley alumna Stefanie Rawlings.

The Occupy the Farm movement began on April 22 when members of the local community and Occupy movement broke into part of the Gill Tract to show that the land should be used for public good as opposed to what protesters called corporate expansion. Their encampment was raided by police on May 14, though a civil suit initiated by the UC system against a handful of protesters continued for several weeks after until it was dropped by the university in June.

Although the city of Albany canceled the harvest, members of Occupy the Farm showed up at the Gill Tract on Saturday morning and broke in to weed and harvest some of the crops they had planted during the occupation.

Despite the controversy, council members still see development as an opportunity for positive improvement.

“This is going to bring revenue into our city, and it’s going to provide for seniors,” Thomsen said. “What we need to do is take care of all of our community.”

Assistant news editor Christopher Yee contributed to this report.