Albany commission approves plan to build Sprouts grocery store on UC-owned land

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The Albany Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved plans to build a grocery store on a tract of land owned by the University of California on Wednesday night.

Proposals to build a Sprouts Farmers Market store on the land were first made this past May. The development zone is on the plot of land east of UC Berkeley’s University Village in Albany.

UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof said part of the income from the proposed retail space will go toward revitalizing the area around San Pablo Avenue and reducing rent for low-income students living in University Village.

“What you’re seeing here is another effort by the university to look for innovative ways of providing funding to its students within the context of a dramatic decline in state funding,” Mogulof said.

Nicole Almaguer, a public information officer for Albany, said that the proposal is well supported by the community and that it is a culmination of more than five years of planning.

Yet some members of the Albany and Berkeley communities have opposed the development plan. Members of Occupy the Farm, a movement protesting the development in favor of urban farming, have occupied and farmed areas of the university-owned land in protest sporadically in the past two years.

Occupy the Farm members were present at the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting that approved the plans and expressed their disappointment that the city of Albany decided to move forward with the construction of Sprouts Farmers Market.

Lesley Haddock, an organizer of Occupy the Farm, said Albany and the university are ignoring years of community organizing in support of urban farming in favor of a commercial chain.

“The response by the community is not surprising, but we are disappointed,” Haddock said. “The city of Albany and the UC has ignored the wishes of several generations and are going forward with commercial development … it will be detrimental to providing a place to teach people how to grow food sustainably.”

Haddock said Occupy the Farm will respond to the Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision over the weekend, but she did not go into specifics about what the response entailed.

Along with the action, the activists intend to submit an appeal to the city of Albany in the next 10 days, which the City Council could hear in January.

Jose Hernandez covers campus life. Contact him at [email protected]

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that proposals to build a Sprouts Farmer Market and senior retirement home on a tract of land in Albany owned by the University of California were first made in May. In fact, only the proposal to build the Sprouts Farmer Market was pitched at that time.