Sprouts Farmers Market set to open in April as part of controversial Gill Tract development

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Update 04/05/2017: This article has been updated to reflect additional information from campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof.

Sprouts Farmers Market is set to open April 26 at San Pablo Avenue as part of a controversial, yearslong development project in University Village.

Sprouts spokesperson Diego Romero said the market’s opening will bring community members access to affordable and healthy groceries. Additionally, the store intends to support the community by partaking in the Food Rescue program: All groceries that are no longer fit for sale but remain edible will be donated to local hunger relief agencies.

“Simply put, Sprouts makes healthy eating affordable,” Romero said in an email. “Our new store in Albany will feature our latest Deli Department offerings, convenient for lunch-hour and on-the-go guest looking for fresh and healthy prepared-foods.”

On Oct. 11, 2015, the Indigenous Land Access Committee, or ILAC, sent an email to UC officials, stating that the Gill Tract — university-owned land on which the market’s development took place — was traditionally and culturally affiliated with the Ohlone/Costanoan tribe. The tribe inhabited the land for more than 10,000 years, the letter said.

In the letter, ILAC requested compliance with Senate Bill 18, stating that the bill was enacted in part to encourage local governments to consider the cultural aspects of California Native Americans early in land-use planning processes. An Environmental Impact Report compiled before development of the land, however, found no archaeological or paleontological resources within the project site.

“We worked very closely with UC Berkeley, the city of Albany and the site developer to ensure responsible and sustainable development,” Romero said in an email.

According to campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof, the Gill Tract development project involved a “lengthy, multi-year public planning process” that was designed to solicit concerns, questions and ideas from the public. Mogulof added that the legal issues described in the 2015 ILAC letter were never raised during this time period.

“The University carefully reviewed the ILAC allegations when they were presented, as well as the relevant laws, and it is absolutely clear that every relevant law and regulation regarding the development of this property has been strictly complied with,” Mogulof said in an email.

Revenue from the leasing of the land will be used to subsidize rent for low-income students and to fund university-sponsored urban farming, according to Mogulof.

The opening of the market will be a culmination of several months of hard work, Romero said. In upcoming weeks, management will finish stocking nonperishable products and will add displays of fresh produce to the center of the store closer to the opening.

Wes Adrianson, a former ASUC senator who was previously involved in spreading word of the protests against the development, said he believes the development was unjustified.

“When you are privatizing public lands, it’s unacceptable, especially in a area like the (Gill) Tract,” Adrianson said. “Access to close groceries is important, but the question is, ‘Was that the only decision being made?’ ”

The Gill Tract development project was finalized in March 2014. Several demonstrations against the development took place in 2015 and 2016, but they have grown less frequent in the past year.

“There were a lot of protests a year ago, but I don’t think there are any more,” Adrianson said.

Contact Ambika Jaykrishna at ajaykris[email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @a_jaykrishna.