UC Berkeley sets midnight deadline for Occupy the Farm

Gill Tract on April 22, the day it was occupied. Photo: Tracey Taylor

UC Berkeley officials have set a deadline for tonight, Saturday May 5, for the people from the Occupy the Farm movement to reach a settlement or face eviction.

In a letter released Friday night, George Breslauer, the executive vice chancellor, and John Wilton, the vice chancellor for administration and finance, said the university has agreed to a dialogue about using some of the 15-acre Gill Tract as community garden space, but only if the protestors agree to leave first.

“If the encampment is voluntarily disbanded, we will commit to include occupation participants in a broad-based discussion about the continuation of urban farming under university supervision on a portion of the tract, as well as any future discussions about the long-term future of the property,” read the letter.

If those occupying the tract refuse to leave, however, the university will take action.

“If they decide not to peacefully end their illegal occupation of the agricultural research field and refuse the offer to subsequently participate in the formulation of a plan for continued urban farming under university supervision and control, we have every intention of honoring our commitment to ensure the research activities are not impeded, and the rule of law is maintained.”

The letter came after university officials and representative from Occupy the Farm met Thursday night. No agreement was reached at the meeting, but Occupy representatives said they would take the university’s message back to its members, according to Dan Mogulof, a university spokesman. Those discussions won’t start until Monday, after the deadline, according to Albany Patch.

Occupy the Farm took over the Gill Tract on April 22, Earth Day, in protest of UC Berkeley’s proposed plans to build housing and a grocery store on another part of the parcel. They would like to see the part of the land they are occupying become dedicated open space or a community farm. Currently, UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources is using the land for research purposes. Faculty from the Department of Environmental Science have said they need to plant corn and other crops by mid-May or they will not be able to conduct their experiments.

Here is the full text of the letter from UC Berkeley officials:

Statement from UC Berkeley on Talks with “Occupy the Farm”

 On Thursday evening representatives from UC Berkeley and the group engaged in the occupation of agricultural research fields on the Gill Tract met to discuss the possibility of a peaceful resolution to the protest.

While our conversation was a frank and forthright exchange of information and perspectives, an agreement has yet to be reached that would allow for the desired peaceful and voluntary end to the tent city that remains in place. Representatives from the occupation group indicated that they would need to convey the substance of the discussion to the other members of the encampment, and that any agreement would need to be supported by 100% of the participants.

During the discussion Keith Gilless, Dean of the College of Natural Resources, emphasized that by the middle of May college staff need to begin work on the tract in support of faculty and student research, and that this requires that full control of the property revert to the university.  He also emphasized that these complicated projects require meticulous supervision and cannot be carried out in the midst of an encampment. At the same time, we reiterated that if the encampment is voluntarily disbanded, we will commit to include occupation participants in a broad-based discussion about the continuation of urban farming under university supervision on a portion of the tract, as well as any future discussions about the long-term future of the property.

Also discussed was the value and principle of academic freedom that allows faculty members at UC Berkeley to pursue their educational and research interests without interference. During Wednesday’s Spring Divisional meeting of UC Berkeley’s Academic Senate, the chairperson, Prof. Bob Jacobsen, noted that faculty research had been “usurped” by the protesters’ unilateral actions and stated that, “If there is no way to reach a win-win resolution, then I believe that the faculty’s freedom to do their planned research must be supported as a key principle.  As a faculty, I think we must stand by this.”

We are now waiting for the occupiers’ response to our offer to participate in a broad-based community dialogue if they agree to end their encampment. Today, in a letter to their attorney, campus counsel outlined the process for the proposed community dialogue that would be led by the College of Natural Resources, and requested a response no later than Saturday night, May 5th.

If they decide not to peacefully end their illegal occupation of the agricultural research field and refuse the offer to subsequently participate in the formulation of a plan for continued urban farming under university supervision and control, we have every intention of honoring our commitment to ensure the research activities are not impeded, and the rule of law is maintained.

 

George Breslauer

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost

 

John Wilton

Vice Chancellor, Administration and Finance

Related Stories:

UC Berkeley calls for peaceful end to Occupy the Farm [4.23.12]
UC Berkeley on Occupy the Farm: “Time is running out” [5.3.12]
Could UC and Occupy the Farm compromise on Gill Tract? [5.4.12]

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  • Steven Donaldson

    The current use of the Gil Tract property is as a research
    agriculture station under the University of California College of Natural
    Resources (it has been for well over 50 years). The long term plan for this
    parcel is still not fully nailed down but it will continue to be used to test
    and develop sustainable maze/corn crops for the developing world in conjunction
    with work at the USDA next door for the foreseeable future (5 years out or so).

    A completely different parcel will be developed as part of
    what’s called the Whole Foods project has been in the process of being
    developed and permitted for almost 6 years. This project includes 175 units of
    senior housing, a range of retail, including Whole Foods. It will provide
    both seniors an awesome place to live, open up the Cordornices Creek with a
    path through the entire property, provide shopping that’s walking distance for
    most of the 900 families living in the University Village and many folks in
    Albany and Berkeley.

    The long term plan of the rest of the University Village
    properties will most likely include preserving the Albany Little League’s
    baseball diamond (rent free by the way) remodeling and improving the community
    center and inclusion of some additional housing and commercial uses. It’s not
    clear that ag use will go away.

    I believe the University is very reasonable and would be open in
    the future to looking at additional and future agriculture uses for the greater
    community but through a public hearing process, that they have gone through for
    the Whole Foods development. Just “taking the land” without really
    understanding anything about the history, current uses, future plans or needs
    of the University or City of Albany is not really very practical or effective
    in the long run and just creates a lot of confusion and miscommunication.

    I’m all for farming, gardening (have a vegetable garden for 22
    years) and retention of urban agriculture but I believe we need to pay
    attention to what is already going on and be respectful of scientists (some of
    which I know) who are working hard to develop accessible crops that will allow
    farmers in the developing world have food for their families.

    Thanks,

    Steven

  • Shon

    Below is a public relations attempt from UC Berkeley. Here is the summary:

    Blah blah blah we own the land. Blah blah, we have no plan. Blah blah we sold out to Whole Foods, who continue to keep the price of untainted and organic food far above what is affordable for those most affected by destructive toxins in cheap industrial food. Blah blah we are helping senior citizens, so we are angels. Blah Blah we also are helping little kids have fun, even though they could be entertained by a stick and a ball of tape in a lot somewhere that lay vacant and disused. Blah Blah, please dont make a garden here cause we want to open a huge store and flood the area with liberal bourgeois upper middle class 30 somethings. Blah blah , we wont give you the land because we love bureaucracy more than social experimentation and unpermitted activism. Also, the university of berkeley is somehow completely unable to find land to conduct experiments elsewhere. UCB has no money, and is the victim of this terrible horrible takeover of arable land. WHAAAAAaaaaaaah…. our scientists are crying in their beds- just waiting for these unreasonable activists to free their land.. pffft.. go back to the drawing board steven.

  • Anonymous

    I believe that the Occupier’s have already agreed in principle to an arrangement by which all the research plantings can happen, and many have even expressed happiness at having corn plants growing there alongside their garden. The Occupiers should show good faith by helping keep the research plantings healthy, watering them as needed, etc…. Show that they are not an obstacle, but a friendly force for agricultural research.

  • 30 something liberal

    Yeah! We should all get something for nothing!

    Back to your tent, Hippie

  • Albany activist

    Paying attention. Points of conflict: Will 900 Village residents afford Whole Foods? Where do they shop now? According to the Master Plan, the community center, ballfields, and children’s center will be moved to the Gill Tract, leaving under 1/2-1 acre. Who will afford the Senior Center? Why is it only committed to 10% of Albany residents? The Whole Foods parking lot is slated on the Gill Tract where the John Gill House and greenhouses were destroyed. Probably most of those trees along Village Creek will be taken down because of hazard. For those concerned about wildlife on the site, do you think the plans for concrete bike and walking paths along the creeks will be hospitable? How about the traffic in the interior of the Village? For those of us who have been committed to Albany politics and participation for years, we have an in-depth understanding about the history, current uses, future plans, and requirements. Please notice how there is no mention of the criminality or virtues of “taking the land” in this response. Major conflict: these scientists are not developing food stuffs exclusively to feed families in developing countries. Look at the research: USDA, FDA, NSF, BP, Monsanto, Novartis, Dow, Syngenta et al.
    Whole Foods is a non-union shop: starting wage 10$-ceiling wage 17$. What kind of deal is that for someone who lives in Albany? Recent quote from city council member: “You need to make 100,000 dollars to live in Albany.” Thank you Steven for your comments.

  • guest

    why would someone who works in albany have to live in albany?
    albany is a short bike ride from el cerrito where housing is significantly cheaper

  • Bill N

    Glad to see there are right wing hippies but you’ve just got to get your fact straight before you run on like this!

    Berkeley doesn’t fit the definition of a fascist government at least as defined in the #1 listing of the (I hesitate to say the words) American Heritage Dictionary.

    The killing on the BART train happened in Oakland (Fruitvale remember) and involved no one from Berkeley that I am aware of.

    The Jesuit governor, well he could be better but he’s certainly better than the last set of Republicans elected by the citizens of the state influenced by wanting something for nothing.

  • Guest

    Hey Steven, that sounds pretty reasonable, but just look at the other comments here and you will se that you aren’t dealing with reasonable people. Fortunately, we have legal process and law enforcement – Occupy has just a mishmash of incoherent and irresponsible claims. The bottom line is that the property does not belong to Occupy, it belongs to UC and UC can do what it likes with it, subject to all the relevant laws and regulations (and there are plenty of them to hem UC in). Occupy seems to think that it (whatever it is) can just take the property without having to go through the same due process that the rest of us depend on to keep things stable – but I don’t think that strategy is going to work out for them.

  • Cammy

    I wouldn’t be planting or eating anything on that land. It’s being used by the USDA for “testing” corn. They say it’s not GMO but who really knows? In any case, it’s not their land. Whole Foods won’t be on that parcel, but further down. I look forward to the retail/Whole Foods being planned. It’s a much needed grocery store for the area. The only other Whole Foods is far for those living in Albany/El Cerrito.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/SirWinstoneChurchill Winston Blake

    And you trust the government to tell you the truth about genetic modification of food?

    Do you even know anything about it?

    It isn’t done through the soil.

    You people are clueless…

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/SirWinstoneChurchill Winston Blake
  • The Sharkey

    Hey Berkeleyside team,

    You should take a good, hard look at this comments page.

    This is what happens when you automate comment hiding for abuse/downvoting.

    I see at least one or two non-abusive posts marked as “Comment hidden due to abuse reports.” and hidden along with the rest of them. So in the new Disqus not only are comments hidden when they get enough downvotes, but they’re also automatically hidden when they get enough abuse reports. This is even worse than the down/up vote system, because at least with that system other users can up-vote a post to un-hide it. With the automatic hiding for “abusive” posts, anyone who can get together a group to falsely report abuse on a post can have it hidden in a way that up-voting it cannot un-do.

    I know moderating a community like this can eat up a bunch of time, but I
    don’t think letting the community police itself is a good idea. Truly
    abusive posts should be removed, but opinions shouldn’t be
    silenced/hidden just because they’re unpopular.

  • Bruce Love

    I have trouble convincing myself it is their conscious intent but, on balance, Berkeleyside seems to consistently come down on the side of protecting anonymous defamation and hate speech while actively discouraging some signed, civil commentators (yes, more than just me). I can’t for the life of me imagine what they’re thinking.

  • The Sharkey

    Why has Bruce’s comment been hidden because of abuse reports?

    I don’t agree with everything he said, but nothing he said is “abusive” enough to warrant censure.

  • Heather_W_62

    Wow, looks like this new Disqus format has ended all hope of any real conversation.

    And if I don’t get voted into oblivion, I’d like to point out that there are stll Occupiers at the tract as of noon today. I hope U.C. doesn’t get too heavy handed.

  • Bruce Love

    Wow, looks like this new Disqus format has ended all hope of any real conversation.

    Well, if the comment-system-as-service were done really well, it’d be cheap and make only a tiny margin for the company running it. There would be lots of competition and BS could go with a local provider.

    There’s a whole bunch of “micro” (so to speak) web services that could be hyperlocalized that way — the trick being to align the talent to do it well.

  • The Sharkey

    Why hyperlocalize a service that, as you say, would be cheap to produce and make small margins for the company running it if done well? Seems like the kind of service that would lend itself to the exact opposite.

  • Bruce Love

    Why hyperlocalize a service that, as you say, would be cheap to produce
    and make small margins for the company running it if done well?

    Those small margins can add up and being an honest broker, concerned and positively contributing to the community, is a good — as far as some of us are concerned.

    The problem with what Disqus is trying to do as a business is that they’ve largely wound up forced to make most of their users their main product. That’s what happens when you try to “scale” this kind of infrastructure.

  • The Sharkey

    So basically you think people who manage comments systems like Disqus should do so out of the goodness of their own hearts and not try to make a living doing so?
    Or that managing a local comment system would need to be one of a multitude of ventures that a Local Internet Superhero would need to engage in in order to make a living?
    Not a very sustainable model.

    The smaller the margins, the less local a product has to be. In the real world at least.
    Other than this new auto-hiding of comments bunk Disqus was working well enough in situations where a couple/few local moderators were providing review for contested commentds and heated discussions.

  • The Sharkey

    Have you ever been to El Cerrito? It’s a nice community. A little on the sleepy side, but they’re working to turn that around. Hardly what I’d call “slaves’ quarters.”

  • The Sharkey

    Winston Blake: Have
    you ever been to El Cerrito? It’s a nice community. A little on the
    sleepy side, but they’re working to turn that around. Hardly what I’d
    call “slaves’ quarters.”

    How is this comment abusive?