Tag Archives: Occupy the Farm

UC Gill Tract Farm blooms amidst controversy

Melanie Charles, Mark Jones and Julia Raskin pick weeds at the Gill Tract farm on a recent Tuesday night. Photo: Kathleen Costanza.
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On a Sunday in early August, about 20 volunteers milled around the UC Gill Tract Community Farm, plucking weeds, harvesting tomatoes and weighing buckets brimming with leafy kale.

“What are we supposed to do with aphids again?” said Vivek Nath, a first-time volunteer, as he bent over to pick broccolini.

“They’re the little green bugs, you take off the pieces with a lot of them,” replied fellow volunteer Allen Barth. “Chickens like to eat ‘em.”

A collaborative project between UC Berkeley and the public, the UC Gill Tract Community Farm is a year-and-a-half old urban farm that has sprouted up on land embroiled in years-long controversy. Open six days a week, people can harvest organic produce in exchange for help weeding, watering or planting. On Sundays, volunteers set up a farm stand where all the food is free or offered for a donation. … Continue reading »

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University Village, Sprouts get (final) green light

A rendering of the new University Village development. Image: courtesy the City of Albany
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The disputed UC Berkeley land next to Albany’s Gill Tract is in contention no more. Last week, the California Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the university to build a senior housing development and Sprouts Farmers Market grocery store on San Pablo Avenue in University Village.

Read more on Berkeleyside’s coverage of Occupy the Farm.

The development, on a long-vacant lot next to the Gill Tract research field, has been the site of protests since April 2012 on the part of Occupy the Farm, which has stated that UC Berkeley’s plans would “pave over a rare natural resource” and that the Gill Tract is “public farmland that belongs to the people.”

Stefanie Rawlings, of Occupy the Farm, originally filed a lawsuit against the city of Albany and UC Berkeley that alleged that the city’s approved Environmental Impact Report was deficient. When Rawlings lost the suit, she filed an appeal on the grounds that the report did not lay out appropriate alternatives for the building plan, and that the city did not appropriately consider the alternatives listed. … Continue reading »

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53 trees come down on UC Berkeley land as grocery store, senior living project kicks off

Activists said they planned to meet in Albany on Thursday night to discuss next steps, after UC Berkeley cut down trees at University Village to prepare for a development project. Photo: Ed Fields
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UC Berkeley has begun the process of removing dozens of trees from its University Village property in Albany as work begins on a vacant lot slated for development that has been the site of numerous protests in recent years.

University spokeswoman Christine Shaff said Thursday afternoon by email that 53 trees will be removed from the property, on San Pablo Avenue near Monroe Street. Those trees will be replaced on a 2.5-to-1 basis, she added.

The project, which received formal approval last year from the Albany City Council “will bring senior housing and retail, including a grocery store, to serve nearby student-family housing as well as the Albany and west Berkeley communities,” Shaff said. … Continue reading »

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‘Occupy The Farm’ tells tale of local food activism

A newly released film, Occupy The Farm, tells the story of the occupation by activists of a piece of UC Berkeley-owned land in Albany, which began in April 2012 and continued on and off for nearly a year.

The protesters planted carrot, broccoli and corn seedlings on the 77-acre Gill Tract and questioned the stewardship of what they described as publicly owned urban farmland. UC Berkeley sent in police and issued a lawsuit before the activists eventually left. … Continue reading »

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Judge denies lawsuit to halt grocery plans

A proposed site plan for a mixed-use project in Albany's University Village includes a grocery store and retail north of Monroe Street, and more retail spaces south of Monroe: Image: City of Albany
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Earlier this week, a Superior Court judge in Oakland rejected a lawsuit brought last year related to a proposed mixed-use development project in Albany underway by the University of California.

Judge Evelio M. Grillo had already issued a tentative denial, but heard additional arguments from attorneys in mid-May that could have changed his mind.

The University of California, which owns the 6.3-acre property, plans to develop a grocery store, run by tenant Sprouts Farmers Market, and a senior housing complex, along with several other retail spaces, on the site, which straddles Monroe Street at San Pablo Avenue. … Continue reading »

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Cal plows again, after weekend occupation

Monday, Cal staff plowed up seeds planted over the weekend by activists at Albany's University Village. Photo: David Sanger
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For the third time in less than a week, Cal staff have plowed up crops planted in Albany by a group of activists who have been working to turn a UC-owned vacant lot slated for development into a community farm.

The activists, called Occupy the Farm, have been visiting the San Pablo Avenue site regularly since May 11. They’ve planted crops and camped several times, and many of its members say the land should be protected in perpetuity and used for farming. The University of California, which owns the land, has been working with the city of Albany for about five years to develop a project for the property, at Monroe Street, which is set to include a Sprouts Farmers Market and a senior housing complex. … Continue reading »

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Lawsuit to stop grocery store tentatively denied

Many Occupy the Farm supporters attended Thursday's court hearing in Oakland. (Attorneys for the defendants, UC and the city of Albany, are in the front row.) Photo: Emilie Raguso
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After a preliminary ruling issued this week tentatively denied a lawsuit to block the development of a grocery store and senior housing project planned in Albany by the University of California, attorneys for both sides argued the matter further before a Superior Court judge in downtown Oakland on Thursday.

The lawsuit — which questions the environmental review process undertaken when local officials approved the project — was filed last summer by supporters of Occupy the Farm. Some of the urban farming activists have said they want to see existing open space — several pieces of land owned by the university that include two vacant weedy lots slated for development, and an agricultural research field — protected and turned into public community farm space in perpetuity.  … Continue reading »

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Occupy the Farm: ‘We’ll keep coming back’

An Occupy the Farm supporter holds a new start that's ready to be planted. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Despite four arrests Monday and the destruction by UC Berkeley of seedlings they had planted in rows over the weekend, Occupy the Farm activists returned to a plot of land in Albany that’s slated for development and began their work again Monday night.

“We’re not leaving this land,” said an Occupy the Farm spokeswoman, Lesley Haddock. “We’re going to continue to contest this space. We’re not going away.” … Continue reading »

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4 arrests, as Cal ends brief Albany occupation

Gill Tract, Occupy the Farm, May 11, 2013. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Update, May 18, 6:20 p.m. Activists say no charges were ultimately filed against the people who were arrested Monday.

Update, 3 p.m. A group of Albany residents has announced its plans to hold a counter-protest at 5:30 p.m. Monday in opposition to Occupy the Farm activities in Albany. The group plans to meet at the City Hall corner at Buchanan Street, “then walk or ride down to Monroe and show the news media that ALBANY SAYS NO TO OCCUPY.”

Update, 1:42 p.m. A UC Berkeley spokeswoman said four people were arrested Monday as the university resumed control of land in Albany’s University Village that had been taken over by activists who said they want to turn the land into an urban farm. Claire Holmes, a UC Berkeley associate vice chancellor who handles communications and public affairs, said one person was arrested early in the morning; two were arrested while interfering with the plow; and the fourth was reported to be interfering with police activities. Holmes identified the four as Erik Eisenberg, Ian Saxton, David Grefrath and Brooke Marino. All four were listed as in-custody at the Berkeley Jail by the Alameda County sheriff’s department, and scheduled for arraignment Tuesday at 2 p.m. at the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse in downtown Oakland.  … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley

Urban farmers plan ‘short-form’ Gill Tract occupation

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Following a recent announcement by urban farming activists about plans to “occupy” an empty lot in Albany that’s slated for development, UC Berkeley officials have issued a statement urging local residents to prepare for “potential traffic obstructions” should “illegal activities proceed” this coming weekend.

“The university will not allow a permanent encampment on our property,” said George Breslauer, UC’s executive vice chancellor and provost, and John Wilton, UC’s vice chancellor of administration and finance, in the prepared statement. (Scroll down to see the full statement.)

The activists, who call themselves ‘Occupy the Farm,’ put out a call Wednesday to ask supporters to speak out against the planned development at a city meeting in Albany that night, and to come out at noon on Saturday to “launch an action that manifests the highest and best use of the Gill Tract farmland!” … Continue reading »

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Op-Ed: Disappointed but still inspired at the Gill Tract

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[On Friday November 16, 2012, the University of California (UC) razed all of the publicly planted crops on the Gill Tract.]

Occupy the Farm is disappointed that the UC has unneccessarily destroyed the hard work of the community and food that could have fed it. Over the course of the last month, members of the public sowed edible winter greens together with fava beans, a popular and effective cover crop. Had the UC left these in place, the … Continue reading »

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Officials push UC Berkeley mixed-use project forward

A drawing from an October 2011 University of California presentation on the mixed-use project designed for University Village; Monroe Street splits the project in two. The site is bordered by San Pablo Avenue to the east. Source: University of California, Berkeley
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Plans for a senior living complex, new retail shops and a grocery store in Cal’s University Village in Albany have cleared another hurdle despite a campaign by activists over the summer to stall the development.

The Albany City Council voted Monday night to rescind what some saw as a controversial contract between the city and the property owner, the University of California, rather than to delay further by putting project approval before the voters in a special election.

(Albany City Clerk Nicole Almaguer said an election could cost from about $52,000 to about $122,000, depending whether the city required polling stations or opted for mail-in ballots only.) … Continue reading »

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Cal razes latest Occupy the Farm greens at Gill Tract

Urban farming activists have continued to plant at Albany's Gill Tract, a University of California-owned research field, since trying to take over the land earlier this year. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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The latest development in the battle over the future of a hotly contested research field in Albany took place Friday when the UC Berkeley dean who oversees the land released a new open letter about his goals for the stewardship of the space.

Urban farming activists recently broke into the fenced-off Gill Tract field to plant about 2,000 winter greens. They announced plans to continue working part of the field in the coming months, in conjunction with hosting several community forums and vegetable distributions. In October, they held a pumpkin carving event, and last week they organized a forum in North Oakland to “discuss how we can work together to strengthen local struggles for land, food, and power — at the Gill Tract Farm and beyond.”

UC Berkeley spokesman Dan Mogulof said, as of Friday evening via email, that “The occupy crops are no longer there.” … Continue reading »

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