A much-anticipated discussion of one was removed from the April 24 planning commission agenda.
Earlier this afternoon, the University of California's property development director and project manager for the at University Village, Kevin Hufferd, sent this notice to the city of Albany:
The University is asking the City of Albany to remove the University Village Senior Living and Marketplace project from . The University would like to ensure that misinformation about the project’s impact on the agricultural lands is corrected and that the project, which has been planned with considerable community input and support over four years, is given an opportunity to be thoughtfully considered by the Commission.
Hufferd said there’s been no decision on when the item will be back before the commission.
The university's announcement comes in response to recent allegations by a group of urban farming activists that the proposed project would have an impact on the Gill Tract. The university says it will not.
But the groups have different definitions of what they mean by "the Gill Tract," and where its borders lie.
The university defines the tract as 15 acres of agricultural land on the northeast corner of Albany's property. Activists define the tract more broadly, citing the site's initial size of 104 acres when it was purchased by UC.
According to a 2009 report prepared for the university by LPA Associates: "In 1890, horticulturist Edward Gill purchased 104 acres of the original Rancho San Antonio land grant and established a nursery on the site. Gill died in 1909, and his son John constructed a Craftsman house (John Gill House) on the property as his residence, while continuing to farm the land. After John Gill's death in 1928, the land was sold to the University of California for its agricultural activities."
The proposed Whole Foods and senior housing project would be located south of the agricultural lands, on the other side of Village Creek. Hufferd said the creek is a seasonal waterway that would see restoration improvements, including the completion of a creek management plan and the clearing of dead brush from the area, if the Whole Foods project goes forward.
The activists, with a group called Occupy the Farm, have taken over much of the university's agricultural research land at the Gill Tract to plant produce they say they hope will serve as a model for sustainable, local food, feed the area's needy and offer children a place to learn about community gardening.