Albany, UC Berkeley Responds to "Occupy the Farm" Movement

A University of California, Berkeley, official said the university will reach out to Occupy participants with the goal of ending the action peacefully. Click the "Keep me posted" button below for updates on this story.

[This story was updated at 2 p.m.]

Officials from the University of California at Berkeley said they will work to find a peaceful resolution with activists who  to plant an urban farm.  

The city of Albany also released a statement, at 1:30 p.m.: "The City of Albany is aware of the situation on the University of California property in Albany known as the Gill Tract. City officials are keeping open the lines of communication with University representatives as UC handles its response. The City asks for a peaceful resolution as detailed in the statement made by the University dated April 23, 2012." 

Anya Kamenskaya, who is involved with the Take Back the Tract activity, said Monday morning that the group has already planted more than one acre of the 15-acre site. 

Dan Mogulof, executive director of the university's Office of Public Relations shared this statement, which has been modified slightly. (We also added links to Albany Patch coverage of related to the story.):

The parcel of land currently occupied by the protesters is not slated for commercial development. Rather, the 15-acre Gill Tract is currently being used for that will be impeded if the occupation continues.

In addition, one of our faculty members grows produce on the same land that is distributed to the needy. That too will be threatened if the occupation persists or a failure to maintain sanitary conditions contaminates the soil.  

We intend to reach out to those involved, convey the actual facts and discuss next steps. 

There is for another portion of the land in the general area. That project from the Albany City Council and planning commission.

The 2004 master plan for the entire area is available here.

The protesters are in violation of campus policy and state law. If the occupation continues, those policies and laws will be enforced when we determine it can be done safely and effectively. We do not want anything to impede the research.

Mogulof said his main concern, from a public health perspective, is that the Occupy site at the Gill Tract includes open latrines, which could pose a problem for crops grown on the land. 

[Editor's Note: UPDATED April 27: The activists said they never had open latrines at the site; they initially were using compost toilets, and switched to Porta Potties several days later.]

He said UC researchers usually plant their crops at the end of the rainy season. Planting is slated to take place in the next few weeks. 

He later added, via email, that "we intend to continue using the tract for ag research as there are no immediate plans to move ahead with a transition to open field or recreational use."

Mogulof noted that the last two occupations on the UC Berkeley campus ended "completely peacefully," and that the university has "every intention" of finding a peaceful solution to the Gill Tract activities

Do you have questions for the university? Share them in the comments below.

Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an update when we publish future stories on this topic. Read more here. Learn about the proposed .

If there's something in this article you think , or if something else is amiss, call editor Emilie Raguso at 510-459-8325 or email her at albany@patch.com.

John Doh! April 23, 2012 at 06:56 PM
UC refuses to develop the property within current zoning regulations (it's our way or we leave a blighted space.) City acquiesces. Civil disobedience happens. Albany residents should go on record at Tuesday night's Planning & Zoning Commission meeting and focus on the zoning rather than the companies that will be renting. The traffic congestion and pollution will be horrible and the P&Z Commission wants the Council to give the green light in spite of this. The only upside is that gridlock on Buchanan from I-80 to San Pablo will eliminate speeding during rush hour.
Rona April 23, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Did the Occupy group even KNOW this: "In addition, one of our faculty members grows produce on the same land that is distributed to the needy. That too will be threatened if the occupation persists or a failure to maintain sanitary conditions contaminates the soil." If not, sad because you should research what you are "standing ground/Occupy/fighting" for. Atleast go and talk with the City or Department head and if you get nowhere, I understand a demonstration. They are not only going to "potentially" harm the crops of what the UC is planting for research, but they would hinder the faculty member that grows produce for those in need. Which doesn't make sense. If they are mad at UC then sit on "their" crop area. I'm not against the Occupy movement. I'm just saying "think" about the strategy or your cause/fight and how to best "stick it to them" so to speak. Don't hinder those that are doing something for the community. I also will say I never liked the UC taking that tract, maybe because back in the day you could cut through there from the village to San Pablo with my buddies..Ahhhh those were the days:P
Caryl O'Keefe April 24, 2012 at 12:54 AM
UC has not said it will leave "a blighted space" if this project is not approved. UC has indicated it would instead develop a project within UC's mission, which would mean the City would not have project approval rights. Nor get any property tax revenues. Nor would Albany residents of the Village have a chance of getting a rent reduction that may be possible if the current project goes forward. Plus, for those worried about traffic, vehicles from almost 1,000 households at the Village would have to continue to drive a distance for groceries. Imagine the alternative: 1,000 bicycles and peds headed east on Monroe to shop at Whole Foods and other retail shops. Council considered the EIR info and other factors then balanced probable pros and cons when it recently approved this project in concept, and told staff & P&Z to work out the details. I hope this occupation serves to accelerate that process.
Mikey62 April 24, 2012 at 02:18 AM
It seems that our current generation of East Bay occupiers pick the easiest opponents. Stand up to real power and exploiters, instead of hand picking relatively impoverished liberal institutions who will endure your ultimately meaningless and pointless temporary occupations more benignly than more powerful and relevant opponents will. You really think Albany, Oakland and UC are the bastions of privilege and oppression? The sixties generation may have, for the most part, abandoned the fervor of their youth, but at least by the tens of thousands were willing to stand up to real, ruthless power in much more relevant and risky ways. If this generation is starting out so weak-kneed, by the time they're middle-aged they'll be voting for the Gingriches and Santorums of the world. Ooo I'm a radical, I get to camp out. Is this a movement or a prolonged summer camp for spoiled middle class kids?
rebecca April 24, 2012 at 02:36 AM
The adult should being helping those kids fighting for open space. They see the future with no open space in Albany. Any little piece of land oh let built on it!! If there was a big earthquake we can all get tents and stay there a while. Turning off the water is very mean.
KJ April 24, 2012 at 04:57 AM
"the Occupy site at the Gill Tract includes open latrines." Anyone still willing to eat vegetbles grown on this land? Can you say E Coli? Yuck.
Wendy Kaufman April 24, 2012 at 07:16 PM
I would not want to. Gross. Just gross. I don't have open latrines in my garden at home (where I grow fruit), why have them in a place you intend to use for food crops? I ma quickly losing patience with this meaningless "movement".
Kevin Johnson April 24, 2012 at 07:26 PM
My son had a performance yesterday at Ocean View School and when parking he saw the tents and asked what was going on. I told him what the Occupy folks intended to accomplish, he asked me "If that's what they want to do then what's wrong with it", I told him it wasn't their property to take over, that it belonged to someone else, he said "that's not right if it doesn't belong to them". My 10 year old has a lot more common sense than the entire group of squatters, thank you Albany School District!
rebecca April 24, 2012 at 07:45 PM
rebecca April 24, 2012 at 07:51 PM
John Doh! April 24, 2012 at 08:17 PM
The native people of America did not own property. They were too respectful of Mother Nature, or the Creator, to have a concept of owning what was here long before them and will be there long after them. Let the savages comments begin in 3...2...1..
Frank Knowles April 24, 2012 at 08:23 PM
First off Rebecca, why are you shouting? Second, what exactly is your point? Are implying that because the land endured a series of expropriations in the early to mid-19th century that this justifies this occupation in some way? Really?
John Doh! April 24, 2012 at 08:28 PM
rebecca April 24, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Eric Larsen April 24, 2012 at 08:48 PM
There are no open latines there. Go check it out. See if you can find them. They're not there. Stop spreading fear and lies of the mainstream media!
Tarina Larsen April 25, 2012 at 03:33 AM
UC contends that the area was designated for AG research and harvesting crops for low-income communities. Well, we now have additional residents/occupants willing to work toward that same purpose. If folks from both sides of the fence could find a way to collaborate effectively, something really wonderful can come out of this.
KJ April 25, 2012 at 05:14 AM
Eric, I have not seen port-a-potties on the site, so where exactly is the human waste of the encampment going if not into the ground or creek?
ernie April 25, 2012 at 01:59 PM
People have been using the gas station toilets or other public facillities. People come and go and they are absolutely craping elsewhere. No one is shitting in the field or worse the creek, and to assume so is indicative of elitist ignorance. Get off your high horse. You're not special, just privileged.
Emilie Raguso April 28, 2012 at 08:39 AM
I added this on Friday into the text above following UC's statement indicating sanitation concerns about the Gill Tract -- [Editor's Note: UPDATED April 27: The activists said they never had open latrines at the site; they initially were using compost toilets, and switched to Porta Potties several days later.]
Jennifer Carlson April 28, 2012 at 11:31 PM
I don't know how I feel about the "OtF" action, but I do know that a fundraiser for our not-particularly-wealthy school had to be cancelled (possibly related to that action) and that, for the first time in the years I've been "Occupy-ing" my humble home in Albany, I saw a man soliciting "donations" on the corner of Jackson and Buchanan, in front the school. If the goal is to start a revolution, might we respect the current residents of the area that are not quite as radically inclined?
KJ May 03, 2012 at 02:02 AM
I am so encouraged to go down to the Gill Tract and meet you and your friends, ernie. You're so respectful. It's you who need to get off your high horse - you know nothing about me.


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