[Editor's Note: This letter was co-written by numerous members of the Albany Farm Alliance. The byline has been corrected to reflect this. Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an update when we publish future stories on this topic. Read more on Albany Patch about the Gill Tract occupation.]
May 21, 2012
Open Letter to the
The Albany Farm Alliance thanks Councilwoman Wile for her support and encouragement of urban farming. Resolution 8.1 shows that there is wide ranging interest in the Gill Tract farmland. From small children and their parents up to elected officials, Albany residents have for decades enjoined Albany to explore the possibility of an agricultural center on the public land known as the Gill Tract.
Unfortunately, Resolution 8.1 does not go far enough to address the issues at the heart of this matter nor does it protect this land in perpetuity. As such, the Albany Farm Alliance cannot support it.
Albany is a small city in development negotiations with a large land grand University. While UC fulfills its charter to educate the California population, Albany has little legal standing to influence its actions. However, UC is in the process of changing public land into private use. It is at this time, and this time only, that Albany has approval rights over all 20 plus acres of 'open space' left on the Gill Tract.
Albany has the right to bargain with UC specifically because UC is seeking major zoning variances from the City. The Albany Farm Alliance is asking City Council to negotiate the best deal it can. We want Albany to use its power to represent the interests of all Albany residents: home owners, renters, business owners, little leaguers, cyclists, students, seniors - and farmers.
Development is important, and the right development is part of the City Council's work. As stewards of Albany's future, we trust that decisions are always made with a clear vision of Albany as connected community, not merely the sum of its individual parts. Piecemeal development of a ball field here, a supermarket there, a garden elsewhere, may not be the best use of Albany's last great ‘open space'.
UC has divided discussion into separate "phases of development". This divided Albany and pitted one group of interests against another. We can avoid conflict if we simply talk about the entire space instead of just one small section at a time.
We are asking City Council to lead us. We would like you, our elected representatives, to discuss and vote on this issue directly. We do not want what may be the most important development decision of the decade to be farmed out to committees staffed by political appointees. This issue deserves your attention and the attention of all Albany residents.
Now is the time for City Council to begin open discussion for the benefit of the entire City on what we envision for the entire 20 plus acres of ‘open space'.
1) Do we want permanent Little League baseball fields in their current location?
2) Do we want to create a world-renowned community accessible agro-ecology center on the last Class 1 farmland in the East Bay?
3) Do we want commercial development that will daily bring more than 10,000 new automobile trips into Albany?
UC wants development that is best for UC and seems to have lost sight of the fact that the Gill Tract is not its private property. Their charter does not include protecting the specific interests of Albany citizens. We elected City Council to lead us into the future. Please show us your vision of what Albany can become. Albany is more than just a dumping ground for UC's plans to make money. The Albany Farm Alliance is asking City Council to step up and advocate for Albany residents.
Please reject UC's rushed plans and begin an open dialogue with all Albany residents on what our vision is for Gill Tract's remaining 20 plus acres of 'open space'.
Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an update when we publish future stories on this topic. Read more on Albany Patch about the Gill Tract occupation.