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Council Approves Village Development Project Ordinances in 4-1 Vote

Councilman Robert Lieber was the lone dissenting vote against three project approvals. Officials are scheduling a meeting on the Gill Tract for later this month. Click the "Keep me posted" button for email updates about this topic.

A University of California proposal to develop a grocery store and senior housing complex at moved one step closer to completion Monday night. 

The voted 4-1 to approve three ordinances the university needed to move forward with the project. 

The development is proposed to straddle Monroe Street, west of San Pablo Avenue, with a Whole Foods grocery store to the north and a 175-unit senior housing complex to the south.

, who teleconferenced in to the meeting, was the sole dissenting vote. 

The rest of the City Council voted to approve , which were related to municipal zoning codes and the city's development agreement with the university.

The council last week.

Five members of the public spoke in favor of the development plans, while 10 spoke against them, or urged the council to approve a motion by Councilman Lieber to protect the existing agricultural lands with an easement. (Lieber's motion failed due to a lack of support from the rest of the council.)

Some members of the public said the city had failed to listen to or take into account community concerns about the development. 

One speaker, Hinhan-Ska Haney of United Native Americans Inc., said the city should consider turning over the land to the Ohlone people, and urged the council to consider endorsing the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People as one way to recognize Native American heritage in Albany.

(Lieber later in the meeting directed city staff to bring the declaration back before the council to determine whether it should be considered by the city's Social & Economic Justice Commission.)

Some members of the public continued to express concern about the future of the agricultural fields known as the Gill Tract.

said she and were in the midst of scheduling an open meeting on that topic for later this month, and had invited members of Occupy the Farm, the and to attend. 

Wile said she'd like to work toward the development of a center for urban agriculture on the land.

She said, as of Monday night, she had received no response to the invitation. The meeting format would involve a discussion among city and university officials, along with members of the groups noted above, about the future of the agricultural land. 

Other interested members of the public are welcome to attend to observe the discussion, said Wile. 

Thomsen, in her comments to the council Monday, said the city remains committed to working with the university to come up with a vision for the Gill Tract's future.

She referenced a July 16 letter from the university in which UC officials wrote that they, too, hoped to work with the city "on issues pertaining to the Gill Tract agricultural area."

"We hope community groups will participate as well," Thomsen added.

Gerhard Brostrom, a member of Transition Albany, told the council that the sustainability advocacy group supports Occupy the Farm and the Albany Farm Alliance "insofar as they have opened a discussion" about community agriculture. 

He said he hoped to see community members work together to come up with a shared vision for the land, rather than splinter apart due to divisions. 

"We're happy to see so many people caring about this," he said, during the public comment period.

Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an update when we publish future stories on the Whole Foods project. 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 at albany@patch.com.

Kirsten Schwartz July 18, 2012 at 06:57 PM
I was just in the Ashby-Telegraph neighborhood: it's a bit over 4 miles away, but the traffic is onerous. I don't shop there--using Natural Foods and Trader Joe's and Safeway--but if there's one near my old apartment in the Village, I'll walk there for some things. As long as they don't take away Safeway and Trader Joe's, I'm fine with it there.
Michael Barnes July 18, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Ross, So how to the prices compare? And when Whole Foods comes to Albany, will you shop closer to home?
Kirsten Schwartz July 18, 2012 at 07:02 PM
As far as expensive senior housing: I remember when my parents had to find a home for my grandmother; my grandparents' house had been sold and they'd been renting an apartment, but basically once their bank account was used up (Grampa lived with us and then ended his days at the VA in Palo Alto, poor fellow)--once that happened, some government program, Medicare perhaps, paid for the housing. My grandparents had little money to be used up--not like they were going to be missing trips to Maui for the golfing or anything--so it seemed fair. My parents explained to me that that's how seniors could afford to live in any assisted living situation, so I've been assuming the same holds for the senior living complex. That is: if you can't afford it, that doesn't mean you'll automatically be denied. And yeah, they're all expensive. I looked for such housing for my other (really demented, poor thing) grandmother in 1976 in Portland, Oregon: oh my god. But the care required may be why. I remember living with Grampa really well. Picking him up off the floor in the bathroom in the middle of the night after he tried to do it all on his own, the poor guy. So $4,000/month may be high, but our elders are high-maintenance.
Ross Stapleton-Gray July 18, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Prices vary, though WF has lately been putting out store-brand products (365) to compete directly on price (e.g., with the TJ's canned beans). But it's also a question of specific product, e.g., buying Eden Organic at WF, as they're the only (that I've seen) BPA-free liner manufacturer. I likely will shop closer, though the Ashby store is also convenient to other things I go to regularly, and I'm going to be doing a lot more driving down that way with Kye starting HS in Oakland.
Dee July 27, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Let them build a Whole Foods-why would you want to restrict grocery options (for others if not yourself)? It would also be another retirement housing option for baby boomers, maybe not an option for you or you or you, but it will be for others and that's fine by me. Limitation and restriction is not such a productive or positive frame of mind for making things work. Possible pressure for a portion of affordable units? um...Belmont Village resident discount cards for Whole Foods (in addition to the bulk food options).. what else? We can all contribute ideas and energy for solutions. In my experience, when the complainers and kvetchers mind power (whether adult or child) is redirected, they have the smartest and most productive solutions.

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