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Decision Delayed on Sprouts Market, Senior Housing at UC Village

A key approval vote for a major UC Berkeley development proposal – for a Sprouts Farmers Market and senior housing complex next to University Village in Albany – was postponed Wednesday by the Albany planning commission.

Oct. 2, 2013 rendering of Sprouts Farmers Market and a retail building by Lowney Architecture of proposed UC Berkeley development next to University Village in Albany. San Pablo Avenue is on the right. Source: City of Albany
Oct. 2, 2013 rendering of Sprouts Farmers Market and a retail building by Lowney Architecture of proposed UC Berkeley development next to University Village in Albany. San Pablo Avenue is on the right. Source: City of Albany
The long-awaited fate of UC Berkeley's development proposal for a Sprouts Farmers Market and 175-unit senior housing complex next to University Village will have to wait a bit longer.

Wanting more time to consider last-minute alterations to the proposal, the Albany Planning & Zoning Commission Wednesday night postponed taking action until its Dec. 11 meeting.

The development on 6.3 acres of university-owned land on both sides of Monroe Street just west of San Pablo Avenue also would include two other retail buildings whose tenants or specific uses have not been determined. The property sits next to the University Village student-family housing complex, which is located in Albany.

The commission was told that two sculptures are being planned for the required public art component for the development. The developers – Belmont Village for the 4-story senior housing project and the Oppidan/Portfolio team for the 27,500-square-foot Sprouts and smaller retail building on the north side of Monroe – have each selected a sculptor for their respective projects.

The specific artworks have not been proposed but are planned to be placed on Monroe next to the first driveway entrance to the Sprouts market and on San Pablo next to Codornices Creek, according to the developers. The proposed sculptures would be reviewed by the city's Arts Committee

Before the commission on Dec. 11 are two key steps in approving the UC plan, which has been in the works for many years: approval of the tentative parcel maps and approval of design review.

The public hearing on the two actions was ended on Wednesday night, so no new public comments will be taken at the Dec. 11 meeting, though members of the public may still submit comments in writing before meeting. The Dec. meeting will begin at 6 p.m., an hour earlier than the usual time.

Before the development gets the green light, the commission would still need to issue building permits, and parcel maps would have to finalized, Community Development Director Jeff Bond said.

An environmental impact report on UC commercial development of the site received City Council approval in July 2012. The plan at that time did not include Sprouts.

The city has a special web page devoted to the "University Village Retail Mixed Use Project," with links to the detailed plans submitted by the university, the environmental impact review documents and staff reports up to mid-2012.

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Robert Marshall November 21, 2013 at 05:32 PM
Do they withheld approval because of the sculptures????
christopher papazoglow November 21, 2013 at 06:41 PM
Interesting that another outlet for alcoholic beverages ( Ales Unlimited ) sails through, but the long-awaited availability for groceries and housing is AGAIN delayed, for a seemingly trivial reason.
Brian Parsley November 21, 2013 at 07:01 PM
Frankly it's time for the Council to step in and take this over, out of the hands of the Planning and Zoning Commission, who appear unable or unwilling to move forward with this project. This item has been on the agenda twice in the last month and has been postponed due to a lack of quorum and now, again, it's been postponed yet another month. The Council can spend over half a million dollars and get a temporary homeless shelter up in two months but when it comes to creating a revenue source to pay for that, hell no. It appears we don't have to worry about lawsuits killing this project since the City, Council, and P&Z are doing a bang up job themselves.
dorthy manser November 21, 2013 at 07:10 PM
Amen, Brian, although it's not clear from the article what the hold up was this time. I seriously hope it wasn't the art pieces. At any rate, since it would seem that these commissions are often revolving doors for folks that will hope to hold office in the future, I'd like a follow up article explaining exactly who held things up this time.
Tod Abbott November 21, 2013 at 07:27 PM
I attended the meeting and can speak a bit to some of the questions about the hold up. First off, The artwork was not an issue -- there were just a couple of questions about this from the Commissioners. In the end, it appeared to just be a matter of the Commissioners not having enough time to study and digest late changes to the resolutions (one of which was given to them just before the meeting). They understand this is a big deal, and the specifics of what they approve will likely have import for years or decades to come -- so they want to get it as solid as they can. During the meeting, an apparent typo was discovered that would have had significant consequences. Noticing something like that would (or should) make anyone hesitant to approve those specific documents before they've had another thorough going-over.
Ross Stapleton-Gray November 21, 2013 at 08:10 PM
I've not been following this issue, but looking at the potential meltdown of the BART agreement over a mistake (or not) in the contract to be ratified, well... best to get it exactly right!
dorthy manser November 21, 2013 at 10:42 PM
Thanks, Tod. I guess it would be helpful to know what the late changes were, and how important they were, and what the typo was. Obviously, it is possible that the late changes and the typo were trivial.
Tod Abbott November 22, 2013 at 12:13 AM
Hey, Dorthy. Just going on memory here, but the typo that was discussed actually seemed pretty significant. In a passage talking about architectural review, the addresses 1075 - 1095 were listed as not needing further review by the Commission. But this should have been "1075 AND 1095" -- 1080 is the strip of retail on Monroe that hasn't even begun to be designed yet. If approved as written, the resolution would have meant that P&Z would not have any necessary input on the design of the retail strip. Of course, that could have been corrected as part of the motion to approve the resolution -- but I don't think the Commissioners could feel confident that there weren't more consequential errors in the documents.
Tod Abbott November 22, 2013 at 12:25 AM
One more thing... I have the highest regard for city Staff, but it really did seem like the resolutions were not their finest work last night. If you want to assign blame, blame the strategy of the last few years of holding down the budget by leaning more and more on staff. Their plates are very full and they are each being asked to do the work of much more than one person. That can't go on as long as it has without there being consequences. I'll leave it to you to judge whether it is irony that had this project gone through years ago, there may have been money for more staff...
dorthy manser November 22, 2013 at 08:36 AM
So it sounds like you are saying that, ultimately, any mistake made by staff now is the responsibility of politicians sometime in the past, who cut the budget. Does that mean that no one on staff who makes a mistake should be held accountable? Ever? Then again, if we ask the politicians who cut the budget, I'm guessing they will tell us that tax revenues were down and they had no choice. So it isn't their fault either. So the typo was caused by a downturn in the economy several years ago, which couldn't be helped. Look, I get that this is not a particularly important mess up, but government can't work if there isn't accountability for mistakes. At any rate, thanks for clearing things up, Todd. I can certainly see why the commission would want to take a second look before signing off.

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