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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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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