The closed session of the Albany City Council meeting Monday, March 18, includes apparent consideration of a settlement of the eight-month-old lawsuit against the city by Albany Strollers & Rollers and Carbon Neutral Albany over the city's approval of the UC development plan for University Village.
The council agenda lists the suit as a topic under the closed session portion of the meeting, and when Patch asked plaintiffs' attorney Thomas Lippe for a status update on the suit, he replied, "We're actually in settlement discussions."
Recent filings in the suit in Alameda County Superior Court say the two sides are engaged in "drafting of their settlement agreement."
The suit was filed in August, following the council's approval in July of the long-debated UC proposal for a development project at University Village to include a large grocery store, retail space and senior housing. The plaintiffs contended that the project's environmental impact report was faulty and that the plan did not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
The grocery market proposal at that time was for a Whole Foods outlet, but Whole Foods later withdrew its application and decided to open a store at 10th and Gilman in Berkeley instead. The UC development plan and the council's approval nevertheless still stand, no matter which particular grocer or retailer are chosen, Lippe said.
City Clerk Nicole Almaguer told Patch that she could not provide information about the council's closed-session consideration of the lawsuit. If the council takes action on the matter in closed session, it is legally required to disclose it.
The goal of the lawsuit, according to a statement in September on the Strollers & Rollers website by member Preston Jordan, was "to restore requirements regarding cycling access and solar panels that existed for three years until they were weakened (by the council) at UC’s request, potentially to the point of elimination, in the last three minutes at about 1 am on July 10th, with no opportunity for public consideration, question or comment."
Jordan told Patch in an email Sunday that the two sides have been in discussion for some time and characterized the talks as "positive." He said he was not aware of what prompted the issue to appear on the council's Monday agenda and indicated it could be a "routine" update.
The council's July 10 approval – in a six- hour meeting filled with jeers and cheers before an audience estimated at between 150 and 200 people – was a significant milestone in a longstanding community debate over the proposal, which was five years in the making.