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Sprouts Market, Senior Housing Appealed to City Council

Two appeals have been filed of the Albany planning commission's approval of the UC Berkeley plan for a Sprouts Farmers Market and senior housing at University Village in 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
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-embattled UC Berkeley development plan for a large grocery market and a senior housing complex next to University Village in Albany is headed for another battle.

The plan for a Sprouts Farmers Market and 175 units of senior housing won key approvals from the Albany Planning and Zoning Commission on Dec. 11, and two appeals of the commission's 4-0 decision have been filed, sending the issue to the City Council.

The first appeal, filed on Dec. 19, was signed by attorney Naomi Young of Bay Area Legal Aid representing two co-appellants, the non-profit Albany Housing Advocates and Amber Whitson, one of the people living in the illegal encampments on the Albany Bulb. The other appeal was filed on Dec. 20 by Albany resident Edward Fields, an outspoken critic of the proposal.

The UC development plan has been the subject of debate, numerous public hearings, appeals and litigation since it was introduced six years ago. An earlier version named Whole Foods as the grocer, but it pulled out last year and was replaced by Sprouts.

Albany Housing Advocates and Whitson are also plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed Oct. 2 against the City of Albany, accusing the city of violating state mandates for local governments to facilitate affordable housing. The suit alleges that the city lacks a required state-certified Housing Element, which is supposed to describe how the city intends to meet its allocation for needed housing, especially affordable housing.

In their appeal of the planning commission approval of the UC plan for Sprouts and senior housing, Albany Housing Advocates and Whitson say the commission's action was invalid because it was based on the city's General Plan, which in turn is invalid because it lacks the essential Housing Element.

The commission's action included approval of tentative parcel maps and design review.

The appeal says the city cannot approve parcel maps without a valid General Plan, and that the city's General Plan cannot be valid without a valid Housing Element.

The appeal also says the commission's action "impedes the City's ability to identify adequate sites to meet its outstanding regional housing needs allocation, thereby preventing it from bringing its housing element into compliance with state law." The Housing Element is supposed to identify potential sites for additional housing. The UC proposal would occupy 6.3 acres of currently undeveloped land, a commodity in short supply in Albany.

The appeal lodged by Fields cites numerous reasons for rejecting the commission's action, including the assertion that the city's General Plan is invalid due to a lack of a valid Housing Element.

Fields says also that the approval should be reversed because the proposal fails to meet requirements of the city's municipal code and other planning requirements, including parkland dedication, waterway descriptions and proper identification of public areas, among others. He says also that the proposal fails to provide the required amount of open space along Codornices Creek.

The planning commission's decision followed nearly two hours of public comment by 45 speakers, most of whom opposed the plan, saying that Sprouts represents unhealthy industrial agriculture and corporate greed and that the currently vacant land should be used instead for urban farming and agricultural education.

Supporters said the project has been intensively reviewed, debated and ultimately embraced by the majority of the community and that it's time for it be approved.

An environmental impact report on UC commercial development of the site received City Council approval in July 2012.
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Alan Eckert January 03, 2014 at 10:12 AM
This was not unexpected. Hopefully we can finish this dog and pony show for good.
Rochelle Nason January 03, 2014 at 10:27 AM
The lawyer who signed the appeal by Albany Housing Advocates and Amber Whitson is one of the four lawyers who filed the housing-element case, Whitson vs. Albany (but not one of the twelve lawyers who filed the Bulb case, Cody vs. Albany). If you count Robert Outis, who is the agent for service of process for Albany Housing Advocates, Amber and her friends have seventeen lawyers working for them on two lawsuits . . . and now it looks like Albany is going to have to expect them to file a third case. So sad.
Robert Marshall January 03, 2014 at 11:25 AM
Are they doing it pro bono Rochelle?
dorthy manser January 03, 2014 at 12:08 PM
Amber has used up every bit of sympathy she might have had in this town.
lubov mazur January 04, 2014 at 04:05 PM
It might be the least expensive option to rezone 750 sq. ft. of the bulb to R1, establish an easement for pedestrian access, and build Amber a single occupancy housing unit. Then give it to her. Let her pay the taxes, insurance, and utility bills. If she defaults, buy it from the county for unpaid taxes, re-rezone and demolish it.
Rochelle Nason January 04, 2014 at 06:03 PM
Robert Marshall, I assume that Bob Outis and the Kilpatrick Townsend firm are doing their work pro bono, though I don't know that for sure. Remember, legal fees are sought from Albany in both cases, so the private lawyers may well anticipate collecting huge fees from Albany. The leader of the Kilpatrick contingent is an Orinda resident named Maureen Sheehy, who sits on the Board of Osha's firm, the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC). The rest of the law firms are public interest groups - the EBCLC itself, and the Homeless Action Center in the Cody v. Albany case, Bay Area Legal Aid and the Public Interest Law Project in the Whitson v. Albany case (one of the latter also signed the Whitson appeal of the approval of UC's Sprouts grocery & assisted living project. The lawyers at these firms are paid to do this line of work. BTW I miscounted - there still 'just' 11 lawyers on Cody v. Albany, for some reason I thought they had added one when they filed the amended complaint. So the grand total so far is sixteen lawyers if we count Bob Outis, not seventeen as I had said.
David Sanger January 05, 2014 at 04:07 PM
follow
David Sanger January 05, 2014 at 05:35 PM
http://www.scribd.com/doc/196267799/2013-12-20-UC-Village-Project-Ed-Fields-Appeal and http://www.scribd.com/doc/196267781/2013-12-19-UC-Village-Project-AHA-Appeal
dorthy manser January 05, 2014 at 08:49 PM
One would hope that the overpaid lawyers suing our small town are contributing a substantial portion of their personal income to helping the homeless. Somehow I think not.

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