UC Letter to Occupiers: 'Time is Running Out'

University of California reps are scheduled to meet with members of Occupy the Farm in a private session Thursday night. Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an update when we publish future stories on this topic.

University officials released, on Wednesday night, a second open letter addressed to a group of urban farming activists who took over a private parcel of UC-owned agricultural research land in Albany on Earth Day.

University of California at Berkeley representatives will speak with members of Occupy the Farm in a private meeting at an undisclosed location Thursday night. Attorneys for both groups will be in attendance.

"We're taking it one step at a time," said UC spokesman Dan Mogulof. "I think after the discussions tomorrow, everyone's going to have a better sense of not only where we are but where we can get to, and how we can get there."

Mogulof, executive director of the university's Office of Public Relations, said senior administrators from departments that are involved with various aspects of the issue will be in attendance.

In the university's letter, signed by George Breslauer, executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, and Vice Chancellor John Wilton, the writers describe the main goals of the meeting. (The letter is attached to the right as a PDF.)

First: "The encampment must end. We cannot accept anything that will impede the ongoing and important work of our students and faculty."

They write that they are also "deeply concerned by the challenges arising from dozens of people living on an agricultural tract adjacent to an elementary school and residential areas."

Mogulof said Wednesday night that the university has received at least 30 letters or other communications from people about the occupation of the land.

"The overwhelming majority," he said, "have expressed frustration with the status quo and are urging us, or demanding, that we take action to end the encampment."

He acknowledged that some of the communications received by the university have expressed support for the activities. 

In their letter, Breslauer and Wilton write that, though they hope to "avoid confrontation or the utilization of coercive means," that "time is running out. By the middle of May must begin field preparation and planting."

The letter also notes the possibility of sharing the field, for the current growing season, between the researchers who generally work there and the activists. They write that the university could consider even more urban farming possibilities in the future if an agreement can be reached.

"If the encampment is ended we are, , more than willing to discuss opportunities for a metropolitan agriculture program affiliated with the campus," they write.

The officials also write that "the only proposal for the future of the Gill Tract---if and when we cease agricultural research on the parcel---envisions not commercial development, but open space, recreational space and community space; an idea that was the result many years of community engagement. Yet, here too, we have been consistently saying that the university is open to further discussions with the community about implementation of the Master Plan on this portion of the property. However, meaningful engagement must be inclusive of diverse perspectives, cannot be held under duress or threat and must be conducted through existing venues in Albany that have been established for this very purpose."

Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an update when we publish future stories on this topic. Read more on Albany Patch about the Gill Tract occupation.

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 her at albany@patch.com.

Ellen Hershey May 03, 2012 at 05:33 PM
Colleen, like James, I am not willing to have a dialogue with the occupiers about the use of the Gill Tract until they end their occupation. I am much more likely to listen to them if they leave voluntarily, and even more likely if they clean up after themselves while departing. Further, they will have a much better chance of gaining my respect for their ideas if they develop a detailed proposal about how an urban farm on the Gill Tract would work, per Peggy McQuaid's excellent outline above. Having helped with arranging care for my aunt over the last 10 years (she recently died at age 94), I can tell you that $4,000 a month is the going rate for assisted living in Northern California. Why? Assisted living facilities not only feed you and give you a place to live, they pay people to take care of you in other ways 24/7. Compared to what it costs to hire someone to come into your home to take care of you 24/7, it's cheap. Compared to a nursing home, it's cheap. Yes, there are many people who can't afford it. Yes, our health care system is broken. But that's another long long story.
Colleen O'Neill May 03, 2012 at 05:40 PM
So sorry you didn't speak. As this matter is being reviewed right now by the Planning & Zoning Commission I was most interested in that aspect. If you read my comment - it says that this thread doesn't represent all Albany residents. I'm hoping to contact Dr. Shabakka who thought he had an arrangement with UC Berkeley for an urban farm at the Gill tract, but at the last minute was refused. His program is currently in Richmond, CA. The young woman who teaches in the Albany schools and I believe went to Cal said she lives here, with her child. I took her at her word...I don't discriminate when it comes to kids. I think we try the best for all our children. My husband is the Tech. Director for the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts in Richmond which serves mainly low-income children in the Iron Triangle. It's a non-profit & the hours he contributes are great...We've discussed this issue & he'd love a Farm/Educational non-profit.
Max Lisch May 03, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Thank you Peggy, I believe you are right, the first step for them to take is to stop their illegal activities. Then they will have a foot to stand on, without threatening others.
Kayko May 03, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Dear Colleen, I would have loved to go to the meeting last night had I known it would involve dialogue. I believed Ulan's letter that it would be strictly educational, and since I wasn't that interested in his own personal connection to the land, I didn't go. Educational seminars are, generally speaking, not the same as dialogues. Now that I know it *was* about dialogue, I am sad that I didn't go. Had it been billed as dialogue, I would have. Just my own thoughts, but perhaps others might have attended as well, if we had known it would be a conversation...
Robert Marshall May 03, 2012 at 05:49 PM
First off, I will publicly acknowledge that this was the first really "pro-active" outreach I have seen by the Occupy movement since they started. Sure, they can say, we could have went down there to get info. But, it's not the same as when one of them comes by door-to-door. Kristen (sp?) was very personable and enthusiastic of what she was doing, though she said she only became a "farmer" a couple of days ago. Secondly, it was nice to see that it was held at a "neutral" site, the Albany Community Center, rather than having it at the contested field. However, it's unfortunate that the meeting was only really visible after fliers were put out in the neighborhood around 2pm, which means most people wouldn't be able to know about it until after they got home from work. So, I think, it's a bit unfair for people to be pigeon-holed as not caring because they could not attend the meeting. Was the meeting on KALB? If so, will it be retransmitted, or made available OnDemand? With all that said, I expect things to come to a head soon, especially in light of the private meeting (with attorneys in tow) that's scheduled for a secret location. Sounds so cloak and dagger, or like the SALT II talks where there's a long table dividing the room between the USSR and USA. I, honestly, hope that the UC won't use this an excuse to wipe out the camp while it's members are meeting them. No matter if I don't support the Occupy actions, that would be bad, politically, for UC.
Kevin Johnson May 03, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Kayko, I asked the question of the content of the meeting last night to Ulan when he first posted the information, and I received no response for clarity. Carissa posted that she did attend the meeting however "Ulan limited the discussion to "our vision of the tract"" and she left early. It's been my experience throughout the week that my questions to Ulan go unanswered, so when given the choice to take care of my son who is an Albany grade schooler or attend the Ulan show, my choice was clear.
Carissa Sun May 03, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Oh wow, that sounds interesting, Colleen. Definitely keep me (us?) posted on that work (via Patch?). I am totally willing to get behind that. And I apologize, the teacher we were talking about was someone else. Michael Beer was who I thought you meant. Nonetheless, if I understand correctly most of the "farmers" do not live in Albany. So I am with Mr. Mink. They need to leave, peacefully and orderly. Then the community can talk about urban (ok, who are we kidding: suburban) farms and where they could go and what they could look like.
Ellen Hershey May 03, 2012 at 06:05 PM
I doubt that illegally squatting on land to hijack it for urban farms will be any more popular in communities in need than it is in Albany. Even if people living in those communities like the idea of urban farming, they will not want outsiders to come in and force it on them. They may think other things are more important than urban farms. They may dream of parks and ball fields for their kids, childcare centers, housing, a new school, a Safeway, businesses that provide jobs, whatever. I do agree that if the goal of urban farming is to provide fresh, nutritious food for people living in high-poverty urban food deserts, it seems like the top choice for a place to do that would be in those food deserts, not a food oasis like Albany.
Colleen O'Neill May 03, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Mr. Marshall, I don't know about the recordings. BUT a friend of my sons, a local filmmaker, whose documentary work is getting known, was there. I was quite surprised to see him & asked him what he was doing & he told me that he's planning to do a documentary about this. I'll keep you posted & I can ask about his recording. It was asked if anyone wanted a future meeting with City of Albany people & Planning & Zoning & I believe that is in the works. Sometimes Life doesn't give us much notice. I read about it in the Patch.
Colleen O'Neill May 03, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Ms. Sun, Just called my husband, who works with Dr. Shabakka on different community events in Richmond, & I'll ask him to respond here if he has the time.
Robin Onaka May 03, 2012 at 06:37 PM
I was at the meeting but left before it was over. I have no way of knowing how many of the participants were actually Albany residents but I will say most, if not all were pro-farm at any costs. I also thought this would be an educational seminar, not a dialogue. I would have liked to hear their thoughts on Peggy McQuaid's three questions she posted above. Those are points that need to be addressed.
Dover May 03, 2012 at 06:40 PM
"Where were all of you last night?" Some if us have to work for a living. We don't all have the luxury of attending evening "educational" activities. P.S. If you wish to discuss things in a civil fashion, it's best to start your comments in such a fashion.
Ellen Hershey May 03, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Colleen, yes, I would have known about the Planning & Zoning Commission's actions regarding the Gill Tract. I have not been actively participating in this process, but I have been following it for years, and I certainly would have participated actively if I had major concerns about how it was going. The reason why there's going to be a Whole Foods store and senior housing is that not only the University wants this, but many Albany residents want it. Zoning changes are not the whole story. Have you noticed the years of negotiation Safeway has gone through with the City of Albany and community members just to get approval to rebuild its store on Solano? Given the values and priorities of Albany residents, I think the University would have zero chance of sticking a Walmart into the northern end of the Gill Tract, even if it wanted to. The University has already published its plan for the northern end of the Gill Tract. It includes a park, ball fields, and yes, a community garden, all for use by University Village residents and the Albany community. Have you read their plan? And the University has stated its willingness to continue dialogue with Albany about it if we want an urban farm there. So, get involved - figure out how big we want the community garden to be, and make your case. But I bet many Albanians really want those ball fields too. The major funding source for public schools is not local property taxes but the state.
Ellen Hershey May 03, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Peggy, thank you for this constructive comment, which is the best I've read on Patch so far about the Gill Tract occupation. Far better than my own comments.
Dee May 03, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Colleen O'Neill May 03, 2012 at 07:02 PM
Mr./Ms. Dover, Most events are held in the evenings. From schools to city councils. Over the past few days I've read many mean spirited comments. From butt parking homeless people to Machiavellian plots by Profs. People have been very insulted and I guess I'm getting punchy myself...
Colleen O'Neill May 03, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Ms. Hershey, I'm not sure that Solano Ave. merchants do want a large Whole Foods down the street. It sells everything and will be in direct competition with them. Will this one have it's own restaurant? It's also quite pricy & non-union. I'd prefer a new Safeway myself on Solano...So you're right - lots of different opinions...As for Little League, we now have 3 fields being used/shared in Albany. Albany Little League serves Albany, No.Berkeley/Berkeley Hills & parts of El Cerrito. It costs $325. per kid, & $190.00 per sibling. It's season is from Feb. -June. I'm wondering if it uses other ballparks in the areas that it serves. My chidren/grandchildren played some Little League but I have no idea what percentage is actually from Albany...I was under the impression that the Gill tract was already a done deal & had no idea that it was now going before the planning & zoning & city and city council. So the Occupy Farm made me wake up & you're right - get involved!
Robert Marshall May 03, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Thanks Colleen. After writing my comment I actually called the number for KALB from the city website. Still waiting to hear back. Documentaries are interesting, but they're usually done after the fact, which I think will be the case with anything that revolves around the OccupyTheFarm movement.
Robert Marshall May 03, 2012 at 08:11 PM
I'm sure the Solano merchants don't. But, that's the same argument we heard when Target moved in, AND if you go back far enough, it's the same argument when Costco moved in over on Point Isabel. I continue to hear the "quite pricey" comment. Many of the items are not any more pricey than Safeway, and certainly in the same realm of Berkeley Bowl. Is it more expensive than places like Happy Produce, certainly. But, I will also suggest the quality of Happy Produce is nowhere near that of the items sold at Whole Foods. But with all that said, I do ponder whether a town the size of Albany is in needs of a "super Safeway" and a Whole Foods Market. They are both pretty large operations. If people haven't checked out the new Safeway in El Cerrito they should. It's HUGE!! I also suggest people check out the Whole Foods, in Oakland (not the one in Berkeley) to see what a store in Albany might look like, product-wise.
Emilie Raguso May 03, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Via Professor Bob Jacobsen's May 2 comments to the Academic Senate: "Protests by members of the campus community, more than just a Constitutional right, are an important part of what we are as an academic community. Free expression of views, even done in the form of organized or disorganized protest, is a one of the ways we move knowledge forward and play our role in the world. At the same time, disruption can have a negative impact on our campus and our colleagues. We’re currently faced with a disruptive protest action at the Gill Tract in Albany that, as it stands today, is inconsistent with the academic freedom of several of our colleagues. .... Our colleagues have their reviewed and approved research projects at the Gill Tract. Those projects have been usurped by unilateral action from outside our faculty and outside our disciplines. Faculty and administration are engaged in finding a suitable resolution to this undesired situation. I’m hopeful that one can be found. But if there is no way to reach a win-win resolution, then I believe that the faculty’s freedom to do their planned research must be supported as a key principle. As a faculty, I think we must stand by this." Posted by UC -- http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2012/05/03/comments-from-academic-senate-chair-bob-jacobsen/
Robert Marshall May 03, 2012 at 08:43 PM
And to clarify, when I say "done" I mean finished. Not as in I'll wait for a resolution and only then start.
Tim Q. Cannon May 03, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Albanians are from Albania. I prefer Albanyan.......rhymes with D'artagnan.
Concerned Reader May 03, 2012 at 10:22 PM
To the Albanyans and non-albanyans at Gill Tract now. I agree with Kayko's post. You've done so much so fast. Look how many people have weighed in on the issue. But please be careful. I've had friends arrested for civil disobedience and it may not be what you expect (if you are new to this). Please read up on the process and make an informed choice as to whether you are willing to be arrested or not. Here is one source: http://voices.yahoo.com/preparing-arrested-during-protest-5180021.html There are probably many better. This will be a great subject for a documentary - help to choose whether this is an intermission or a bad ending.
Robert Marshall May 03, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Just received a call back from KALB. As this was not a City of Albany sponsored event, it was not recorded. He said they would record private events if requested by the person that scheduled the event. There are two options. Either pay for that recording up front, or if you think it's something they might want to air for the good of the city you'd need to give them a couple week's notice so their committee could review the request.
Milan Moravec May 03, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Provost Breslauer and Chancellor Birgeneau's distinction. Chancellor and Provost makes Cal. farther and farther out of reach for the sons and daughters of Californians. UCB Chancellor Robert J Birgeneau is outspoken on why elite public universities, like Cal, should charge Californians more. With Birgeneau’s leadership UCB is more expensive (on an all-in-cost) than private Harvard and Yale. Chancellor Birgeneau’s tuition decisions make Cal. the most expensive public higher education in our country! Birgeneau ($450,000 salary) likes to blame the politicians, since they stopped giving him every dollar expected. The Chancellor’s ‘charge more’ instate tuition skyrocketed fees by an average 14% per year from 2006 to 2011-12 academic year. If Birgeneau had allowed fees to rise at the same rate of inflation over the past 10 years they would still be in reach of most middle income students. Increasing funding is not Cal’s solution. UCB is a public university created to maximize access to the widest number of instate students at a reasonable cost with a mission of diversity and equality of opportunity. Birgeneau’s and Provost George Breslauer’s ($306,000 salary) ‘charge more’ instate tuition denies middle income Californians the transformative value of university education. Chancellor Birgeneau’s tenure is a sad unacceptable legacy. Opinion to: UC Board of Regents marsha.kelman@ucop.edu and Calif. State Senators and Assembly members.
Carissa Sun May 04, 2012 at 03:18 AM
And this is pertinent to the above conversation how exactly?? I understand that there are some serious public trust issues with the UC, but are you really saying that Birgeneau & Breslauer's salaries are why there's some delusional kids planting lettuce on the Gill Tract? Please excuse my tone, but I am just. so. tired. of this whole shtik. Leave already.
Dover May 04, 2012 at 03:35 AM
"Most events are held in the evenings. From schools to city councils." Yes, and for such worthy/worthwhile events I would be (and have been) inclined to rearrange my work schedule. But for an obvious indoctrination session held by someone who is gleeful about breaking the law and informed us in advance that our commentary would not be welcome? No.
Alan Riffer May 04, 2012 at 05:33 AM
Colleen and Robert, The Albany Chamber of Commerce supports the Mixed Use Development including Whole Foods. Their statement at the July 18, 2011 City Council study session: "The Albany Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, after due consideration and polling the membership, voted to support this project for the following reasons: It brings several acres onto the property tax rolls, which will mean increased revenues to the City; It will create over 300 permanent jobs; Sales tax revenues will increase; It will revitalize our southern gateway on San Pablo Avenue, giving a much-needed boost to existing independent businesses and stimulating additional business investment; Our seniors can age in place in our community; and The proposal connects UC Village to the greater Albany community. " Not unanimously supported by Chamber members, but strongly supported.
Lisa Schneider May 04, 2012 at 07:31 AM
No one, not even Master-Gardeners-of-the-Universe, get to to dictate HOW people participate in conversations around the Gill Tract. There's no one-size-fits-all medium of expression. In order to make our voices count, surely we don't have to show up in person at "educational" meetings (or dialogues?) where we must play student while others play teacher? I hope that's not what you meant.
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