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."
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