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UC Plan for Sprouts Market, Senior Housing Faces Key Vote

A public hearing and possible key vote by the Albany planning commission are scheduled Wednesday on a major UC Berkeley commercial development proposal for a Sprouts Farmers Market and 175 units of senior housing next to 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
It's been six years and many public meetings since UC submitted a proposal for commercial development of several acres of its property next to UC Berkeley's University Village student-housing complex in Albany.

And now the current version of that proposal – featuring a Sprouts Farmers Market, a 175-unit senior housing complex and two other retail developments on 6.3 acres at San Pablo Avenue at Monroe Street – faces key votes Wednesday night by the Albany Planning & Zoning Commission.

The item, which includes a public hearing, was carried over from the Nov. 20 commission meeting. Up for action are approval of the tentative parcel maps and approval of design review.

The meeting, at Albany City Hall, will start earlier than usual at 6 p.m. to accommodate a large agenda. The UC plan is the first item on the agenda, which includes multiple attachments that can be viewed on the city's website.

The proposed Sprouts market has generated the most controversy, including a "Boycott Sprouts" campaign supported by Occupy the Farm. Opponents want the now vacant property to be used for a community farm, which they say is consistent with the property's use as "historic farmland."

Albany City Councilman Michael Barnes, in a blog post on Dec. 7, criticized the objections, saying there's no evidence that the property was ever used as farmland. 

University Village, along with property now being proposed for development and the neighboring agricultural research fields, were all once part of the original 104-acre Gill Tract, which was owned and used as a nursery by Edward G. Gill, who died in 1909. His family sold the property to the university in 1928.

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SteveWu December 10, 2013 at 10:08 PM
The project contains ZERO low income or affordable units.
dorthy manser December 10, 2013 at 10:36 PM
I don't care.
Lisa Schneider December 11, 2013 at 02:35 AM
After 6 years and 20 or so open public hearings, it's high time for Albany to get much-needed senior housing and walkable grocery shopping for this underserved neighborhood. No one is served by further delays or unpredictable twists-- not the current participants, not prospective entrepreneurs who might try to grow a business here, and certainly not the Albany community.
David Sanger December 11, 2013 at 02:41 AM
the project contains a welcome market for Albany residents and has been long planned. Time to approve the plans and get on with it.
dorthy manser December 11, 2013 at 07:42 AM
So true, Lisa and David, but we have to face the fact that there is a committed group of ideologues who will do everything in their power to stop this project, from legal challenges to economic sabotage and "direct action". Since they are convinced that they have the high moral ground, they will stoop to any lie and employ any tactic (thankfully, nonviolently) to get what they want, and they have no respect for local democracy, which should be at the core of any development decision. U.C. Berkeley, in its infinite wisdom, has taught them that they have absolutely nothing to lose by causing expensive and unnecessary delays, so why shouldn't they continue to do so?
Ross Stapleton-Gray December 11, 2013 at 10:36 AM
For lack of a better place to post this, I note that Patch has now opted to display their "Who's Blogging?" section in lieu of "Most recent comments," which makes it far harder for me to visit the site and get a quick sense of what might have been added... I suspect we'll see an uptick of people posting "Following" sorts of comments, just to ensure that updates come to their inbox. Charles, if this was a local decision, I'd suggest revisiting it; if it was a global decision, Patch Central, it feels like a slow downward spiral...
Ken December 11, 2013 at 11:46 AM
Unfortunately, I believe that the rainbow unicorn crowd can utilize tactics like continuing to file specious lawsuits in opposition of the project and it'll never happen (retailer will pull out after lengthy delays). So put me in the "I'll believe it when I see it." group.
downerave December 11, 2013 at 11:55 AM
@Ross. I've had that issue too. I click the Home tab or refresh the page and it often displays the comments again.
Ross Stapleton-Gray December 11, 2013 at 12:49 PM
@downerave I suspect it's a "slide bar" sort of option, as there had been times (and now, again) when you almost always got comments; a few days ago about half the time I'd refresh I'd get comments, and half the blogs... yesterday it was just all blogs, all the time.
Senior A. Titude December 11, 2013 at 01:39 PM
Steve Wu, please direct me to where it is guaranteed that one has a right to live wherever they want, regardless of ability to pay? I would love to move to Tiburon, but can't afford it, so please provide this information immediately so I can force them to provide me with low cost housing. thank you.
SteveWu December 11, 2013 at 02:25 PM
@Senior It is too bad you do not have enough money to live in Tiburon. You would fit right in there. http://www.marinij.com/marin/ci_5015666 Tiburon does appear to have some low income and section 8 housing, maybe you should apply: http://lihtc.findthedata.org/l/2264/Cecilia-Place http://section-8-housing.findthebest.com/l/21668/The-Hilarita
Charles Burress (Editor) December 11, 2013 at 02:44 PM
Reply to Ross on the most recent comments section on the homepage: Ross, I'm still seeing the most recent comments on the page, though it could have been that they disappeared yesterday for a while during a design update. As for whether I have any control over the page design and architecture – no, it's a Patch systemwide layout handled by our HQ in NYC. They welcome reader feedback – just click the green "Feedback" button on the right edge of the homepage.
David Sanger December 11, 2013 at 07:38 PM
"The project contains ZERO low income or affordable units." Right. It is for a shopping market and for senior housing. That should be fairly obvious by now. Low income housing is a fine idea. If a developer comes forward who wants to build low income housing in Albany and can get funding and a location, then then that will go through Planning and Zoning too.
christopher papazoglow December 11, 2013 at 08:14 PM
Are "senior" and "low-income or affordable" mutually exclusive? Are there not set-asides ( or whatever it's called ) already in the plan that a percentage of those units be "affordable or low-income" senior-housing units? Surely that would be the case, with a 175-unit proposal, right?
tr December 11, 2013 at 11:10 PM
christopher - no, in fact "senior" and "assisted living" are also mutually exclusive in this case. "exclusive" is accurate to describe people who will be able to afford to live there. . . . david - u r correct. the ship has sailed and it is too late to renegotiate with the landowner. the city already gave uc all the rezoning and exemptions that they wanted. but, i think we did get 2 blocks of bike lanes and public art, which will be nicer than having to walk to the bulb. . . . senior, i think the requirement for affordable and low income housing is in something called the alameda county housing plan or something like that. albany has not done much to meet the goals. i saw an article about the plan in rlation to the bulb. . . dorothy - yes, you don't care. maybe some day you will.
dorthy manser December 12, 2013 at 12:13 AM
No, tr, I don't care. I did, but now I don't. Guess why.
Caryl O'Keefe December 12, 2013 at 12:32 AM
About a half hour ago P&Z Commissioner Phil Moss moved, and Commissioner Nick Pilch seconded, approval of the 6 resolutions for this project. All 4 commissioners present voted yes. That was after almost 2 hours of public comment, most by people who do not live in Albany. I counted 13 Albany residents who spoke, five against the project.

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