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City Settles With Residents Evicted From Albany…

UC to Occupy the Farm: 'A Stunning Degree of Arrogance' with Demands

Click the "Keep me posted" button below for an update when we publish future stories on this topic. See all the Gill Tract stories at http://patch.com/bvbHo.

University officials responded to with "disappointment and dismay," according to a new statement released just before 4 p.m. Tuesday. 

The university said a "win-win-win" result would be achieved only if the activists who took over UC-owned agricultural land in April abandon their encampment and cede control of the land back to the university. 

If these two steps are undertaken, said the university, the water to the site will be turned back on, and officials will begin a "detailed conversation and planning" process about how to sustain urban farming activities "alongside agricultural research." 

In , they said they would break down their camp only if the university restores water access, and agrees to several other terms related to community access and planting practices at the Gill Tract. 

A representative from the group, Effie Rawlings, said Tuesday that one of Occupy the Farm's main goals was "for access to the east field (and) children's garden...for us and the larger community." (.)

In the university's May 8 letter (attached to this story as a PDF), officials said, "We find it very difficult to understand the moral, legal or intellectual basis for demands that would put a self-selected group in a position to dictate how, when and where our faculty conduct important research to which they have dedicated their professional lives."

Writers Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer and Vice Chancellor John Wilton continued: "There is also a stunning degree of arrogance and entitlement inherent in this group's demands and statements about what they are 'willing' to do for our researchers."

Officials also said that the university has been working since the April 22 occupation to find "a peaceful conclusion through constant dialogue" with members of Occupy the Farm activists.

They wrote that "our neighbors in Albany...are, in growing numbers, asking that we take steps to regain control of our property."

Officials write that the continued occupation also threatens academic freedom, and that researchers who have tended the land for years "are insisting that we preserve their right to pursue the educational and research interests without interference from a self-selected group of squatters." 

The university notes that it will continue to leave the door open for the activists to accept its proposal to leave the land "without consequence," but adds that "the university has no choice but to take the steps necessary to enforce our legal rights, protect academic freedom, preserve the collaborative community-based planning process and work with our law-abiding neighbors who share our interest in finding a way to allow for peaceful coexistence of urban farming and agricultural research on the Gill Tract."

In closing, Breslauer and Wilton write, Monday's letter from the activists "has made it very clear that they still intend to hold our property and research projects hostage, refusing to relinquish control unless we submit to their demands. We still, however, hold out hope that in the days ahead cooler heads will prevail, and they will agree to accept their portion of the win-win-win proposal we have offered before the non-negotiable need of our researchers to begin work forces our hand."

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. Scroll down to see the complete letter. 

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.

MAY 8 LETTER FROM UC BERKELEY

An Update on the Gill Tract Occupation 

Last Thursday we met with representatives of the group currently occupying university-owned land that is used for agricultural research. We discussed steps that would allow for a peaceful end to the illegal occupation; a resumption of critical research work; and a continuation of urban farming on that part of the land that will not be utilized by our faculty and students. Our proposal is based on these simple, straight-forward steps:

1. A voluntary and permanent dismantling of the tent city.
Why: Our faculty have made it clear that research requiring meticulous supervision and attention to detail cannot be conducted in the midst of an encampment populated by individuals who do not have the knowledge, experience or, for that matter, the legal rights that would justify or warrant their around-the-clock presence.

2. A restoration of university control and supervision over the land.
Why: As the owner of the property the university has legal liability and accountability for what happens on the land. We also cannot countenance the establishment of any precedent whereby a forceful seizure of property establishes a right to unilaterally dictate how the university conducts its research and educational activities. Free, unsupervised public access is simply incompatible with the environment and conditions necessary for complex agricultural research.

3. A resumption of water supply once the first two steps are completed.
Why: We believe in the principle of reciprocity and, as supporters of urban farming, desire to preserve as much of what has already been planted as possible. 

4. An initiation of detailed conversation and planning, led by the Dean of the College of Natural Resources, on sustaining urban farming alongside agricultural research. These discussions would also need to be broad-based, including all interested parties from the surrounding community.
Why: We have determined that the land can be shared in the context of our support for urban farming. We also will not disenfranchise members of the Albany community who, in recent years, have spent a good deal of time and effort working with us in a collaborative planning process designed to ensure that future use of the land reflects and addresses the needs and interests of our neighbors.

5. While this dialogue occurs best efforts will be made, under the supervision of the Dean of the College of Natural Resources, to protect the planting that has occurred as long as it does not interfere with the faculty’s research. 
Why: We believe this is the best and only way to balance and coordinate two very different agricultural endeavors on a single parcel of land. 

In our opinion this is what a win-win-win result would look like in that the proposal addresses the needs and interests of our faculty and students, the Albany community and those interested in urban farming. The door remains open to a peaceful resolution based on this proposal, and we will be ready to step back from any effort to hold the occupiers accountable, in terms of civil or criminal legal actions, if it is accepted.  

In this context we received with disappointment and dismay the occupiers’ response that was published last night. We find it very difficult to understand the moral, legal or intellectual basis for demands that would put a self-selected group in a position to dictate how, when and where our faculty conduct important research to which they have dedicated their professional lives. There is also a stunning degree of arrogance and entitlement inherent in this group’s demands and statements about what they are “willing” to do for our researchers. There is no legal or moral foundation for this attempt by individuals involved in an illegal and forceful seizure of property to dictate terms.

Those who have been following developments since the occupation began on April 22nd know that we have been patiently seeking a peaceful conclusion through constant dialogue with members of the encampment. The Dean and faculty from the College of Natural Resources have been frequent visitors to the site, and have made every effort to engage, explain and explore the possibility of compromise. At the same time we are and will remain accountable to our neighbors in Albany--including parents of children who attend the elementary school adjacent to the tent city--who are, in growing numbers, asking that we take steps to regain control of our property.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the continuation of this occupation threatens a principle that lies at the heart of any institution of higher education: academic freedom. A growing number of our faculty are insisting that we preserve their right to pursue their educational and research interests without interference from a self-selected group of squatters. As the Chair of our Academic Senate recently said, “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….we must stand by this.” Our commitment to preserve academic freedom is part and parcel of who we are as one of the leading research universities in the world. Whether it is in the areas of health, agriculture, public policy, human rights or engineering, the preservation of academic freedom is non-negotiable.

So, where does that leave us? While we will continue to leave the door open to an acceptance of our proposal that would allow the illegal occupants to leave the land without consequence, the university has no choice but to take the steps necessary to enforce our legal rights, protect academic freedom, preserve the collaborative community-based planning process and work with our law-abiding neighbors who share our interest in finding a way to allow for peaceful coexistence of urban farming and agricultural research on the Gill Tract.

Our position since the beginning of the occupation and our decision to now pursue other remedies arise from a careful, broad-based decision-making process that includes senior administration leaders, the Chair of our Academic Senate and other members of faculty, the Deans of the College of Natural Resources and the Graduate Division, UCPD, Student Affairs and Community Relations. This statement is fully supported by all of the above.

The occupiers’ response to our proposal has made it very clear that they still intend to hold our property and research projects hostage, refusing to relinquish control unless we submit to their demands. We still, however, hold out hope that in the days ahead cooler heads will prevail and they will agree to accept their portion of the win-win-win proposal we have offered before the non-negotiable need of our researchers to begin work forces our hand.

Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost                      Vice Chancellor, Administration and Finance

George Breslauer                                                             John Wilton

Ross Stapleton-Gray May 09, 2012 at 03:06 AM
I agree with that; needed a bang, produced a whimper. It's readily apparent that they're going to get a similar, if not exact same, response for as long as they're asking; they ought to announce a date certain at which point their only recourse is to ask appropriate authorities to evict the interlopers.
Jo-Anna Pippen May 09, 2012 at 03:18 AM
It's not for the occupiers to decide. I can plant a garden in my backyard. I cannot put in a ball field.
Kirsten Schwartz May 09, 2012 at 03:32 AM
EL, what IS Class 1 Soil, anyway? Would Class 2 work?
lubov mazur May 09, 2012 at 03:34 AM
RM Without a doubt, their hands are tied by the recent events at Davis and Berkeley. No matter how they proceed there will be hard feelings, but the researchers have limited time to begin their planting, and with the demands of OF that practices, whether or not they were ever employed, be changed or eliminated makes negotiation impossible. This land was already under cultivation, just fallow until planting season was right. OF said they had been in planning for a long time before the action. Had they chosen the hard ground at Monroe and San Pablo where the Whole Foods/senior housing is intended they might have had more sympathy. But as I said before, the ground is a lot harder there.
M luudensis May 09, 2012 at 03:42 AM
I completely agree with Kirsten S. They are demanding a confrontation with these actions. As mentioned they didn't respond on time because they were afraid of a "police attack" and they made a banner to strike against police brutality. That all shows they were gearing up the rhetoric for the expected expulsion. The puppet master will continue to pull the strings, moving the tools (pardon the obvious metaphor but I couldn't resist) toward getting his revolution live on TV.
Jon Meyers May 09, 2012 at 03:45 AM
Crud. I better tell my wife we should bust up the planter boxes we've got. Apparently it's pointless for us to continue growing organic veggies at the home we purchased and pay taxes on in Albany because it's not "last Class 1 Agricultural soil in the East Bay". Better that we should go and rope off a section of the Gill Tract for ourselves.
dgies May 09, 2012 at 03:50 AM
What is REALLY a more valuable use of 10 acres of prime real estate in an urban area? You can put a farm on any of the millions of acres of California's excellent agricultural land. A ballpark, gym or, (gasp!) grocery store only makes sense in a city. These also benefit the entire community, not just farming activists. It seems a bit silly to argue about the value of the soil when the real estate itself is worth millions.
Kirsten Schwartz May 09, 2012 at 04:05 AM
Jon, is "crud" the Class 2 soil?
Kevin Johnson May 09, 2012 at 04:13 AM
LOL!
lupe miller May 09, 2012 at 04:20 AM
Oh what a fun time everyone here is having teasing and cutting down the people on the farm. It's a little embarrassing, frankly. I wish the occupiers had been more collaborative, and less confrontational, since I strongly believe they are lessening the chances of UC taking a community farm seriously, and I really love that idea. Good idea. Understand the lack of trust for UC. Understand there are all kinds of historic UCB academic battles playing out here that most of us can't begin to understand. Don't think a list of "demands" was a helpful approach. Still like the idea. And, I agree with the larger message of using this land to advance urban ag.
Tatter Salad May 09, 2012 at 04:45 AM
Albany soil, just a little ways down, and sometimes on the surface, is clay. Clay ain't bad, but it's not class one. ALL soil in the East Bay, with the exception of the tract perhaps, has been infected with Phytophera (that's the stuff that makes it so the first time you plant tomatoes, they do well, the next year, not so much, then the third year... time for containers); it also wipes many trees and shrubs. The Gill tract was not contaminated BECAUSE they avoided planting tomatoes, and avoided keeping the soil damp year-round. No infections, no over watering equals Class 1 soil; that's probably all over now that the Occupiers brought in contaminated hay/manure etc.
Neo Serafimidis May 09, 2012 at 06:01 AM
EL: Honestly, this on-going fetishizing of this alleged "class 1" soil looks like the ignorant rantings of someone who's never been east of the Caldecott Tunnel. Go to my hometown of Fresno and behold thousands of acres of the most productive soil and climate (not fog-ladden summers) you'll ever want to farm in. It is true that some of the best agricultural soil in the world is being paved over. It is happening right there in the Central Valley. (Or, it was, until the housing crisis.) Go there now and fight a fight that could make a huge difference in saving land AND in how it is cultivated. Don't let big agribusiness have all that good stuff. For that, I would encourage and respect you. The argument could be made--and has been, resulting in legislation--that saving precious open space and farmland requires curbing urban sprawl. And doing that requires building more densely in the urban areas. In other words, it might be the case that covering the Gill Tract with 10-story high-rises would save more "class 1" soil than these hippies could till in their entire stoned lifetimes. I'm not advocating that, I'd probably fight it. But I am making the point that the simple-minded chanting about this mere 2.5 acres brazenly ignores the holistic picture and the complex, interconnected issues that must be considered in creating good public policy and saving valuable agricultural land in our state. Just calling this plot "precious" is not an argument or justification for anything.
Dawn May 09, 2012 at 06:03 AM
Ball fields? Really? So, now some of YOU get to dream about what can go in the Gill Tract? Do our votes only count if we own a home in Albany, or can the lowly renters join the conversation? If we've been here less than 23 years (and don't work for UC) do we get to express ourselves? Who gets to determine which among us are worthy of making these decisions? Besides, UC has already given us some. Oh, wait-they only let us use them for a certain amount of time. They're being held hostage unless the Whole Foods goes up. Even then, we only "get" them for 10 more years. Then what? You might as well give up, EL. Most of the folks that post here have no interest in actual dialogue.
Neo Serafimidis May 09, 2012 at 06:11 AM
Thanks for the info, Mr. Salad. I have been wondering about the geologic forces that deposited the tomato-killing clay in my and my neighbors' gardens, and the celestial "class 1" soil just a few blocks over.
Ellen Hershey May 09, 2012 at 06:14 AM
Yup, EL, the University's 2004 Master Plan envisions expanding and improving University Village to provide more housing for its grad students and junior faculty. Horrors! What an evil project! And the Gill Tract specifically is slated for open space, recreational facilities, ball fields, and a community garden. These facilities will not only be for University Village residents, who are also residents of Albany, but for other Albany residents. And yes, south of the Gill Tract, there's going to be a Whole Foods and senior housing complex, in part to provide a nearby grocery for Villagers and to provide income that can help pay for all this. And senior housing, which Albany needs. And all this has been worked out through negotiation with the City of Albany, which has in turn engaged the local community in an open, democratic process to determine their interests and needs. Isn't that terrible! Why, what we need is occupiers with bolt cutters to come squat on the land and tell us all what to do.
Neo Serafimidis May 09, 2012 at 06:19 AM
Dawn: as a renter, what prevents you from participating in the democratic process in exactly the same way that a land owner does? BTW, there is a gigantic, obvious difference between "dreaming about", or even arguing for, or even campaigning for a particular view of "what can go in the Gill Tract", and illegally taking it without discussion. The former is called the democratic process. The latter is known as thievery. Are you really, actually confused about this distinction??
Neo Serafimidis May 09, 2012 at 06:21 AM
Well said, Mr. Jordan. I think you are exactly right about the motives.
Robin Onaka May 09, 2012 at 06:34 AM
Dawn, if you live in Albany it doesn't matter if you are a homeowner or a renter. Your opinion counts, regardless of what it is.
Ellen Hershey May 09, 2012 at 06:55 AM
Dawn, of course as a renter and a newcomer you have just as much right and opportunity to participate in the democratic decision-making process in Albany as any other Albany resident. Who gets to determine which among us are worthy of making these decisions? Albany voters elect our city council, which appoints members of different commissions. Non-residents may also come and offer their views at many City meetings. I wonder if you realize that the University's proposal for the Whole Foods store and senior housing has been under active consideration by the City of Albany for at least 4 years. All of those meetings have been open. You could have come down and offered your views, written letters to the Planning and Zoning Commission, the City Council, etc. at any time. When Albany Patch came to town, it started carrying coverage of all this. The City's excellent website carries complete information about all City-sponsored meetings, and you can even watch them on video. In 2008 the City sponsored a design team to talk about the vision for the Gill Tract. The proceedings and findings of that group are all available on the City's website. That's what I mean when I talk about the democratic process in Albany. Come on down and participate. You will find there's lots of dialogue. Vigorous dialogue.
Emilie Raguso May 09, 2012 at 07:25 AM
We did have this poll: "Do you support the Gill Tract occupation?" Is that along the lines of what you're asking? http://albany.patch.com/articles/new-poll-do-you-support-the-gill-tract-occupation
nb May 09, 2012 at 07:43 AM
The comments on the history of the soil fertility and health in the Central Valley brought up that The Fresno Nuclear Group has plans to desalinize the soil with their new Nuclear Plant. The damage from industrial agriculture is extensive. Since I am a local native, I do have plans to continue to support change in this community. Many people in this issue have been taxpaying Albany citizens and have sat on boards, commissions, and committees with years of involvement in meetings, local events, public advocacy; raised children in the community; have respectable careers. This movement is striking a chord that does not mesh with people's sense of fairness, rightness, or sense of responsibility. I get that people simply want these folks to be wrong, admit their wrongness, and close the discussion. I am still curious about the values that may be held in common; the beliefs that prevent sharing of values and discussion. For many, the strategy has been a non-starter. I respect that. The name-calling might blow off steam, but using words like 'invasion', 'hostage', and 'collateral damage' are devastating to people who have actually had to live through these real events in real war and real occupation. Underneath this all, I still appreciate how caring and passionate people are in this community. thanks. gypsum is good for hard-pan, will help to loosen the soil, makes the clay particles stick together.
Ross Stapleton-Gray May 09, 2012 at 08:01 AM
nb, I was surprised by how inviting the original UC response was to the idea that there would be a positive (at least from the apparent original intent of the Occupiers) outcome re long-term community gardening on the Gill Tract, with their caveats (no seat at the table for the Occupiers, though obviously many not directly involved would share similar interests and be able to serve as proxies); UC, as owners of the land in question, has broad latitude to do with the property as it sees fit, and there's the potential interest in example setting... UC could have just said "We do not make concessions to extortion," and be done with it. The Occupiers' response *was* bluntly arrogant. Were I in UC's position I'd give them a firm date to vacate, then have them forcibly removed if still there by then, and *then* convene all other parties to talk about what makes sense at the Gill Tract. It would reassure a great many others who rely on established agreements to get through the day, e.g., that if they adhere to Albany requirements for green-friendly construction, the City won't sweep in and order their new bedroom demolished for the Benefit of All, or that anyone who dumps oil into their backyard will be cited or arrested.
Kevin Johnson May 09, 2012 at 01:54 PM
The sign held in Emilie's photo "Occupiers Leave Now" is fantastic, however we may want to take a page out of their playbook "Creative Direct Action Visuals Manual" if we really want to make an "impact" http://ruckus.org/downloads/RS_ActionVisuals.pdf
Craig Westbrooke May 09, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Is this circus and the copter noise disrupting Ocean View school?
Dover May 09, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Except for the few hysterical, apparently brain-addled, trespasser supporting moms,* it appears that it is business as usual at Ocean View. Today they have STAR testing. Quite a few trespassers had parked their vehicles along the fence opposite the school so drop off was a bit more difficult than usual for some. One of the cars, a filthy Honda CRV, was jam-packed with tents and shovels and such. It had a "Life is a Cabernet" license plate holder on the back. *Quotes heard on scene: "The occupiers are trying to make a difference! They are peace loving! They should be left alone!" "My kid has ASTHMA! no way am I going to let her get gassed!" "How DARE they plan the raid on a STAR TESTING day! My child is staying home today!"
Doris Meier May 09, 2012 at 05:50 PM
the trespassers had their 15 minutes of fame, now let them go home to mommy
Joy Kekki May 09, 2012 at 11:23 PM
Oh, for Pete's sake! Arrest them. They are trespassing; they are breaking the law; they must leave but, first, they must pay. "California Penal Code 602 PC (and its related sections) penalize over 30 acts that constitute criminal trespassing. The most common acts that California trespassing laws prohibit are: . entering someone else’s property with the intent to damage that property,. . entering someone else’s property with the intent to interfere with or obstruct the business activities conducted thereon, . entering and "occupying" another’s property without permission, and refusing to leave private property after you’ve been asked to do so. California trespassing laws are unique in that they can be filed as infractions, misdemeanors, or felonies. Although all three are possible, criminal trespass is most frequently prosecuted as a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor Penal Code 602 violations subject you to up to six months in a county jail and a maximum $1,000 fine." http://www.shouselaw.com/trespass.html Duh.
Dee May 10, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Yes! ++++++++++++++++++1!
MS May 10, 2012 at 02:28 AM
last night there was a public forum at UC Berkeley and the Admin. failed to show even though 200 people attended...REAL SPINE ACTION there.
MS May 10, 2012 at 02:39 AM
Last I heard UC was a public university. My taxes pay for it as does yours. What is private property about a public university. Hogwash. Seizure??? I think not. In fact several of the researchers have said they want to work with the Occupiers. I don't know where you are getting the idea that the "scientists" can't work.

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