ALBANY -- Members of Occupy the Farm broke into the Gill Tract on Sunday to take soil samples with the intention of sending the samples to a laboratory to be tested for industrial pollutants.
It is the latest action by the group, which is protesting development of nearby land by the University of California and has called for preserving the Gill Tract for urban agriculture.
The group first occupied the university-owned land in April and planted crops to protest UC's development plans for an adjacent site. In May, university police evicted the occupiers. The group has broken into the land several times since to tend and harvest its crops.
Katie, an Occupy member who did not want to give her last name, said the group would be testing for things such as chemical pollutants and heavy metals. She said UC police arrived when the group was finishing up collecting soil and that no arrests were made.
"We're waiting to send them to a facility to be processed," she said.
University of California spokesman Dan Mogulof declined to comment.
Katie said Occupy the Farm took the samples from an area south of where members planted crops, closer to the proposed University Village development. The area has buildings that were constructed for student housing in the 1940s. Katie said the area was in disrepair.
The university has proposed building a grocery store and assisted-living housing for seniors on the site.
After several years of community discussion, a deal was finalized and approved by the Albany City Council in July. But two lawsuits were filed over the project and a referendum was signed by enough residents that the development agreement was rescinded by the council in November.
The controversy caused Whole Foods Market, which was to be the anchor tenant, to withdraw from the project. However, the city and the university have agreed that the project can continue without the development agreement, which covered aspects that included labor agreements and a promise to keep the Albany Little League fields, which are on the property, for at least 10 years.
The land that Occupy the Farm originally took over is not part of the development. The University's College of Natural Resources uses that land for agricultural research.