ALBANY -- The University of California has erected a chain-link fence around the site of a proposed development on land known as the Gill Tract.
The fencing, which went up earlier this month, appears to be the latest salvo in an ongoing battle between the university and protesters who have occupied portions of the land in an attempt to halt the proposed development.
According to UC Berkeley Office of Public Affairs Executive Director Dan Mogulof, the fencing was installed for multiple reasons.
"First and foremost, it's an important signal that this is not just an empty lot, that we have development plans that are moving forward," he said. "It's an assertion of our property rights. And given what we've heard from the Albany community (about) their frustration with the repeated incursions, the old adage is that fences make good neighbors."
It appears that the protesters, known as Occupy The Farm, have not yet attempted to breech the fencing. Mogulof said he has no knowledge of any attempted trespassing since the fencing was installed.
The university plans to develop a portion of the land along San Pablo Avenue into a grocery market along with an assisted living facility. The plans have been in development for years and the latest iteration went before the city's Planning and Zoning Commission on June 12. Current plans are for a Sprouts Farmers Market on the site.
The plans have been controversial throughout the process. The City Council approved a development deal in July 2012, but a pair of lawsuits under the California Environmental Quality Act and a referendum drive led to the council rescinding the agreement. That also led the previous anchor tenant, Whole Foods Market, to pull out of the deal.
Protesters first occupied the land in April, 2012, planting crops and staying on the property for three weeks until university police removed them. The protesters returned several times over the summer to tend and then harvest the crops.
Protesters again occupied the land this past May, this time moving slightly south of their original occupation, on the land actually slated for development. University police removed them within days and plowed the crops under. Protesters have returned at least twice since then.