ALBANY -- A series of resolutions allowing UC Berkeley to proceed with plans to develop land along San Pablo Avenue at Monroe Street was approved last week by the Planning and Zoning Commission. The vote came after two hours of public comment and commission discussion.
Opponents have until close of business on Dec. 30 from the Dec. 11 vote to appeal the decision to the City Council.
The project includes a Sprouts Farmers Market and senior housing to be built by Belmont Village.
"It's an important milestone after what has been six years of constructive engagement with the university and the community to come up with what we think is a win-win plan. I thank all of those involved," university spokesman Dan Mogulof said.
"The university, the community, city government and the campus feel good about this because the outcome was the result of what was very close, constructive engagement over many years."
The project has attracted ongoing opposition, however, from activists who contend no building should be done on the site.
"It looks like the city has been ignoring all of the public input for the last 15 years, and tonight is no different," said Lesley Haddock, a member of Occupy the Farm, the group that led opposition to the plan.
"Obviously, we're not done.
The city has approved it, but there are still hundreds of people out here in the East Bay that are dedicated to farming that land, and we intend to do that."
The commission was originally scheduled to vote on the package of resolutions at its Nov. 20 meeting, but some late changes by city staff led to the item's continuance to Dec. 11, when the meeting was scheduled to start an hour earlier to accommodate public comment and allow discussion of other items besides the University Village project.
The meeting ran nearly six hours, and Albany residents, UC Berkeley students and urban farming activists packed the chamber.
The project has been in the works for years. A version of the plan was approved by the City Council in July 2012, only to be rescinded after a referendum by opponents qualified for the ballot.
At that point, anchor tenant Whole Foods Market pulled out of the project. Sprouts Farmers Market was subsequently brought in as a replacement.
Among the resolutions passed was a division of the parcel into three parts. One is for the grocery store, one is for the senior housing, and the third is designated for retail.
Plans for the final parcel have not been presented.
Commissioner Phillip Moss has repeatedly requested that the parcel remain open space until the university comes up with development plans and did so again Wednesday, prompting one of the opponents to blurt out, "We could farm it."
Moss smiled and replied, "That was the hint."
"We intend to farm all of it," Haddock said.
"We're in agreement, at least, on that part."
Mogulof said the university is open to any and all conversations but also stressed that UC wants to hear from the entire community on the subject and not just one segment.