ALBANY -- Two appeals have been filed challenging the Planning and Zoning Commission's approval of a mixed-use project on University of California-owned land along San Pablo Avenue. The appeals mean the approval will go before the City Council at a future meeting.
A previous version of the plans was approved by the commission and then appealed to the City Council. The council took up the matter at a special meeting in July 2012 that lasted more than six hours before members voted to deny the appeal.
The plans were later withdrawn after a referendum was circulated and two lawsuits against the project were filed.
This time, Albany residents Ed Fields and Amber Whitson each filed an appeal by the Dec. 30 deadline.
Fields is one of the more engaged citizens in Albany, speaking on a variety of issues at many council meetings over the years.
Whitson is among a group of homeless people camping at the Albany Bulb who have become involved in city politics as a result of efforts to evict the homeless population living on the waterfront site.
Whitson is part of a lawsuit against the city seeking to halt the evictions and has advocated for affordable housing to be constructed.
The UC project would be anchored by a Sprouts Farmers Market and housing for senior citizens. Additional retail is planned for a future phase. The version approved in 2012 had Whole Foods Market as the anchor tenant, but that corporation pulled out after the referendum and lawsuits were filed.
The land, at San Pablo and Monroe Street, served as student housing for many years. The dormitories were originally constructed for the military during World War II.
The adjacent university-owned open space on the Gill Tract was the site of multiple protests regarding the development over the past two years. Activists broke into the land, which the university uses for agricultural research, and planted their own crops, demanding that the university halt the development and devote the land to farming and research.
The protesters, known as "Occupy the Farm," claim the land is the last piece of quality farmland left in the area.