ALBANY -- Two appeals challenging approval of a University of California mixed use development along San Pablo Avenue were unanimously rejected Wednesday by the City Council.
The vote came after a contentious meeting at which the council limited public comment on the project. Mayor Peggy Thomsen ordered police to remove an opponent of the project for disrupting the meeting.
Opponents said after the meeting they were not sure what their next move would be. Several held a sit-in in the lobby of City Hall to discuss their options.
The proposed development includes a Sprouts Farmers Market and senior housing, as well as other retail. The project has been a battleground between backers of new development to bolster the city's economic base and housing needs versus open space advocates, including many who want the land preserved for urban agriculture uses.
The property once housed defense worker barracks constructed during World War II that the university later converted into student housing.
In July 2012, the City Council approved a prior version of the plan, which included Whole Foods Market as an anchor tenant. A referendum and two lawsuits were filed against the project, leading Whole Foods to withdraw its participation.
Wednesday's meeting started with the council deciding to limit public comment to one minute per speaker rather than the standard three minutes, or the two minutes sometimes used for items where large numbers of people want to speak.
The chamber overflowed, with every seat filled and people lining the walls. Opponents vastly outnumbered supporters and as the meeting wore on, they became increasingly frustrated with the public comment limitations.
Speaker after speaker fumbled at the dais as they tried vainly to make their points within the 60-second time limit. Most had to finish up with an extra sentence or two and Thomsen admonished speaker after speaker to finish up, cutting the microphone on several occasions.
Krystof Lopaur pointed out that with nine resolutions before the council, one minute amounted to 6.6 seconds per resolution. Lopaur was later ordered removed when he cited the Americans with Disabilities Act after Thomsen ordered everybody to sit down after a recess.
Five Albany police officers escorted Lopaur out of the chamber.