Rumor Mill Review: Gill Tract Farm Occupy

The Gill Tract in Albany is a piece of farm research land, for now, that is threatened with development. Finding out what has happened, understanding the past fight and future strategies, has been dizzying. So here are my notes, a bit of rumor strained through initial research.

--> hey you wonderful activists: Please add comments that help me further footnote this.

Official Process, UCB and Albany

The University of California, Berkeley [UCB] owns this land. It was donated -- the Gill family gave 140 acres for agriculture, and UCB has been whittling it away. The high-quality farmland, I think the last in the Bay Area of this size and quality, has been used for research. For those who want it to remain a farm, UCB moving the land from their College of Natural Resources to Capital Projects is causing nervousness.

A few key documents:

  • UCB 2004 Village Master Plan: turn the farmland into recreation (grass fields, parking?), and develop the area next to it.
  • Environmental Impact Report [EIR] -- Albany, 2009. Not yet "certified" (approved), under review [?]. The Project Site in 2009 does not include the farmland. (See the "Project Description" page). This was on agenda for Oct 2011… we never figured out if it was approved reading the website. It's a little hard to find this information: Albany Major Projects on the University Village Retail Mixed Use Project.
    Urban planner advice to farm-advocates: See if anyone said the should be included in the EIR, holding the projects together may be more powerful than each be whittled down singly.
  • Albany has a Gill Tract Design Team. They do not yet own the land [?] but things seem lined up for Albany to take over the farmland of the Gill Tract for openspace. There are some maps here: all the options show the farmland being further whittled away.
  • Who in Occupy is (has been) dealing with the legal and in-the-system struggle? Who knows details? I've seen the name: Dan Siegel. There seems to be abundant rumor that people have been trying the in-the-system approach to get a farm, and are being given the run-around, but I would like to know that history. Also, does the team have urban planners and lawyers -- sufficient experts? Can the experts give a summary?

Occupy Perspective

Long article with lots of photos, that discusses Novartis role in some of the research currently underway that the occupy might interfere with. There's a rumor war (I haven't seen what I'd call a debate) between the idea that this is pure basic research about plant genetics, vs the university doing the bidding of GMO corporations.

Professor Miguel Altieri discusses why the occupation makes sense, and discusses the UCB history (including the recent transfer to Capital Projects.

Open letter by Occupiers (found in multiple places) including a potential goal: "The Gill Tract could potentially become a center for community outreach, agroecology, and urban farming – thereby meeting the growing interests of the university in socially and ecologically sustainable farming, and the needs of the local East Bay community."