ALBANY -- The city has added a page to its website (www.albanyca.org, under the Top Stories section) promoting the controversial University Village mixed-use development that is currently working its way through the planning process.
"The project will revitalize a vacant lot that historically included World War II-era worker barracks and student housing," the page reads. The project currently includes a Sprouts Farmer's Market and senior housing. It was the subject of a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on Oct. 9.
Construction of the project, the page states, will "promote vital and inviting business areas."
Promoting business areas is exactly what opponents of the project want to prevent.
Protesters staged a mock "bulldozing" of vegetables at a Sprouts Farmer's Market in Walnut Creek on Sept. 27. Several people dressed as fruits and vegetables along with two children dressed as a bee and a hummingbird.
According to a news release from protesters, the vegetables walked to the back of the store and attempted to rally their "comrade" vegetables on the shelves to resist the development. When the vegetables didn't respond, the protesters turned to the shoppers and asked them to defend them.
A yellow cardboard bulldozer then came through the aisle and cleared out the protesters.
The Albany City Council had approved a previous version of the plan in July 2012.
Two lawsuits were filed by opponents over that plan and a referendum was circulated, forcing the council to withdraw its approval. Whole Foods Market, which was slated to be the anchor tenant, then withdrew from the project and Sprouts Farmers Market stepped in as a replacement.
The protesters want the land, part of the university-owned Gill Tract, preserved for agricultural use. Although the land to be developed is not farmland, protesters have claimed that the adjacent land, which the University of California currently uses for agricultural research, will be developed and represents the last piece of farmland in the area. Other opponents claim the development is too large and that the senior housing will not be affordable.
The city's website concluded that, "The City looks forward to the grand opening of this new development, and to further promoting vital and inviting business areas for the community."