Editors, Daily Planet:
In your Oct. 28 story, “Scientist Mourns Gill Tract’s Demise,” Jeff Bond, planner for UC Capital Projects states that the Gill Tract “is not an agricultural area.” He says, “We’ve looked at the plan from all sides and we think we have the mix that the community wants.”
As a concerned member of this community, I strongly disagree. The Gill Tract is an extraordinarily productive agricultural site that should only be used for agriculture. Furthermore, the Albany Teacher’s Union and the Board of Education do not agree with the planned development. On Sept. 9 the board passed a resolution in support of creating an educational, agricultural facility at the Gill Tract. UCB students and researchers need a site for research in sustainable urban agriculture. The Gill Tract is an ideal site, and the university has offered no reasonable alternative.
The University Village Residents Association, as explained in the Daily Planet, also objects to aspects of the development, because rents will be unaffordable for graduate students. I have spoken with several Albany Little League parents who are going along with their fields’ move reluctantly, and wish to remain at their current site. The existing fields, which have been in their current location since the 1950s, have a small town, protected, community atmosphere.
Local businesses should not welcome the development as planned. A large grocery store will take business from local independent markets like Berkeley Natural Grocery and the Tokyo Fish Market.
If Jeff Bond had attended the Oct. Harvest Festival at the Gill Tract, he would have seen hundreds of attendees enjoying this valuable community agricultural resource. At several public meetings that Mr. Bond has attended, many concerned students and community members have repeatedly voiced their opposition to the development and presented alternative proposals. The San Pablo Avenue Mixed Use Development is definitely not “the mix that the community wants.”
Urban Roots, a student and community organization, has developed a proposal for the Gill Tract that incorporates university and community needs with a working urban farm and gardens at the Gill Tract. A drawing of this vision, as well as the November 2002 proposal can be viewed at www.gilltract.com.