PRESS RELEASE: Occupy the Farm Protesters Hold Rally and Action to Stop Development of Historic Gill Tract Farmland
Thursday July 16th, 2015, 4pm Rally, 5pm Action Monroe St. & San Pablo Ave., Albany, CA
(Albany, CA) On July 16th, 2015, farmers and neighbors of the historic Gill Tract will gather to hold a rally and take action to protect the historic Gill Tract Farm from looming development by UC Berkeley to build a Sprouts Supermarket, and to highlight the public health impacts of the development.
For 3 years, the commercial development project that is slated to pave the southern 7 acres of the historic Gill Tract Farm has been held off by a lawsuit. On June 16th, the courts ruled in favor of the UC, citing that their polluting, privatizing, pavement project breaks no state laws, clearing the way for the planned development to begin.
Protesters will hold a rally at the corner of Monroe Street and San Pablo Avenue at 4pm, next to the 7 acres in question. They will begin with a series of speaker addressing the many issues at hand.
Promptly at 5pm, protesters will begin their planned direct action, using creativity and art as some of the tactics.
The protesters' contend that Sprouts is about to pave over a rare natural resource - healthy soil for growing food in an urban area, and that the Gill Tract is public farmland that belongs to the people. They want food to be grown locally and made accessible for vulnerable populations rather than shipped from thousands of miles away and sold in a chain grocery store. They highlight the hypocrisy of Sprouts greenwashing itself by using “farmers market” as part of its name, while intending to destroy historic farmland to build its newest store. Even though Sprouts touts itself as a natural food store, much of the produce it carries are not organic nor local, and those that are are from big scale corporate farms.
Protesters also insist that the 20 acres of Gill Tract provide an important role in filtering air pollutants, mitigating climate change, and providing habitat for wildlife. The impacts of the University clearcut of 53 trees on the South side in February will be compounded if the soil and greenspace is graded, covered in concrete, and destroyed. The public health of the immediate area is at risk from this proposed development.
“I have been involved in the EIR process since the beginning scoping meeting in 2007. For years, community members have consistently spoken up at planning and zoning and city council meetings, saying that if there is to be building on the land at all, we want a less environmentally impactful, alternative, local grocery. The city found there were overriding considerations that allowed them to adopt the proposed project despite traffic and noise pollution impacts that could not be mitigated. The city did not follow the CEQA law in rejecting the alternatives to the project. I hope that the court will see that.” – Ed Fields, local Albany resident
“As a student parent living the University Village next to this development, I want my son to be able to grow up in a healthier environment, and I am upset that my University would not consider community desires for a less polluting option for this land. The are putting profit above student and community well being.” – Suzanne Klein, UC Berkeley student, University Village resident