University Village Mixed Use project legal action and negotiation

The University of California is proposing to build a Whole Foods supermarket at the northwest corner of Monroe and San Pablo, and senior housing and small retail south of Monroe. AS&R has been working for years to assure that the project includes a cycling route adequate for the broadest spectrum of people to feel comfortable cycling there.

More recently Traffic and Safety Commissioner Miki suggested this cycling route could also connect the soon to be built cycling path on the south side of Buchanan to the Dartmouth low-motorist volume cycling route. This would allow people to the north to cycle to the Greenway without ever getting on a busy street, and people to the east to cycle to Ocean View School and Park, and the Bay Trail doing the same.  AS&R recognized this as a great suggestion and adopted it right away.

To date AS&R’s efforts have resulted in a requirement for the developer to fund study of cycletrack on the west side of San Pablo.  A cycletrack is essentially a cycling path between the sidewalk and street.  There are local examples in Alameda and San Francisco.  The study will be managed by the City.  AS&R is a named participant in selecting the consultant for the study, and in advising on the study. The results of the study are required to be considered in the next project approval stage, which regards subdividing the property.

The project was also required by the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to provide cycling lanes and/or paths on its streets as part of the mitigation for the project’s global climate change impact. Unfortunately a change to this requirement first raised at the request of UC at about 1 am on July 10th was approved by the Council approximately three minutes later. The solar panel requirement for the project was also weakened, potentially to the point of elimination.

These EIR requirements had previously stood for three years. There was no opportunity for public consideration, question or comment regarding the changes proposed at the last minute.  It also appears there was no analysis whether the project’s global climate change impact would still be reduced as much as stated in the Council’s approval with the last minute changes.

AS&R subsequently asked the City to extend the statute of limitations regarding the EIR approval to allow discussion of the changes. The City did not do so. Consequently AS&R and the climate action organization Climate Neutral Albany (C0A) filed suit in order to keep their legal options open.

The City and UC have now entered into discussion with AS&R and C0A concerning the changes. Discussion to date gives cause for optimism that language regarding cycling infrastructure and renewable power facilities acceptable to all parties can be developed and made binding.

Bringing suit has cost money, even if the suit settles. Please help AS&R and CNA establish that cycling infrastructure is no longer a dispensable amenity, but rather a necessity, by donating, tax free, to the EBBC’s “AS&R legal fund.” Mail a check to “East Bay Bicycle Coalition, P.O. Box 1736, Oakland CA 94604” and note it for the AS&R Legal Fund.

2 comments to University Village Mixed Use project legal action and negotiation

  • Tertius Chandler

    The article doesn’t make a strong enough case for the lawsuit. To an outsider it feels like a spiteful retaliation to being excluded from part of the decision making process. There is a lack of detail and also a very hazy connection between the EIR, cycling access, and solar power. The cause could be strengthened by a quote from both the city and UCB pledging full support for bike access.
    All in all, this should be about bike access and not solar power and climate change. Lumping it all together weakens the case.

  • Given all the money the City of Albany has put into traffic calming along Marin Avenue, Santa Fe Avenue, etc. I think it is completely reasonable to pursue legal recourse here. But the primary focus should be the safety and well being of bicyclists traveling the San Pablo Avenue corridor near the village and bicyclists visiting Whole Foods, other stores and UC Village in general.

    Given the significant numbers of cyclists that frequent Whole Foods Berkeley, I think there is substantial grounds for concern. There will likely be a similar contingent of cyclists visiting Whole Foods in Albany. If we do nothing, the tangled mess that defines San Pablo Avenue in the vicinity of UC Village will likely lead to numerous injuries of cyclists and possibly worse. We need a real plan to minimize traffic and ensure cyclists have a safe, direct and expeditious route (not a separate bike path) into and out of the shopping center from all directions.

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