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March 15, 2005 > Editorial: The Great Ohlone College Land Rush

Editorial: The Great Ohlone College Land Rush

Quietly and with little public discussion, Ohlone College is preparing to abandon "surplus property" on its Mission Boulevard frontage and along the college's southeastern border. In separate memorandums dated March 9, President/Superintendent Douglas Treadway has advised the Board of Trustees to "dispose of" three parcels.

According to a memorandum relating to Resolution No. 12/04-05, "The President has received a proposal from the adjacent property owner, Dutra Enterprises Inc., to purchase the approximate one-acre parcel at the Anza Street entrance to the college." The following sentence states, "Representatives of the City of Fremont have indicated to the College staff that Dutra Enterprises must obtain this one-acre parcel in order to develop their adjacent property."

Is this the reason that the colorful sign promising commercial development on Dutra's parcel has been weathering for many months without any indication of progress? Or could it be that the addition of another acre will be much more lucrative for Dutra and that this is a ploy to increase frontage space by dangling cash in front of a desperate and business-challenged group who will present little opposition?

Does Dr. Treadway really believe that a savvy real estate developer would buy property without the ability to build on it? Did Fremont city staff actually tell Dutra Enterprises that they could not build any commercial structure without acquiring the acre in question? Or, is the real story that Dutra wants more land for a bigger development and Treadway is going along for fast cash?

The resolution states the Board's intention "to sell or long term ground lease the Site at fair market value." Does anyone believe that Dutra wants to long term ground lease this land?

A second memorandum advises the trustees to "dispose of approximately 18 acres along Mission Boulevard..." Again, valuable frontage is up for grabs. At least in this resolution, the stated intention is to "long term ground lease" rather than sell the site. With this change, the college will no longer have frontage on Mission Boulevard preferring to leave it to commercial developers.

The final memorandum deals with 17 acres along the southeastern portion of the campus. This will displace some playing fields and will undoubtedly be used for residential development. Here again, the Board has announced its intention to "sell or long term ground lease the Site at fair market value."

The bottom line of all these proposals is that the college is looking for quick cash. This may be the act of a struggling operating budget looking for a way out of crisis. On the other hand, when has it made sense to raid a land bank to shore up operations? Once land is sold, it is almost impossible to replace. If the money ends up in a general fund, there is a strong temptation to use it for short term needs. What campus alterations will be necessary if these lands are sold or leased and how much will they cost? Do our public trustees understand that they are serving as guardians for future generations? Are we simply trading long term assets for short term gain? Are there any plans to invest income from sale or lease of these lands for capital projects or property elsewhere?

The Ohlone College Board of Trustees has been left to its own devices for too long. They and college management need to understand that the word "Trustee" has meaning. The public owns these lands and expects preservation and sound fiscal management from its employees and public guardians. When positions on the board are bequeathed based on name recognition and longevity, with no regard for mental acuity or common sense, the college - and our community - is in trouble.

If people visit or watch a board meeting on cable TV, they will be in for a shock. It is readily apparent that some board members are unable to comprehend what is going on. When critical decisions are being made by the board, incompetence cannot be tolerated. Trustees who are unable to fulfill their responsibilities should step aside. The public has the duty to protect our schools by electing competent representatives and removing incompetent members when necessary. The Ohlone College Board of Trustees needs to hear from its constituents that selling land is not the answer to its fiscal problems. Long term leases should be carefully weighed in light of the costs of moving facilities and long term gains. Sacrificing capital assets for short term goals is unacceptable.

Going to a meeting:

The Ohlone College Board of Trustees meets twice a month (second and fourth Wednesdays) except June, July, August, November and December. Board meetings are usually held at Ohlone College, 43600 Mission Boulevard, Fremont.

Watching on TV:

Each Board meeting is televised that same week on Ohlone Network Television (ONTV) Channel 28 at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday (one day after the meeting) and 10:00 a.m. on Friday (second day after the meeting). ONTV is a cable television channel available to cable customers in the cities of Fremont and Newark.

On the Web:
www.ohlone.edu/org/board/2005

To send a message:
trustees@ohlone.edu

By phone:
(510) 659-6000

 
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