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May 3, 2005 > Measure T Matrix

Measure T Matrix

An Interview with Jill Keimach (April 21, 2005)

Although Measure T (Hill Area Initiative of 2002) passed by a large margin, many questions remain unanswered until the city of Fremont and/or the courts interpret its provisions. In order to help unravel definitions and priorities of the initiative, city staff assembled a "matrix" to assist when confronted with a complex set of decisions. This chart illustrates which provisions are definitive prohibitions and others phrased as directives indicating preference rather than unmitigated exclusion.

At a work session of the Fremont City Council Tuesday, January 18, 2005, Senior Deputy City Attorney Larissa Seto reviewed a matrix of regulations and Jill Keimach, Deputy Director of DES for the city of Fremont, provided Council with information on alternative definitions and interpretations including the protection of legal rights, building on and access over steep slopes, definitions of ridgelines and hilltops, visibility from public places, height, and appropriate landscaping.

TCV asked Ms. Keimach to comment on the use and application of the matrix.

TCV: What is the matrix?

Keimach: The matrix is an illustration of Measure T. Staff - the city attorney's office - read the provisions very carefully and put them into different categories: directive, prohibitive or a gray area in-between.

TCV: Recently an independent organization was asked to evaluate the "toe of the hill." Will these comments affect the matrix?

Keimach: In my opinion, they will not. Measure T contains specific regulations that city staff cannot change. We cannot change use of the toe of the hill, but we have to figure out how to draw the line. The matrix applies to everything above the toe of the hill line.

TCV: The matrix appears to be a device for planning decisions. Is it currently being used?

Keimach: Staff looks at the matrix as a means of prioritizing provisions of Measure T. Many applications have competing requirements so we have to figure out which have higher priority or are more prohibitive than others. The enlightening part of using a matrix is to understand how to apply the requirements of Measure T. For instance, visual safeguards are included "to the extent practicable" which has a lower priority than some other restrictions.

We [staff] were putting a high priority on visual restraints but the matrix has forced us to look at all Measure T provisions systematically. First, we look at constraints such as the 30% slope and parcel size. After these prohibitive provisions, then deal with what remains, the 'buildable' area. This is when we look at how to minimize visibility.

TCV: Should the matrix be used by the public as a tool to decide whether and where they will be able to build on a parcel above the toe of the hill?

Keimach: I think use of the matrix requires guidance from a planner. There are many complexities and details that need to be addressed when using the matrix. It is a tool for decision makers and staff.

TCV: Will the matrix standardize Measure T provisions?

Keimach: Over time, staff may come to understand Measure T provisions well enough to ensure uniform decisions. However, each property may have many competing issues and complexities. For instance, one property may have steep slopes, wildlife habitat, riparian corridors, ridge tops, hill tops and building challenges. Some of those issues fall into the same column [directive or prohibition] of the matrix so we have to look at them on a case by case basis. Decisions may rely on discussions with the applicant, legal advisors, planners, geologists and visual simulations to satisfy as many of the prohibitions to the greatest extent possible.

TCV: Is there an explanation behind placement in the matrix so if staff changes, future decisions are based on the same basic assumptions?

Keimach: That is what we are trying to develop. The matrix is the first step. Just as with Measure A, staff will develop guidelines written in planning terms that can form the basis of decisions. Right now, we are in the process of forming a basis of understanding from staff, city council, planning commissioners and the public. We want to make sure that when we write Measure T regulations, we meet as many situations as possible. We brought different definitions to the council so there will be less need to interpret Measure T provisions in the future.

TCV: What happens now?

Keimach: "Toe of the Hill" discussion will come back to the council in early June with a decision in slated for July. We have already received some direction on the definitions and will come back with draft ordinances, development policies and regulations. The schedule might change if more time is needed for public meetings.

TCV: Is Measure T discussion handled by DES?

Keimach: Yes. A Measure T staff team is working on this. We are not focused on the matrix since it is simply used as a method to illustrate and prioritize the regulations. Hopefully, at the end of this process, the intent is to provide a process for evaluation of property covered by Measure T.

Part of the process is to have the applicant submit an "opportunities and constraints" map. This would show areas of steep slopes, riparian corridors, etc. the applicant (and staff) would have a very good idea of what areas are 'buildable.' From there, an architect could create a plan to minimize visual impact of a home. We encourage people to come in to talk with us to make this as simple and consistent as possible.

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