Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

June 28, 2005 > When does a toe become a pocket?

When does a toe become a pocket?

The wrangling over interpretation of the provisions of Measure T continues. In a work session of the Fremont City Council, June 21, Spangle Associates, an "urban planning and research" group in Menlo Park presented their findings. Hired by the city in response to a recommendation by the planning commission, Spangle Associates was asked to provide a "peer review" to: 1) Examine the staff's interpretation of the Toe of the Hill (TOH) line, 2) Consult with residents and property owners within the proposed Hill Area and others who support the initiative and 3) Develop policy implementation alternatives to minimize land use restrictions on existing development consistent with the spirit and intent of Measure T.

A discussion of findings was presented at the work session and, with additional council and staff input, Spangle Associates will return with a written document at a council session slated for July 12. The presentation emphasized that implementation should find a balance between the spirit and intent of Measure T while protecting the right of property owners to some development even if they cannot meet all of the requirements. Thomas Vlasic, Vice President and Principal Planner of Spangle Associates stated that Measure T "is not a simple thing to implement but it is a legally established ordinance that the city is bound to enforce."

Planned Districts (PD's) above the TOH were studied and it was recommended that developed parcels be left to conform to their own regulations while undeveloped parcels would be subject to both PD and Measure T requirements. For parcels crossed by the TOH line, a checklist would indicate whether Measure T concerns were present and would take precedence. Amendments to a PD would be required to comply with Measure T.

Spangler Associates suggested that non-PD parcels crossed by the TOH line should abide by a set of rules that is clear and allows land below of the TOH to be developed without Measure T involvement if of sufficient parcel size.

The point of greatest discussion centered on determination of the TOH line. While the definition from Measure T - "a line at the base of the hills where the natural grade first becomes 20% or more" - appears simple, drawing such a line presents problems including which survey map to use, the size of the grid used to determine the slope, the appearance of "islands, pockets and projections" due to topographical variations and what to do about slopes that have been graded in the past. Spangle Associates appeared to agree in large measure with the line previously proposed by staff.

Recommendations by Spangle Associates included used of 2002 mapping data and computer generation of the TOH line; basing the grade on a 40 foot grid cell (i.e. using the rise over a 40 foot section of land to determine if it is at 20% or more); adjusting the line to incorporate "islands" when these appear to be within an error factor of the drawn line and determining a set of rules to limit and close off indentations or "pockets" of the TOH line.

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