July 19, 2005 > Editorial: Beyond midnight
Editorial: Beyond midnight
It was a marathon session of the Fremont City Council and although long, sometimes filled with redundant and unnecessary repetitive comments both from the public and the council, this is the stuff democracy is made of. What was different this particular evening was that several significant accomplishments were recorded as both hands of the clock moved toward the "12" position and then sauntered on by.
Under the category of "astounding" and "believe it or not," Measure T (Hill Area Initiative of 2002) may finally have a set of regulations to accompany an initiative that was passed November 2002. Recommendations of a "peer review" by Spangle Associates does little to alter initial staff recommendations but adds definitions to address squabbles over toes, pockets, slopes and grid dimensions. There may be future challenges to the final ordinance defining Measure T, but at least there will be something to challenge.
It appears that the Planning Commission will need to think again about its last decision concerning the Sandhu residence since indications are that their reasoning concerning existing ranch roads, trails and fire roads crossing a slope of 30% or greater will not be covered as prior approved access under the proposed final recommendations. It is incumbent upon all commission and councilmembers to vote according to the law whether they agree with it or not. If an ordinance is clarified and unpopular with officials, they are still obligated to follow it. The proper place to challenge a law is in court.
If that wasn't enough, the council went on to move the Niles Town Square (Plaza?) forward. Although there are points of contention over placement of buildings as well as structure and content of the project, the council is pushing forward. After quite a few meetings in Niles to sort this out, the only thing agreed upon was that a plan (?) should move forward. The content of the project is muddled to such a degree that the intent is now under question. Hopefully, the community will come together under a compromise. A contingent appeared asking for water and kid friendly features that would attract families (is this a park?) while others argued for historical accuracy when positioning the freight building. The railroad theme also came under attack. It appeared that any consensus achieved prior to the meeting quickly unraveled. Even with adequate funding, some hard decisions will need to be reached in short order. City council has done their part by granting the funds; the Niles community now needs to come together and make tough decisions and get the process moving.
Finally, when the witching hour had passed and the only ones yawning in the chambers were staff and council, another litany of "redesignation and/or rezoning" requests were presented for council approval. As the newest four sites were presented, signs of dissention appeared. The typical and usually successful argument of Fremont's need to satisfy the Housing Element and the state of California were not enough for some councilmembers. Questions are finally being asked about the mad rush to not only meet the requirements but possibly exceed them simply to get a running start at an anticipated next set of mandates. Questions of suitability, loss of commercial space and adherence to master plans is beginning to put on the brakes. Councilmembers Dutra and Wasserman have raised questions that should be answered. Each contested one of the four parcels and then voted together on the losing end of a 3-2 vote to rezone land in the Central Business District. It is time to stop and assess before rezoning more land. The housing element is close to 100% completion of its goal. In this case, haste can not only make waste, but may result in irreparable harm.