October 4, 2005 > Editorial: We are resolved!
Editorial: We are resolved!
After years of wrangling over toes, pockets, projections, sight lines, natural grades, ad nauseam, Fremont has finally approved General Plan and zoning changes to reflect what voters passed as Measure T in November 2002. Ballot initiatives are proposed to elicit a direct response from voters at large. Unfortunately, as with any legal document, words and intent are subject to interpretation. I tried to listen closely and with an open mind to those debating this issue. What became clear during discussions of Measure T is the elusive nature of words. I guess I should have known this since I am in the business of distributing words in a coherent manner, but many of the arguments gave me pause and honestly questioned my interpretation of Measure T.
Instead of two sides to the question of Measure T, each provision presents its own challenges. For instance, determining where and when a slope first becomes 20% is, at times, dependent on the perspective of those measuring the topography. Engineers and planners were asked to deal with Mother Nature who doesn't always bend easily to their whims. Economics, always a powerful force, entered the fray and some who voted for the measure and back its provisions in theory, found the practical result threatening. Throughout the entire process, proponents of Measure T, notably Dr. James and Susan Gearhart, have steadfastly remained true to their beliefs and vigorously defended its concept and intent even when subjected to personal vilification and viscous attacks, often more emotional than factual.
Now that the dust is beginning to settle on the matter, further clarifications will come through city planning personnel and/or the courts. To say that Measure T has been studied is an understatement of immense proportion but to state that all Measure T issues are resolved, is also untrue. Whatever happens to the hills, it can be said that they are of great importance to the citizens of this community and any future development on their flanks will be carefully scrutinized. Is this a bad thing? From my perspective, the time element was exaggerated and good and honest citizens like Dr. Goney Sandhu, were unfairly caught in the middle of the process. But, although painful and costly, future hillside development is too important for quick and easy answers.
If asked to err, it should be on the side of caution. Too often, the cash of developers and a planning credo of the moment can drown lessons to be learned from communities buried in urban sprawl (Fremont doesn't have far to look for examples). Gaze in all directions from Fremont and note the hillside developments. They may be tasteful or they may be blighted, but once the door is open for development, it is difficult, if not impossible to stop.
Malvina Reynolds' 1964 ditty, sung by Pete Seeger, about "Little Boxes on the hillside" decries the extreme of unfettered and poorly regulated hillside growth. No one insinuated that the same would be the fate of the Fremont hills, but obviously a majority of voters sanctioned preservation and caution. The subdued celebration of the Fremont City Council when finally approving the city's response to Measure T was part joy and part relief. A rational process of deliberating hillside issues has been proposed by staff and provides guidelines for city officials, landowners and developers. It is much easier to understand the game once the rules are in place. Congratulations to all those who argued the issue from all perspectives. And now, on to a solution for Highway 84!