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October 18, 2005 > Editorial: Why are development proposals secret at Ohlone College?

Editorial: Why are development proposals secret at Ohlone College?

Recently, Ohlone College received 5 responses to requests for development proposals for the frontage on Mission Boulevard and a parcel on the eastern edge of the Fremont campus. Usually both requests for the development and responses to those requests are considered public information, but in this case, a call to the college for a peek at developer proposals including financial information was denied. Instead, I was referred to a San Jose attorney. Asking what was so sensitive about these proposals, the response was that some of the financial information was not open to public scrutiny. A standing board committee would be reviewing the information and bringing it to the full board on October 26th.

The question is why the secrecy? Ostensibly, the proposals are in the public domain since the college is a public facility and if a development company sends a proposal, financial information should not only be open to all, but is an important component of any decision to accept or reject a developer. If contracts of sale or lease are to be awarded, doesn't the public have the right to know what is being considered in advance of any decisions? Public scrutiny and debate should be welcome, especially with a board that continues to be elected whether sound of mind and body or not. This board has members who have long passed their prime and others who are questionable representatives since their true residence is in doubt.

In spite of the reticence to give full disclosure, I did receive the following information that provides some signposts of what is being considered, yet remains disturbingly vague. How is the public to understand and comment on the possible face of Mission San Jose in the future without full disclosure? This information shown below is exactly as received by our office.

Summary of Principal Developers
Ohlone Development Proposals

1. Avalon Bay Communities, Inc.

The Avalon Bay proposal consists of apartment units and 60,000 square feet of retail space.

2. Orchard Commercial and Others ("The Ohlone Team")

The Orchard Commercial proposal consists of an unspecified amount of retail space, an unspecified number of affordable apartment units (student/faculty/staff rental housing), a senior housing component, townhouses, and single family residences.

3. Dutra Enterprises

The Dutra proposal consists of retail space on Parcel A only.

4. SummerHill Homes and Others

The SummerHill proposal includes the Dutra proposal, together with rental apartments, ground floor retail with residential units above the retail, for-sale townhouses, condominiums, and single family homes.

5. Sobrato Development Companies and Another

The Sobrato proposal consists of an unspecified amount of ground floor retail with an unspecified number of housing units above the retail, retail, rental housing units, and single family residences on Parcel C.

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