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January 10, 2006 > Editorial: Bay Street revisited

Editorial: Bay Street revisited

Fremont's Redevelopment Agency appears to be staggering toward what might be called its endgame when financial resources are exhausted and the trough is empty. As projects conclude - Centerville, Niles, Irvington and road improvements - either with success or failure, achievement of its goal, to eliminate blight and revitalize portions of the city remains in the eye of the beholder. Redevelopment personnel will point with pride to some successes and rightfully so, but at what cost? That a lot of money has been spent is without question; whether the results measure up is questionable, but most of that water - and money - has flowed under the bridge, never to return.

It will be interesting to see whether the city council understands, as departing Director of Redevelopment, Laura Gonzalez-Escoto noted in a TCV interview, that the agency is designed as a temporary measure. Economic Development needs to take the reins and shoulder more concrete action, providing more results than trite slogans of "Shop Fremont." The construction of Pacific Commons is a start, but as has been often noted by city officials when pursuing additional tax revenue, it isn't enough by a long shot. We have bright people working with our city and demanding specific results is not an unfair burden. Should we continue to fund staff to review work already done when that money can be used more efficiently for action? This is a call by the city manager and council. It is not an unfair question and should be addressed without reverting to bureaucratic babble.

On the agenda for January 10th, the agency and the city council (one and the same) will be asked to approve another Bay Street "Community Involvement Plan" of 4 phases: Phase I: Visioning; Phase 2: Design Alternatives; Phase 3: Strategies & Incentives and Phase 4: Project Approval. Now this sounds like a well-reasoned plan except that the community has already done this several times over. I realize that we now have a new Project Manager for Irvington who hasn't had a chance to tend the trough, but isn't it time to use the information from past meetings and decisions and apply this to the present situation? It is noted in the report to the council that:

The Agency was unable to reach an acceptable agreement with the USPS to provide public parking on the Irvington Post Office site, and

MTC did not award funding to the City for the Bay Street streetscape improvements.

Okay, MTC didn't see it Fremont's way and the post office is not going to help out, but why reinvent the wheel all over again? I attended some of the community input meetings and believe that plenty of good ideas were raised that can fit in the context of the current financial situation without dragging this thing out, feeding another redevelopment mouth, using significant staff time - and our tax money - to do it again. Looking at the "Milestones" for this new effort, they stretch through the entire year, ending with "Next Steps" slated for August 2006 - December 2006.

What would happen if Redevelopment began to decommission itself as projects either completed or were erased? In Centerville, the Market Place will hopefully rise with a city project manager, freeing redevelopment from a full-time position. Niles will soon move toward work on the plaza and redevelopment will eventually withdraw from that district. As these projects near completion of redevelopment work, will personnel be consolidated?

In the Background portion of agenda item 5.2, it is noted that "The City and Agency developed the original streetscape design and implementation strategies over an eighteen-month period with extensive community involvement and support." How much more will be spent on studies when that money could be used for action?
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