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January 17, 2006 > Editorial: Who is educating who?

Editorial: Who is educating who?

The last meeting of the Fremont city council was swift, hopefully a good omen for the New Year. The Candle Lighters were honored for their $75,000 grant to the Central Park Water Play Facility that Parks and Recreation Director, Annabell Holland, assures us will open on Memorial Day 2007. We have also been promised that income from this new amenity will not only cover maintenance and overhead, but also provide a positive cash flow funding unrelated department costs. I am all for this, if true, and look forward to listening to a 2007 year-end that reflects a realization of the promise.

In another agenda item, there was silence when Mayor Wasserman asked if anyone cared to comment on item 7.2, the community involvement plan for Irvington. Asking if this was noticed, the reply was, "No, just in our regular agenda." A follow-up from Councilmember Dutra, "I am assuming that they [Irvington community] are aware that this was coming to council" was confidently answered by Redevelopment Project Manager Carol Ann Painter, saying that it was noted at a December meeting of the Irvington Business Association and postcards were sent to Bay Street property owners indicating that the process would soon begin.

As a member of the Irvington Business Association (IBA), I usually attend monthly meetings, but December is traditionally a tough month for attendance since IBA meets on the fourth Tuesday of the month and the board meeting on the second Tuesday is traditionally combined with the general meeting. I do not remember a notice of this, but in any event, did not attend (holidays are a hectic time for many businesses including ours). I wonder how many others attended that meeting which, according to Ms. Painter, was her specific notification to the Irvington community of the time and date of the council presentation.

Her referenced postcard mailing apparently did not notify Bay Street property owners of the specific council presentation, but simply indicated that this process was a done deal and they would soon be told of meeting dates. Ms. Painter appeared a little less confident when Councilmember Cho politely inquired about the reason for an apparent redo of work that the community had already done.

During her formal presentation to the council, Ms. Painter noted, "Most of the work remains feasible and continues to have community support." The reason for additional meetings and a possible 12 month timeline was because of recent events: failure to receive the MTC (Metropolitan Transit Commission) grant and the inability to successfully negotiate with the U.S. Post Office for off-street parking. The new Interim Redevelopment Director made happy noises, but knows little if anything about this and Ms. Painter is also relatively new to the scene.

Neither presenter had anything to do with the round of meetings, visioning sessions, etc. that took place in 2004 and years prior, but Ms. Painter said, "Development standards and design guidelines that were incorporated in zoning approval in June 2004 remain consistent with the Irvington Concept Plan and both of those documents are still proposed for implementation." The fact that MTC rejected Fremont's proposal is not new (TCV reported on this October 2004). Maybe this is a recent development to Ms. Painter, but it is not a big news flash for anyone else that has been participating in the process or following the Bay Street project. That negotiations with the post office failed after months of hopeful comments from redevelopment, is somehow not surprising.

Ms. Painter did note that Phase 1 (visioning) and Phase 2 (Design Alternatives) could be "collapsed and combined." Given the fact that visioning has been done and most of the plan remains intact, it is certainly possible that more than Phase 1 and Phase 2 could be "collapsed and combined." Hopefully, this will not become a make work project for redevelopment personnel and a waste of money for overhead expenses that could instead be used for actually doing something (what a thought!). I plan to attend the Bay Street meetings that should be, according to the timeline, occurring in January and February. It will be very disappointing if "experts" and "consultants" again appear and the money flows in the wrong direction. Ms. Painter says that these meetings will focus on parking strategies and right-of-way concerns. Will they really be supplemental sessions designed to build on an acknowledged solid foundation or is this round of meetings simply an expensive way to educate the new kids in town?

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