Tri-Cities Voice Newspaper - What's Happening - Fremont, Union City, Newark California

May 2, 2006 > PART FOUR: Origins of the Myth

PART FOUR: Origins of the Myth

Is incorporation similar to marriage?

Of course it is!

Without getting into the history of incorporation politics, in 1956, when the communities of: Niles, Mission San Jose, Centerville, Irvington and Warm Springs; voted on incorporation, were there disclaimers in the voters information packet clearly stating, "But not including the Alleys" - Hardly!  As in marriage, the incorporation of Fremont was an all encompassing union of 5 townships - for better or for worse.

A couple years after the marriage, officials of the new city claim the Alleys were not part of the incorporation, because they were not on the list of roads given over by Alameda County.  To restate this opinion another way; "That is like getting married and then at a later date claiming that  you weren't aware that your spouse's left arm was part of the marriage, and now that it is broken - you do not accept responsibility for it". It is not possible to separate Niles and its alleys - together they create the "whole".

This is the City's position - right or wrong.  In their mind, it is right because it is the legal advice given to them by their lawyers, which is probably similar to the advice any lawyer would give to a "Dead-Beat-Dad" in a child-support lawsuit.

Understanding the cultural dynamic between Niles and the City of Fremont

For many, Niles is well known and to even more, it is a complete mystery. This lost knowledge spans a generation.  To understand the relationship between Niles and Fremont, it is best to first recognize the relationship between Niles and the Bay Area.

Transportation is the key. Think in terms of 1849 - the Gold Rush, and 1869 - completion of the Transcontinental Railway into the Bay Area. If the Golden Gate inlet to the Bay Area could be considered the "front door" to San Francisco, then the "back door" to this region would be Niles Canyon, where the Central Pacific Railway first entered the Bay Area in 1869. Within 20 years the bay side of Niles Canyon witnessed increased developments due to its strategic location as a rail hub, and in 1888, the first map of Niles was drawn. Anyone who traveled by train, which was most everyone in those days, knew about Niles, including the San Franciscan elite and politicians.

Imagine being age 32, seated in a passenger car, peering out the window at Niles, the last town you would see when leaving the Bay Area. You were on your way into the wilds - to a hunting lodge.  Imagine yourself as William Randolph

Imagine being age 42, an impassioned outdoors-man, on your way to meet John Muir and experience the centerpiece of our nation's natural beauty. To get there from San Francisco, you would take the train, and as the glass cleared from your breath, the last town you would see before leaving the Bay Area would be Niles.

Imagine yourself as President Theodore Roosevelt1 on your way to Yosemite, to camp with John Muir to understand why the sister valley to Yosemite, Hetch-Hetchy, should not be lost to a dam - the year, 1903. In 1923, water began to flow from the Hetch-Hetchy dam on its way to San Francisco - through Niles Canyon.

The point is, everyone knew about Niles. That is, until train transportation took second place to the automobile. From 1945 to 1956, Niles witnessed a slow decline in its industrial base and economy, caused by the shift from rail to highway transportation2.  By 1956, Niles was depressed.

Fremont Incorporated in 1956, and its farm land was ready for conversion into housing. The condition of the original towns was not a primary issue: filling-in between them was!  There was no looking back!  With this mindset, the City of Fremont simply had no ability to act in a compassionate, meaningful and rejuvenating manner towards the depressed condition of Niles. The new city of Fremont had its own agenda: manifest destiny - build roads and houses.

Fifty years have passed, and the land developers have filled in the open space.  The town of Warm Springs does not exist anymore, the great freeway to connect to downtown Fremont never happened, City hall was built, demolished and now resides in an office mall; Irvington, and soon Centerville will have been rebuilt in the cartooned manner of roadside architecture; Mission San Jose struggles to retain its identity and Niles remains the most vital redevelopment zone within the City of Fremont.  What's to worry? Isn't it good to be vanilla? To date, Niles has survived the suburban forces of Fremont, but has become surrounded by it. 

This is how Niles became lost in the Bay Area, and is probably why Niles sees its situation: as if it was the historic town of Mendocino governed by Orange County - a disturbing relationship.

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