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

July 5, 2006 > Build it and they will come

Build it and they will come

by Steve Warga

Although a preliminary design with many unanswered questions, it is considered a significant step forward after nearly two years of discussions. The Hayward City Council approved an initial redevelopment plan around the South Hayward BART station on June 27. City Manager Jesus Armas said, "It begins to tell the development community what the ground rules are."

Known as the South Hayward BART/Mission Boulevard Concept Design Plan, the project envisions multi-story dwellings, retail services and park areas, all intended to reduce or eliminate personal vehicle usage. In its present stage, the plan even goes so far as to allot drastically fewer parking spaces per dwelling than current practice. A number of citizens expressed concerns with this, wondering where new residents would park their second or third vehicles.

Controversy swirls around the question of building height. The idea of erecting buildings seven stories high doesn't generate much enthusiasm with area residents; nor does it seem to sit well with some of the city council members. Although they voted 6 to 1 in favor of the Concept Design Plan, most members stressed a desire to cap building heights at five stories. Existing residents, especially in nearby mobile home parks, received repeated assurances that they will not be squeezed out in favor of newer dwellings. The plan demonstrates considerable concern for enhancing, rather than replacing the residential flavor in the immediate vicinity. Additionally, both council and staff emphasized the conceptual nature of the plan; "Bulldozers won't be moving in tomorrow," Armas said.

Council member Bill Quirk cast the only "nay" vote, worrying that too many questions remain unanswered. He echoed the concerns of Mike Sweeney, Hayward's incoming mayor, that the plan gave too little thought to green spaces and quality shopping venues. The council agreed to place the plan on the July 11 agenda for a final vote.

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