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July 6, 2004 > Rezoning in Newark

Rezoning in Newark

A Discussion with John Becker, Assistant City Manager of Newark

TCV: Does the City of Newark envision using "mixed use" zoning?

Becker: No. Area Four, at the end of Mowry near the Bay, is the largest remaining undeveloped land parcel in the city and is designated in the General Plan as residential with a golf course. There are few other significant parcels in Newark, but not to the extent of Fremont or San Jose, which have more open space and a greater opportunity to put together a development of that nature.

TCV: Have any commercial or industrial parcels been identified as potential residential zones?

Becker: The City of Newark has identified in its Housing Element a number of parcels where this can happen. We are completing a study of the area between Central Avenue and the Alameda County storm water channel on Cedar Boulevard, called the Cedar Boulevard Rezoning Study. This encompasses approximately 24 acres for rezoning from Light Industrial to High Density Residential.

TCV: Would this include the possibility of mixed use development?

Becker: The door is wide open at this point, but we do not anticipate mixed use. In our housing element, we are committed to 694 residential units. This number precludes a retail development in the same area. Other land parcels available for new development are relatively small - one to two acres. All development, regardless of size, will go through the Planning Commission and City Council.

When an area is rezoned, the existing use of the land often becomes "nonconforming." Fremont has done something unique with some of their shopping centers - dual zoning. In this case, the current use remains conforming, but the owner is allowed to entertain another use if economically feasible. While some cities will not allow a nonconforming use to be rebuilt in the event of a catastrophe, the City of Newark, will allow this. Each city has its own variation of nonconforming use ordinances.

TCV: What is Newark's commitment to housing?

Becker: When our housing element was recertified by the state, we made commitments to rezone certain properties as residential. We are under state requirements to implement those promises. One of them is to explore the feasibility of rezoning property along Cedar Boulevard. There is no time limit for conversion of the property to residential. Our requirement ends with rezoning. Residential properties are currently a "hot commodity," so developers will probably contact property owners with this type of proposal. The existing uses are not necessarily forced out, but economics will decide. A variety of interests will probably be involved in the final decision - owners, tenants and neighbors.

The city already had a community meeting about the Cedar Boulevard properties prior to the study and we will have another after the study is completed - within the next few weeks. At that time, we will be able to address issues and questions that we were unable to answer before the study started. This is being done as an open process. Of course, there will be additional opportunities for citizen comment at the Planning Commission and, if it is approved, at the ensuing City Council meeting.

TCV: Does Newark have a Redevelopment Agency?

Becker: Yes, the Newark Redevelopment Agency. The Board of Directors is the City Council. This was adopted in 2002. A legal challenge by one of the property owners is still in negotiations. The other areas have been established.

Typically, a developer will make a proposal to build something in that area. With the economy in its present state, there isn't much going on right now, but the agency is in place. The redevelopment agency established a project area. There are no separate employees. We have an outside planning consultant to help us. We are not adding additional staff.

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