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March 29, 2011 > Letter to the editor: Rail development in Fremont

Letter to the editor: Rail development in Fremont

Regarding William Marshak's op-ed "Gravity" in the March 15, 2011 issue of the Tri-City Voice, I respectfully disagree with Mr. Marshak's assessment that the Fremont City Council has taken a position that is overly accommodating on Union Pacific Railroad's (UPRR) recent acquisition of the north and south parcels of NUMMI and UPRR's likely development plans. I further disagree with Mr. Marshak's implicit assertion that rail-oriented development is not an appropriate development goal for these sites and that UPRR development would entail unmitigated impacts for the City.

That said, the Fremont City Council has done a lousy job on NUMMI in almost every respect from the original announcement in 2009 that Toyota intended to close NUMMI and the City's subsequent request for federal stimulus funds for a redevelopment study of the site. From then and up 'til the present day, the Fremont City Council and the Fremont Economic Development Agency have consistently ignored UPRR as a stakeholder in any redevelopment of the area despite the fact that NUMMI was a large customer of the Railroad for over 25 years and, more critically, despite the fact that the entire eastern side of the NUMMI parcels is adjacent to an existing UPRR mainline.

Indeed, the latest draft of the Warm Springs Redevelopment Plan from December 2010 mentions the railroad only twice in almost 70 pages - and in both parts, the existing rail infrastructure is identified as an obstacle for development! It is laughable that the City was caught "off-guard" by the sale of the parcels to UPRR, as it shows how little communication Fremont felt was necessary to the two parties who actually had any skin in the game. If the City has such grand visions for a Santana Row / Googleplex development at the site (as their draft study shows), then they should have come up with the tens of millions to buy the site from Toyota.

But, to the extent the City is now reaching out to UPRR, I applaud their efforts to work with the Railroad collaboratively to produce the highest-value added rail-oriented development possible for the sites. If the City comes out guns a'-blazing, what reason does UPRR have to play nice? And they've already shown they have more money and time to spend on this site than does the City!

Finally, UPRR is a generally responsible corporate citizen and historically has done a good job mitigating impacts of their operations on local resources. Rail development does fit with the manufacturing and warehouse-type business character of the area that I have observed in my 10 years as a Warm Springs business manager (of a manufacturing company). The City needs to work hard from here on out with UPRR to chart a real-world development plan for NUMMI that will add much needed jobs in the City, sustain a pro-economic growth environment in the southeast Bay Area, and that respects the historically industrial - not residential, not commercial - base of Warm Springs and the specific NUMMI sites in question.

Ethan Hartsell

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