April 22, 2014 > Ohlone Frontage
Submitted By Frank Addiego
In a dramatic special session, the Ohlone College Board of Trustees accepted a bid offer from Carmel Partners to lease frontage property on Mission Boulevard to create 314 housing units along with light commercial development. The college will receive an initial payment of $1.2 million and annual payments of $600,000.
ÒOhlone is one of the best community colleges in the State of California,Ó said Rakesh Sharma, a former member of the Fremont Planning Commission. ÒThere is a need for a local source of revenue,Ó adding that the frontage property would provide an, Òincome stream that cannot be taken away by the State.Ó
Former Ohlone College Vice President Jim Wright also spoke in support of the project; ÒThis has been part of the college discussion for the past 25 years.Ó Wright talked about problems stemming from reliance on the State for revenue saying, ÒOften the cuts are not resolved until late in the fiscal year.Ó
The College has been looking at ways to develop the unused land on the campus as far back as 1989. John Weed, who served on the board from 1977 to 2010 said, ÒThe idea was to build buildings the campus could move into.Ó Weed, however, opposes the current proposal. ÒThe idea of making a quick buck off of residential is fairly recent,Ó he said, ÒIt may pass the legal requirements, but it fails the smell test.Ó
During the public comment portion of the meeting, statements against the frontage were often greeted with applause. ÒI speak very strongly against the residential density of both proposals,Ó said Bob Loew, ÒI think some residential, along with some light commercial could be very desirable.Ó Meanwhile, nearby resident Diane Michaels raised concern over gridlock already present on Mission Boulevard during commute hours. ÒItÕs just too high of a densityÓ she said, suggesting that the proposed 300-or-more apartments would result in roughly 600 more cars in the area.
Citizens also raised concerns about school impacts in the Mission district. ÒThe kids canÕt even go to their own schools anymore,Ó said Div Harish, ÒWhere are these kids going to go?Ó Melissa Solomon, a student and nearby resident said, ÒThey will not get into mission schoolsÉ there simply isnÕt any room,Ó before raising more general concerns about overcrowding and safety.
ÒI too am worried about the safety issue,Ó said Trustee Rich Watters, who was the only member of the board to vote against the proposal; student trustee Prabhjot Kaur abstained and the Board has yet to replace outgoing Trustee Kevin Bristow who added, ÒAnd I think that 314 [housing units] is too many as well.Ó
Board of Trustees Vice-Chair Greg Bonaccorsi moved to accept the bid from Carmel Partners responding to criticism saying, ÒWe have a responsibility, at least, to look at this pathway.Ó Bonaccorsi spoke of the need for a steady, local and private stream of funds rather than relying on funding from the State of California. ÒProposition 30 has an expiration date,Ó he said of a 2012 ballot measure which restored funding to education in California. ÒWe have to look at other options.Ó
While some members of the community have promised to fight the proposal at the municipal level when future phases of the project go to the Fremont City Council for approval, Bonaccorsi reminded constituents, ÒThis is just a step; this is not the final step. The shovels donÕt come out tomorrow.Ó