Sunday, September 2, 2007

Commission delays key development decision

Fremont Planning Commission has delayed voting on a development which riles 600 nearby residents, until a meeting next month.

The project that has many Fremont residents upset enough to sign petitions against it, is a residential and commercial project on a 12.2-acre parcel on the northeast corner of Sabercat and Grimmer roads in the Mission San Jose Planning Area, east of Interstate 680.

The project would consist of 158 dwelling units, and approximately 55,334 square feet of commercial and retail space in four main structures. Resting on a two-level garage podium, the buildings will be four to six stories tall. Unit sizes would range from 800-square-foot studios, to 1,700-square-foot units with as many as three bedrooms. The project would feature a 6,200-square-foot community recreation and health club, and about 85,600 square feet of common open space and 19,656 square feet of private open space. There would be 415 at-grade surface parking spaces for customers and guests, and 168 secured garage parking spaces for tenants.

Applicant Sabercat Holdings Inc., and its Davis-based architectural firm, YHLA Architects, asserted at the Aug. 9 planning commission meeting that the project will serve as a gateway into Mission San Jose.

"We know it's newer, but we feel it will be a building the city of Fremont can take pride in, and maybe one day can be a landmark and gateway for the city," architect Bob Lindley said.

The commission's decision to continue the item did not sit well with many opponents in attendance. The commission cited the fact that by the time the public comment on the item had closed, the meeting would have run into the early morning hours of Aug. 10.

The proposal, along with the Mission Home project discussed by Fremont City Council on July 24, has raised concern from residents who believe the projects will only bring in families with more children.

Residents fear those children will be enrolled into already crowded Fremont Unified School District classrooms.

Lindley said at the meeting that the proposal is not one that would be suitable for people with children.

"That's not to say there won't be families with children here, and not to say that we haven't accounted for them in our design," he said. "We think this type of development, by and large, is more attractive to individuals who might be entrepreneurs, or do business in their homes."

Mission San Jose residents were not convinced.

About 25 residents spoke against the project at the meeting, all citing concerns with the residential areas being altered, overcrowded schools, open space and green areas slowly disappearing, and commutes becoming worse.

Sita Ghatala said she leaves Fremont for work in San Jose before 9:30 a.m., and sits through at least five traffic signals at two intersections, before reaching southbound Interstate 680.

"I'm concerned about the huge impact adding 158 homes and a shopping complex to traffic would bring," she said. "It's horrendous to say the least, not to mention the mood of the drivers."

Ghatala added that with only two entryway/exits out of the Sabercat Estates on Pine Street, in the event of an emergency, traffic would be even worse.

Suzette Swanson was concerned that much of the open space in Mission San Jose would soon disappear.

"One thing many of us liked about Fremont was the amount of wide open space it had," she said. "Over the last 10 years I've seen that slowly shrinking and shrinking. It really breaks my heart that we're going to rubberstamp and approve a project that changes the neighborhood."

Lindley told the commission that the applicants had held some neighborhood meetings with the residents to discuss the project.

But the majority of the 25 speakers said they never received notice of a meeting, nor did they know anyone else in Mission San Jose who had.

After hearing that, planning commission Chair Dan Lydon was angered, stating he hoped he didn't hear something like that again, after being led to believe the applicant had indeed sent notices to neighbors.

By the time all speakers expressed their opposition, the time was close to 12:30 a.m.

Commissioners elected to hear the rest of the item until September, stating that further discussion on the project could take as much as two additional hours.

But the residents in attendance urged the commission to make a decision that night. The meeting had gone into the next day due to another item that raised concern among residents: an approved T-Mobile cellular phone tower in the Niles District.

"This is a complicated issue," Commissioner Rakesh Sharma said. "You want us to ask a lot of questions about all your input, and I can see some of you think it's going to be done real soon. It's not going to be done real soon. We want to address the issue with as much attention as we can give it."

Lydon said when the item is continued to September, commissioners will be rested and have fresh minds to make a fair decision on the project.

"My opinion is that greater good can be served with time," he said. "I don't think the messages we've heard this evening are going to be forgotten or discarded. But I think we're playing jeopardy as a commission to continue into the night with a long and laborious conversation as we try to get to the root of these issues."

The Sept. 27 commission meeting will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Fremont City Council Chambers at 3300 Capitol Ave.

1 comment:

Sam Ju said...

This is a terrible site for housing. It's under power lines, right on earthquake fault and there is a gas line go across the property. The developer used this reason to get zoning changed from residential to commercial few years ago. Now they want to convince the councilmembers and planning commissioners that this is a good site for housing...

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