Hello again. Sorry I’ve been MIA. March Madness and all. Did I ever mention I’m a big Tar Heels fan?

Let me address the NIMBY issue. I wrote in the blog after the first anti-A’s protest that you couldn’t really call the Weibel folks NIMBY and then I wrote Sunday that they were fueled in part by NIMBY rage. What gives?

Different definitions of the same word.

I wrote for an anti-development paper in Berkeley. The word NIMBY got thrown around all the time, and to me it was used to describe an overreaction by local residents or preservationists to developments that really wouldn’t have impacted their lives. A good example would be people opposing a new five-story affordable housing apartment building on a main drag, three blocks from their single family homes.

That’s very different from a 32,000 seat baseball stadium, which would have meant lots of traffic and other potential problems. So, as I wrote in the blog earlier this year, I didn’t see FCN as being NIMBY because their concerns were obviously valid, although it’s possible that time would have proven that they didn’t have much to fear. This wasn’t a dozen section 8 tenants coming to town; this was up to 32,000 baseball fans, 81 days a year. That’s a big neighborhood changing development.

But there’s another definition for NIMBY – the literal one “Not In My Backyard,” which is how the Argus newspaper defines it. In a purely literal sense, Weibel did have a NIMBY reaction. The ballpark came to their backyard, and they fought it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I wouldn’t want to share a freeway exit with a baseball stadium either. If you called me a NIMBY for that, I’d say most people are NIMBYs.

I don’t see how the Weibel movement that launched FCN can be seen as anything other than a reaction to putting the stadium on the outskirts of their neighborhood. There was no such reaction when the stadium was going to Pacific Commons. If the A’s had proposed building a stadium at the Mission Adobe Nursery site in Niles, we might have something very similar to FCN, but I doubt that Deepak Alur would have started the web site or that Kathy McDonald would be the president.

I went back and forth about using the NIMBY word in the story, because I know some would see it as editorializing, which I wasn’t trying to do. I put it in there because it was the most succinct way of describing what happened. All of a sudden the ballpark location had changed to the outskirts of a very affluent and tech savvy neighborhood, and residents of that neighborhood – along with others – fought it.

Matt Artz


  1. He’s alive! Welcome back – long time no read.

    “In a purely literal sense, Weibel did have a NIMBY reaction. The ballpark came to their backyard, and they fought it.”

    So FCN is (or was) NIMBY because it was started by someone who lived in Weibel. Interesting, because, as I’ve said before, I don’t live anywhere near either of the proposed stadium sites, but I was part of the movement because I believed that a stadium complex would have been bad for this town where I have lived all my life and where I intend to stay. I believe that there were a lot of other people who joined FCN for similar reasons.

    Fremont covers a lot of ground, so unless you’re going to define the “backyard” part of “NIMBY” as including the whole city, FCN was not based on a “NIMBY” issue.

    Come on, Matt – you know “NIMBY” is a term that is going to push a lot of people’s buttons, like “urban” or “upscale”. Use it if you will, but at least acknowledge that running it in the Argus will give us something to yak about.

    Let the posts begin – he’s back!

  2. NIMBY “was used to describe an overreaction by local residents or preservationists to developments that really wouldn’t have impacted their lives. A good example would be people opposing a new five-story affordable housing apartment building on a main drag, three blocks from their single family homes.”

    Hold on a minute – do you really think that a five-story apartment building three blocks away wouldn’t effect the residents of a single family home or neighborhood? Sorry, Matt, that doesn’t make sense. Increased traffic, line of sight issues, parking and traffic issues, more kids at the local school – it all adds up. And what will they be knocking down or paving over to build that five-story building?

    The good news is, though, that that’s the kind of attitude that’ll get you a seat on the Fremont Planning Commission.

    Good to have you back.

  3. Fremont is nearly 100 sq. miles. It was developed along the Old Oakland, San Jose road, now Fremont Blvd. The distance from North Fremont to South Fremont is 15 to 20 miles. Fremont consists of five towns that are now called districts.

    My point is Fremont is to large to have the whole city upset about a development happening 15 to 20 miles from them.
    So regional protests are the norm, call it nimby-ism, but calling it a regional protest makes more sense to me.

    The last time I have seen all of Fremont Unified, was against the Utility Tax.

    I am a member of FCN and live in Central Fremont, it is true that the majority are from the Weibel area, but a lot of there members live through out Fremont.

  4. Ah, finally, Matt’s back!

    The local opposition and objection to the Warm Springs location can be easy to call as NIMBY reaction. But the objection to the stadium proposal based on the information and facts available at that time regardless of the location in Fremont is not really NIMBYish. There were some major issues that only became evident after the so-called “NIMBYs” became involved and dug deeper to see what the whole deal was about the proposed stadium. Overall it did not make sense for Fremont based on our size and the budget of the city. The impact is really city-wide and this is what was argued/published on the FCN campaign/website (http://www.fremontcitizensnetwork.org/impactsall). The overall impact on the city including economics, jobs, safety, and traffic was just too plain wide to be a NIMBY issue.

    One thing that is not accurately stated (because it is not well-known, so don’t blame Matt) in Matt’s response above is: FCN started much before the Weibel movement and was instrumental in making the Weibel movement a success. From the beginning of FCN’s first meeting (prominent locals attended including a reporter), the mission and the purpose of FCN was clearly identified as Fremont wide network and group. And that mission has not changed one bit as listed under FCN website at http://www.fremontcitizensnetwork.org/aboutfcn

    So regardless of how one views FCN’s birth, I hope you look at the mission statement and see if it makes sense to join and participate in making the city better overall from different perspectives.

  5. The Internet has proven itself to be a useful communications tool. Never before have citizens been as capable to speak up and speak out against issues they feel strongly about.

    Yes, FCN got its start in the neighborhoods to be the most dramatically impacted by the proposed stadium. The demographics of the area gave them the ability to quickly organize, educate themselves and all Fremont residents, and present a logical and coordinated protest.

    A case study of why large corporations typically prey upon communities and neighborhoods with less socio-economic clout.

  6. Hey, Matt –

    I’ll take exception with the notion that “There was no such reaction when the stadium was going to Pacific Commons . . . . ” – many – not AS MANY – were expressing serious concerns for issues with the Pac Com site – not the least of whom was your ex-mayor. if you cant find the posts and discussion long before they appeared anywhere near the TCB blog, let me know – I can help you find them.

    NIMBY is an acronym that you can toss around all you want – – – Argus has it’s own dictionary and set of definitions for this term – maybe FCN has its own interpretation – but, “rage”??

    I want to believe your smarter than that . . . please convince me that the reporter that covers our fair city didn’t consciously stretch the boundaries of credibility to further inch the widespread perceptions of FCN as a “mob” which now, according to you, was fueled by “… rage…”

  7. When the A’s suddenly announced the change of location to WS BART, I was asked my opinion by a local decision maker. I responded with the same basic 4, traffic, parking, noise, and light, but I added that the A’s had given them something that no one wanted, an aroused, smart, affluent neighborhood. At Pacific Commons there were opponents, but only a few of us vocal and involved. Now they had thousands. I consider NIMBY to be a pejorative (sp?) term because it connotes opposition without solid reason. There was ample reason to be opposed to a ballpark at that location.

    There are terms worse than NIMBY though,

    NIMEY – Not in my election year.

    NIMTOE – Not in my term of office.

    NOPE – Not on planet Earth.

    The first two describe elected officials. The last describes NIMBYs to the highest degree.

  8. Bbox: I was referring to the 700 people at the first protest. There was never that kind of reaction to the Pac Commons site. Maybe you were in the elementary school that night where about 500 protesters squared off with Keith Wolff. There was some rage in that room.

  9. Ha! After seeing your NIM* acronyms, I just remembered – one of my fellow FCN members had coined the term NIMC or NIMCY – Not in my City.

  10. Yes, Matt, I was in the elementary school that night. There were at least 500 people there that night; I circulated around to get a feel for the crowd. I would not characterize the vast majority of people that night as rageful. They were concerned, stymied, ticked off, appalled, confused, and a lot of other descriptors, but not rageful. If the majority of people had been rageful, I would not have felt that it was safe to stay there. Parents would have removed their small children, which they did not do.

    It was my perception that there were a lot of societal differences on display at that gathering. Some people feel more comfortable about shouting their questions or comments. Sometimes the fact that Fremont isn’t the way it used to be is a good thing.

    Please, don’t try to portray all of the people in that room that night as some kind of nuts. It is a dangerous step to label the citizens who seek to participate in their local government, to become informed and to defend their town against a disastrous proposal as demented in some way. I’m thinkin’ that you’ve been talking to The Mayor too long.

  11. Matt, I was there at the 1st large group gathering (2nd actual meeting) of FCN, that solidified the group and purpose. As dalur states, the group and purpose were clearly Fremont-wide. I became involved in FCN and was there at the large Weibel Elementary School protest. I recall that FCN became aware of the intended protest, only AFTER it was advertised and promoted by residents of that neighborhood. FCN’s role in that protest was to let people know the protest was occurring, and to provide directions on conduct and help keep it peaceful. As a result, that night I met several people who had come from central and North Fremont.

    There were many who opposed the stadium at PC, but their voice was not organized and directed. I agree that the BART location created a surge of energy in opposition to the stadium, and acted as a catalyst for folks to dig deeper. It may well be that the BART location proposal created a successful FCN, but lets be clear that there was plenty of opposition to the PC site too. It just lacked organization.

  12. A stadium in Niles? That would be pretty darn cool. It wouldn’t fit though, especially with parking.

  13. bbox: remember there was plenty of discussion about the A’s and Pacific Commons over on talkfremont.com

  14. Matt, I live in what might be called northern Fremont (Eggers at Logan) and was against the stadium from the first time I heard of it. I already knew something about a stadium’s effects on a city’s finances, quality of life and crime rate; further research and more recent data convinced me that it was even worse than I’d thought. This issue was a specific one that I looked for in candidate’s statements in campaign literature during the mayoral/city council election. Only one candidate seemed to be well informed about it and opposed to it; he (Vinnie Bacon) got my vote and I ardently hope he runs for office again.

    The acronym Depak mentioned says it all for me:
    NIMCY, not in my city!

  15. Great discussion, but one other thought comes to mind; don’t forget that the whole issue of siting the A’s in WS was delayed UNTIL after the election. It’s common knowledge by staff.

    So, bottom line; the Mayor and City Manager – and Community Developer Director – who by the way was the one who wanted the WS springs site to be “the” site, “played” with ALL of you! So that you would not have the benefit of KNOWING their plan before the election.

    Result; you, the citizens of Fremont COULD NOT MAKE AN INFORMED decision about who to vote for!

    That really should not be cool!

  16. Big T – Indeed, http://www.talkfremont.com has been a wonderfully unmoderated hub to discuss whatever the participants chose to discuss – and we were talking about the proposed stadium before it was a twinkle in Argus’ eye . . . . but that’s another story.

    Matt A – the “rage” description was inappropriate and I believe intentionally divisive.

  17. There is an additional nuance that is important when talking about NIMBY – or Not In My Back Yard – the implication that if it was proposed in someone ELSE’S back yard that would be OK. Are the individuals fighting against the stadium only doing so because of the proposed location? If this group existed when the ballpark was being proposed at Pacific Commons it can hardly be labeled as self serving. But if it started only when the protesters thought their own property values might be effected one might question their motives as being less altruistic than they purport. Even so, having the location change to somewhere closer may just have been a wake up call to these individuals, inspiring them to investigate and they didn’t like what they found. It is not for me to judge motive. Every resident must decide for themselves whether the pros out weigh the cons.

  18. Ann, I agree with your closing statement. Every resident must decide…the pros and cons. We weren’t given the opportunity to decide.

    If the stadium issue had been put on the ballot as then city council member Steve Cho had suggested we would have a better idea of how Fremont’s voting public felt about it.

    That said, if a majority of residents had voted in favor of the stadium for the original PacCommons site and then the switcheroo to Warm Springs occurred…

  19. Eyesbright: nice to see someone posting from the neighborhood I grew up in and my father still lives there. Come on over to…. talkfremont.com

  20. Hi Matt,

    Frankly, it doesn’t matter, at this point how FCN started. We now have a venue from which to launch our discussions of issues that affect Fremont.

    As a new comer to this city, I’ve felt disconnected. I thought it was just me, but it seems that this is the general consensus because of various factors like our vast and distributed geography, diverse demographics, and leadership (or lack thereof). It seems to me that the problems of Fremont are not unique, but are amplified (for us) because of our recent run-in with the city government.

    If FCN can serve the purpose of creating a dialogue between the various “groups” that make up this city, then it is serving a purpose that this city has needed for a long time. I think the reason we all feel like we aren’t being heard is that we aren’t. Labeling us by our groups allows the city leaders to dismiss our issues as localized (insignificant, NIMBY). Allowing 2000 homes to be built near a preserve in north Fremont might not dirctly affect the parts near Milpitas, but it does affect all of Fremont. It affects how our taxes will be used, impacts our schools, traffic on 880, etc. It really becomes more than a NIMBY issue, but most residents don’t become aware of its effect on them until it is too late. If we can educate eachother and build consensus on FCN to discover how these types of issues affect us all over the city, then we will have a stronger voice for positive change.

    This open forum idea only works if everyone expresses their concerns, “starts discussions”, and gives eachother feedback. Right now, there are people waiting to find out how to deal with the city to get their businesses started; get their kids into a neighborhood school; preserve some parkland; protect their neighborhoods from a surge in crime; and on and on. If you have any ideas for how to help them, please log-in and become an advisor. These are all city-wide issues. Let’s just decide the Fremont is our backyard, and help eachother to solve some of these persistant problems.

    It’s time to unite.

  21. Out of curiosity, if Fremont residents are so ragefully NIMBY, where is the outrage about the locations of the new BART stations? Why aren’t FCN members protesting about the new Solyndra facility? We didn’t even yelp too loudly about the water park.

    I think it’s because we know a bad deal when we see one. We’re generally bright enough to know when we’re getting something that has the potential to add value to the City and when we’re being sold a pig in a poke.

  22. Many of the points that are made re attitude of our council and city management toward tax-paying constituency are spot on. . . .

    It is my strong feeling that this sleeping community could be far more responsive IF we had a media which recognized and acted on the traditional responsibility of political watchdog.

    We need a frugal media which spends less time redistributing general interest stuff that is routinely available from myriad other sources and instead, focusses its brightest light and closest scrutiny on the local political process, decisions, actions, and plans . . .

    IMHO, the kinds of name calling and excuses served up by our politicians is questionable, particularly when it is aimed at well-intentioned tax payers. . .. but when the media joins in the fray, it reinforces the perception of a spirit of cooperation between media and politician that is far too cozy. The result are politicians manuevering in a shadow which is, to some degree cast by the media itself.

    I would prefer a media that is defending or clarifying its position in the eyes of politicians more frequently and is defending or clarifying its opinions of the community less frequently.

    Somewhere along this road some very important roles have been forgotten.

    Is it any surprise that a community is lulled to sleep by the soft monotone of a less-than-critical press ?

  23. Bbox231, I feel your frustration, but understand it is no longer one-size-fits-all, when it comes to news delivery. I believe your use of the word “media” is directed towards the Argus. I’m with you that it lacks the investigative reporting necessary to expose questionable business and political practices.

    Some facts about the dilemma:
    1. It is estimated 25% of all U.S. households read foreign language newspapers. My guess is that figure is appreciably higher in Fremont. Those readers are probably not reading about local issues.

    2. Newspaper subscriptions in general are rapidly declining as younger people use the Internet to access the news.

    3. The Argus has cut their reporting staff to the bone. Matt Artz is the only reporter covering Fremont (Ben Aguirre covers the crime beat). And, they get furloughed so at times no local reporting occurs.

    What to do? Good question.

    Blogging allows us to share our thoughts, but anyone can say anything about anybody. It’s simply gossip until it can be proven otherwise. If no one can be held accountable for what they say, should we believe everything we read? That’s why traditional journalism works so well. If you must put your name on it you better make sure you’ve got the facts straight.

    Wish I had an answer to this dilemma that the entire country is facing.

  24. As someone who lives here and works in high-tech here in Fremont, I would love more industrial development. Subject to environmental laws, companies like Solyndra are quiet, clean and easy to live with. They don’t put more kids in the schools, and for the return to the city their impact is small. They don’t clog our roads, blast noise, or create nuisances.

    BART at Warm Springs and in Irvington seems like a win all around. The people who will literally have it in their back yards hopefully had some idea it would be coming, we’ve talked about it for decades.

    While I have loved seeing burrowing owls in the fields by Grimmer and Osgood, if there is going to be development we should at least put stuff there that is good for the city.

  25. Doug –

    I’ve seen this same argument raised by others at BANG. . .. including an editorial a weekend or so ago asking for greater involvement by citizenry in the research through available data . .. but there are two distinct points here and your response addresses an issue that is tangential to my concern.

    To assist in clarity, here’s a question – Why, if you only get to ask ONE question of the political officio do you ask the 30 cent question and not “have the time” to ask the million dollar question ?

  26. Just by way of clarification, Bruce, in case you were thinking that my previous post was intended to say that we should be “rageful” about Solyndra or BART. My point was that they are both developments that will bring value to Fremont, therefore the majority of the citizens are bright enough not to object to them. However, we knew that the stadium would be a disaster (a “pig in a poke”), so we worked to prevent it. We were not, however “rageful”; that’s just a silly, uninformed statement that attempts to paint involved citizens as some kind of nutjobs.

    There is nothing wrong with industrial development per se, as long as it is properly located and conforms to all necessary regulations, as you said. A solid full-time, skilled, well-paid, benefitted job is a solid job, whether it is white-, blue-, or no-collar in nature. Everybody doesn’t need to be a doctor or an accountant; we need plumbers, welders, painters, mechanics and other trades as well to be a functioning community.

    Development is going to come; we can’t stop it. However, I believe that we need to have people in place ensure that development brings good jobs to town, that we build housing that is harmonious with the quality of the city, and make sure that ancillary services like schools, parks, road maintenance and public safety are adequately funded.

    Unfortunately, we don’t have that now. Most development decisions are being made purely for the benefit of the business community, with little regard for the quality of life issues that are important to tax-paying, voting residents.

    Of course, there will be local elections in 2010 . . .

  27. Lou: thanks, I understood your viewpoint, was trying to amplify it rather than counter 🙂

  28. Bbox, I’m not attempting to provide excuses for our local paper. In fact, I’m staring at my renewal notice and trying to decide if I want to dish out $158 for my not-so-local-newspaper.

    Maybe that “million-dollar question” was asked, but the editor decides, based on declining ad revenue, he can’t afford to lose even more income from the source that was asked the BIG question so he cuts the story from 10 column inches to six leaving in only the 30 cent question.

    When MediaNews starts scrapping with TCV for the public notices income you know things are tight.

  29. OK – I’m starting to follow your thinking and perhaps we’re in pretty close agreement, Doug. But there’s still a disconnect that isn’t making sense to me. Matt tells me he didn’t ask the question because he didn’t have time . . . he was too busy. . . . .now, you’re suggesting that perhaps the Ed influences Matt based on self-preservation and the economic interests of the paper – and I’ll go there with you – but where’s the pressure point ?

    Where’s the “squeeze” that these politicians can hold over a paper like Argus ??? They dont represent big business interests – do they ?

  30. I have never worked in the newspaper industry, but I do know they put in ridiculous hours and I’m guessing the pay and benefits are nothing to brag about. Night shifts, weekends, and holidays are necessary to make sure the news gets to press so I can sit at my kitchen counter sipping my morning coffee with my paper in front of me.

    When you think about the logistics involved to produce the product it’s no wonder the Internet will eventually win out, whether we agree with it or not.

    Who will ask the questions then?

  31. Matt –

    That you’re in my grill with *that* question tells me you know what to ask. . . . now – take that same pointed investigative sense and direct it at the politicians and their plans.

    Maybe that’s too obtuse – – here’s a million dollar question that could have been asked –

    “Mr. Mayor <or Councilman/woman _________ – why would you expect the constituency of Fremont to trust the city’s multi-year predictions about ballpark revenue when the city struggles to accurately predict taxes from year to year ?” ?”

    or if you dont think that’s enough of a million dollar question – how about –

    “Mr. Mayor <or Concilman/woman __________ – why would you expect the consistuency of Fremont to trust the city’s ability to negotiate, plan and execute a very large project like a MLB stadium, when it has so consistantly struggled to deliver ANY kind of progress in Centerville ?”

    But perhaps these aren’t “million dollar” questions in your mind . .. . my point is that I do not see Matt Artz aggressively in the grill of the city’s politics – which by ANY argument is a fundamental responsbility of the media – and at the same time, for whatever reasons I *d o* see that you’re pretty quick to serve up a high-inside-fast-one to members of the community.

    Sumthin’ is lopsided here, Matt.

  32. Bbox231…good questions.

    Ever think about becoming a reporter?

    Heck, who knows, you may already be one!

  33. bbox231 has no business dealings with any type of media. bbox231 has no relatives or personal friendships with anyone in the media business. bbox231 is just an active fremont taxpayer who believes the free press has a responsibility to scrutinize the political process.

  34. Well, I hardly know what to say about this series of posts, since I find myself with some sympathy for both sides of the issue.

    To be totally frank, I am a bit uneasy about criticizing Matt too much because I do think that this blog is serving an important function in this town by distributing information to people that, for a variety of reasons, we cannot get from either the City or from the Argus. He may not be Matier and Ross (yet?), but he’s what we have and I want to appreciate him for what he is doing rather than lose him as an information source.

    On the other hand, B’s questions and criticisims have merit and I hope Matt will give them some thought. Perhaps, Matt, you can give us some insight into what you believe would be the downside of being “aggressively in the grill of the city’s politics”. Would this create some type of fallout for you that we, as people who are not in the news business, are not aware of?

    There is such a deep and wide need in this town for information about what’s going on behind the walls on Capital Avenue. Clearly, they won’t tell us on their own. Please, Matt, do for us what we can’t do for ourselves.

  35. Doug –

    With regard to “who’ll ask the questions then . .. ” I dont know – but, I dont believe that the Internet is the demise of the free press as we know it. .Frankly – the internet creates a flood of data – some of which is true and much of which is just data – – – – now more than ever, communities need a “clearing house” and a discernable entity to separate fact from fiction.

    But – you still haven’t answered my question – how is it that Wasserman or other members of the council might hold some economic hammer over the proverbial heads of the Argus or their reporter as you suggest ?

  36. Bbox231, I wasn’t inferring our local politicos directly hold the power over local press. I was saying local business entities that have large ad budgets could put pressure on the Argus (keep in mind that standing rule of six degrees of separation). If the Argus is hurting for ad revenue are they going to bite the hand that feeds them?

    Look at our other local paper, the Tri-City Voice. The first two inside pages of every edition are full-color pages purchased by Washington Hospital. That has to represent a sizable chunk o’ change. If Bill Marshak decides to question the practices of the hospital administration or its Board, how would that affect their publication? I think he would have to think about it long and hard before writing his editorial.

  37. OK, Doug – I guess I was confused by your original statement -“..the editor decides, based on declining ad revenue, he can’t afford to lose even more income from the source that was asked the BIG question ..” – –
    Losing revenue FROM THE SOURCE THAT WAS ASKED – – – seems to suggest that the politicos are the ones that control the ad revenue dont you think ?

    But now I see that you’ve changed your position to suggest that – “I wasn’t inferring our local politicos directly hold the power over local press..” –

    I understand your new position.

    Please excuse me if I begin to feel that you are – at least to some degree – ” . . . attempting to provide excuses for our local paper.”

  38. Bbox231, you missed that I said “keep in mind…six degrees of separation.” Everything and everyone is connected, and in Fremont even more so. It’s probably more like three degrees. Enough said on this matter.

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