Council tackles affordable housing

The City Council is now more than one hour into the most mind-numbingly technical debate in my three years on the beat. I haven’t consumed enough calories today to digest all of what they’re talking about.

The TCV’s Bill Marshak is next to me reading the nutritional facts on the back of his peanut butter M&M’s.  I had the salt-free trail mix, but I’m still hungry. The chamber’s Nina Moore and local homebuilder Mark Robson have taken over the press table and are sitting to my right.

The reason they’re here is that the council is considering changes for how it gets for-profit developers  to produce more affordable housing.

Currently, when a developer like Robson develops a new subdivision, he has to provide that 15 percent of those units are affordable. That has helped Fremont produce a fair number of so called “moderately” income homes, but not enough “low” and “very low” income houses.

So the city is proposing that developers, instead of building a few moderately priced single-family homes in new subdivisions,  can pay an in lieu fee, which would go toward providing more units, most likely in an apartment complex.

For-profit developers generally like this because it gives them more flexibility.

Non-profit developers also like this because they can benefit from the fees to build apartment complexes to house more people making far less than the local median income.

The one caveat is that while this will probably help the city produce more affordable housing, it could result in that affordable housing being concentrated in only a few parts of town — Most likely in Centerville and Irvington.

Follow the steps:

1) Fremont passed a plan to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for new affordable housing projects
2) Fremont is proposing to zoning changes to allow for bigger buildings with less parking along the main thoroughfares in Centerville and Irvington.
3) Fremont is looking to pass these in lieu fees, which will allow affordable units to be built in a different location from the new for-profit developments.

Where do you think they’ll go?

City folks will argue that Centerville and Irvington will be better locations for low-income folks because they have, or in Irvington’s case, will have better access to public transit.

The big question isn’t so much the in lieu fees, it’s whether the city should require developers provide more affordable housing when the build new projects. Right now the requirement is that the new projects include 15 percent affordable homes.  But affordable housing advocates want it to be 20 percent. It was supposed to be 20 percent, but the city is a little hesitant because of the economy and some recent court decisions.

10:10 Council compromises. The 20 percent affordability requirement won’t start until 2015 and won’t go into effect until the city performs another study to make sure it’s warranted. The council also agreed to start with lower in lieu fees.

Matt Artz


  1. And, while we’re passing around self-administered notes of congratulations, our legacy Council members can also pat themselves on the back having achieved the very dubious distinction of demoting our fair city to the *reality* of being a poster child of what NOT to aspire to in the way of civic planning.

    “We passionately care about our community. We will never look like Dublin. We will never look like Fremont.”


  2. Did Vinnie take this opportunity to demonize Robson… after-all he is a developer.

  3. West #6 – I think you’ve lost sight of the relevant point. No doubt some of the citizens in Danville (or Fremont for that matter) feel as you suggest.

    Clearly the Danville council (and Fremont council) understands the economic consequences which are imposed on cities which fail to meet these standards. Which is why they’re putting these matters on the table.

    Having said that – – – the relevant point here was simply that those same Danville Council members who are smart enough to be attempting to move their white-bread community in a direction they know they have to go, are, for whatever reasons, singling out ours as an example of what NOT to do. The Council knows they need to do this. They’re suggesting that they WON’T do it in a manner like Fremont or Dublin.

    Make of that what you will.

    I dont think it is particularly complimentary to our urban planning skills.

  4. What NOT to do has been done and you can’t blame it *all* on past city councils. As you know we could have been a major league city like Santa Clara is on the way to becoming. Your side lost sight of the relevant point when Vinnie and the vocal minority screwed the pooch.

  5. Fremont dislikes attractions Charlie. No Drag strip, No Glider Port, No Stargaze, No Roller World, No Fireworks, No Movie Theater, No Arcade, No Unforgettable City Hall! I’m surprised they haven’t decided to fill in the lake yet. By the way do they still rent paddle boats?

    And you expect A Ballpark Charlie? Puhleeez.
    You got a softball field. Enjoy it.

  6. Tony #9 to continue,,.. No live music, no dancing, no Jazz clubs,
    No evening entertainment, no decent Seafood Restuarants.
    I would like to run a poll “Is Fremont the most boring city in the San Francisco Bay Area????……….
    Now ask yourselves WHY.

    And you expect A Ballpark Charlie? Puhleeez.

  7. #9 Yes I do…but as you know it was swiftboated by a vocal minority. Sad to say we have no Ballpark Ton-i but thanks to Vinnie and the demonize a developer gang we have the Block. Enjoy your tapioca…Puhleeez!

  8. No doubt, the 4th largest city in one of the worlds biggest markets is oh so sorely under served. Will there ever be a there here? Sorry Mr former Mayor Morrison, but a large part of the blame lays squarely on his tenure. Everything stated in #9 and #10 were lost during Morrison’s decades without a true vision. That said, I hope we can turn this bland town around. Actually maybe Whole Paycheck, oops, I mean Whole Foods will be a start? Did I just read Roller World and Stargaze? lol, what is that building now? An office space? Where is our city hall? Its in a de facto trailer. Truly a testament to our former Mayor and years of do nothing City Councils. It’s no wonder, there are very few Fremont natives left. We have become nothing but a temporary suburban stepping stone that has witnessed a continuing exodus of citizens. Ask around, how many former Fremont residents have left for the tri valley and beyond, hardly anyone plans on living here long term. It’s not hard to see why.
    Harrison, it’s time to man up and elevate this town! Fremont deserves to be so much more.

  9. My brothers, sister and Grand Kids all move out of Fremont. They simple could not alfford to live in BORING Fremont

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