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Live Council Blog — Kimber Park

Fremont sprawls across 92 square miles, but apparently only 13 acres really matter.

The council is set to approve the general plan, which will guide development for the next 30 years. It would be another ho-hum affair if not for the battle in Kimber Park. Residents are fighting to keep the 13-acres of open space in  the middle of their neighborhood closed to development.

The property owner, Sheena Chang, and her development partners want to build 28 houses on the site and scale back the established fitness club.

Kimber Park residents have made a habit of showing up to these meetings in the dozens to the hundreds making their case for preserving the open space.

But Chang, who’s a well-connected landowner with holdings at Pacific Commons, is putting up a good fight. She marshaled dozens of supporters in red shirts, who made their way  into the council chambers before 5 p.m. So right now it’s a sea of pro-Chang red here in the capacity-filled Chambers with lots of green-glad, very angry Kimber Park residents watching the proceedings on television in the lobby. If we could get them together it would be starting to look a lot like Christmas.

In short, Chang, who bought the property for about $6 million several years ago, says she shouldn’t have to forgo profit and maintain land for the community without a chance to make some dough herself. The neighbors say Chang knew what she was getting when she bought the land; that they bought their property under the premise that the 13 acres would remain private open space, and that rezoning the property would give the well-connected Chang a windfall profit.

As for the General Plan, don’t expect the city to win any Greenpeace honors. It’s the standard stuff. More tallish apartments near trains, everything else still the Fremont you know and love. The council had flirted with making homeowners/purchasers do energy upgrades at the point of sale, but the real estate industry objected, and now that’s just something that might happen down the road.

Odd development, and possibly and ominous one for the property owner Chang. Councilmember Sue Chan has recused herself from this battle, saying that her husband’s dental business has a lot of customers in Kimber Park. Definitely one of the stranger recusals I’ve seen.

7:37: Everyone here is so polite. The mayor’s mic stopped working, but no one shouted that they couldn’t hear anything. Finally I got all New York City on them, and the problem is solved. We’ll now be treated to one hour of the green Save Kimber Park folks, represented by the venerable land use attorney Stuart Flashman, pleading their case.

7:40: I’m a dead man. Hundreds of upper middle class Fremont residents  are about to enter the council chambers through the door I’m sitting in front of.

7:41: Phew. The door is locked. Kimber Park residents are parading through council chambers to a standing ovation.

7:43: Still parading. This is like Fremont Festival of the Arts without the crappy merchandise and overpriced food. Save Kimber Park chant throughout the council chambers.

7:45: Still marching, still chanting.

8:11 p.m. The Kimber Park folks have an hour to state their case, and who do they have speak? Vinnie Bacon, the city council’s not so favorite person. Interesting choice.

8:30 p.m. John Dutra warns council that if they entertain allowing home construction on the 13 acres that “You are going down a road where it could be legit suggested that we have failed in our legal and moral commitment to that neighborhood.” Gets standing ovation from the folks in green.

8:42: Kimber’s lawyer warns that if the council allows homes, it would be violating the principals of a general plan that favors new development along transit corridors.

9:30 p.m. Council’s turn. Dutra says this isn’t the time to change the general plan, one week before it’ approved.

9:44 p.m. The mayor empathizes with the property owner.

9:45 p.m. 3-1 in favor to make the 13 acres a study area. That means the council wants some compromise from both sides and have the land owner come back with a proposal. Then we might go through this all over again. Ho hum.

Matt Artz

  • rosa suen

    this is so typical of Fremont, our current mayor is on his way out, permanently, and yet takes his “mighty power” to side with the owner, it was that kind of promise and behind the door, you scratch my back and I scratch yours mentality (ENOUGH IS ENOUGH, FILTHY POLITICS), otherwise the current owner would never have bought the place for overpriced money years ago… You see the connection is too huge not to support the land owner, politicians in Fremont say..

    two out of the current voting members are not going to be here next year, when reelection comes in; and two of current councils at least will try to run for the election of mayor.

    So watch out, voters and candidates! Citizens of Fremont, who have the right to vote will vote for the right and constitutional reason, a council or a mayor or any public servant (get it, Public Servants, not bosses) makes decisions for the public interest and not individual private favors, no matter how much that private interest is…

    IMHO

  • bbox231

    So we compel both sides to compromise a little and in another year or two SHeena Chang shows up again demanding the opportunity to screw the neighborhood she bought into for her personal gain. . . . . and our COuncil again requests both sides to compromise a little and we simply inch the line, ever so slightly, over time in Ms. Chang’s favor . . . . . instead of throwing the frog in boiling water, we just turn the temperature up slowly over a period of time. .

    CHang gets what she wants, just a little more slowly than she had hoped for.

    In the long run, our May-err and Council sell out the interests of our broader community – AGAIN.

  • IndependentGuy

    Bbox, just for clarification, Dominic Dutra should be excluded from your comment. He was the one councilperson who impressed me. He seemed to have done his homework, reviewed the general plan, stated his opinion very clearly and unambiguously, and backed it up with his vote (in the minority). The rest decided to waste everyone’s time, the taxpayer’s money, and, like you said, boil the water longer. I felt Anu got lost in the details of the plan, while Bill & Gus just rambled aimlessly and without much merit. But at least they didn’t recuse themselves as Sue did — which is typically done for a legitimate conflict of interest.

  • Tom Tsuei

    For people who chairs the city’s economic development advisory committee, I would expect he/she is able to come up some innovative ideas for the task. Is “house building” the only venue for economic development?

  • Juicy8914

    Why the author did not mention the current zoning for this parcel? The zoning is clearly stated its residential zoning (residential low 2-3.5)at City of Fremont’s website.

    http://www.focusonfremont.com/search/index2.cfm?Type=AllBiz

    Why the neighbors are asking land owner to let them use the property at someone else’s expenses? Does that make sense? Are we living in communist country? Why thing is not about what is right and what is wrong anymore? The points neighbors brought up is not based on facts!!! All they are saying is how much they love this property and trying to steal it!!!

    Did they ever ask themselves what have they contributed to this property? Did they ever pick up trashes or empty bottle in the bushes? Did they trim the trees? Did they pay property tax on it? THIS IS NOT A PUBLIC PARK!!! The property tax is not out from taxpayer’s pocket!!!

  • Marty

    The only solution I see is high density apartment style housing on this lot with a bus line stopping hourly on Canyon Heights Dr. That way the concerns of Kimber Park residents have about adhering to the “general plan” are met, and Ms Chang can make a return on her investment.

    Vinnie Bacon sure does pick em well. Fighting to keep a R2 zoned parcel vacant for some of the most wealthy NIMBY’s in the city.

  • Gus Morrison

    #3, Independence Guy, I wasn’t there, so I couldn’t ramble.

  • IndependentGuy

    #7 – my apologies for the error.

    BTW, on my use of “ramble”, my expectation was that each council person would have done their homework, read through the plan, referenced the merit (or lack) of the Planning Dept staff and Planning Commission recommendation (or else why have them), then each present a well-formed opinion & decision.

    Where I do agree with the mayor is that I also don’t think a win-win is likely. The landowner and I assume her investors want a return on the $6 million they invested. The community want “no development”. It may be he case that the club and its real estate could be profitable, but no numbers were presented for that profitable case. Nor at what price point of the real estate that would be possible. I doubt it could be profitable at $6 million. At $2 million, my WAG would be 500 members at $300/month in fees.

  • Marty

    #8 – I’m wondering why you think the margin on developing that property is any of your business?

  • IndependentGuy

    Marty, like your guess of high density apartment style housing with a bus line, I’m just thinking through what might be possible or not. Nothing more than that.

  • Marty

    I was being facetious. In reality, I think housing that is similar to the existing community should be accepted. Otherwise, Kimber residents are just asking for a place to bring their kids to trespass.

    BTW, a side note to Vinnie Bacon – There are a couple hundred square miles of open space east of the Kimber Development. Why not work with the EBRPD to open some of that space rather than your usual routine of playing errand boy for potential campaign donors in the Mission/WS?

  • bbox231

    #11 –

    Because *someone* has to counter the lard-ass council members who are operating as errand boyz and gurlz (Hello sue chan)operating on behalf of the second-tier developers who are pounding out low-rent condo’s or buffets all around town.

  • Marty

    But, nobody is talking about condos and buffets on this property.

    Hyperbole aside, Vinnie Bacon will swallow whatever it takes to get on the good side of moneyed donors in the Mission and Warm Springs districts. That is fo sho.

  • Charlie C

    Vinnie Bacon is a phony. I take that back, what I ment to say is Vinnie Bacon is a *PHONY* and will do or say whatever it takes to get elected. Kathy Mac wears the pants and Vinnie wears the kilt! Please correct me if I’m wrong.