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.