Last night’s City Council meeting was not the most boisterous ever, though it ended at nearly midnight, it wasn’t even the longest. But the Council did something that is pretty rare — it rejected staff’s recommendation. In fact, the council rejected staff’s recommendation three times Tuesday night — once to preserve the Historic Architectural Review Board; again by voting to commission Oakland artist Bruce Beasley to place his sculpture at the corner of Paseo Padre Parkway and Stevenson Boulevard; and lastly, when the council voted unanimously to ask developers to go back to the drawing board for the Fremont Gateway planned district, where 63 three-story homes were proposed near Beard Road and Fremont Boulevard in the Northgate neighborhood.
Each time, it appeared that there was a 3-2 split, with Anu Natarajan, Vinnie Bacon and Sue Chan outvoting Mayor Bill Harrison and Raj Salwan. (For accuracy sake, the Fremont Gateway vote was 5-0, but only after Harrison saw that Natarajan/Bacon/Chan bloc had at least three votes. Harrison intervened then and, rather then see the matter die on the vine with another 3-2 vote, he made a motion to ask applicant Tom Armstrong and his development team to address questions and come back at a later date.)
Maybe it means nothing. Last night’s consistent split may have been an anomaly. After all, there were plenty of 5-0 votes last night, too, if you count the consent calendar.
And, as for the consistent 3-2 division, it’s not unheard of. But the reason I mention it is, narrow vote margins on the council have been rare in the 2.5 years I’ve covered Fremont (from late 2005 to 2007, and then the past six months). In Fremont, a staff recommendation is not the rubber stamp it is in Newark, but during the Bob Wasserman years it was rare to see the council, a) vote against a housing development, and b) have multiple 3-2 splits. I’m sure it happened, but rarely.
In the first two months of the Harrison regime, it was more of the same. Until last night. As said, maybe it means something. Maybe not. But suddenly, the Fremont council meetings just got a lot more intriguing.