Pages

05 September 2006

Pacific Commons Wetlands

On my way to the Coliseum over the weekend I stopped off at Pacific Commons to see if anything has happened at the site. No surprises there. Earthmoving equipment was in the same place as before. The Auto Mall is filling in nicely with a new Lexus dealership almost completed at the south end. A Claim Jumper location opened while I was away. And cows are grazing on the meadows that intermingle with the marsh.

What? Cows in Fremont? (queue the old Berkeley Farms ad)

The CHP building whose sign is visible in the top left corner is the one you pass on the left when heading south on 880. It is across the freeway from Pacific Commons.

Cows make for pretty effective growth control. You'll see them frequently on hillsides on both sides of the bay acting as a natural fire retardant. Decades ago, the irrepressible Charles O. Finley had goats manicure the grass at KC Muni. As part of the Pacific Commons wetlands preservation and restoration project, maintenance has to be kept up on some of the grassy areas of the tidal marsh. Enter a non-native species to take care of the growth. The cows seem to like hanging out closer to the freeway. This is probably due to taller grasses the further inland one goes.

In the comments thread of another post, James asked about the wetlands area and whether it would be developed to any degree. To that end I refer you to the following links from Wetland Tracker:
The map contains the development map and historical detail, including mentions of the old Sky Sailing Airport and an abandoned drive-in theater. A 390-acre preserve has been created, and a 49-acre park is planned. That park is near the location of a planned Amtrak/ACE station.

Here's a map of the project site, divided into the development parcel and the preserve.

The yellow area is considered the development area. Any other white area has already been developed. The gray area is the preserve. The green area is a bit of a question mark. Informal calculation of the yellow area has it sized at around 120-130 acres, while the green area (if included) adds 35 more. I'll need to verify this with the city and county. The green area has been cleared out and flattened, so at least it looks like it's waiting for something to be built on it.

I intentionally left "existing landfill" in the cropped map. FYI, it has not smelled any time I have gone into the Pacific Commons area. That's at least a couple dozen times over the past year.

If the green area is truly part of the development area, it's where I think the ballpark should go. Here's why:
  • 35 acres is sufficient for the immediate ballpark village area, which would include the stadium, museum, hotel, and premium/priority parking.
  • The parcel would as a buffer between the residential area and the preserve.
  • The area is the closest usable point to the planned Amtrak/ACE station, slightly under a mile away.
  • Depending on the types of buildings erected, a view to the outfield could have a mini-city of towers framed by Mission Peak and the surrounding hills.
  • Traffic can be routed along Cushing Parkway, which would help prevent fans from invading the parking lots of the big box stores. Traffic from the north could run through the Auto Mall (dealers will love the traffic), and traffic from the south would reach the area directly from Cushing.
By planning in this manner, residential buildings could be placed in the northeastern corner (the yellow area that juts out to the left). There's room there for 1000-2000 units based on typical densities. That would leave almost 100 acres remaining for other commercial development and parking. Want to build a Santana Row/Bay Street type of development between the ballpark and the residential area? No problem. Does Cisco want to build a set of signature towers in the outfield? Sure thing. Even with the negotiations that will most certainly have to commence with the change in development plans, there are ways to mitigate impacts that benefit the public, the wetlands, and the developers.

Which gets me to the last topic tonight. James also asked about trails or beautification that would occur at the existing wetlands, which would be beautiful except for the landfills and salt ponds that currently take up much of the area. As you may already know, many of the salt ponds are being reclaimed as part of the SFO runway extension deal. Cargill sold much of their salt ponds to the government, which in turn is starting the transformation of salt ponds back into wetlands. The Alviso portion of the project abuts the southern tip of the Pacific Commons area. As the project moves forward, one of the goals is to complete the Bay Trail, the network of trails and paths that will ring the bay.

Currently there are a number of disjointed and often difficult-to-access trails of varying shape. The double-orange line shows an unimproved trail. The gray dotted lines show planned trails. Red lines are existing trails or bike paths. Station Island, which is also known by the name Drawbridge, once had inhabitants and a thriving frontier town economy, but with the changes made by the creation of the salt ponds, eventually started to sink into the bay. Now it's no longer safe to walk on the islands (believe me, I know this firsthand) even though Amtrak/ACE/Union Pacific trains run through it on an elevated track everyday. The first step is to replenish the wetlands. Afterwards, we can talk trails. While there may be a park buffer between the developed area and the wetlands, it'll be a thin sliver compared to the thousands of acres of wetlands.
I'm a bit afraid that the picture of cattle at the top will cause people to deride Fremont as a cowtown, a la Sacramento. Is that better or worse than being called a bedroom community?

19 comments:

murf said...

Not much contextual content for this group, perhaps, but wetlands and trails don't work together very well. If the wetlands are restored, the best way to provide non-intrusive access for recreational purposes is a causeway.

anthony dominguez said...

Good stuff R.M.,
Even if the ballpark isn't located closer to the future ACE/Capital Corridor station, I imagine a shuttle bus could be implemented between the two. Does this planned station (and increased runs for CC Amtrak) wipe out the argument that the ballpark will have poor access to mass transit? In the future I could see myself taking Light Rail from South SJ, transfering to ACE or Amtrak at Diridon Station, and traveling north to the Pac Commons/ballpark train station. Oakland/East Bay fans could do the same from JLS and other stations along the line.

V Smoothe said...

Capital Corridor is good for commuters, but it would have to be augmented to the point where it is an entirely different system in order for it to be considered mass transit sufficient to serve a ballpark. They've just doubled trains on the Oakland-San Jose line - which meant adding 7 trains per weekday.

And given that Jack London Square isn't connected to BART or very many busses in the first place, how are East Bay fans supposed to get there to take the train?

jrbh said...

You can see yourself jumping on a light rail train, then walking to an ACE or Amtrak connection, waiting for another train, then making another connection to the ballpark after waiting in a line with a couple of thousand people, and then doing the same thing in reverse after the game?

I'm guessing that you won't see yourself doing that after about the second time you misconnect and don't get home, or it takes you three hours to go five miles. I'm guessing you'll bag the A's and take one (1) CalTrain to a Giants game.

anthony dominguez said...

JRBH,
I'll never "bag" the A's to take the "SlowTrain" (with a million stations between SJ and SF) to a Giants game! (No, the "Baby Bullets" aren't all day/7 days a week). Assuming your doomsday ACE/Amtrak scenario came to fruition (which I doubt), there's a simple solution for this San Jose Native...DRIVE TO FREMONT!! It's that simple (let me guess JRBH, I'll be stuck in either 880/680 traffic for 10 hours...then I'll supposedly "bag" the A's, right?). Here's a thought...How bout some Pac Commons positivity on this blog!

Marine Layer said...

Capitol Corridor doesn't just go to JLS. There are stations at the Coliseum, Hayward, Fremont, Emeryville, Berkeley, Richmond, and Martinez. Around the time a ballpark is finished, a Union City multimodal station should be completed as well. Surprisingly, both the fares (when purchased in 10-ride ticket form) and travel times are quite comparable. I'll go into this in the future.

The 680 corridor from Dublin to Walnut Creek are left out of the picture, and that's a substantial part of the fanbase. Worse for them, there are no direct connections from their trains to Capitol Corridor - not if they want to go south to Fremont.

So to answer your question Tony - an emphatic NO. Nothing replaces the convenience and ease of BART. But Capitol Corridor can start to approach the kind of service levels seen with Caltrain's ballpark service - at least for the area it serves.

Murf - your point aligns with something I saw in Australia. I visited Scenic World, a privately run park in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney. Years ago, they decided that instead of trails running through the pristine forest, they'd build a fairly extensive elevated boardwalk/causeway structure above the valley floor. Even trees that were in the way had holes in the boardwalk cut through for them. No wonder the restoration folks left the idea of trails open for all kinds of public input.

jrbh said...

No positivity about the Pacific Commons site will be forthcoming from me, anthony... I think it's a horrendously bad idea.

Keith of RF said...

Wetlands, huh? For those of us that don't know whats that means, things that tend to be built on wetlands SINK!!!!

This may be the smoking gun that will once and for all kills the Fremont "wet dream".

Marine Layer said...

Er, wrong. The development area has already been prepared. It's turned over dirt at this point, ready to build. It is no longer wetlands. Only the preserve area maintains wetlands characteristics.

BTW, much of the Bay Area's seaport and airport land was originally - that's right - wetlands. Let me know when those sink into the sea.

murf said...

Not just seaports and airports, but entire cities, such as Foster City, Antioch, Brentwood, East Palo Alto, etc and a large portion of others, such as Napa, Palo Alto, Colma, Fremont, Milpitas, Santa Clara, Alameda, etc have been constructed on historical wetlands.

Jeff said...

I can go one better. Recently there was a construction project underway in San Francisco. While the ground was being excavated the contstruction crew unearthed a sailing vessel that HAD SUNK in the bay some 80 years ago. Can't get much wetter than that.

Keith of RF said...

Big deal. Fremont is still going to get the axe sooner or later anyway.

Marine Layer said...

Next time Keith, get your facts straight. And try to back up your arguments with facts. Good luck with the rally next Saturday.

Jeff said...

ML,

How far is the proposed site from the actual bay? I am curious if spectators at a game on the upper deck would actually be able to have a water view if the park were oriented in that direction. Another question involves activity in the bay at that location. Are personal watercraft used in this area? I have never been to this area of the bay, but I have been to other areas in the world where there are tidal marshes in similarly large bays. I am curious if the geography is similar. Most were in undeveloped areas that were not conduscive to human activity. I know it's an ingorant question, but like I say, I am totally unfamiliar with whats at the waters edge in this area. I can't be the only one who is curious....I hope.

Keith of RF said...

The rally is Friday, not Saturday. Get your facts straight Marine, lol.

For more info on Friday's rally to keep the A's in Oakland, visit myspace.com/asfanradio or myspace.com/greenstampede

Marine Layer said...

Touché, Keith. I’ll make mention of the rally in my next post.

------

Jeff, if you include the salt ponds as part of the bay, then the bay runs adjacent to the site. Since those ponds will be reconstituted as tidal marsh, it's safe to say that the bay will be over a mile away. In this part of the bay, there are numerous sloughs and the environment is more delta-like than SF or Oakland. I've kayaked in the area, but I remember seeing signs that said motorboats and wake were illegal. There aren't many accessible areas so while you can kayak there, be prepared to deal with strong tidal flow and a bit of mud. FYI, Coyote Creek and Guadalupe River both empty into the bay just south of the area.

Jeff said...

Interesting topography. If the tidal marshes are restored then in could concievably provide quite a view. Also, if the sea proper lies only a mile away, then fans in the upper decks at least should have a water view. I can't remember the ration relating to height and view. Something on the order of every nine feet of elevation equates to three miles visibility. At any rate, it sounds like the area could indeed provide a fairly scenic view. Especially if the marshes are restored. While not very attractive areas for walking, the views can be spectacular.

Jeff said...

Interesting topography. If the tidal marshes are restored then in could concievably provide quite a view. Also, if the sea proper lies only a mile away, then fans in the upper decks at least should have a water view. I can't remember the ration relating to height and view. Something on the order of every nine feet of elevation equates to three miles visibility. At any rate, it sounds like the area could indeed provide a fairly scenic view. Especially if the marshes are restored. While not very attractive areas for walking, the views can be spectacular.

Marine Layer said...

Remember the rule: fields are meant to be oriented east-northeast. No way that it could have a bay backdrop. Instead there'll be hills.