15 July 2007

Morrison unswayed, gets company

Chris De Benedetti of the Argus has the results of last week's Morrison-Wolff koffee klatch, and the former mayor remains unconvinced. Morrison added a new concern: the residential component would introduce 1,400 students, not 684 as was previously estimated. Morrison claims that he received the figure from a school board member, but FUSD superintendent Douglas Gephart disputed Morrison's number, saying,
"I think the number generated by the A's is within reason," Gephart said. "We don't expect 1,000 kids at all."
It appears that another former mayor, Don Dillon, also shares concerns about the ballpark village project:
Don Dillon, another former Fremont mayor, echoed Morrison's concerns about land-use issues. "Mainly, what troubles me greatly is that we're going to have to put 3,000 houses in our industrial zone," said Dillon, 85. "It's a total departure from the concept ... of keeping that area available for the kinds of uses that produce real income and local jobs without a whole lot of expense. (Rezoning) scraps that idea badly."

Dillon also questions the wisdom of holding several meetings with the A's before a development application has been filed.

However, Wasserman strongly defended the city's efforts with the A's, saying that type of criticism "is ludicrous."

"This is the biggest project, by tons, that this city will ever deal with, so it takes a lot of time," Wasserman said. "To say we don't sit down to talk with developers is really wrong. The (A's) have some of the best architects in the country working on this. They have deposited $500,000. It would be foolish for us to tell the A's, 'We're not going to talk to you.' "

This is where I got confused. Why wouldn't the city want an ongoing dialogue with the developer, especially if it increases the likelihood of a positive outcome for all parties? This project is far too complex to simply be taken in a single vote with minimal or no discussions.

Look beyond the posturing, and what you have here are simple philosophical differences. On one hand you have Morrison, who tends towards a skeptical approach to development. On the other hand you have Mayor Wasserman, who looks at the project as more of a partnership. Remember that it was Wasserman and county supe Scott Haggerty that initiated these discussions. There is something of a precedent when it comes to development decisions: when Morrison was still in office he opposed a Warm Springs Wal-Mart store, while Wasserman approved of the store as long as it wasn't a SuperCenter (grocery store component as well).

All of this highlights the notion of political will and its importance. It's likely that if Morrison were in office today, this plan would not have gotten past square one. For better or worse, Wasserman and the city council have the project at a relatively advanced stage, and are willing to play ball (pun intended).