Below is the position paper on Kimber Park from the 2012 campaign.
A lot has happened since then. The City Council approved a much larger recreational facility on the site. (I was the lone dissenting vote.)
The City Council voted to make the area zoned ‘Private Open Space’. The developer sued that the re-zoning was not properly carried out and won. Thus, the City has to go through the re-zoning process again. This will come before the Council again in the spring of 2016.
Save Kimber Park
The area in the center of the Kimber Park is not currently entitled to any new housing developments. I see no reason to change this. Council should have simply said that the proposed use does not conform with the existing zoning. Instead, they left it an open issue to be studied later.
(See my blog for an update on the Kimber Park issue. The Open Space Initiative that was started by the Kimber residents was adopted by the Council on July 17.)
The entire Kimber area, including both the homes and the central community area, was first proposed in 1973 and approved by the City in 1976. When the original development at Kimber Park was planned, the developer was allowed to increase the housing density since the central area would be zoned private open space. They were given another density bonus for designing in a central community area that would not be housing.
The original documents that were prepared for the development make it clear that the development was approved with the covenants that the central piece of land in question could only be used for a recreational facility and a possible restaurant. The following is from a City Council meeting on August 7, 1973.
“To designate the lake/park area as a private ownership park with limited public access provided the provision could be made to expand the swim and racquet club from 8 to 12 tennis courts and possible construction of a future restaurant to provide the economic basis necessary for maintenance of the lake/park.”
Reasons for Not Changing the Current Zoning
1. A development agreement was made that should be honored. As noted above, there was an original agreement made that the central area would not have homes developed there. People were sold homes based on this feature. By attempting to developer more homes at this time, the property owner is attempting to renege on this agreement. In short, a development agreement was made when the properly was first developed and this agreement should continue to be honored.
2. The zoning is currently for private open space. The developer has talked about the various possibilities of what could be developed on the land, including residential development. Obviously, most land owners would be interested in changing the zoning on their land in order to increase the property’s value. I see no reason why this parcel should be singled out for re-zoning simply because the property owner would like to develop this land in a more profitable manner. It goes against the central idea of urban planning in a democratic society.
3. The central community-oriented space is a good urban design element. Like many modern urban planners, I have argued that suburban development is often done in a manner that discourages a sense of community. The segregation of land uses into large blocks of residential, commercial and retail leads to people having to commuting long distances, usually by car, in order to go to work or to go shopping. Fremont is no exception to this where most residential areas are not within walking distance of a decent retail area. At one of the meetings on this matter, I was pleasantly surprised to see the sense of community that the tennis club on the site created amongst the residents of Kimber Park.
4. The area has significant open space area that should be preserved. Fremont has seen the loss of much of its open space over the years to the point that there is not much left. In general, we should fight to preserve what we have. This area is one of the few (if not the only) significant Redwood groves in the City of Fremont. A breeding pair of Red-shouldered Hawks was recently seen on the site.
The Future of Kimber Park
As of now, it’s unclear what will happen to the park going forward. At a City Council meeting on December 6, 2011 the property owner had asked that a General Plan amendment be made which removes the private open space designation for the site. I spoke at this meeting on the side of the local residents arguing that the General Plan is a good, visionary document that should not be amended the first time a property owner wants to do something that goes against the overall vision of the General Plan.
In short, the Council punted on the issue without coming to any final conclusions. I was surprised that Council couldn’t take the simple stance that the requested development does not conform with the current zoning on the site.
The tennis club, a key element of the Kimber Park community, has been shut down. The whole site has been fenced off with an ugly chain link fence that had over 40 No Trespassing signs. (The City of Fremont asked that these be removed so there are now only a few of these.)
I stand with the residents of the Kimber Park area that would like to see NO new residential development approved on the site. There are many alternatives that could be considered within the existing zoning. I see no reason to provide a change in the zoning for this site unless an alternative were proposed which added value to the area and which the nearby residents overwhelmingly approved. Clearly, Fremont deserves better than a fenced off area that adds no value to the community.
For more information, please go to the Save Kimber Park website at http://www.savekimberpark.com.