Vinnie's Position on the Arts

The Fremont Cultural Arts Council had the candidates complete a questionnaire about our positions related to the Arts. The questions and my responses are below.

The City of Fremont Park and Recreation Department offers a wide variety of classes to the community through the Reg-E-Rec program–the FCAC provides a scholarship fund for those classes that are arts related, administered by Park&Rec. Park&Rec also hosts many arts related events in our parks and community centers, manages the new Performance Pavilion in Central Park, and is a co-sponsor of arts events such as the upcoming FCAC Juried Photo Exhibit. Budget cuts have had a major impact on this department.

Question #1 – In difficult economic times, how do you feel the positive value the Fremont Park and Recreation department provides to the community should be weighted during city budget deliberations?

Vinnie – My main platform element is that Fremont needs to focus its development efforts on stimulating our economy. I’d like to see us creating developments that will generate economic growth for Fremont. One aspect of making Fremont more of an attraction for businesses is making it an attraction for residents as well. Businesses want to know that their potential employers will be happy being located in their host city.

Having decent recreational facilities is very important to the overall quality of life in Fremont. I’ve personally benefited from the services that the Parks and Rec provides and wished that they could offer more. My son attended many of the activities that are provided. I honestly feel they were an important part of his personal development.

Thus, I feel that even in these difficult economic times we should continue funding the Fremont Park and Recreation Department. This is not something that is expendable just to balance the budget.

Citizen groups have worked towards having a Performing Arts Center in Fremont since the 1970s. The property at the north east corner of Stevenson and Paseo Padre is designated as a site for this facility on city maps.

Question #2 – Do you think Fremont needs a Performing Arts Center? (yes or no, and why) If yes, is this something that the City should be directly involved in? To what degree? (property owner/construction management/booking agency, or ?)

Vinnie – Absolutely! The City should trying to build a Performing Arts Center. Unfortunately, such a large capital expenditure might not be possible at this time. Still, the City should be more aggressively be investigating opportunities to fund this. There are many creative financing opportunities, such as public endowments, that can be used to fund facilities such as this.

As for the location of the PAC, I’m not sure that the north east corner of Stevenson and Paseo Padre would be the best location for this. Ideally, this would be located near existing retail and other civic buildings. A good example of strategically locating such a facility is in Mountain View. Their PAC is located right next to City Hall and the pedestrian-friendly shopping area on Castro St. These facilities together provide a remarkable area that the City’s residents are quite proud of. This area also generates significant tax revenue for Mountain View.

Given the difficulty in funding a new facility at this time, we may want to explore opportunities for using existing facilities such as the Center Theater in Fremont as locations where events can be held.

Many in the community feel that the historic Center Theater has great potential as a venue for the arts and could serve as a catalyst for revitalization of the Centerville district. We have been advised that the negotiation between the current owner and the City of Fremont’s Redevelopment Department are stalled, as they are far apart on price.

Question #3 – Do you think acquisition of the Center Theater would or would not be a strong catalyst for redevelopment of the Centerville area? (yes or no, and why) If yes, should the city do more to acquire the property now, while values are low? If so, what?

Vinnie – The acquisition of the Center Theater could have definitely been a strong catalyst for redevelopment of the Centerville area. I mentioned above how the facility in Mountain View adds to the character of their downtown area. The Center Theater could definitely be part of that. I believe that the City could have used more redevelopment money needed to obtain the Center Theater.

I believe that the City missed a huge opportunity in the Centerville area. I’ve been quite critical of the development that was finally approved by the City Council. We have had many years to develop a pedestrian-friendly retail area in Fremont. Centerville could have been one such areas. We could have done a number of design elements such as widening the sidewalks on Fremont Boulevard, reducing the number of lanes of traffic to two, building barriers to separate pedestrian traffic from automobile traffic. We also could have done a modest investment in street improvements such as light poles and landscaping to provide a consistent look and feel to the street. If the City would have begun this process a number of years ago, it’s possible there could already be more successful retail development in that location. It’s even possible that a desired retailer like Whole Foods would have decided that the area had great potential and would have wanted to be located there.

Currently Fremont contributes 1% of the cost of construction of public buildings to provide public art, such as the sculpture ‘A-Mend’ on Osgood in front of the city corporation yard and the mural of swimmers at Aqua Adventure in Central Park. Pieces are chosen by the Art Review Board, a group of artists and concerned citizens appointed by the mayor, working with the Planning Dept.

Question #4­ – Some cities provide brochures, education sessions or a streamlined planning and approval process for property owners interested in voluntarily providing public art, privately funded. Should Fremont provide something similar to encourage more art in public places? (yes or no, and why)

Vinnie – Yes, the City should provide resources so that private property owners can provide privately funded art if they desire. I do think there needs to be an Art Review Board to help provide a consistency to the art. By consistency, I simply mean the location and placement of the art. Obviously, art involves freedom of expression and ‘consistency’ doesn’t really agree with that.

It would be great to see the City establish a cultural district where there is a high concentration of cultural facilities. This could be a source of economic development for Fremont and a way to celebrate our City’s diversity.

Question #5–Many cities require a % of the cost of private commercial development to be contributed for this same purpose. Do you think Fremont should require this? If so, should the selection of art be (A) totally up to the property owner (B) with the Art Review Board serving in an advisory capacity in the selection of art, or (C) should these funds be administered by the Art Review Board?

Vinnie – I would be in favor of having a percentage of the cost of private commercial development to be contributed to this. I would prefer that these funds be administered by the Art Review Board.

As professor Richard Florida notes, art creates a sense of place in a community and can actually help an area’s economic development. Investments in the arts are often much cheaper than large capital investments and provide better return on investment.

Please feel free to add any comments you might like to make about the place of art in the life of the community, and what the appropriate role for city government is. Thank you again for making your views in these matters available to the voting public.

Vinnie – When I was studying City Planning at Berkeley I took a class from Allan Jacobs who wrote the book “Great Streets”. Jacobs looked at some of the most famous streets in the world and determined what were the physical attributes of these streets that enabled them to be great streets. Fremont has a lack of creativity in its street design. While we can’t completely rebuild all of our streets, we could focus on a few of them and create areas that are beautiful and serve as focal points for our community.

Clearly, the way in which we design our cities has a profound effect on our sense of community and pride. Designing places that are pleasant to live is one of the joys of City Planning. Having these places filled with wonderful art is clearly a critical part of the equation.

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