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March 22, 2005 > Editorial: Ohlone College Revisited

Editorial: Ohlone College Revisited

Sharing this page, Ohlone College President Treadway responds to my editorial of March 15 in which I urged a close inspection of the college's proposed land sale or lease and actions of members of the Ohlone College Board of Trustees. I would like to thank him for his letter and urge everyone to read it. It is important to have open and honest discussions of such issues.

It is interesting to note that a correction to a memorandum by President Treadway is so much different from what was originally written (and according to some sources, presented verbally). Instead of a city requirement that Dutra Enterprises own an adjacent one acre parcel in order to develop their existing property, the correction reads, "Dutra Enterprises must grant to Ohlone College an easement across their parcel to the adjacent one acre parcel owned by the College in order that the College may develop in the future that parcel for possible non-college uses."

Of course, the easement issue disappears if Dutra Enterprises becomes the owner of the one acre parcel. The value of the one acre parcel may be understated by Dr. Treadway's comments that historic olive trees at the front of the lot are not to be removed and the remainder is "of no practical use to the college."

As I stated in my previous editorial, a savvy real estate developer knows the potential of such property and will take advantage of situations where a tidy profit can be made. There is nothing fraudulent about this since developers are in business to make money and do not exist as charitable organizations. However, it does bear close scrutiny, when a developer has close political ties at both the local and state levels. A seller, especially a public entity, should be aware of these motives and take them into account when negotiating behind closed doors.

When discussing the 18 acre parcel along the southern border of the college, Dr. Treadway contends that this land is separated from the campus by high voltage power lines and a natural gas line; "State codes restrict building education facilities near these utilities." He goes on to say, "Also, the hillside in this vicinity has had major landslides and is questionable as a location for multi-story education buildings." I guess the only college consideration for this property from his perspective is multi-story buildings. I am not sure whether many homeowners would be thrilled to buy expensive parcels that have the same problems. Maybe the highest and best use is for playing fields and parking.

I was thrilled with the information that "Ohlone College is not in budget crisis" although Dr. Treadway states that, "the college is definitely struggling as are all public schools and community colleges with the state's budget problems." From what I hear, just about every other school district and educational institution is scrambling for funds and would be hard-pressed to characterize their budget in those terms. Dr. Treadway explains that even with the sale or lease of properties, the money would not be available for several years "due to the lengthy process required by public law as well as development realities in Fremont." I suppose that borrowing against a long term lease is out of the question. The point made money realized from the sale or lease of land will be deposited in a special "Capital Projects Fund," removed from the General Fund is probably true, however the definition of what can be paid for by such a fund can be stretched under the right circumstances.

Dr. Treadway's letter speaks about using the Capital Projects Fund for new parking facilities, improved playing fields, replacing roofs, heating and cooling systems and general upkeep. These needs should be nothing new or unexpected for the existing Board of Trustees that for the most part has been in place for many years. Good planning should have set aside reserves for maintenance and upkeep of college facilities. Since Dr. Treadway's letter assures us that there are "appropriate budget reserves and a prudent management of all funds that keep us in a sound fiscal condition," maybe the sale of "surplus land" is not necessary after all.

 
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