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March 22, 2005 > Ohlone College President Doug Treadway Responds to March 15 Editorial

Ohlone College President Doug Treadway Responds to March 15 Editorial

In response to your OPINION article of March 15 regarding Ohlone College's plans to sell or lease surplus property, I want to correct a misunderstanding that I believe was fundamental to your position. Dutra Enterprises has offered to purchase one acre of college-owned land adjacent to a parcel they are developing on Mission Boulevard. The memorandum prepared for the Board of Trustees on March 9, 2005 incorrectly stated that "Representatives of the City of Fremont have indicated to the College staff that Dutra Enterprises must obtain this one-acre parcel in order to develop their adjacent property." This statement in the memorandum was corrected at the Board meeting and in the Board minutes to read instead: "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." As you can see, this correction casts an entirely different light on speculations you put forth as to the intent of Dutra Enterprises, the City of Fremont and Ohlone College.

Ohlone College has declared three certain parcels as surplus property. The one acre at the college entrance is a long triangle-shaped lot on the corner of Anza and Mission Boulevards. The front part of that lot contains historic olive trees that are not to be removed. The remainder is of no practical use to the college. The second parcel is 18 acres of frontage land that the college intends to long-term (66 years) lease for private development. This is a common practice across the state for colleges and universities. The third parcel is 18 acres along the southern border of the college separated from the campus by high voltage power lines and a natural gas line. State codes restrict building education facilities near these utilities. Also, the hillside in this vicinity has had major landslides and is questionable as a location for multi-story education buildings.

Your statements that "the bottom line is the college is looking for quick cash" and "this may be the act of a struggling operating budget looking for a way out of crisis," also require a response. First of all, the funds that would be generated from sale or lease would not come to the college for several years, due to the lengthy process required by public law as well as development realities in Fremont. Second, by public law, the funds generated would be dedicated to future construction projects (new or existing building renovation) and not to operating costs. A special Capital Projects Fund would hold the lease or sale revenues, and not the college general fund. Third, the college is definitely struggling as are all public schools and community colleges with the state's budget problems. However, Ohlone College is not in budget crisis. We have appropriate budget reserves and a prudent management of all funds that keeps us in a sound fiscal condition.

Our current campus is thirty years old and there are $22 million in improvements needed to keep all buildings in good condition for the next thirty years. Athletic facilities have also aged and need major repairs and/or replacement in order to remain in safe playing condition and meet collegiate competition standards. Parking, as everyone knows, is a real problem at Ohlone due to the 22 stories of incline from the current open lots to the main campus. This impacts disabled persons and elderly patrons of our programs and services as well as posing a major inconvenience to all concerned. We would use surplus property funds to build new parking facilities on the upper campus to make it more accessible and convenient to students and the public. In the years ahead, continuous investment will be needed for new roofs, HVAC systems, major upkeep and new technology infrastructure. Also, there will be expansion opportunities beyond what funds the state will be available to provide. After the $50 million in local bond funds are expended, $50 million additional capital construction projects have been identified on the Fremont campus currently for which there is no other source of finance.

In summary:
1. We would sell or lease the parcels that we cannot legally or feasibly develop for
college uses in exchange for funds to protect the capital assets we now own and to give us the capacity to expand in the future.
2. We would lease for 66 years the frontage property to private developers in order to generate capital funds income. However, after that time period we would have the option to use that property and those facilities for college use if needed.
3. There are other vacant portions of the current Fremont campus site available for future college building expansion. With the City of Fremont 95% already developed, it is not anticipated that the modest future population growth will greatly increase college facilities demands.
4. The District purchased with local bond funds 84 acres of land in Newark where we are currently moving forward to build a college center. There is enough room on the site for major expansion to serve the South Bay if demand develops.

The bottom line is that Ohlone College is looking to the long-term future in keeping what we now own in good repair, preparing for the future with new building and technology needs, and wisely using our land assets to generate the highest and best use of those assets for the public good.

Sincerely,

Douglas M. Treadway, President
(510) 659-6200

 
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