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April 2, 2008 > Newark's Area 3 and 4

Newark's Area 3 and 4

Although not as controversial as the infamous and secretive Area 51 in Nevada, Newark Area 3 and 4 are of high interest (and some debate) to residents of Newark and neighboring cities. A championship golf course and residential development is planned. Concepts were presented to the Newark City Council on Thursday, March 13 for review and approval. A broad outline labeled "Alternative B" was approved for Area 4 while Area 3 remains as a choice between two alternatives. TCV spoke with Community Development Director Terrence Grindall, AICP about Area 3 and 4.

TCV: Why are these areas numbered?

Grindall: In the 1992 General Plan, undeveloped areas were numbered. There were four opportunity areas. Area 1 is now the Sun Microsystem campus and Area 2, slated for Transit Oriented Development, encompasses older industrial areas. Area 3 and 4 - about 560 acres - is bounded by Mowry Ave., Stevenson Blvd., Cherry St. and the vicinity of Mowry Slough. Other areas, such as Area 55, are numbered differently based on a housing element done in 1999.

TCV: What is the difference between Area 3 and 4?

Grindall: A railroad line separates the two areas. Area 3 has very little wetlands and was originally envisioned with a different type of land use - an R&D high tech park. Area 4 was for a golf course, executive homes and open space. The Newark campus of Ohlone College began to change expected land use in that area.

TCV: What is currently being proposed?

Grindall: To consider both areas together. Property owners have joined in a partnership that made an offer to the city of Newark to make a golf course happen if the area included residential development as well. About two years ago, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the city and this group to change land use designations in exchange for the golf course and a school site. That is the project we are working toward now.

TCV: Has the public approved of this concept?

Grindall: A group in the community has advocated leaving Area 4 as open space. In 1999, Measure C was on the ballot to see if the voters agreed. That idea was rejected by a fairly large margin.

TCV: What is the major difference between the primary scenarios for Area 3 and 4?

Grindall: We looked at numerous options for this area. One characteristic of the site is powerlines that transverse the area. Residential development needs to be on one side or the other as does the golf course. Land elevation ranges from 10 feet above mean high tide to one and a half feet. Our building code requires that any building have a livable elevation of at least 11 feet above sea level. So no matter what is done, there will be a substantial amount of fill.

TCV: How does this proposal affect wetlands?

Grindall: In the alternative selected by the city council, the golf course looks more compact but both are about the same size. Alternative A (not selected) included more interspersed wetlands and therefore appears larger. Much of the wetlands have actually been in agricultural production for many years. Some of the land was used as duck club properties in past years but much of it has since returned to agricultural use. There are portions of the area that are fenced off as wildlife habitat for endangered species, but the bulk of this area has been used for dry and wet farming for the past 50 years. Although the area is not below sea level, it does have artesian springs and some water so maybe 200 years ago, before farming, the area probably did have an uplands freshwater quality to it.

TCV: What were the major considerations when selecting a location for the golf course?

Grindall: Using Alternative A for Area 4 would be more expensive since it would be more spread out. The city council is concerned with being fiscally smart about this. The alternative chosen ("B") includes a bloc of housing and a little more than 250 acres set aside for open space. There will be approximately 120 acres for the golf course and 100 acres for housing.

TCV: Who will own the golf course?

Grindall: It will be a public course owned or controlled by the city of Newark. There are some obstacles to minor course changes if it is city owned so it may be to our advantage to leave it in private ownership and operation although under city control. It is, however, likely that it will be a publicly owned course. One course of action might be to allow private ownership with a purchase option of $1 available to the city at any time.

TCV: This is billed as a "championship" golf course. What does this mean?

Grindall: This is defined by the length of the holes and certain yardage for the course as a whole. This course will meet all the play characteristics of a championship golf course. Golfers that are looking for a quality golf experience will be coming here. We will pay attention to other key elements of successful golf courses such as a driving range, clubhouse with full restaurant and banquet facilities. The course will be designed by a top-notch golf designer.

TCV: Will the final product resemble the diagrams shown?

Grindall: What has been shown so far is conceptual, not a specific design. Although the layout of the course and housing may be similar to what is shown, this will not be fixed until there are meetings and agreements with a number of agencies including the Army Corps of Engineers, Fish and Wildlife Service and others. We have used the services of a golf designer to create the concept. There will be natural vegetation along with grass fairways, tees and greens. This is the type of course that is becoming very popular.

TCV: A school is envisioned for Area 3. Where will it be located?

Grindall: The city's policy is to defer whenever possible to the school district when considering school locations. There are two options for the location of an elementary school; the school district is weighing its options at this time. Both alternatives will be assessed in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

TCV: Is Ohlone College involved in this process?

Grindall: Up to this point they have been an interested neighbor. However, we will now begin to sit down and discuss the effects of this development including pedestrian access and the Bay Trail. Our interaction with the college will be heightened in the next few weeks.

TCV: When can the public expect to see construction?

Grindall: It is expected in 2010 but may happen in 2009. It depends on how we deal with wetlands. Opening of the golf course will largely be determined by market forces. Housing sales in the area will be the economic driving force behind construction of the golf course. Assuming housing sales return to normal in the next two years, the course could open in 2011.

TCV: What type of housing will be built in Area 3 & 4?

Grindall: The area is limited to 1260 units. Most likely there will be a total of approximately 1000 units. According to the city's Master Plan, Area 4 is intended for single family detached housing. A portion - estimated at 15% - 20% - of the approximately 600 units in Area 3 will be condominiums and attached housing. We are still at the concept level so much of this is still to be determined. Area 2, planned for Transit Oriented Development, may be factored into any 'inclusionary' housing requirements.

TCV: Are all property owners in agreement on this planned development?

Grindall: Pick and Pull and Ace Auto Wreckers, located in the area are not part of the development partnership. They currently operate with year-to-year use permits. They applied for an extension but were denied by the Planning Commission. Ace has accepted the decision, but Pick and Pull is appealing the decision and will be heard at city council on April 10. We are continuing to negotiate with them and hope an agreement can be reached to our mutual satisfaction. There is much to do when preparing land used for these purposes.

TCV: Will there be more public meetings on Area 3 and 4?

Grindall: At the April 10, 2008 city council meeting, we expect to begin the environmental document in earnest. That document should be released this summer. While that process is moving forward, we will have at least two community meetings to talk about the details and solicit comments and suggestions about the project. Sometime in the fall of this year, the city council will have the opportunity to approve the details of the project.

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