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July 6, 2010 > Newark development project approved

Newark development project approved

By Meenu Gupta

Newark's Areas 3 and 4 development project, subject of debate for two decades, has been approved for construction of 1260 housing units. This approximately 950-acre site is located in southwest Newark, bounded by Mowry Avenue on the north, Cherry Street on the east, Stevenson Boulevard on the south, and salt flats on the west.

Numerous community meetings and additional opportunities for public comment were held before the City Council approved it. A unanimous 5-0 vote approved the final environmental impact report and the development agreement. The area had been initially earmarked to include an 18-hole golf course along with single-family homes of various densities and an elementary school. However, within the last 18 months, the city and developer have agreed to make the golf course optional. According to Community Development Director, Terrence Grindall, the proposed development agreement now prohibits Sobrato from using a golf course as a marketing tool for the proposed homes and "there is no guarantee that one ever will be built."

Some Newark residents expressed their opposition to the project; questions were raised by residents and interested agencies, in person and in written communications to the council. Protection of wetlands is among some of the major concerns. The development would require an estimated 2.1 million cubic yards of fill to raise the land above the flood plain to protect homes from flooding. According to Jana Sokale, Friends of Coyote Hills, it would take 100 round-trip truck trips per day 365 days per year for four years on Fremont and Newark city streets to fill Area 4 above the 100-year flood level. The project would destroy habitat that is located within the US Fish and Wildlife Service Refuge expansion boundaries calling the plan "horrible for the Bay, fiscally irresponsible for Newark, an unnecessary burden for the Newark Unified School District and has significant, cumulative air quality impacts for Fremont and Newark residents."

According to City staff, approximately 200 acres would be set aside for reconstructed and improved wetlands, designed with help from the Army Corps of Engineers. The entire project is being funded by the developer, Sobrato Construction Corp. City officials believe the development will improve the City's financial situation and the environmental issues will be addressed by regulatory agencies. Residents also voiced concerns about some land being contaminated with toxins and that the City could end up paying for some of the development. In 1999, more than 60 percent of voters rejected Measure C that called for leaving the area untouched. However, opponents say that vote is more than a decade old.

Construction may take as long as 25 years to complete.

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