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July 27, 2010 > Editorial: General Plan - victim or vision?

Editorial: General Plan - victim or vision?

Now that the seemingly inexhaustible presentations of elements for a new Fremont General Plan are coming to a close, emergence of a unified vision should be the result. Comments from City Councilmembers indicate that they understand that this document should lead somewhere beyond a place on a dusty shelf, waiting for the next round of consultants, meetings and academic discussions - a victim of bureaucratic posturing.

Comments have centered on positioning the City of Fremont and its environs as a proactive community responding to multicultural societal dynamics while retaining fundamental values. In other words, we need to focus on incorporating the finest elements of change while holding on to the best parts of our roots. This is a tricky proposition since debate can rage about what constitutes the "best" and "finest."

General Plan language tends to be steeped in complex jargon either mandated by planning officials or as an effort to quantify values. After all, common goals of citizens can be relatively simple... the devil is in the details of how to accomplish these outcomes.

As Tri-City Voice began its life in 2002, I asked the question, "What makes a city great?" This is not easily answered, but it appears that most areas considered attractive to residents, business and visitors share common attributes. These are the fundamental elements to any general plan for cities, counties or geographical locations. Some locales are lucky to have existing unusual and unique physical or historical attractions that create global awareness while others have developed a persona through conscious effort. In all cases, those involved exhibit a sense of pride and accomplishment to distinguish their community from the rest.

In the recent past, the Southeast Bay Area has been overshadowed by neighboring communities at all points of the compass. Many have been more visible, maintained a high profile, capitalized on natural features or manufactured artificial ambiance. As our area has grown in population and commerce, we need to examine our own natural, historical, artistic and commercial features and opportunities. Some of these attributes are immutable, a result of our environment, while others are the consequence of a proud heritage, native and inherited from our citizens. Whatever the source, recognition and a coordinated plan to capitalize on these positive community characteristics without jeopardizing basic values is the key to our future.

While accepting and welcoming all of societal strata, the question to examine is what are our aspirations? Developing accommodations for all and providing a baseline of tolerable support for everyone is admirable, but greatness is achieved by aspiring to the best level of life and behavior, not acquiescing to minimal standards. Allowing minimal standards to dominate general plans, building design, schools, landscaping, gateway businesses, district planning, redevelopment, recreation and promotion of arts is an invitation to mediocrity. This sends a clear and negative message to residents, businesses and visitors.

On the other hand, if positive attributes are emphasized including close examination of physical, geological, historical, artistic and economic strengths are emphasized, there will be a common sense of worth and purpose. It is from this strong base of emotion and support that great communities emerge.

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