Article - Office of College Advancement

Ohlone board puts frontage plan on hold

Only two bids heard in latest proposals request

By Todd R. Brown, Staff writer.

Monday, January 14, 2008—Reprinted from Inside Bay Area.

Fremont—After a dismal response from developers on how to build out Ohlone College's frontage property, the board of trustees has chosen to put the idea on the back burner until spring.

Members will make "no big decision" in the next three months on turning about 19 acres of vacant land along Mission Boulevard into a profitable housing and retail complex, board President Garrett Yee said recently.

"We don't want to lose momentum," Yee said, noting that he hopes to gain greater consensus among members on the idea. "After 90 days, we could decide whether to move forward."

The latest request for proposals netted just two bids, which the board rejected as below revenue expectations. One bid pledged $1.5 million in annual profit for 60 years; the other offered less than half that amount.

"We caught a little bit of a bad time in the economy with a lot of people talking about a recession," trustee Bill McMillin said at last week's frontage workshop.

Trustee Bob Brunton suggested switching priorities by focusing first on the need for a new parking structure and on repairing or replacing the college's baseball field, notions that staff members already are working on.

"There isn't a square one," college President Doug Treadway said at the frontage workshop. "This is a five-year process. The school has spent $200,000 on this. It's out there in the community."

Sounding frustrated by the lack of progress, Treadway stressed the original impetus—to generate money for building upkeep. The state's budget crisis only deepens the need for new income streams for the community college, he said.

Conversely, Treadway said board members' personal agendas threaten to keep the frontage project from moving forward, despite his staff's time and effort to research the idea and court ambitious proposals that the board nixed.

In talking with some developers that recently declined to make bids, he said they pointed to the college's failed Sobrato Development Co.'s relationship.

That Cupertino firm's frontage proposal pledged $200 million to the college, he said. Yet the deal fell apart last year, giving colleagues pause.

"Sobrato's the gold standard," Treadway said. "If we didn't get them, they wonder where we are. The board is not unified."

Meanwhile, several community members voiced opposition last month to the plan's housing component, warning that a jump in Mission San Jose district residents could further burden local schools with maxium enrollment.

"The number just keeps on increasing because of the high API scores," said Ivy Wu, Fremont's school board president, whose daughter is a 10th-grader at Mission San Jose High.

Therese Gain, director of facilities for Fremont schools, said at an Ohlone board meeting last month that any new students coming from frontage property housing would be assigned outside the Mission attendance area.

Staff writer Todd R. Brown covers Newark, Ohlone College and ethnic community issues. Reach him at 510-353-7004 or todd.brown@bayareanewsgroup.com.

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