Pleased that the A's agreed to move a school site closer to future homes and showed a willingness to add office space to their proposed "ballpark village," Fremont city council members Tuesday night gave owner Lew Wolff and his son Keith a warmer reception than they did two months ago, when a first iteration of their development plan raised major concerns.
The revised plan is "a step in the right direction," Councilwoman Anu Natarajan told the Wolffs at a 2 1/2-hour study session devoted to reviewing the A's plans. An urban planner by training, Natarajan had offered the sharpest criticism of the prior plan for failing to show much variety in the types of housing it would offer.
The A's are seeking approval for a 32,000-seat ballpark, which would anchor a new multiuse village of homes and shops on about 200 acres west of Interstate 880 and south of Auto Mall Parkway.
The latest plans call for 3,150 new condominiums, townhomes and apartments, along with a retail center, elementary school, and potentially 300,000 square feet of office space.
The housing count is 250 units higher than previously announced by the A's, with higher-density condominiums in portions of the project replacing what initially would have been townhomes.
A decision on the ultimate fate of the proposal is still more than a year away. The A's expect to file a formal development application in about a month, after which the city would initiate an environmental review.
In addition to issues such as the impacts on traffic and bayside wildlife, the city also must weigh the economic benefits of the project against the costs of providing public services, such as police and fire protection, to an area of the city that has never been planned for residential uses.
Keith Wolff assured the council that the A's would provide adequate parking for the ballpark on property the team controls, even though none of the spaces would be immediately adjacent to the park itself.
"We're going to have enough parking stalls within our project to self-park everyone," Wolff said, pointing to plans for more than 11,000 spaces within a three-quarter mile of the ballpark. About half those spaces, however, are on 41 acres that also are designated for future development. Wolff said no construction would take place on that parcel until replacement parking for the ballpark was identified.
The new plan moved the school from an initial location at the west end of Auto Mall Parkway, closest to the city landfill and separated from the housing development. After hearing sharp criticism of that idea, the A's now say the school will be integrated into the housing development and would be urban in design, along the lines of San Jose's downtown Horace Mann Elementary School.
Local business representatives speaking at the meeting strongly backed the A's plans, while a Sierra Club representative and a handful of other residents said they feared the council was ready to endorse a plan that was too dependent on automobile trips to move both residents and baseball fans.
Contact Barry Witt at email@example.com or (408) 275-0140.