Fremont City

Staff Report

REPORT ON MAYOR'S REFERRAL REGARDING DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITY - To Receive a Report and Presentation on Development Activity and Recommendations for Next Steps.


Department:Community DevelopmentSponsors:
Category:PresentationsFunctions:Request for Input and Direction


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Executive Summary: On September 15, 2015, the Mayor made a referral and the City Council initiated a request for a report on Development Activity.  The attached report provides facts and information on development activity and outlines recommendations in the form of a work plan that identifies community outreach efforts and projects for further analysis, review, and possible future action.




State and Regional Framework


The basis for our planning comes from state law which requires every jurisdiction must adopt a General Plan that conforms to State law.  Some elements of a General Plan are more highly regulated (e.g., the Housing Element requires certification by the State Department of Housing and Community Development) while others are influenced by legislation and funding opportunities provided through regional agencies (e.g., MTC).  The most notable legislation affecting a city’s General Plan is Assembly Bill (AB) 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 and Senate Bill (SB) 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008.  The latter legislation links land use and transportation planning with the ultimate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions through a state-mandated plan called the Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS).  For the Bay Area the SCS is known as Plan Bay Area.  The first plan was adopted in July 2013.  The next update, Plan Bay Area 2040, is currently under development with adoption anticipated in June of 2017.  It is also worthwhile noting that while the City was preparing its General Plan from 2006-2011, the then State Attorney General Jerry Brown, was aggressively challenging cities that did not address climate change/sustainability issues effectively in their plans.


Given that the majority of greenhouse gas emissions come from vehicles, the goal of the SCS is to reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT).  To achieve this goal, one of the primary strategies is to focus development in Priority Development Areas (PDAS) that are served by transportation options to reduce dependence on single occupant vehicles.  Of course, this strategy depends on changing long-standing habits of driving alone.  Over time, it is anticipated that single occupant driving will become more expensive and less attractive due to congestion.


The strategy is also reinforced by regional investments in transit and other transportation systems that are intended to reduce single-occupant vehicle travel.  Some investment is also made in maintaining and improving the efficiency of existing roads but is generally limited to fixing bottlenecks rather than creating significant new capacity (e.g., new freeways). 


Another area of focus is accommodation of housing near jobs.  The age-old goal of a “jobs-housing balance” helps the region reduce long commutes and therefore promotes reductions in greenhouse gases.  Since the Bay Area is typically rich in jobs, it is also an area where housing is in high demand and as such, also highly priced.


Our Local Vision in Context


Our General Plan and its vision of transforming an auto-oriented suburb into a sustainable, strategically urban modern city was born out of intense community engagement over a five-year period commencing with Fremont’s 50th Anniversary celebration and General Plan Community Engagement Tent, followed by a community wide survey, over 50 community and neighborhood meetings, targeted issue forums and meetings with City Boards and Commissions and 31 special meetings before the City Council prior to the formal adoption process.


During the General Plan process, the closure of the Nummi car manufacturing plant occurred and the City embarked on a more focused process for the Warm Springs/South Fremont area, identifying it in the General Plan as a “Study Area”.

Consistent with the Sustainable Communities Strategy, the City’s General Plan accommodates much of its future housing needs in the City Center, Downtown and Warm Springs/South Fremont (WS/SF) areas followed closely by Centerville and Irvington PDAsThese areas are near existing and planned transit hubs (Centerville Train Depot, Fremont, Irvington, and WS/SF BART) and along the City’s major transit corridors (e.g., Fremont Blvd., Osgood Rd, and Warm Springs Boulevard).


Infill development also plays an important role in fulfilling the City’s General Plan vision.  Infill development typically can take advantage of existing infrastructure (roadway, water, sanitary sewer, and other utilities) at minimal cost as they are typically in place nearby.  Infill development can also be beneficial in that it fills gaps in roadway frontage improvements, providing increased mobility and connectivity through the addition of sidewalks and bike lanes.


Fremont’s Growth Rate Then and Now


Like many other California communities, Fremont experienced tremendous growth during the post-World War II era. Between its incorporation in 1956 to 1970, the City’s population quadrupled from 25,000 to 100,000 persons. During the next three decades, the City’s population doubled and by 2010, the City had an estimated 214,089 residents.   The population estimate as of January 1, 2015 is 226,551 residents.  Population estimates are prepared by the State Department of Finance and the January 1, 2016 estimate will become available in May of this year.


Population growth over the last five years has averaged around 1% per year, consistent with the countywide average. 



The average household size in Fremont is slightly above three persons per household and expected to continue to grow slightly over the next 20 years.  Looking at our population growth in comparison to the number of new residential permits issued each year (chart below) we can see that our new housing starts are not accommodating all of our population growth.  As such, our existing housing stock is accommodating much of the population growth.  This in part is occurring as older housing stock with one or two occupants are being sold and then reoccupied by larger families.  In other instances, homeowners are renting rooms as a source of income.



The number of new residential permits over the past 15 years has varied year to year from a low of 122 units in 2001-02 to a high of 434 units in the prior fiscal year with the 15-year average being 281 residential permits/year. The past 15-year average has been slower than at any comparable timeframe since the City was formed in 1956.


The table below summarizes current development activity in more detail.


Development Activity as of December 2015


Total Units

% within a PDA


Under Construction

(or Building Permits ready to issue)



Includes: Artist Walk (185 units) &Patterson Ranch (100 units)


(Building Permit Review in Process)



Includes Patterson Ranch (400 units)




Includes:  State Street (157 units), Sabercat (158 units), Granite Ridge (127 units), Niles Gateway (98 units), Osgood Residences (93 units), and Mission/Stevenson (77 units)

Master Plan Approved

(But other approvals needed)



Includes:  Lennar & Toll Brothers (Design Review Permits and some subdivision maps needed)

In Review



Includes:  Valley Oak (785 units), Parc 55 (560 units), Walnut Residences (670 units) and Connolly (66 units)

In Preliminary Review



Includes:  Osgood Heights by St Anton (163 units)






Consistent with community desires expressed in past surveys, growth has been primarily consolidated in PDAs served by transit. Nearly 83% (6,649 units) of all approved or potential units are within the City’s designated PDAs.  The largest project outside of the PDA’s remains the Patterson Ranch development consisting of 500 units. 


It is quite likely that residential permit activity in the upcoming years will exceed the historically low permit numbers seen in the last 15 years.  This will be true, in part, because of approved larger rental housing projects in the WS/SF, City Center and Centerville Priority Development Areas.  For example, one multi-family building in Warm Springs will have approximately 250-300 units.  In the prior 15 year period, the City saw only two projects of this size, namely: Archstone on Civic Center Drive (322 units) and Paragon on Beacon Avenue (301 units).  It is also true that several projects (e.g., Warm Springs projects) contain multiple residential products (i.e., apartments, condominiums, stacked flats, etc.) and developers have noted that they expect to start construction of each product type at the same time to meet a variety of market needs. Even though this may inflate permit numbers, full occupancy of for-sale units within larger multi-family buildings will ultimately depend on market demand and interest rates. 


Given the amount of development activity in the pipeline, the City has taken a number of steps to inform and engage the community to determine possible next steps.  To date the following actions have been taken.


Steps Taken Regarding Land Use:


·         Mayor’s Referral on Development Activity initiated on September 10, 2015.

·         Created and mailed to all City residents the Fremont Vision Newsletter presenting an overview of State/Regional context, the City’s General Plan Vision, development activity focus and frequently asked questions - November 2015.

·         Community Survey planned for January-February 2016.

·         Topical Forums through Open City Hall planned for early 2016 to gain community feedback on various issues and interests.

·         Updated the Development Activity website.  Further enhancements are planned upon launch of new permitting software in late 2016.

·         Provided this staff report to City Council in January 2016.

·         Initiated a number of zoning implementation measures to assure new development appropriately transitions to existing development that is expected to remain.

·         Initiated the Irvington Study Area.


Next Steps on Land Use/Development Activity:


Citizen and councilmember comments and concerns identified during the review of recent projects has focused in particular on the interface of new development with existing development. Therefore, this report outlines a number of potential implementation actions through a proposed work program.  While many of these potential work items were identified in the General Plan, others are based upon concerns or issues raised by the community and/or city council.  Some items will require additional input, others may require policy clarification or refinement, and in other instances, some may require prioritization, especially when multiple goals and/or policies apply. The following is a list of potential recommendations for next steps within the land use/development review category:


·         Update Design Guidelines to better address privacy in single family residential developments.

·         Update Electric Vehicle Parking and Car Share requirements (increase minimum numbers) and make applicable to all developments.

·         Continue updating zoning standards to reflect General Plan goals and policies.

·         Improve Residential to Residential Interface Standards and Design Guidelines.  Many recent projects have been proposed wherein building heights and/or privacy have been a concern.  This project would help develop zoning tools and design guidelines that would create better interface between existing and proposed projects, particularly when the developing site is at higher density or height than surrounding development.

·         Consider prioritization of General Plan amendments for market rate residential developments.  This would be a new screening or filtering process that would group new applications received within a defined window of time.  The City Council, in turn, could prioritize or select which applications would be processed and which ones could wait until the next evaluation window.  This could allow early indication of interest or disinterest in pursuing a particular project.  The City would need to be clear that this is just a screening and that approval is not guaranteed.  Conversely, if the City had no interest in considering a project, the applicant would save considerable time and money.

·         Consider applying additional sustainability standards as a threshold to new development.   Many standards could be considered as implementation measures of the Climate Action Plan but the City would also need to balance those within the framework of the California Green Building Code.


The table below shows progress to date in meeting the City’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA):


2014-2022 RHNA and Progress to Date


Income Level



% of total

Progress through 2015

Projects that meet need

Future projects expected to further goal

Known Project Units

Known Project Based % of RHNA

Very Low




Laguna Commons and Alder Avenue

Bridge, Eden, Habitat,


St Anton & other fee funded

625 (plus fee funded642*)









Second dwelling units and moderate for-sale units provided within market-rate projects







Market rate develop-ments

All other projects



Total RHNA








This estimate assumes all of the “above–moderate income units are constructed and pay fees in lieu of on site development and that new development is generally multi-family in nature.


Our production through 2015 (two years into the eight year RHNA) is ~585 units, leaving 4,870 units or 812 units in each remaining year through 2022.  It is also true that above-moderate production typically exceeds the allocation but it is also important to note that it contributes to meeting affordable needs, typically through payment of affordable housing fees.  As you can see the City has not achieved anywhere near these numbers in the past 15 years.  As noted above, this could change, especially given some of the larger apartment and condominium buildings that will pull permits in large blocks although many of the larger developments are also expected to have multiple-year build-out and occupancy schedules. 


The approved and pending project pipeline exceeds the overall RHNA number, but does not meet individual affordability targets for moderate or lower income households.  The reality, however, is that the RHNA numbers for lower income households are in part influenced by lack of past performance.  The city’s affordable housing nexus study identifies a maximum burden on market rate housing that ranges from a low of 12.9% (rental) to a high of 25.9% (large lot single family).  Assuming that most development will fall within the 17% range (multiple family development type) and pay the affordable housing fee, it would take 15,229 market rate housing units to generate sufficient funds to support the very low and low income RHNA (2,630 units).  As this simple analysis shows, the current affordable housing ordinance cannot solve the overarching need by itself. 


Given challenges associated with production of lower income housing, the City will need to continue to be creative in finding ways to promote or incentivize affordable housing.  The City has been a leader in this area and several other opportunities may unfold as our efforts continue. 


Affordable Housing Plan


The City has taken a number of steps to address affordable housing needs including:


·         Repositioning of the City’s Affordable Housing Ordinance to require market rate developers to produce a percentage of affordable housing on site or pay a fee.  Under state law, rental developers are required to pay a fee but may voluntarily provide affordable housing.  To encourage such production, the City lowered the percentage requirement to 12.9% for rental products and 13.4% for ownership projects in order to incentivize on-site production of affordable housing.  Production of smaller (< 700 s.f.) rental units is also incentivized through reduced fees with the goal of stimulating rental-housing production to help offset climbing rents through increased supply.  The overall goal of the ordinance is to have developers provide moderate income housing on site and pay a fee for lower income level housing that the City can use to leverage additional funds and provide deeply affordable units.  Of particular note are the overall affordability levels required for the various types of construction.  Developers that pay a fee will provide the following equivalent percentage of units:



Fee (per sq. ft.)

Percentage Equivalent

Large Lot Single Family Homes



Attached Townhomes and Condominiums



Rental Apartments (Fee required)




*               Fee lowered to $8.75 for units <700 square feet in size if a developer forgoes a subdivision map.


·         Contributing supplemental general fund dollars (formerly redevelopment funds) annually to support affordable housing.

·         Applying for and obtaining a $1.7 million grant from the State for affordable housing.

·         Funding a Shared Housing Pilot Project administered by HIP Shared Housing, a Bay Area nonprofit specializing in shared housing.

·         Approving 30 affordable for-sale units by Habitat for Humanity in Centerville.

·         Approving 64 affordable rental units by Abode/MidPen in Irvington for Veterans and Special Needs populations (Now under construction).

·         Approving use of $18+ million in developer in-lieu fees for two future affordable projects:

• 80 units of family housing on Stevenson Place (MidPen)

• 89 units of senior housing on Warren Avenue (Eden)

·         Securing future affordable units from development approvals, including:
• 286 units - Lennar in Warm Springs/South Fremont
• 132 units - Toll Brothers in Warm Springs/South Fremont

•     2 units - Alder Avenue in Centerville


Next Steps for the Affordable Housing Plan:


·         Complete a Commercial Linkage Nexus Study.  The study, anticipated to be completed by July 2016, will identify the linkage or demand that new commercial development creates for affordable housing, potentially providing an additional funding source for affordable housing.  

·         Evaluate potential rent stabilization measures as a means of keeping existing housing stock reasonably priced.

·         Explore partnerships with Silicon Valley Housing Trust to deliver certain services and partner on delivery of affordable housing projects.


Transportation and Mobility:


Equally important to future development of the City is mobility.  The City’s overall strategy is to reduce dependency on single passenger automobiles. This will occur through a combination of land use decisions (i.e., directing most new development to areas where transit is available) and transportation investments (i.e., expanding the bicycle, pedestrian, and public transportation systems.) Improvements to the road and freeway system will also be necessary, as the automobile will continue to be a dominant form of transportation.


Both the region and the City’s General Plan acknowledge that there is no way for us to afford to build our way out of congestion by building more roads.  Instead local and regional investments will focus on addressing existing gaps in roadway infrastructure and maintaining and maximizing utilization of the existing infrastructure. 


General Plan Goal 3-2 strives to improve mobility in Fremont while reducing the growth of Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT).  Population growth typically increases the number of cars and drivers on local streets, leading to increases in VMT along with longer commutes and more congestion. Reducing VMT can be accomplished in a number of ways, including providing alternatives to driving (such as bicycling or transit), encouraging carpooling, reducing commute lengths, and placing services within walking distance of residents or workers. Reducing VMT is not only a strategy for managing congestion—it is also helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.  An essential part of reducing VMT is to make it easier to travel in and around Fremont without a private automobile.  To this end, the City has taken a number of actions to date and plans many more in the future.


City Mobility Actions to Date:


The City has been working on a number of projects to ease congestion and reduce VMT. The following are some of the highlights:


·         Authorized and implemented a Car Share Pilot Program on Civic Center Drive at Fremont BART and at the Centerville train station.

·         Adopted both Transit Oriented Development (TOD) parking standards and maximum parking allowances in areas that are transit-served.

·         Filling in gaps in roadway infrastructure such as:

o  Connecting Fremont Boulevard to McCarthy Ranch Road

o  Improving Fremont Boulevard just south of Cushing Parkway

o     Improving Warm Springs Boulevard from the new BART station to Mission Boulevard.

·         Facilitating Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority improvements to extend BART to Milpitas and the Berryessa District in San Jose. This will give large portions of the population alternatives to driving on freeways and our local thoroughfares.


Next Steps for Mobility


·         Kato Road will get regional funding to improve capacity and safety.

·         Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) is funding a northbound I-680 High Occupancy Travel/Carpool lane. Caltrans anticipates construction to start in February 2018.

·         The City will implement an adaptive traffic control system at four signals on Auto Mall Parkway adjacent to Pacific Commons to maximize efficiency of traffic flow along this segment.

·         The City will modify existing signals at the following intersections to improve flow and safety:

o     Auto Mall Parkway and Fremont Boulevard

o     Auto Mall Parkway and Osgood Road/Warm Springs Boulevard

o     Fremont Boulevard and Walnut Avenue

·         Directed implementation of a “Vision Zero Plan” for traffic safety.

·         The City will seek regional Measure BB funding from the ACTC for an additional 25 projects in the next funding cycle.

·         Continue to work with transit operators to improve local services and linkages.

·         Continue to seek funding to develop a Shuttle program to serve outlying employment areas of the City.

·         Develop and implement Transportation Demand Management Programs.

·         Improve access to car sharing programs.

·         Improve number and access to electric vehicle charging stations.

·         Update Traffic Calming Policies/Program and seek funding.




This report will only highlight a few facts and efforts underway in light of the planned presentation by the Alameda County Water District (ACWD) at the January 12, 2016 City Council meeting.


A few interesting facts about new residential development:

·      Development built today is 20% more efficient than development built just five years ago as a result of the state and local adoption of the California Green Building Code that now mandates water conservation in new development.

·      According to ACWD data, new development is actually 44% more water efficient than development built before 1992.  Incidentally, Fremont residents saved an average of 36% over the past year, making Fremont’s existing older development almost as efficient as new development without additional conservation.

·      New multifamily developments use less water due to water efficient landscaping and less individual yard areas than conventional single family homes.

·      Historically, over 40% of water use within the ACWD has been for outdoor landscapes.

·      To reduce future demand, the City will implement the State Water Efficiency Landscape Ordinance (WELO) in approving new landscaping

·      To encourage homeowners to upgrade their drought ravaged yards, the City launched a new website to inspire and assist homeowners in creating beautiful water efficient gardens.


Overall General Plan Implementation:


The City of Fremont utilizes Community Plans and zoning as the primary tools for implementing its General Plan.  Following adoption of the General Plan, the City took action to approve the Downtown Community Plan in October of 2012, followed by the WS/SF Community Plan in July of 2014 and the City Center Community Plan in June of 2015.  In Centerville and Irvington, the General Plan Community Plans Element carried forward good portions of the Centerville Specific Plan and the Irvington Concept Plan to guide development in those areas.  Collectively, these plans address significant portions of the City’s major growth areas, providing mechanisms and detailed guidance to implement the vision.  That said, remaining portions of the City, particularly areas outside of the Community Plan areas, still rely on older development rules until new zoning standards and design guidelines are put into place.  While tremendous progress has been made, more work remains to be done.  Even some of our newer standards and guidelines will likely require refinement or expanded clarity given our experience to date.  The following highlights the major implementation efforts that have been completed to date:  


·         TOD Ordinance establishing minimum FAR, density and maximum parking

·         Multi-family Design Guidelines

·         Zoning permits and procedures

·         Citywide Design Guidelines

·         Housing Element update

·         Affordable Housing Ordinance update with increasing affordability requirements and incentives for increasing production rental units.

·         Commercial zoning and mapping updates

·         Mixed Use zoning and mapping updates

·         Adoption of City Center zoning

·         Downtown zoning updates

·         Adoption of Warm Springs Innovation zoning

·         Open Space zoning updates

·         Residential zoning and mapping updates

·         Sign Ordinance updates

·         Impact Fee Program updated to reflect number of bedrooms/unit

The major implementation items that remain relating to development are as follows:

·         Industrial Zoning and Mapping update

·         Improve Residential to Residential Interface through refinements to zoning standards and design guidelines.

·         Wireless Telecommunications Ordinance update

·         Irvington BART Station Study Area

·         Other Refinements/Clarifications based upon our experiences

·         Transportation Demand Management updates

·         Work to Develop a Shuttle Program

·         Develop and administer a Traffic Calming Program




ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW:  Not applicable at this time.

Document Comments

RECOMMENDATION: As noted in this report, there are a number of recommended implementation items to further the vision identified in the General Plan and also to address matters related to development activity.  The following Work Plan summarizes recommendations and priorities for City Council consideration and direction:




General Plan Implementation




Community Survey (new)




Commercial Linkage Study




Design Guideline Update-Improving Privacy (new)




EV Parking & Car Share Requirements (update)




Topical Forums on Open City Hall (new)




Zoning Cleanup/Simple clarification matters








GPA Prioritization Policy (new)




Industrial zoning and mapping




Irvington BART Study




Residential to Residential Interface Zoning Standards and/or Design Guidelines (new)




Solar Shading Protections (new)




Transportation Demand Management




Wireless Ordinance update




Zoning Refinements, Special Provisions, Other








Sustainability Standards, Additional




Shuttle and other Transit Planning




Traffic Calming




Priority Legend:


1 =              Initiated in 2015 and anticipated to be finished early to mid 2016.

2 =              Preliminary analysis and work underway, planned to be completed by mid to late 2016.

3 =              Planned to commence upon completion of Priority 2 projects or as time permits.  Some preliminary analysis may be undertaken.