Masonic Homes pulls plug on Union City Development; Fremont Considers Universal Design

Just got this bit of news from BayEast.


Government Affairs Action for the Week of February 21, 2010

by David C. Stark, Public Affairs Director

Masonic Homes pulls plug on Union City Development: On Friday, Feb. 26 representatives of the Masonic Homes (a senior housing facility in the foothills north of Union City) announced the cancellation of plans to develop land on parcels just north of Mission Blvd. Current economic conditions were cited as the primary reason for not pursuing the development.

The proposed development would have included a variety of residential and commercial uses along with a recreation center and a church. Development of the site would have required Union City voters to approve a ballot measure moving the boundaries of the existing hillside protection ordinance.

The development of the site had already become a political hot potato with members of the City Council split on the issue and community groups organizing to oppose the project. It was anticipated this issue would have gone to the voters in November and would have played a role in the City Council elections, too.

Masonic Homes staff made a presentation to the Bay East Local Government Affairs Council late last year seeking support for the project. Earlier this year Bay East staff had also made contact with a group opposing the development. Bay East had not yet taken a position on the project.

Fremont studies "Universal Design" requirements: On Thursday, Feb. 25 the City of Fremont held the first in a series of meetings about adopting "Universal Design" requirements. "Universal Design" is defined as an approach to the design and construction of residential developments which takes into consideration children, the elderly and persons with disabilities.

Homes with Universal Design features often include wider hallways and doorways; bedrooms and bathrooms on the first floor of multi-story homes; lower counter tops and electrical switches and higher outlets and bathrooms with "roll-in" showers, lever-type faucets and provisions for the installation of grab bars. It differs from requirements derived from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in that it typically applies to private residences verses public buildings which often fall under the ADA.

The Fremont City Council has directed staff to prepare an ordinance that could apply Universal Design standards to private residences. The Feb. 25 meeting brought together stakeholders from the development, real estate and disabled communities. Local REALTORS® were represented by Bay East staff.

During the meeting both Bay East staff and members from the development community expressed concerns about any ordinance that would require existing homes to be retrofitted to include Universal Design elements. Fremont city staff were sensitive to the cost and complexity of such requirements and suggested Universal Design standards would, most likely, only be applied to new residential construction.

Bay East will continue to participate in the development of the ordinance.