The incorporation of Fremont is an interesting one. With the
vast majority of the land agricultural and population density
quite low, the incorporation brought five separate towns together.
It served as a model for the subsequent incorporation of Pacifica
as well as other agricultural areas. Though the area was large,
support for incorporation was found throughout as the residents
and boosters sought to increase local control of planning and
development. Incorporation supporters argued that other potential
benefits would be local control of a budget; local representatives
on a city council; control and coordination over fire, police
and other municipal services.
Again, post-WW II was a period of tremendous urbanization
in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the East Bay, the city of Hayward
was quickly annexing unincorporated land to the south of its
border. Washington Township, directly south of Hayward, was still
largely rural, though there was a good deal of shipping and some
other industries. In 1953 the chambers of commerce of each of
the eight towns in the Township met to discuss the possibility
of incorporating the entire township. These community boosters
were interested in maintaining and increasing local control over
the character and growth of their towns, apart from both the
encroachment of Hayward as well as from the Alameda County Board
In 1955 Hayward applied to annex a new 337 acre housing development
and surrounding agricultural land just north of Alvarado; all
told, this would have been 2400 acres. With the support of local
industry, Alvarado and Decoto decided to jointly incorporate
to preempt Haywards plans thereby forming Union City. At
about the same time in 1955, Newark, largely led by industry
and booster interests, decided to incorporate to avoid incorporation
by Hayward or other areas within the township, thereby incorporating
a largely industrial area with its large tax base(2). With three
of the townships towns having decided to incorporate, five
townships remained. In 1956 Niles, Centerville, Irvington, Mission
San Jose, and Warm Springs officially became Californias
third largest municipality, incorporating approximately 96 square
miles. With such an enormous area incorporated, Fremonts
population was only about 22,000. Yet this population was rapidly
growing; in the 1940s, the population of the unincorporated areas
of Alameda County had increased 150%. Still, it was not until
1958 and the opening of the Nimitz Freeway (I-880) that connected
Oakland to San Jose that Fremont really began to grow.
The vote to incorporate carried two-to-one with 73% of the affected
residents going to the polls. The idea that incorporation would
be able help preserve existing agricultural land uses seems to
be moot. While some opposition to incorporation was certainly
voiced by ranching and agricultural interests, it seems clear
that urbanization was considered immanent for the area and it
is certain that many of the existing landholders and businessmen
sought to get in on the ground floor and capitalize
on the rapid growth (Bartels, 72). The Patterson family, which
was still operating its ranch (now Ardenwood Regional
Preserve, Ardenwood development in the Northern Plains planning
district) at the time of incorporation, did not think that incorporation
would be best for their interests, but eventually did support
the plan(3). Not only were industrial, retail and residential
developments expected, incorporation was meant to be a tool to
locally control zoning for those land uses.
Land Use and Development
From before the time of incorporation, land use and development
issues have been at the forefront of politics in Fremont. In
1952 an editorial entitled, "Halt Toadstool Growth"
was published in a local newspaper: "This Township wants
its master plan [from the County Planning Commission] and wants
it in a hurry before shacks over-run our industrial land,
before factories are jammed against our homes" (in Bartels,
31). The Citizens Committee favoring incorporation voiced
a similar opinion "By incorporating 99 square miles, Fremont
will also solve the troublesome fringe problem which
vexes so many communities" (in Bartels, 72). While the future
city of Fremont was on the edge of the urban fringe, to the north
and south, residents wanted to effect centralized planning to
combat uncontrolled, choc-a-block, toadstool development.
Centralized planning to deal with unchecked urbanization before
it happened was a possibility in Fremont. The first mayor of
Fremont, Jack Stevenson, notes that within a year of the opening
of the Nimitz, "we had development going wild around here
compared to what it was prior to the freeway. People started
coming at us from a number of directions" including Oakland,
San Jose, across the Dumbarton Bridge, and through Niles Canyon
(4). Thus, upon incorporation, residents pushed Fremont to quickly
develop a central plan: "Despite its infancy, Fremont should
make a master plan one of its fit and most immediate goals. Because
it touches not merely homes and businesses, but also public developments
such as parks, civic centers, libraries, schools, fire stations
and the like, the master plan should be drawn and passed with
dispatch" (in Bartels, 99). City planning and rational zoning
represented progress in urban life. "Fremont stirs the imagination
of those who fled the city to seek a better life beyond. It must
excite those who look upon the tangled problems of the nations
older cities and wish they could start again" (ibid.).
Among the items in the master plan was a transportation plan.
Planners recommended that Fremont Boulevard be widened to accommodate
north-south traffic, widened Mowry Road to accommodate east-west
traffic, and built the Paseo Padre Parkway which now links all
of Fremont. The parkway runs from the Ardenwood area, alongside
Lakes, through the central business district and alongside
Fremont Central Park, to Mission San Jose
and Warm Springs. Highway 238 was slated to connect their new
downtown to Hayward, and then on to I-680, but the plan was abandoned
by the state transportation commission in 1978 (238 is Mission
Blvd, a four-lane surface street). BART service to Fremont began
in the early 1970s further connecting Fremont to San Francisco
and the East Bay. In the November, 2000 election, an extension
of the Fremont BART line to Warm Springs in southern Fremont
was approved. Alameda County Measure B will raise about $1.4
billion for transportation in the county, with $165 million to
pay for the extension(5) .
The master plan also included ten planning areas. Among those
was an industrial area in the south of the city. It was linked
to two rail lines, Southern Pacific and Western Pacific, and
the new Nimitz freeway. This was crucial in General Motors
decision to open a manufacturing plant there in the early 1960s;
not only did they have plenty of inexpensive property, but transportation
links that were not overwhelmed.
Since the early 1980s, Fremonts industrial area has greatly
expanded, largely with high technology firms, and most recently
biotechnology (biotechnology is principly located in the Ardenwood
Technology Park(6)). General Motors had closed down their plant
in 1983, but reopened one year later in a joint venture with
Toyota; now known as NUMMI.
Also in the industrial zone and Warm Springs area, countless
numbers of high-tech research and development and manufacturing
firms have opened. Apples manufacturing facility was sited
in the Warm Springs area here before relocating to Sacramento.
There has also been a good deal of international capital invested
in Fremont, particularly from Taiwan and India.
Rural Fremont is a place of the past in the year 2000. The city
has maintained its commitment to the general plan including maintaining
the distinctive qualities of each of the original five towns.
Like other cities, Fremont tries to balance a good quality
of life, which tends to pull the city in two competing
directions. Steve Cho, who was elected as city planning commissioner
in November, 2000, recently said that "he would like the
citys downtown to resemble downtown Walnut Creek, noting
that he didnt want retail and housing density to look like
downtown Berkeley or the Rockridge area of Oakland"(7).
Not only do they want to maintain a kid-friendly, low density,
commuter-suburb feel, the city has also been catering to the
Silicon Valley and other new industrial developments, such as
biotechnology. However, these dual visions for Fremont have also
led to correspondent and parallel traffic problems. Having now
become the latest addition to the Silicon Valley, Fremont is
struggling with becoming a more cosmopolitan and diverse place.
Housing, Open Space and other Land Battles
One of the first battles for municipal recreational space came
soon after incorporation. As part of the general plan, the city
wanted to purchase Stivers Lagoon, located near the proposed
central business district and civic center. Planners wanted to
use the lagoon to create a flood control basin and planned to
turn the swampland into a central park for the city, with the
created Lake Elizabeth as its centerpiece. After many battles,
in1959 the city was finally able to purchase the first12 acres
of land for its central park. By 1963, the park comprised 47
acres and in 1971 it had grown to 211 acres; it now stands over
Battles over housing, the density and nature of its development
have also been key in Fremont. Much of the development and planning
battles in the 1960 and 1970s are accounted in The First Thirty
Years; this will address housing battles since that time.
By the mid-1980s, Silicon Valley workers began moving out of
Santa Clara and San Mateo counties in search of affordable housing.
Also, with more jobs being produced in Fremont from the early
1980s, many other people were also moving to the area. Fremont
was just the location with, at the time, an excellent commute,
and new housing developments being built.
In the early 1980s, the City passed a plan for the hills to the
East of Niles and Mission San Jose. In 1988, the first of the
infamous Mission Hills homes
was built, Fremonts first $1 million home. Housing projects
slated for the open space in the eastern foothills of Fremont
were often fiercely contested. For example, to proceed with the
project, an elite gated community skirting Mission Peak, the
developer offered 1500 acres of the property to the city for
open space (8).
While in some areas of the city, housing prices were soaring,
in others affordable and homeless housing developments came under
intense homeowner scrutiny. In the late 1980s, a proposed homeless
shelter was opposed. In 1993, Mid-Peninsula Housing Coalition
proposed to build affordable housing at Oroysom Village, sited
on former Ohlone Indian land; after seven years the project was
approved. Homeowners had opposed the project fearing their housing
values would decrease (9). Fremonts working class days
seem to be over and typical suburban wars for a staunchly middle
and upper class seem to be gaining ascendancy.
One of the most controversial projects to date has been the Pacific
Commons development located in the industrial and bay lands zoning
areas. The project has been through various names, stages of
planning, and negotiations for over ten years now. In 1989, Santa
Fe Pacific sought to the site, then called Pacific Green (Fremont
Shores previous to that), into a mixed-use residential, commercial,
and high-technology campuses. That plan was never approved, and
in 1990, Catellus Development Corporation, split off from Santa
Fe Pacific Railroads, its parent company. Now Catellus is one
of the nations largest publicly traded corporations and
also one of the largest property owners
in the country, holding land that had been given to the railroads
by the government in exchange for the construction of various
rail lines in the 19th century. Catellus is also one of the Bay
Areas largest developers, also building the 300 acre Mission
Bay project in San Francisco.
Catellus finally received approval from the city of Fremont
to go ahead with its 822 acre Pacific Commons development
in 1996; originally 840 acres had been approved, but more space
was set aside for wetland preserves (10). This plan includes
no housing, which had been a sticking point in previous plans.
Pacific Commons is slated to include "8.25 million square
feet of light industrial, office, corporate campus, research
and development, as well as 250,000 square feet of retail space"
(11). Future and current tenants include Intel (12), which will
lease a 74,000 square foot office building, Office Depot, which
already occupies a 476,000 square-foot distribution warehouse,
and Cisco Systems, which plans to utilize 3.4 million square
feet of office and R & D space (13).
Until the Silicon Valley-influenced housing and industry growth
of the past 15 years, Fremont was largely a white, working or
middle class bedroom community with some industrial
work. The hi-tech boom has changed the class structure of Fremont,
with many expensive homes being built in the hills of the Mission
San Jose district. Fremont has also become more ethnically diverse,
partly due to local job growth with changes in the economy and
industrialization since the early 1980s. This has led to changes
in educational practices in the classroom; since the 1970s Fremont
has had comprehensive bilingual education for Spanish-speaking
students. Now students in Fremonts schools speak more than
80 languages; the district also provides bilingual aides for
many of these students (14).
More recently, the Fremont Unified School District proposed a
boundary redrawing that would have affected the students in the
Mission Hills area. A parents group from that area formed
to oppose the change of boundary and sought to create its own
school district instead. As of September, 2000, the Alameda County
School Board denied the redistricting request. County Superintendent
Sheila Jordan indicated that they were attempting to "carve
out an enclave of privilege" (15).
Jenna M. Loyd
Fall 2000 Urban Field Methods, Professor Walker
(1)Much of the information about Fremonts incorporation
is from the following: Bartels, Ronald. 1959. The Incorporation
of the City of Fremont, California: an Experiment in Municipal
Government. University of California, Political Science Department
M.A. thesis. Additional information about incorporation and local
history of Fremont can be in: Oral History Associates. 1989.
City of Fremont: the First Thirty Years. Fremont: Mission
Peak Heritage Foundation.
(2)City of Fremont. 31.
(3) City of Fremont. 29.
(4) In City of Fremont. p. 20.
(5) Gonzales, Sandra. 2000. "BART on track for Warm Springs."
San Jose Mercury News. Nov. 9.
(6) Krieger, Lisa. 2000. "Fremont is hot new spot for biotechnology
in Californias Silicon Valley." San Jose Mercury
News. Jul. 14.
(7) Kuruvila, Matthai Chakko. 2000. "Fremont plotting grander
course." San Jose Mercury News. Nov. 9.
(8) Jasobus, Patricia. 1994. "Fremont Gets 1,500 Hilly Acres."
San Francisco Chronicle. June 15., p. A14.
(9) Zinko, Carolyne. 2000. "Housing units ready to rent
in Fremont." San Francisco Chronicle. Jun. 7., pg.
(10) Anon. 2000. "Business Park Expected to Clear Hurdle."
San Jose Mercury News. Apr. 27.
(11) Anon. 1999. "Whats in store at Catellus development?".
California Construction Link. Sept., p. 30.
(12) Anon. 2000. "Fremont Lands Intel." San Jose
Mercury News. Aug. 12.
(13) Catellus website, accessed 12/2000. "Pacific Commons
development". WWW: http://www.catellus.com/html/pacific_commons.htm.
(14) Erlich, Reese. 1990. "Learning from Fremont."
San Francisco Chronicle. Mar. 11., This World,
(15) May, Meredith. 2000. "New School District in Fremont
Opposed". San Francisco Chronicle. Sept. 11., pg.