By Steven Tavares

Irvington Village on Grimmer Rd.
in Fremont would contain
100 affordable rental homes.

Fremont never gets any love from the county. That’s a common refrain from those in the county’s second largest city. It may also be part of the impetus for Fremont’s bold move to protect $140 million in redevelopment projects by selling bonds without the inclusion of affordable housing in the deal.

Fremont’s City Council like its counterpart in Los Angeles moved quickly this week by approving redevelopment projects before the governor’s proposal to scrap the agencies across the state becomes further defined.

The original intent of forming local redevelopment agencies was to remove blighted areas and aid local government efforts to build affordable housing for its residents. Critics, along with Gov. Jerry Brown, have long said the agencies have become the playground of rich developers and politicians keen on bankrolling sprawling vanity projects. In the meantime, the affordable housing component has suffered. While this may be true, in this case, it may be nagging feeling among local governments in south county that the natural power centers in Oakland continually neglect its growing southern front.

Fremont Councilwoman Anu Natarajan and Vice Mayor Suzanne Lee Chan last Monday both raised the question of affordable housing’s place in the $140 million bond proposal. “We need to be as creative with affordable housing, too,” said Natarajan, “and get as much attention as Oakland and San Leandro.”

Harriet Commons, Fremont’s finance director admitted fears affordable housing dollars under Brown’s plan will be transferred to the county housing authority and not spent proportionally on Fremont. “It is not clear if those monies would be spent from where they came,” said Commons.

Fremont also does not know how to proceed with bonding affordable housing projects under Brown’s proposal, said Redevelopment Director Elise Tierney. “From our perspective, the governor’s proposal is clearly unresolved,” she said. “It puts local jurisdictions in a tough spot to go out with bonding and to give it to the county because it’s not in the governor’s proposal.”

Traditionally, there has existed a bias in attention towards Oakland by generations of politicians. Oakland is easily the county’s largest city and arguably the region most in need of services and urban renewal. The epicenter of power in Oakland is no better defined than the boundaries of the Alameda County Board of Supervisor districts. Three of the five seats bisect important regions of Oakland that typically go a long way in determining the person who occupies the seat.

There is also the question of who would be interested in buying such municipal bonds, whether for redevelopment projects or affordable housing. “Until bond investors know what on Earth the state is up to, they won’t buy bonds,” said John Armstrong, a financial adviser for the city. Part of Fremont’s and, to some extent, Los Angeles’ strategy in bonding such projects is a belief the Legislature will view them to be the most secure. Armstrong said Fremont is a better position than most cities since its tax increment levels are one of the highest in the state. “You’re bonds should be well received,” he said.