Urban Habitat has been working with Congregations Organizing for Renewal (COR) since 2013 to impact the redevelopment of the 800+ acre Warm Springs site, home to a new BART station scheduled to open in early 2016. If everything goes as planned, the site – already home to Tesla Motors Inc. – will become a major regional high tech manufacturing, retail, and residential center. Urban Habitat and COR are working together to ensure that the development also serves the city’s moderate and low-income residents.

Many Fremont-based jobs do not pay enough for workers to afford to live in the city. Recent work by the UC Davis Center for Regional Change found that there are almost nine low wage jobs in the city for every affordable housing unit, a higher-than-average ratio in a region where the jobs-housing fit is already out of balance. As a result, many moderate and low-wage workers cannot afford to live in Fremont, and must endure long, expensive commutes that increase traffic and decrease air quality. For current residents, the scarcity of decent affordable housing creates substantial displacement pressures, while housing scarcity prevents many from even considering a move to the city. 

The redevelopment of Warm Springs provides an opportunity to make up for many lost years. Residents of Fremont achieved a significant victory in November 215 with the signing of a community benefits agreement between Congregations Organizing for Renewal (COR) and Lennar Homes of California. The agreement marks a major milestone in the long campaign waged by the Residents Insisting on Social Equity for Fremont coalition (RISE), which includes COR and Urban Habitat, to win community benefits as part of the development around the new BART station at Warm Springs. The site, located adjacent to Tesla Motors, is envisioned as a mixed use, commercial, residential, and light industrial development and will eventually include approximately 4,000 new homes.

The agreement between Lennar and COR, with COR represented by the Law Office of Julian Gross, will provide $70,000 per year over five years to Fremont residents for job training in the construction and non-construction sectors, and includes an outreach program to local residents for the on-site affordable housing. The CBA also provides additional community oversight and certainty regarding the full package of community benefits negotiated by the city for this project – giving the community a direct role in ensuring delivery of community benefits over the life of the project.
The campaign was an important one for the emerging RISE coalition. As increased market-led development comes to Fremont, it is vital that the public and elected officials hear the voices of low-income communities and communities of color. Market development often undermines these communities rather than benefiting them, and already the local real estate market in the city is producing similar displacement pressures experienced in other parts of the region. In addition to the concrete benefits that will be delivered on this project, the RISE coalition’s community benefits campaign provided coalition members with political experience in coalition-building and working with City Council. Through this experience, RISE has emerged as an important advocate in the city for low-income residents!