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[whitespace] The Dog-and-Pony Before the Cart

Alviso--Even before a task force of Alviso citizens has come to final approval of a plan to reorganize zoning in the North San José community, (See "Adios Alviso"), a main player here has proposed a major, last minute-change to the Master Plan. The maneuver poses a significant dilemma for local environmentalists and residents.

In a dog-and-pony show that included the usual suspects--as well as charts, graphs, architectural drawings, Environmental Impact Reports, and several attentive aides--Lincoln Properties Vice President Ed Thrift introduced amendments to a plan for a 70-acre parcel of Lincoln-owned dump land east of Lafayette Street.

Lincoln has already begun building a 305,000 square foot R&D office park on its property on the west side of Lafayette.

Lincoln wants the property rezoned to allow taller buildings on the property--from 45 feet to 90 feet. To placate community objections to six-story buildings towering over their homes and businesses, Thrift said that if Lincoln was allowed the height increase, it would only use half of it for its own development, turning over the other half to a non-profit organization. He said that group could run restaurants and other commercial enterprises to raise money for Alvisan causes.

Otherwise, Thrift said that Lincoln would have no choice than to cover the entire 70 acres itself with commercial development.

Task Force chair and City Council member Margie Fernandes says the council would consider the Lincoln zoning amendment sometime late this year, on the same night that the entire Alviso Master Plan is debated.

The proposal may force local environmentalists to choose between the goal of putting a halt to Silicon Valley's high-tech sprawl or putting the brakes on the encroachment of wildlife areas.

In an interview held before the Lincoln plan was released, Vickie Moore of the Greenbelt Alliance said high-rise development is a preferable alternative to campus-style construction.

Citing Adobe Towers in downtown San Jose and Oracle Towers in Redwood City, Moore said "we need to be rethinking the industrial form."

"Putting up more buildings like these in the downtown area would help us maintain a balance of industry and transportation and would preserve a lot more open space," she said. "The number of employees per acre in such developments is vastly higher than your typical campus-industrial form."

But Craig Breon of the local Audubon Society criticized Lincoln's entire Lafayette Street development, saying that it was being put up on wetlands that were illegally filled by the previous owners.

Breon said that the city of San José is rewarding such illegal landfill by allowing Lincoln to go ahead with its development plans. Breon called the city's actions "despicable."

And Lincoln's proposal may not get a free run among Alviso residents, either. Task Force member Tony A. Santos says the community development proposal is a bad idea.

"Who in the community is going to control the spending of the money?" he asks. "It's going to set up a big fight. It's going to be a mess."

But the muscular Thrift, who worked the Task Force meeting like a late night television show host, waiting in the back until he was introduced by an aide and then bounding to the front with enthusiasm and big arm movements, says that he doesn't consider possible community opposition a problem.

"We're here to make money, first of all," Thrift told the Task Force. "But we're proposing the changes in the property because we think it will be good for the community. If you don't want it, we won't build it."

That remains to be seen.
J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

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