Owner, city fight over land: Fremont CA Argus, 4/23/07

Fremont officials want to build new fire station on man's property in Niles

By Chris De Benedetti

The owner of a vacant Niles lot coveted by the city for a new fire station is contesting Fremont's effort to acquire his land by use of eminent domain.

Fremont officials want the land, at 37299 Niles Blvd., next to G Street, for a new fire station.

The city's current Fire Station No. 2 is at 37645 Second St., just 3-1/2 blocks from the proposed site. But officials said the station, built in 1952 and at roughly 3,700 square feet, is too small and outdated to adequately serve the area.

However, property owner Ron Ikebe twice has rebuffed the city's attempts to buy the 9,894-square-foot lot. Ikebe said he counteroffered with a request to exchange his Niles parcel for other city-owned land. Fremont officials rejected the idea, Ikebe said.

"It feels like they want to take your Cadillac and replace it with a Volkswagen — or nothing at all," said Ikebe, a Mountain View real estate agent.

In March 2005, Fremont officials first offered to buy the land for $259,000, he said.

He refused. City officials made another offer last November for $300,000, which he also rejected, Ikebe said. Since then, negotiations between the two parties have reached a stalemate, prompting the City Council on April 10 to approve using eminent domain to acquire the parcel.

Ikebe is contending that the city's offers, based on work by the city-hired appraiser, N.A. Lefmann Associates, is below market value.

Fremont officials declined to comment on details, such as offer prices, while negotiations are continuing. "We've asked (Ikebe) to supply us with information that backs up his claim," Fremont Real Property Manager Randy Sabado said.

Did Ikebe comply with that claim?

"He has provided some," Sabado said, adding that he cannot comment further while the parties are in negotiations.

Meanwhile, Fremont officials have said eminent domain also became necessary because Ikebe's parcel satisfies a number of requirements, including size, location, traffic, access and costs.

In addition, it causes the "least private injury" because the lot is vacant and requires no relocation of private residences or businesses, city officials said.

Rebuilding the station at the existing site is not feasible because more space is needed to contain a pass-through driveway for modern firefighting equipment, city officials said.

Modern stations today are a minimum of 7,000 square feet, and Fremont officials have planned the two-story station to be about 7,600 square feet.

In addition, its new location will help speed emergency-response times because Niles Boulevard is an arterial street, Fremont officials said. The proposed site is 2-1/2 blocks from Niles Boulevard.

Once built, the new station would serve the Niles neighborhood with two large parking bays, one engine company, an office and a work area for emergency medical service.

The station also would contain a kitchen, dining room, living room, fitness room, a number of bedrooms and bathrooms, an outdoor patio and a public reception area.

Fremont CA Argus: http://origin.insidebayarea.com/argus