A few weeks back we learned of a developing situation in Fremont where 32 centuries-old skeletons were unearthed during excavations for a townhouse development there, some of whose units have already been sold and inhabited without the information about the gravesite being disclosed to the buyers. ABC 7 originally reported on the discovery, speaking to a couple of local Ohlone advisors who were hired by the developer, as stipulated under the law, to oversee the removal and reburial of the remains. And now ABC 7's Dan Noyes follows up on the story, finding that some homeowners who've already moved in only first learned about the remains from Noyes's investigative report, and the developer is now offering to return buyers' deposits if they want to terminate their contracts presumably just for those whose units aren't yet move-in ready.
ABC 7 learned that the developer has known about the remains for at least two years, and in disclosures to buyers they only included a brief line about "artifacts" discovered, nothing about human remains. ABC 7 speaks to Golden Gate University Law Professor Marc Greenberg says the disclosure made to buyers, shortly after the news channels first report of the remains, is "better late than never," but he says the developer had an obligation to disclose this information immediately. He gives the example of someone wanting to put a pool in their backyard and needing to know whether or not they can dig there.
Curiously, the Native American representative for the project, Ramona Garibay, refused to speak on the record about the discovery of the remains, even though the developer kept referring Noyes to her.
Also, awkwardly, because reburial on the site is required under law, the 32 human remains are being stored in a concrete vault underground that is, as Noyes puts it, "under a foot of asphalt at the end of a street just outside the living rooms of two homes."
Andy Galvan, and Ohlone Indian who's previously worked as a monitor/advisor for construction sites where native remains are discovered, earlier told Noyes, "These are our dead, this is not a 'Poltergeist' joke, this is not ghoulish, this is not creature features and it's not Halloween." Galvan further explains that the reason the developer wanted this so hush-hush is, first of all, any impact it may have on home sales, but also to avoid protesters or vandalism at the site by people upset that the remains were disturbed in the first place.
Now, given the delay and the fact that multiple families have moved into the homes, which were priced starting around $1.2 million, the developer could be facing lawsuits.
The Ohlone Indians occupied much of the East Bay before colonialists arrived from Spain and then the US. The oldest remains so far found on this site, at Van Daele Homes' Calabria development, were carbon-dated to over 600 years ago.
Native American monitor Shawn Harris, who worked at the Van Daele project as excavations were occurring, earlier told ABC 7 this could just be the tip of the iceberg in terms of this burial site. "Only bodies that they run across are the ones that they've run into by digging down a certain depth," Harris said. "So the whole area is probably covered with them."
Controversies go back decades over the unearthing of Native American remains as the Bay Area has become increasingly developed. Back in 1999, controversy erupted over a shellmound that was rediscovered during the redevelopment of the waterfront area in Emeryville, on the site of what is now the Bay Street shopping center and its adjacent structures. Thought to have previously been disturbed and destroyed by industrial development in the 1920s, the ancient Ohlone burial ground, which was also the site of several enormous mounds of discarded mussel, clam, and oyster shells, was covered over again by development and now we have Shellmound Street, the main drag through this section of Emeryville.