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Patterson Ranch development in Fremont threatens open spaces, wildlife
Fremont residents must watch city's actions carefully

by Dan Ondrasek and Howard High - Letter to the Editor
San Jose Mercury News, April 12, 2007

FREMONT — The death march toward developing the lands in front of Coyote Hills Regional Park, a Bay Area jewel in Fremont, has begun.

The proposal is to build 800 houses, complete with an artificial lake and mega-McMansions. Fremont has just hired a firm to prepare the development's environmental impact report. It's now beginning to sound a lot like "take paradise and put up a parking lot."

In Fremont - where the typical city council seat campaign costs $35,000 to $40,000 - agri-business giant Cargill and the scattered heirs of the Patterson Ranch family ponied up $1 million (including $200,000 to a former Fremont mayor to run their successful political campaign) to ensure they can build on this property. Now it's time for them to get a return on that investment.

Last year, a survey of Fremont voters conducted by David Binder Research revealed that over 70 percent wanted no development directly in front of Coyote Hills Regional Park. So, what can residents and park lovers do? In order for this development to proceed, the property will need to clear many hurdles, such as rezoning to allow higher development density. School and environmental issues need to be addressed. So now is the time to make your concerns known to city staff and elected officials. We must stay watchful of the process and vigilant on protecting our open space, our park and our community. We should make sure the environmental impact report isn't a rubber stamp for development in front of our park.

The Friends of Coyote Hills oppose any development west of Ardenwood Boulevard on the lands directly in front of Coyote Hills Regional Park. This street has been a barrier between nature and the park against the dangers of urbanization. We are also extremely concerned about the proposed levels of development east of Ardenwood.

The Friends of Coyote Hills is an environmentally focused group of volunteers serving the Tri-Cities area (Fremont, Newark and Union City). It is dedicated to the conservation and preservation of open space and the plant and wildlife habitats it supports. Here's why we oppose development of these lands: The park is identified by National Geographic as one of the premier bird-watching locations in the Bay Area and typically supports more than 100 bird species at the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. The park contains more than 400 hundred species of plants, animals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects.

The land in front of Coyote Hills acts as a buffer zone to protect these species from domestic animal predation, pollutants, lights, noise, traffic and other byproducts of urban sprawl.

The proposed development will add more than 10,000 daily car trips to roads that are already heavily congested.

The development will add enough students to justify an additional elementary, junior and senior high school, but the developer is providing only an elementary school. Will older students be expected to join already over-crowded existing junior and senior high schools? And while the developer will have to pay for the construction of an elementary school, the school district Web site says 80 percent of the school's costs are salaries and benefits that the developer will not cover.

The development includes an artificial lake that is supposed to capture runoff from the houses. Will the city inherit the costs associated with maintenance such as dredging or mosquito abatement?

The development adds houses at the fringe of the city, where police, fire and emergency services are the most expensive to provide.

The development is far from public transit corridors and primary shopping centers, thus forcing people into their cars.

There are many development options for this property, such as limiting development to the lands east of Ardenwood Boulevard, that will allow the landowners to turn a tidy profit* and give them a return on their election investment. But let's not let them line their pockets with gold while destroying our park, or leaving Fremont residents sitting in traffic jams, or the city holding the bag to cover expensive overcrowding problems in schools and rising city services costs once the developers cash out and run to the bank.

*The authors have since learned from the Alameda County Assessor’s Office that the Pattersons made $63 million selling the 15.5-acre Tupelo lot for development.

 

 

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