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Decision Time for Patterson Ranch
By Jane Sokale
Sierra Club Yodeler, February 2010

Some time in March or April the Fremont City Council is expected to vote whether to approve development at Patterson Ranch. The development on ecologically sensitive lands would have tremendous impacts on the adjacent Coyote Hills Regional Park.

Since December city staff has been analyzing approximately 300 comment letters, from regulatory agencies, environmental organizations, and the general public, on the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project. Soon the city will release a Final EIR, and the Council will vote to approve or deny the project.

The project, as described in the Draft EIR, consists of two portions:

  • East of Ardenwood Boulevard: a mixed-use development of approximately 878 houses plus commercial development;
  • West of Ardenwood, next to Patterson Slough and in front of Coyote Hills Regional Park: an elementary school, two churches, and a 39-acre active-sports park with night lighting.

Many of the letters were emotional appeals to preserve the open space by the regional park. Residents also expressed concerns about added traffic congestion in what is already one of the densest residential areas in the city, impacts on city services and public safety, and increased overcrowding of schools. Environmental organizations submitted detailed letters assailing the weaknesses of the Draft EIR.

For over two decades the residents of Fremont have opposed several attempts by the property owners to develop the 427-acre Patterson Ranch. People from Fremont and around the Bay Area travel to the Coyote Hills area to experience the tremendous diversity of wildlife in its unique mosaic of habitats: mudflats, tidal marsh, and salt ponds west of Coyote Hills; the Alameda Creek flood-control channel to the north; and brackish and freshwater ponds, pickleweed marsh, seasonal wetlands, willow groves, and increasingly rare grasslands east of the hills. In addition to being a vital component of this complex of habitats, Patterson Ranch acts as a buffer for Coyote Hills. For these reasons the Patterson Ranch lands west of Ardenwood Boulevard are included in the 1990 Refuge Boundary Expansion Plan for the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay Wildlife Refuge, though they have never been acquired by the refuge.

Within days of the close of the comment period for the Draft EIR, the development planner for Patterson Ranch released a revised plan, indicating that this revision would be "lessening the impacts on everything." The revised plan, however, still places development west of Ardenwood Boulevard and directly in front of the willow groves along Patterson Slough. In addition, the new plan drops the proposed elementary school. The School Board had already submitted a comment letter addressing overcrowding and the original plan's underfunding of the construction of the elementary school. Superintendent Milt Werner told the Argus, "Not only do we not have room in the schools in that area, we have hundreds of students waiting to get back in." He indicated that future residents would be forced to send their children to schools across town. The additional car trips thus generated would further degrade air quality but are not analyzed in the Draft EIR.

What You Can Do

Attend upcoming City Council meetings and urge the Council to reject any development west of Ardenwood Boulevard. To learn of upcoming actions and Fremont City Council meeting dates, check the Friends of Coyote Hills website.

To work with the Sierra Club to defend Patterson Ranch, contact Bay Chapter conservation organizer Misha Rashkin or call (510) 848-0800, ext. 312

 

 

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