Protect Coyote Hills


Builders still loom at Patterson Ranch
by Vin Bacon

San Francisco Sierra Club Yodeler, September-October 2007

Fremont's Patterson Ranch area, directly adjacent to Coyote Hills Regional Park, remains threatened with a major development. This area contains a combination of marshland, riparian, and upland habitat that is becoming quite scarce due to all of the development next to the Bay. The wildlife includes migrating and resident waterfowl, hawks, owls, shorebirds, songbirds, and mammals such as gray fox, skunk, deer, and muskrat. Patterson is a truly beautiful and serene place amidst the bustling development nearby.

Fremont's current General Plan zones these 400 acres for 0.25 to 1.00 dwelling units per acre. An easement calls for 140 acres to be untouched. This would allow for a development of 65 to 260 homes. Common sense would dictate light development, if any.

The landowners, however, propose to build 800 homes, over three times what the General Plan allows. In addition, they would develop a four-field sports park, a school, a church, and a strip mall. This massive development would be directly adjacent to the park.

The heirs to the original Patterson family have developed over 5,000 homes in the Ardenwood area of Fremont. Originally, Patterson Ranch was to be a buffer between the Ardenwood development and the park. The current proposal would end the buffer and take one last bite at the apple, to develop the family's last remaining piece of open space and make hundreds of millions in profits.

The existing Ardenwood development is isolated on the northwest edge of Fremont far from the rest of the city. The area lacks mass transit and contains almost no businesses or other destinations for local residents. The proposed development would continue this auto-dependent sprawl. Since the '80s, planners have been aware that `smart planning' consists of transit-friendly development that can reduce car usage and decrease carbon emissions. This development would be the opposite.

In the past decade two attempts to develop Patterson, with up to 1,800 dwellings, were stopped, largely through the efforts of a group of concerned residents called the Friends of Coyote Hills. In 2005 the Patterson heirs began yet another push to develop the land. The public resoundingly rejected any development of the land - but the proposal continued forward. Tired of being on the defensive, fighting off proposal after proposal, FCH, with help from the Sierra Club, drafted an initiative to limit the development of Patterson. With a heroic effort, collecting over 13,000 signatures in only eight weeks, they placed Measure K on the ballot.

Funding of the opposition to Measure K came primarily from the two affected landowners, Cargill Corporation and the Patterson heirs. The proponents were many individuals and several environmental groups. Measure K was outspent 13 - 1 ($1,000,000 - $75,000) and was defeated.

Measure K was also opposed by all of the members of the current City Council. They called the initiative "hijacking the process." The Council didn't appear to like the residents of Fremont acting on their own. $200,000 of the Patterson family's anti-K money went to former Fremont mayor Gus Morrison, currently vice-chair of the Tri-City Ecology Center.

While the Council appears resolved to give the Pattersons the massive development they are seeking, there is still much that can be done to protect the site.

Two City Council seats and the mayoralty are up in the 2008 elections. We must work to make Patterson Ranch development a significant issue and to elect leaders who will not allow the type of development now being proposed there.

Vin Bacon, Southern Alameda County Group Executive Committee



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