Patterson Ranch

Below is my position paper about Patterson Ranch in 2012.  Below that is the one from 2010.

The latest news on this is that the developers sued the School District for being in an ‘unassigned’ area and lost.  The District is seriously considering re-assigning this area in the Newark School District since there is room in their classrooms while the nearby Fremont schools continue to be very overcrowded.

Patterson Ranch – A Lesson in Poor City Planning

The Patterson Ranch development was approved in 2010. Despite a General Plan that argues for sustainable development near the core of town, Council approved a sprawling development on the edge of town. The already overcrowded schools in Ardenwood will be even more impacted once these homes are built.

Below is the position paper that I wrote on Patterson Ranch for my 2010 campaign. Since that time, the City Council unanimously approved a General Plan amendment to more than double the number of homes allowed on the property from about 250 to over 600 despite the fact that there were many in attendance that spoke against the development.

The City Council meeting where this was approved occurred only days before the election on November 2, 2010. Once again, there were large donations to the campaign that were made by the Patterson family to Council candidates only days before the election.

The Superintendent of Schools for the Fremont Unified School District (FUSD), Jim Morris gave an excellent presentation as to how overcrowded the schools already were in the Ardenwood area. He noted that they may have to put these homes into a special area that is not tied to the local elementary schools. The developer for the project noted that these homes would obviously not be built and sold until the school issue is resolved. He must have forgot that the last batch of homes built in this area were built and sold without the school issue being resolved.

Council argued that while the school issue is a concern, they can’t deny the project because of this. They neglected to mention that there are many other reasons they could have used to deny the project. For example, they could have simply said that they don’t think allowing more homes here conforms with the policy in the new General Plan of developing in the City’s core areas along the transit lines.

The City likes to talk about sustainability and developing transit-oriented development to make Fremont less auto-dependent. When it comes to action we get more sprawling housing developments that end up hurting our city’s schools and economy.

Position paper on Patterson Ranch from 2010.

The current General Plan allows for about 260 homes to be developed on the Patterson Ranch site. The latest development proposal would require that the City Council amend the General Plan to double the amount of homes allowed on this land. I see no reason to permit more homes to be developed in this area than current zoning allows.

(Click here to comment on this position paper on my blog.)

History: I’ve been involved in the efforts to limit development at Patterson Ranch since 2004. As an amateur wildlife photographer I was drawn to Coyote Hills for its natural beauty. This is an incredible place considering that it’s located only 10 minutes from my home. A collection of the photos I’ve taken there can be seen at my website:

When I heard of the plans to put over 1,800 homes right next to the park, I knew this was not the right place for such a massive development. I worked with the Friends of Coyote Hills and the Sierra Club and ended up being one of the proponents of Measure K in 2006 which would have reduced the amount of development allowed at the site.

Schools: The two closest elementary schools, Ardenwood and Forest Park, are already beyond capacity by over a hundred students each. The closest junior high and high school are over four miles away and are at capacity. The School District itself submitted a public comment for the Patterson Ranch Environmental Impact Report expressing serious concerns about adding more students to already overcrowded schools in the area. Furthermore, the Tupelo housing development project across the street is under construction, although currently on hold, and will add another 276 homes to the same area when it is completed.

The project applicants originally proposed to build an elementary school on this site and provide land for a junior high school. The latest proposal includes providing only land for an elementary school. Unfortunately, the land to be given to the school district is in a liquefaction zone, which means the land would be extremely unstable in an earthquake. Part of the proposed mitigation in the draft EIR is to build a trench 25-feet deep in between Crandall Creek and the school which would be filled with concrete in an attempt to make the land more stable. Seriously!

The school district has enormous budgetary problems already. This project would only make these financial problems worse. The district certainly cannot afford to pay for the new school that this development would require. This development would have a significant negative impact on our school system.

The Council must consider the impact of any development on our school system. Clearly, they are not doing so if they approve this project.

Cost to the City: The new proposal is all residential except for the two churches. Due to Proposition 13, housing developments tend to cost cities in the long run. These developments require increased police, fire and civil services that are not fully paid for by the taxes and fees they generate. In these difficult economic times, Fremont needs to make wise development decisions that will help our economy, not hurt it.

The Patterson heirs are regular donors to the current Fremont City Council. To think that landowners can donate to politicians who will make decisions directly affecting their bottom line is, in my opinion, unethical. That is why I have made a pledge not to take donations from developers or land owners who stand to make huge profits off of Council decisions.

Transit-Friendly Development: The Ardenwood area already has some of Fremont’s most dense residential development. Being on the edge of town and not transit-accessible, the proposed development would worsen the sprawling, auto-dependent nature of Fremont. If we want to increase the number of homes in Fremont, we should develop, near transit hubs such as the BART stations.

There are plenty of examples of housing developments that allow residents to walk and bike to a variety of destinations. Many studies have shown that residents actually like when they don’t feel they have to get in their car every time they want to go somewhere.

Protect Coyote Hills: The Patterson Ranch development project also proposes a large sports park adjacent to the regional park. A sports park should not be located next to a sensitive wildlife area. The sound would resonate over the flat lands all the way to the hills. Lights from the sports park would negatively impact the natural habitat. We must work to find places throughout our community where our kids can play while parents cheer out loud, but without sacrificing the experience of families and other visitors who want to enjoy the wonders of nature.

Coyote Hills Regional Park is one of the natural treasures of the Bay Area. It supports habitats that are unique or are becoming increasingly rare. The proposed development area currently provides an important buffer that helps protect the natural resources of Coyote Hills Regional Park.

If Fremont wants to zone for more homes, there are plenty of other places, such as near BART stations, that could accommodate additional housing requirements. This is simply the wrong location to put this many additional homes. I see no reason for the Council to approve this housing density increase.