July 12, 2005 > Patterson Ranch development update
Patterson Ranch development update
by Venkat Raman
Around for more than 150 years, the Patterson Ranch has been a fixture in the city of Fremont and the Washington Township before the city was incorporated. The ranch started out as a 4000 acre parcel put to agricultural use. Over the years, parcels had been carved out of the original tract for different uses. Coyote Hills Regional Park is the most notable of them and preserves about 976 acres for future generations. Various developments in Ardenwood as well as the Ardenwood Farm have come from Patterson Ranch acreage.
What remains with the Patterson family now is 427 acres currently zoned for agricultural use. The family has been farming there for years, but agriculture is no longer economically viable. Due to the proximity of protected lands, the farm is unable to use pesticides. It also faces loss of crops to foraging wildlife from Coyote Hills and lacks local farm-produce supporting facilities. The family now feels that the time is ripe to pursue residential development on these lands.
As early as 1991, the Patterson family looked into developing the parcel, but did not pursue it. In 2002 Richard Frisbie, a developer based in San Mateo, started proceedings to develop the ranch but stiff opposition from the Friends of Coyote Hills and Fremont aborted the effort. The city council responded to opposition by removing language in the General Plan that would have allowed development of 1500 homes on Patterson Ranch open space without appropriate environmental review.
In February 2005, a development effort was revived but with a change. Instead of making a specific proposal, a schedule of community meetings was proposed with the understanding that the eventual proposal would incorporate community input. Three such meetings were held - February 23, April 28, and June 8, 2005. The findings from these meetings and the ensuing proposal were presented at the Fremont City Council meeting on July 5.
Land development is not a new phenomenon but what sets this one apart is that it is adjacent to precious and fragile protected lands of Coyote Hills Regional Park and near the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge. Moreover, the parcel contains considerable wetlands and precious flora and fauna. However, the tract also represents the last significant piece of open area available for development within Fremont. Considering housing and recreation pressures in Fremont, the best use of this open space is a highly emotional and controversial issue.
During his presentation, Frisbie mentioned that the parcel, as currently classified in the General Plan of 1991, is allowed 291 housing units on 251 acres, leaving the remaining 176 acres as open space. Frisbie offered three variations for the council's consideration. Specifics of these variations are depicted in the maps created by Ken Kay Associates, landscape architects handling this development proposal. The number of housing units realized in these variations range from 1300 to 1500 units.
Community benefits from development were shown on the variations and include a new K-6 school, a community park and/or sports field and a reduction of residential acreage.
Public comment ranged from complete opposition - keep ranch property as is - to agreement with development. A number of speakers supporting development asked for a sports park while others aired the need for places of worship.
Councilmembers agreed that development options need to be explored, recognizing the value of open space. Mayor Bob Wasserman pointed out that the proposal marked the beginning of a process expected to take many months before a definitive plan can be approved. Councilmember Anu Natarajan stressed the importance of considering mixed-use for the area in terms of having some sort of retail commercial establishments included in the plan while Vice Mayor Dominic Dutra pointed out that this project, on completion, would be worth 1 billion. He was supportive of a performing arts center as part of the overall deal. Councilmember Steve Cho brought up the idea of a performing arts center and reminded those in attendance that Ardenwood area schools are already overloaded and the Fremont Unified School District will clearly benefit from the addition of a new school.
Those open to development agreed that land east of Ardenwood Boulevard was suitable for housing while opinions varied regarding structures on the remaining property. City staff and the developer will work together to find suitable elements to present at a future session of the city council.
If you wish to keep abreast of developments on this issue, visit the following websites: www.pattersonranch.net and www.fchf.org.