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January 2, 2008 > Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

Comments on proposed Patterson Ranch development

Dear Editor,

I want to applaud the last paragraph of your Nov. 21 editorial; I too prefer to temper our requirements for urbanization with the equally important desire for a bit of space. The portion of the Patterson ranch in front of the Coyote Hills has a very unique role in this community and the Bay Area as a whole. For centuries, it has been the natural buffer separating intensively developed areas from open space and protecting the Coyote Hills Regional Park and its inhabitants.

The place has incredible regional significance. To quote Terrain magazine: "One of the Bay's last pre-European habitats runs through the ranch and park, according to a 1999 study sponsored by the US EPA and the regional water quality board. 'The diked wetlands east of Coyote Hills (Patterson Ranch Property) support the largest remaining willow groves in the baylands ecosystem,' said the Baylands Ecosystem report.

The November 2007 plan surrounded this unique willow habitat with 35 acres of schools on the East of the willow run and over 30 acres of "potentially" lighted playing fields to the West. Now, there is talk about eliminating the junior high school and moving the active sports park to the east of Patterson Slough in its place. There would still be the "potential" of lighted playing fields next to Patterson Slough and a new road accessing the elementary school and parking lots. Either way, the developer is paving paradise and putting up not one, but many parking lots. Development is development is development and none of it belongs west of Ardenwood.

As citizens, we have the right to ask the following questions of this developer, our city officials and our school board:

Understanding the environmental sensitivity of the habitats at Coyote Hills Regional Park, the importance of maintaining a buffer zone, and knowing the restoration opportunities of the open space lands, why shouldn't Fremont demand we reduce the development footprint and share needs? The new plan has acres of playing fields for the school and SEPARATE playing fields for recreation. Why shouldn't the city and the school district combine these needs?

Why does this plan leave the door open to put lighted ball fields right next to one of the richest ecosystems in the Bay Area? How will you mitigate the noise, light and garbage pollution caused by ball fields - lighted or not?

This plan places hundreds of school children in harm's way. Instead of putting the school within the housing development, the developer places it across a major thoroughfare separated by multiple lanes of traffic and speeding cars. Small children would have to walk across multiple lanes of Paseo Padre Parkway and Ardenwood Boulevard to get to their classes; greatly increasing a chance for tragedy.

Assume 800 children attend a 38 week school session, how do we justify the 152,000 opportunities for this tragedy to occur? This math does not take into account those kids that will be crossing these busy roads to go play on the fields after school. The proposed plan forces parents concerned about their child's safety to drive their children to school. The number of car trips, pollution and traffic in the area will then skyrocket. Why aren't we building a neighborhood school consistent with the Safe-Routes-to-School program?

Why is Fremont burdening the Ardenwood residents who have had to endure the highest density of housing in the city and, therefore the highest traffic count, with more than 10,000 additional car trips a day?

And this leads to the most important question: Why should Fremont citizens be resigned to accept the 800 houses being proposed? Another property previously owned by the Pattersons (Tupelo) already has close to 300 houses jammed on it. Combine that with this plan and you have close to 1100 houses.

A recent survey (Jan. 21-23, 2006) conducted by David Binder Research concluded:
72 percent of Fremont voters want to maintain a permanent buffer around the park and limit development of the area as a whole.

A staggering 79 percent of Fremonters wanted to stop the Paterson Ranch development entirely or limit development in front of the Hills in exchange for development away from the Park.

During the developer's own workshops held in 2005, 75 percent of the room did not want development West of Ardenwood.

These results are almost identical to a survey conducted in 2002 in which over 70 percent of Fremont voters want to limit development of the Ardenwood Ranch site near the Coyote Hills.

We must insist on a smaller footprint with lower housing density that would allow a sustainable development including all the perks that this area has been promised in the past and it should all to be located East of Ardenwood.

To develop the Patterson Ranch as proposed is a continuation of a way of thinking before we knew better. It places thousands of people, their children, and their cars in the furthest reaches of the city and away from mass transit. It creates more traffic, more pollution, more stress on our streets and freeways. It ignores the negative impacts such development would have on what has been called the "rarest of mosaics" and diminishes the restoration potential of a regionally rare undeveloped expanse lowland open space.

We are out of room. Patterson is the last chunk of land open. The 1950s and1960s method of expanding into all available lands is over. We need our politicians to think differently - to build up, not out; to place people next to transit centers and build schools children can safely walk to. We ask that this be done now. To save this important last sliver of we and our children and their grandchildren can still experience this special place.

Dan Ondrasek
Member of the Friends of Coyote Hills.

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