Fremont School District not too happy with Patterson Ranch Plan

Monday is the last day to comment on the Environmental Impact Report for the Patterson Ranch project, which is slated to include 839 homes, a 30-acre park, shops, two churches and a new elementary school very close to Coyote Hills Regional Park.

A group of environmentalists put the project on the ballot in 2006, but Fremont voters decided not to kill it by rezoning the land.

Now the environmentalists might have a new ally. I hear the school district is very concerned about the proposal because it doesn’t think it includes enough money for that new Elementary School. The Planning Commission held a public hearing on the project last night, and I’m told Superintendent Milt Werner showed up to reiterate the district’s concerns.

Matt Artz


  1. Milt Werner was indeed there. He was referring to the following line from the DEIR:

    “Students generated by the project would be served by existing elementary, junior high, and high schools that serve the project area. No new schools would need to be constructed as a result of the project.”


    Milt noted that the two closest schools, Ardenwood and Forest Part are already overcrowded. (I forget the exact numbers.)

    The developers’ last proposal was that they would contribute $9 million to a new school that is estimated to cost $20 million (probably more given the extensive mitigations required). No funding source was identified to pay for the rest of the school.

    For many reasons, this is simply the wrong place to put development as intense as this. Some of it is FIVE stories high!

    For more information, see the Friends of Coyote Hills website:


  2. I think it’s four stories residing directly on the already busy Ardenwood road, and that’s probably a result of the requisite “live-work” orgy that must be a part of every current development, thanks to head-in-the-clouds environmental idealism.

    Personally, I think this is the wrong place for a development this size, but I have a stronger belief in a landowner’s rights do with their land what they see fit as long as the interests of the greater community are being considered. And if the municipalities want to get their fastidious little hands into the mix and cancel the whole thing in the name of open space, the owner should be compensated nicely. Perhaps the EBRPD can swoop in with some of those measure AA funds.

  3. Protect Wildlife Habituate
    My comments are an emotional plea for preservation as well as a call for common sense planning that looks not simply at the short-range terms of a 15-year development agreement, but at the future of Fremont for our children and grandchildren.

    Friends of Coyote Hills tell their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren stories about Coyote Hills. These children can identify great egrets, blue herons, marsh hawks, red-tailed hawks and white pelicans.

    The area abounds with wildlife because of the rich mosaic of habitats against the hills and the Bay and because of the farmlands that serve to buffer these habitats from the impacts of development.

    We believe the lands that surround and frame Coyote Hills are a part of our heritage, just as they were part of the heritage of indigenous people for thousands of years.

    We hope that the city of Fremont will protect and preserve our heritage for generations to come.

    All elected and appointed officials have a moral responsibility to protect and preserve these unique lands. Fremont can build playfields, schools and spiritual facilities in many places. You cannot build the views and the organic shape of natural landscape nor the ecology of the lands and its inhabitants.

    We must preserve and enhance this landscape.

  4. Well at least I can say I grew up knowing what the area looked liked BEFORE the construction of the homes..

  5. Marty,

    The area is currently zoned for about 266 homes. They are requesting that the City Council do a General Plan amendment to allow them to develop 839 homes, 50,000 sq. ft. of retail, two churches, a four-field sports park and a school.

    I would agree with you that ‘this is the wrong place for a development this size’. Thus, I’m signing the petition below asking the Council to not approve this project.



    The developer is Richard Frisbie.


  6. I’m glad there’s somebody else around who remembers what Fremont used to be like, Tony. Of course, that was back when the Patterson progenitors owned the property in question, not the current crop of foolish, greedy Patterson progeny who have seen fit to depart for the questionably greener pastures of Portola Valley, Woodside, Palo Alto, Atherton, and points East. Some of us who are blessed to own property here still actually reside here and understand that true wealth lies in stewardship of the land, not a fast buck.

  7. Can the Pattersons farm that land? And if no, why not?

    Are some expecting them to hold the land and pay taxes on it for the sole purpose of providing a buffer between Ardenwood and Coyote Hills? I know the situation is not ideal, but they are the owners. Perhaps the development can be scaled back, but once the “Friends of Coyote Hills” start tossing around fear mongering accusations like kids dieing in earthquakes and drunken criminals running the streets I quickly lose sympathy.

  8. A rise in sea level certainly is real, Cal. I’ve been wondering for a long time what we’re going to do about levee construction around here – it appears to be the only option unless we want to relocate or grow gills. Thanks for providing the link.

  9. Marty – Yes, the Patterson heirs can farm all the land except that constrained by existing wetlands which are protected under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act. The land was farmed for decades and was only fairly recently (5 to 10 years ago) taken out of production. Don’t you remember seeing the row crops.

    The land is defined as having Class I and Class II soils by the Department of Agriculture. These are the best soil types for farming. This is prime farmland. What makes this prime farmland is the underlying soil type and topography. These soils were carried to these lands through Patterson Creek, Crandall Creek and Ardenwood Creek, three former creeks that meander through these lands (See Creek & Watershed Map of Fremont & Vicinity published by the Oakland Museum to view these historic stream courses). These creeks are now straightened and channelized to form what are antisepctically called the P-Line (Ardenwood) and the K-Line (Crandall and Patterson). These creeks created a broad alluvial fan of highly unconsolidated soils that were rich in nutrients and minerals for growing crops. These soils are extremely poorly suited to supporting built structures. That is why the US Geological Service designated these lands as having a HIGH LIQUEFACTION potential in the event of an earthquake (See USGS Liquefaction Risk Maps). The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) recently released on the Patterson Ranch Development Project reconfirmed this designation with soil borings that provided site specific evidence of the poor structural soil characteristics of these lands.

    The very foundation of the land the Pattersons hope to prime for development and sell to the highest bidder requires extensive soil mitigations including to name just a few 1) placing a 5 foot wide x 25 foot deep concrete cut off wall around the perimeter of the development site, 2) injecting and mixing chemical treatments, grout and/or cement into the soil to depths as deep as great as 20 feet, 3) installing concrete support columns beneath ground, 4) undertaking deep dynamic soil compaction which requires repeatedly dropping a greater than 10 ton weight from a crane on this prime farmland and finally, just in case none of this works, 5) installing specially designed flexible utility connections with automatic shut off valves to prevent gas and electrical explosions should the ground rupture or settled when an earthquake strikes (See Geology Impacts Pages 4.7-21-26 in the Patterson Ranch Draft EIR) . Oh by the way, yes they are proposing an elementary school of these soils. So Marty, get reading. The Friends of Coyote Hills are simply trying to share the facts with the public so that an informed decision can be made about this development proposal.

  10. First off, in the interest of full disclosure, I was retained by the Patterson family as a consultant to run the campaign against the initiative in 2006 and was paid well to do what I would have worked against anyway. I am not retained by the family any more and have not been since January, 2007.

    THERE IS NO DEVELOPER INVOLVED IN THIS PROJECT AT THIS POINT! The Patterson family has retained an urban planner, Richard Frisbie, to process their application for their entitlements so that, at some time in the future, they can market part, or all, of the land on the east side of Ardenwood Blvd to developers.

    During the campaign, I spent an afternoon visiting with Mel Alameda, who farmed the land for 54 years, first working for Gene Williams and then for himself. I asked him if he made money farming there. His answer was that the first year he lost #1,000,000 when a late rain destroyed his entire crop of califlower.

    When I asked if it was economical to farm there, he told me that row crops need to be cooled and put on ice withing four hours of picking and when the last cooling shed in the area closed (where Glacier Ice is now) the closest cooling shed was south of San Jose, too far to work for crops in Ardenwood.

    It was a fascinating afternoon with stories of people steeling his irrigation pipe for scrap value, knocking down the power poles carrying electricity to run the sump pump on the low end of the property so they could salvage the copper wire, and other problems with farming in an urban area.

    So, while it is great soil and it grew good harvests of row crops over the years, the practicalities of farming today are difficult at best. Mel now resides in Hollister and farms there and in Arizona. I recorded the discussion and intend to give it to the Local History Museaum when I finally bite the bullet and transcribe it.

    All of that farm land, between Paseo Padre Parkway and the regional park is to be given to the park district, with portion to be built as a Fremont city park. In fact, everything on that portion of the land is in conformance with the current General Plan for the site and requires no amendment to the General Plan.

    Rising sea levels? Fremont’s policies require building sites to be at least 10 feet above mean high tide levels. Soil mitigations are not unusual and are done on a case by case basis after geologic engineering review. Flexible utility connections and automatic shut offs make a lot of sense in any alluvial soil situation, which is most of Washington Township below the hills.

    The reason we do EIRs is to surface all of these issues and to find mitigation for them. In this case, every significant impact is mitigated to a level of of “less than significant” except three. Air quality is significant, but it is a regional problem not directly caused by this project alone. Another impact is loss of the ability to mine the site for sand and gravel, as if we wanted to create another Dumbarton Quarry there. I have forgotten the third impact, but it was a similar impact which was not directly related to this project.

    All homes are on the west side of Ardenwood and more than 250 acres remains in open space.

  11. The developer is Richard Frisbie.

    THERE IS NO DEVELOPER INVOLVED IN THIS PROJECT AT THIS POINT! The Patterson family has retained an urban planner, Richard Frisbie, to process their application for their entitlements so that, at some time in the future, they can market part, or all, of the land on the east side of Ardenwood Blvd to developers.

    So if I understand correctly there is currently no developer actually contracted to push through the plan that matt wrote about in this post. But, Mr. Frisbie has been hired to handle all the things that precede the actual contracting of the developer?

  12. Ishan, you are right. With the entitlements accruing from this proposal, the family can donate the land to the park district, build the city park, and market the project to the people who will actually build the homes, when the economy allows that to happen. It also gives the family the ability to shape the project which they would not have had if they simply sold the land as is to some developer.

  13. Correct me if this is wrong: So this proposal is not the actual go ahead for the development to begin. Rather, its a step in that direction which allows for the Patterson family to have more control over said development if and when such a thing were to happen in the future.

    My other question was how do we have all these numbers that appear in the newest article if no developer has been selected? In fact, Matt says very clearly that a developer was actually who laid out those numbers:

    “Originally, the developers said they’d pay for an elementary school and provide room space for a junior high school. But the proposal includes just $9 million for the elementary school, which the district estimates will cost about $20 million.”

  14. I have a sneaking suspicion that the proximity to wetlands prevents the use of pesticides. Regardless of the soil quality, they cant farm, for a profit anyway.

    I also have a sneaking suspicion that the Friends of the Coyote Hills could care less about liquefaction, crime rates and and overcrowded schools. Fair enough, but it’s kind of hard to get behind an advocacy group who’s full of sh*t. Even harder to get behind a certain city council candidate who full of it too.

  15. The modification of the General Plan and the approval of Frisbie’s development plan will be the go-ahead for development to begin, any time in the next 15 years when the market conditions are right.

    I think the argument about farming the land is a straw man, not to say a scarecrow, argument. The area is currently zoned, under the current General Plan, to permit the development of 266 housing units. There is no requirement for the city to amend its General Plan to allow 839 units in this area rather than 266 units, and it’s hard for me to understand how allowing the owners to develop these additional 573 units without adequate funding or compensation for the local schools benefits the City of Fremont.

  16. Marty, Oraganic farming was done there. No need for pesticides.
    I will not respond to your other insults except to say… you have lost all credibility on this blog.

  17. I’m curious as to what the supposed agenda of the Friends of the Coyote Hills could be other than to prevent ticky tacky little boxes, as the song goes, from being built along Ardenwood and Paseo Padre Blvds. If they don’t care about school overcrowding, liquefaction & crime rates, other than the obvious, open space preservation, what IS it that they are concerned about?

    Can anyone please enlighten us with their apparently subversive and thinly veiled agenda?

  18. This is the politics of fooling the most amount of people with the least amount of work. There are so many lies, distortions and conjecture on the “Friends of Coyote Hills” website that it’s no wonder voters rejected their plea in 2006.

    The USGS liquefaction susceptibility maps show that the land east of Coyote hills has no greater susceptibility that greater Fremont. http://earthquake.usgs.gov/regional/nca/qmap/

    The group should work on pressuring the council and developer to pay for new schools, not to shut the project down.

    Their inference that a convenience store and a Rite Aid would bring “crime and alcohol to neighborhoods and Coyote Hills park” is not only a ridiculous assertion, it is a Rovian quality fear mongering.

    Bill Spicer’s letter is a verbatim cut an paste from a letter of his published in the Argus in 2007. I’m sorry, but if you can’t spend 5 minutes penning an original word or two about something you claim to care so much about, how do you expect others to care?

    There is no thinly veiled agenda. These are predominantly boomers who have their SFHs in the bag, enjoy the park and want every subsequent generation to live in high density housing. That is obvious.

    Fremont Bill, kind of makes you wonder who’s credibility is at risk?

  19. For the record, I am not a “boomer”. I simply question why it is not OK to not want more homes in Fremont.

    I am the subsequent generation to which you refer. And I live in a single family home. By choice. I think those who live in townhomes or condo communities do so by choice as well and not because they had plenty of money to afford a single family home in Fremont and just couldn’t find one.

    I also want to enjoy the park. Other communities in the Bay Area don’t seem to have this problem of feeling the need to build homes and/or strip malls on every vacant plot of land within their city limits.

    It’s a quality of life issue. Lake Elizabeth is a joke if you are looking for some nature. It is really sad that Don Edwards might soon be jammed up against an 18 hole golf course and/or homes and Coyote Hills will have homes right up to its borders as well. Doesn’t say much about the intelligence of the community as a whole. Smart communities preserve their open space and have smart urban planning. They don’t just build cookie-cutter developments over and over again.

  20. Jen, I wasn’t directing the boomer comment to you. I know you’re a bone grinding gen-Y-er like me. Though I do think the majority of people our age in the BA cant afford a SFH to save their lives, in part because of high demand. I think this development will help that situation.

    I also like the prospects of bringing more families, schools, kids, parks, sports fields and generally more fun and inspiring things to Fremont, you know, all the things the Baconator and the FCN seem better opposing than planning for.

    So, I drove out there today with the map from protectcoyotehills.com. If I am reading the map correctly, the bulk of the development labeled as “East Ardenwood” is the north east corner of Ardenwood and Paseo Padre and the churches, elementary school and sports fields are on the west side of Ardenwood.

    My opinion, East Ardenwood is so far from Coyote Hills and the east laying marsh for this effort to even be relevant. It would take 25 minutes to walk from this development up the Alameda creek to the north entrance of Coyote Hills. From my estimation using google maps, this intersection is over 2 miles from the park. There are many more industrial and res development closer to Coyote Hills. Opposing development on this parcel pretty much means that one want’s a slightly more pristine view from Red Hill trail, or they have other motives.

    I do agree that developing the land west of Ardenwood is dicey. I can see that developing this side of the Paseo and Ardenwood would interfere with wildlife, and perhaps have a slightly measurable effect on the experience at Coyote Hills. It definitely wouldn’t kill the park as the FOCH would have you believe, so much so that it needs to be “saved.”

    I am hopeful there a smart people in the middle who can force that gray area between paving over a natural wonder and expecting a landowner to eat it to appease few Sierra Club throwbacks. It looks like Gus is that man.

  21. Jen, I am not a Friends of Coyote Hills member, but I believe that their agenda is to raise reasonable questions about a problematic proposal – something that is sure to raise the hackles of the present City administration who believe that residents should only show up to vote and then shut up until the next election. If the proposal has merit, it should be able to address questions about building on a liquefaction zone near an earthquake fault or where the children who would live in the development would be educated. You’re right – other, better managed, cities in the area do not seem to suffer from the same compulsion to fill every open area with asphalt and concrete. But this is Fremont, where the price of smart development is eternal vigilance.

  22. To the Friends of Coyote hills, Dan Ondrasek, Vinnie Bacon and others:
    I wonder if you have ever been to Coyote Hills Regional Park.
    I wonder if you have noticed the picnic, playground area and parking lot there.
    I wonder if you have heard the sound of children playing in the park.
    I wonder if you have heard the sound of car doors opening and closing.
    I wonder if you have been to Yosemite.
    I wonder if you have looked at any Patterson Plan map.
    I wonder if anything can make you happy. Think not.
    Signed, Wonder Woman

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