Monday, November 19, 2007

Development of Patterson Ranch advance

The first step toward city approval for the Patterson Ranch development was completed during a Fremont City Council work session Tuesday.

After years of public input and debate over the site of the project, city council was presented with a project and a development agreement for the ranch.

City staff said a plan had been submitted, and is now considered complete for processing and review.

Likewise, the environmental review process for the project has also begun.

The council's Nov. 13 work session was to initiate an entitlement request for a Fremont General Plan amendment, a preliminary planned district rezoning, and a development agreement for approximately 101 acres of land east of Ardenwood Boulevard.

The project would include construction of 800 residential units, in six varying types, and 25,000 to 50,000 square feet of neighborhood commercial uses, reports state.

The residential units would occupy 83 acres of the site, in the northern end of the property, along with commercial space on 2 acres of the site.

Additionally, a 3.2-acre park public square would be incorporated as part of the planned district use. Private parks would be built, taking about 7.4 acres. The project would also include 5.6 acres of trails and connections.

About 10 acres would be set aside for two religious facilities as well.

The staff report indicates that the development agreement would allow for the project to be built over a 15-year period.

Interest in creating a project for the site began in 2004, and the Patterson family submitted an application in 2005.

After six months of community outreach, the family spent another eight months revising the project.

However, by November 2006, Measure K was placed on a ballot to keep a portion of the Patterson Ranch free of heavy development.

About 13,000 residents signed a petition last year to put the measure on the ballot, but the initiative was quashed by more than 65 percent of the vote in November.

Open space advocates aimed at keeping developers from building 1,276 housing units, and 20,000 square feet of commercial space on 520 acres west of Ardenwood Boulevard.

After the measure's defeat, the applicant decided to move forward on smaller projects, and keep the residential development on the eastern side of Ardenwood Boulevard.

The development will still be built just north of a vacant piece of land currently owned by Cargill Salt, and east of the Coyote Hills Regional Park.

The entire project site stretches from the Union City border to the Cargill-owned property, which is located along Route 84.

Scott Ruhland, a city planner, said Cargill has an industrial user lined up for the property, but that the company will not disclose who that might be. Adjacent to Cargill's property is the Dumbarton Quarry, which has ceased operations.

Ruhland said quarry operators are in the process of removing equipment and rock, and will turn the land over to the East Bay Regional Park District.

Currently, Ruhland said the project is in a scoping period, which will end Nov. 20. He added a draft environmental impact report for the project should be ready by February.

Many residents in attendance were pleased with the Patterson family's ability to listen to the concerns of the public. Residents also said they appreciated how the family revamped the project to meet those concerns.

Greg Simas, the pastor at Harvest House Church, said the new development could provide a new home for his congregation.

Josh Roder, another pastor with Morning Star Church, said the project has addressed both community and economic concerns.

"We feel the plan not only meets the rights of the owners, they've been very proactive in meeting the needs for the community," he said.

Newark resident Howard Harter and Union City resident Richard Stormo said the fields provided by the Patterson development would give Tri-City youth much needed, safer facilities to play on.

Despite strong community support early in the development stage, opponents still raised concerns over the project.

Dan Ondrasek, a member of the Friends of the Coyote Hills, had a number of questions for both the city and the applicant.

"Development is development is development," he said. "This doesn't belong west of Ardenwood. Why doesn't this combine parking? You're paving paradise and putting in not one, but six parking lots.

"You're putting schools on an island separated by six to eight lanes of traffic," he added. "Why is Fremont burdening Ardenwood residents with more high density housing? Why are Fremont residents resigned to accept this?"

Resident Ann Rice said many of the amenities, such as the fields and the schools were inappropriately placed. She said placing playing fields in the middle of an open space area breaks the project into divisions.

"This also puts a community park way out on the periphery of Fremont, where people have to drive a long way to get to it," Rice said. "There must be a better place for (the park)."

Rice also noted there was no written guarantee in the plans that land would ever be donated to the city. In Ruhland's presentation, he claimed Fremont Unified School District was planning an elementary school and a junior high school for the site.

Rice also pointed out the district was only preparing for an elementary school there.

Other concerns came from the Ohlone elders. Carmen Saldovar, speaking on behalf of the elders, asked if discussion with them had taken place, as required by law.

"This land is Ohlone land," she said. "If you're going to give back some of it, why not give it back to the Ohlone? (Parts of the site) were not just part of the Ohlone village. They were the Ohlone village. Families want to know how this is all being handled."

Council members said they too were pleased with the applicant listening to the community.

"The biggest thing we've seen here is that development has moved to the east side of Ardenwood, and that's very important," Councilwoman Anu Natarajan said.

Mayor Bob Wasserman addressed the concern over a possible junior high school on the development.

"I know the applicant said there would be an elementary school," Wasserman said. "But I thought if a junior high isn't built, something should be written that says the space should go back to us."

Planner Ruhland said the project is now in the normal review process, and he maintained it will be presented at future Fremont Planning Commission and city council meetings.

Subscribe To My Podcast