FREMONT -- Few housing subdivisions proposed for Fremont have sparked as much opposition as Patterson Ranch.

Environmentalists leery of building homes so close to Coyote Hills Regional Park tried unsuccessfully four years ago to kill the project at the ballot box. And Fremont school officials continue to warn that it will increase overcrowding at Ardenwood district elementary schools.

But both critics and backers of the 500-home subdivision slated for the city's northwest corner fully expect council members to give it their blessing at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

The Planning Commission last month unanimously recommended that the City Council approve zoning changes to permit the housing development. And earlier this year, most council members praised the proposal.

The current development plan is far more modest than the one environmentalists fought in 2006. That project consisted of more than 800 homes -- a reduction from more than 1,000 homes proposed a few years earlier -- much closer to the regional park.

Environmental issues and the faltering economy forced the Patterson family to scale back the subdivision to 500 single-family homes, all of which will be east of Ardenwood Boulevard, and bounded by Paseo Padre Parkway, Alameda Creek and railroad tracks.

Nearly all of the Patterson's 326 acres west of Ardenwood Boulevard are slated to become open space controlled by the city and the East Bay Regional Park District. The few exceptions would be two 5-acre church sites, and potentially a public school campus.

Dan Ondrasek of the environmental group Friends of Coyote Hills said he appreciated "the progress that's been made," but added that any development west of Ardenwood could disturb sensitive habitat, especially a grove of willow trees.

"It's a vital lifeline for that park, so why are you putting a church (near) there?" he said. "It's just the wrong place for it."

While the scaled-back project has satisfied some environmentalists, it has alarmed the Fremont school district. Originally, the subdivision was to include a neighborhood elementary school that would have eased overcrowding at nearby Forest Park and Ardenwood elementary schools.

But with fewer homes, the Patterson family dropped plans for a school.

The two sides are continuing to discuss a deal in which the Pattersons would give the district land west of Ardenwood for a school.

Richard Frisbie, an urban planner representing the Pattersons, said the $6 million to $7 million in development fees that would go to the school district if the project is built could be used to expand Ardenwood Elementary School.

However those additions would have to be built on city parkland, which would need to be replaced elsewhere in the Ardenwood district.

Meanwhile school officials have warned that the district could choose to assign students living in the development to faraway elementary schools, which could lower the value of homes.

The subdivision's 500 homes would be built on about 80 acres, with relatively small lot sizes ranging from 3,300 to 5,400 square feet. The development plan also includes about 20 acres of parks, including a 4-acre park with community gardens and an orchard.

If the City Council approves the zoning and certifies an environmental report Tuesday, the Pattersons will have a green light to shop the project to developers.

Frisbie envisions construction beginning in 2013, with the final homes being constructed and sold five to 10 years later.

Contact Matthew Artz at 510-353-7002.

IF YOU Go
WHAT: Fremont City Council meeting to discuss Patterson Ranch
WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: 3300 Capitol Ave.