Tag Archives: Coyote Valley

San Jose Makes Plans for Coyote Valley

Under the watchful eyes of dozens of community activists who hours earlier had rallied outside on the plaza, San Jose’s City Council held a study session Jan. 22 to discuss plans for Coyote Valley.

The valley is a 7,400-acre swath of farms and undeveloped land extending south from San Jose to Morgan Hill, between the Santa Cruz Mountains on the west and the Diablo Range to the east.

By an overwhelming margin 71%  voters in November endorsed Measure T, which authorized the city to float $650 million in bonds for infrastructure improvements throughout San Jose, including up to $50 million to buy land in Coyote Valley for conservation purposes.

Among the expected benefits are natural flood mitigation, enhanced groundwater protection and wildlife habitat and open space for recreational purposes.

The city must now decide how to spend the bond money. Besides Coyote Valley, the city is looking at what to prioritize with the other $600 million of bond money, intended to be spent fixing roads and bridges and upgrading fire stations and emergency operations.

But the Jan. 22 study session was all about how to proceed in Coyote Valley. And although the voting public spoke clearly in its 71% support of Measure T, developers and Coyote Valley property owners are holding out hopes of making more money by building there. The city could opt to spend less than the $50 million voters authorized, or look for options that would still allow some Coyote Valley development. But, Greenbelt Alliance program director Brian Schmidt told Ethnic Media Services, doing so would “not be following the spirit of the measure.”

Over the course of four and a half hours, the City Council heard presentations organized into three categories: “Land Use Planning,” “Environmental Perspective” and “Development Perspective.” Then, for 45 minutes, the public was allowed a chance to address the council, in one-minute increments per speaker.

Opening the land use planning portion of the discussions, Chris Burton, deputy director of the city’s Office of Economic Development, reminded the council that Coyote Valley development had long factored into the city’s planning as an “employment lands growth area.” As such, it has been expected to deliver tens of thousands of jobs, primarily from an industrialized northern sector of the valley. San Jose land with that designation is in relatively short supply and job opportunities are limited for those without higher education degrees.

The environmental panel emphasized the hope of creating a wildlife corridor so animals can range freely between the mountain ranges. By restoring the valley’s Laguna Seca wetlands and taking full advantage of unpaved ground’s ability to absorb rainfall, the city will be protecting and replenishing the aquifer, they argued, safeguarding the source of a third of the city’s drinking water. Doing so would also help prevent catastrophic flooding such as the city experienced in December 2017 ꟷ and is continuing to remediate, at a cost surpassing $100 million. They also emphasized the value of protecting a natural habitat for people’s recreational use and reminded the council that aesthetic values also can provide economic benefits.

Burton also led the development presentation, with representatives of real estate developer Scannell Corp, real estate investment firm Jones, Lang LaSalle, and Kate Sofis, of SFMake and Manufacture: San Jose.

Collectively, they argued that Coyote Valley represents the city’s best opportunity to attract businesses that can’t afford downtown rents and would otherwise find Newark, Fremont, Tracy or Livermore more attractive options.

In the question-and-answer period that followed, Mayor Sam Liccardo asked them about the added cost developers face due to the state’s VMT  vehicle miles traveled assessment. The VMT factor is a product of the state legislature’s SB 743 from 2013, which San Jose chose to implement in 2018. It will apply statewide by July 2020, part of the state’s goal of reducing greenhouse gases, it imposes a fee on new projects based on their anticipated traffic impacts.

A 200,000- to 500,000-square-foot facility, employing 1,000-1,200 workers, would incur about $17 million in transit fees, the Scannell Corporation representative calculated.

“No matter how much they want to be near San Jose, they’re going to move to Tracy or Livermore,” he said.

“The state (California) may have just decided this for us,” Liccardo replied.

District 10 council rep Johnny Khamis asked how much flooding might be prevented by preserving the open space, and had some pointed questions about the effect of surrendering possible job creation by declining to industrialize Coyote Valley.

An unofficial appraisal of the privately held Coyote Valley lands is about $130 million. The Peninsula Open Space Trust has pledged to pony up what the city cannot and already begun the process.

Other possible sources of funding include FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the Army Corps of Engineers, which support flood mitigation efforts.

Dozens of people filled out public comment cards for the opportunity to voice their opinions at the conclusion of the session. Some called for “a balanced approach.” Others bemoaned a “short-term pursuit of tax revenue,” saying “the jobs are not going to be coming full force” because changes in technology, for example, are likely to alter the economic landscape.

Others emphasized the special qualities of the land in its natural state. “This is unique, irreplaceable and also a flood plain,” one said. “Coyote Valley is doing its actual, natural job. Just protect the land and stick with the voters.”

The next City Council meeting, on Feb. 12, will feature more comprehensive discussions about Measure T.  Three council members were absent for the Coyote Valley study session: District 4’s Lan Diep, District 5’s Magdalena Carrasco and District 8’s Sylvia Arenas.

The worst possible outcome, Schmidt told Ethnic Media Services, would be if proposed warehouse development were approved. Such spaces, which provide only a few jobs, would avoid the disincentive posed by the VMT assessment but have an outsized environmental effect by paving over the natural sponge that open land provides.

Measure T Rally for Coyote Valley

Coyote Valley — the wetlands, open space, and farmland just south of urban San Jose — has been threatened by industrial sprawl for too long.  It is wildlife habitat that is home to over a dozen rare and endangered species.

We view Coyote Valley as an essential part of our community.  From cleaning the air we breathe to protecting our homes from flooding, this land is irreplaceable.  

As you consider public purchase of land with proceeds generated from Measure T bond funding, many of us will be conducting a “Rally for Coyote Valley” on Jan. 22 between 12:00 and 1:30 pm outside City Hall to demonstrate our support for the protection of this regional treasure.

For more information on how to show support, go to protectcoyotevalley.org/valley

 

Measure T – How Will We Measure Up?

On a pleasant October afternoon, a diverse group of media representatives gathered on a quiet street in San Jose, around a picnic table laden with goodies. This was not a mere picnic.The meet was hosted by Ethnic Media Services (EMS), a Bay Area non profit organization that calls for wider representation in terms of diversity on public issues. The organization works to increase the scope of the ethnic media to engage audiences and increase participation towards forming an inclusive democracy. It aims to give a human face to an otherwise “invisible” ethnic media sector.

Ethnic Media Services Founder, Sandy Closehas worn many hats an award winn

ing journalist, editor, and Director of New America Media (NAM) which was the first and largest collaboration of ethnic news organizations. She founded EMS to continue key projects with ethnic media in December 2017.  The agenda on hand was Measure T – A bond issue for Public Safety and Infrastructure which is on the ballot for San Jose voters in Santa Clara County, on November 6, 2018.

The location chosen for the meet was Rock Springs Park, a children’s park, situated against a lush backdrop of wooded area. You wouldn’t think much of it, were it not for the image on the media briefing that was handed out. A dramatic picture showed the same park totally flooded with murky water. A second aerial shot showed a residential neighborhood similarly flooded, rows of half submerged cars lining the street. These images were from the February 2017 flooding of Coyote Creek. Years of drought had led to an accumulation of brush and other vegetation all along the creek bed. This meant that it could not channel the large volume of rain water, which further led to the overflow and flooding.

Ms. Ming Ngoc Do, a local resident and flood survivor, gave a moving first-person account of the flood. She spoke of the devastation and helplessness, she and many of her friends faced due to being displaced from their homes. Lack of warning from the USGS and other authorities left the residents angry and frustrated. Roughly 14,000 homes were evacuated and the city sustained nearly $100 million in damages.  Ms. Do, spent days after the waters receded, cleaning up debris and salvaging belongings. “It was a very very tough time for us! We cannot sustain another flood!” she exclaimed.

Support for Measure T:

San Jose is the largest city in Northern California. It has experienced rapid growth in the technological sector which has resulted in a booming metropolis, leaving its aging infrastructure suffering at the same time.  Measure T makes an important point when it comes to addressing the upgrade of existing infrastructure. It takes into account that infrastructure improvement does not mean adding concrete and asphalt; but instead, aims to work with the natural environmental systems that surround us. It calls for preventive measures being put in place to help in effective disaster planning measures.

San Jose Mayor, Sam Liccardo spoke at the event and called for critical action in favor of Measure-T. With reference to the Coyote Creek flooding, Mayor Liccardo stated that important lessons had been learned in the aftermath of the event. He outlined how the sum of $ 650 million would be used to update community services like emergency operations, 911 communication facilities, fire and road safety, flood control measures, and repairing seismically vulnerable local bridges, to list a few. $50 million of the funds will be allocated towards buying land in Coyote Valley to protect against floods and preserve water quality.  He lauded Measure T as being a forward-thinking, 21st century infrastructure; working to co-exist with the environment, and for the protection of nature. “San Jose is at the forefront of such a bond measure”, he stated.

Alice Kaufman, is the Legislative Advocacy Director with Committee for Green Foothills, a Bay Area organization whose mission is to protect the open spaces, farmlands, and natural resources through advocacy, education, and grassroots action. Ms. Kaufman stressed the importance of retaining our green spaces in this rapidly expanding world we live in. She added her voice towards preserving healthy, working ecosystems as being our best investment in the future. The Committee for Green Foothills is a strong supporter of Measure-T.

Andrea Mackenzie and Mark Landgraf represented the Open Space Authority, an organization whose main objective is the conservation of natural environment. They work to preserve undeveloped land and restore it to its natural state, while safeguarding water sources and regional trails. They also work with partners and private landowners on acquisitions that help achieve their objective of preserving greenbelts and urban buffers. In the case of Coyote valley, the idea is to acquire land surrounding Coyote creek, and planting vegetation that helps soil absorption while purifying aquifers. This will create a natural flood protection zone that prevents catastrophic events like the flooding of February 2017. Measure-T will allocate a budget of $50 million towards such improvements in the Coyote Valley.

Opposition for Measure T: 

While it has a broad bipartisan coalition support, Measure T has its share of nay sayersCitizens for Fiscal Responsibility (CFR) has voiced concerns about the proposal. Their argument is that the city of San Jose should take a conservative view on fiscal measures. In an already existing housing crisis, homeowners will be looking at an increase in property taxes with this bond proposal. CFR is concerned that such a move will make the dream of home ownership unattainable for many San Jose residents. This will further lead to landlords raising rents to offset the increase, squeezing tenants and worsening an already escalating rental market. CFR states that San Jose has the funds it needs, but cites government inefficiency as the reason for poor management of its budget. It is one of the voices against the proposed bond measure.

The Silicon Valley Tax Payers Association is another organization that argues against Measure T. Calling taxpayers to ‘Vote NO on T’, the organization cautions residents that the long term interest (25 – 30 years) on $650 million is a setback that neither they nor the city can afford to undertake. Their argument is that while many of the communication technologies Measure T seeks to improve are necessary, they will likely be obsolete over the period it takes to pay back the interest on the bond.

The tag-line for the bond measure reads, “Measure T puts SAFE-T first”. The list of proposed improvements promise a city better equipped to mitigate damage from inevitable natural disasters.

A two-third voter majority is required to successfully pass the measure. The date to vote on Measure T is November 6th.

Will San Jose measure up?!