Photos by Ryan Phillips (left), Merav Vonshak (right)
Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society has been fighting to preserve open space in Coyote Valley for decades. At 7,400 acres, the valley between San Jose and Morgan Hill is breathtaking in its beauty and is critically important for resident and migratory bird species, wildlife, and water supply. Altogether, this land provides a pallid but ecologically important image of the historical grassland, oak-savanna, willow groves, wetlands and meandering creeks that once formed the landscape.
In the 1980’s, San Jose City Council designated North Coyote Valley for industrial development. Later, the City of San Jose designated Mid Coyote Valley as urban reserve, and South Coyote Valley as protected greenbelt, but North Coyote Valley - the most ecologically important area of the Valley, is still designated for industrial expansion. In 1999, North Coyote Valley narrowly escaped being entirely converted into the Coyote Valley Research Park, including a 688-acre Cisco campus. Litigation by SCVAS and the Sierra Club delayed implementation, and in the early 2000’s economic conditions stopped it all together. Now that the economy is booming the valley is, yet again, under threat of a new development. In December 2015, Panattoni Development Company filed an application for a 30-acre, 400,000-square-foot distribution center with loading docks for 84 trucks on Monterey Road. The 570-acre site of the Coyote Valley Research Park was sold to Brandenburg Development Company in April 2016.
The City of San Jose initiated the environmental review process for the “Panattoni project” in October 2016. Our staff and volunteers joined a packed room of concerned community members at a public scoping meeting on October 17th where we were told to expect an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) in mid-2017. We also submitted written scoping comments focusing on potential impacts to birds, creeks, and wildlife corridors and will continue to follow the Panattoni project along with other environmental organizations.
Why is it important to protect Coyote Valley?
• Birds: over 215 species of resident and migratory birds have been observed in the mosaic of habitats in North Coyote Valley. Many of these species are protected by state and federal law, but the habitat that supports them is not protected - it is our quest to protect it.
• Mammals: The valley with its open space and and waterways forms an important link in connectivity for wildlife in California between the Santa Cruz Mountains and Mount Diablo Range. This land connection is especially critical for large animals such as deer, bobcat, badger and mountain lion
• Water: North Coyote Valley is crucial to water supplies for San Jose residents. At 322 square miles, the Coyote Watershed is the county’s largest. Because the aquifer here is unusually high, it is susceptible to pollution. Therefore, protecting North Coyote Valley is critically important to promoting water security in the face of global climate change.
What you can do
Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and specify your interest in Coyote Valley - we will notify you when action is needed. You may also join the “I Love Coyote Valley” online community via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And please-tell your friends and neighbors about the valley and the threats to its future!
Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society advocacy team worked closely with Almaden Valley residents in opposition to a proposed housing and trail development on a hillside near Almaden Lake. This land on Winfield Road, at the edge of the City’s boundary, was designated private open space in the 1980’s and is used by deer, California quail and other wildlife species as a corridor for moving from the Santa Teresa Foothills to Almaden Valley. Building homes here would have significantly degraded the aesthetically pleasing views of the hillside from Almaden Lake Park and Alamitos Creek Trail. We felt that protecting the views, the wildlife habitat and the wildlife corridor was far more important than few luxury housing units and public access everywhere. With the community and other groups, we provided comment letters, engaged in advocacy with decision makers, and helped gather over 1200 signatures on a petition. In addition, after learning that the land was promised to remain open space forever, Councilmember Johnny Khamis did not support the residential development there. Valley Christian, the landowner, dropped the application and we are glad that the deer, rabbits, and variety of birds that are often spotted on the hillside will remain protected from encroachment on their habitat by inappropriate development.
- • Letter to Planning Commission (11/15/16)
- • Comments on Negative Declaration - A Joint Letter (10/24/16)
In December, the City of San Jose approved a development in Alviso adjacent to the Guadalupe River and less than a mile away from Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge. Topgolf, an entertainment/commercial center and hotel, will offer food, drink, music and a three-story golf driving range surrounded by 170-ft tall netting. We have been studying the proposal over the last year and have been concerned with the possibility that the netting might capture birds in flight. We were especially concerned with the development because this land is habitat that currently provides foraging for the largest burrowing owl population in the South Bay. The project mitigation offer various deterrents to bird collision with the netting, but does not adequately mitigate for the loss of habitat.
Alviso is a unique community located in an ecologically sensitive area surrounded by the Guadalupe River, the Don Edwards National Wildlife refuge, and a burrowing owl preserve. The 1998 Alviso Master Plan directs “Retain the small town character, strong community identity, and neighborliness” of Alviso, and “Protect and Preserve Alviso’s strong natural amenities, including the Guadalupe River, Coyote Creek, and baylands”. Ecological, social and aesthetic directives are threatened by this project:
• Loss of foraging habitat for burrowing owls, a resource desperately needed to support the largest remaining burrowing owl population in the South Bay area
• Disruption to migratory birds along the Guadalupe Creeks and the Bay (lights, cheering and loud music)
• Vegas-like development with light, noise, and 170-ft tall netting not compatible with the Alviso Master Plan and deprives this community from its peaceful neighborhood homes, school, library, park and youth Center
• Birds may get tangled or bounce against the netting
In the fall of 2016, a mitigated negative declaration was prepared for the Topgolf project. We believed such a low level environmental review document was inadequate for a development of this scale. Our advocacy team worked with other environmental organizations to write comment letters addressing our concerns and asking the City to deny the Topgolf project. In November, we joined concerned Alviso residents in voicing opposition to the project at the San Jose Planning Commission meeting. The commission was unable to come to a unanimous vote of approval and Topgolf moved on to be heard at the December city council meeting without recommendation.
Despite our efforts, city council approved the project with a majority vote (9 yes-2 no). We thank Councilmembers Magdalena Carrasco and Raul Peralez for voting against the project due to social justice issues.
Read more about the project here.
Find our Comments on the Mitigated Negative Declaration - A Joint Letter here.
**Update 1/17/17: SCVAS has filed a lawsuit against the City of San Jose over the approval of the Topgolf project. Find out more here.