The Fight for Coyote Valley Continues
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.
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.
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. During the wet season, Coyote Valley swells with water: heavy rains are absorbed by soils and dispersed into wetlands, contributing to San Jose's flood control capacity and recharging the aquifer.
What you can do
Please visit protectcoyotevalley.org to pledge your support! And please - tell your friends and neighbors about the valley and the threats to its future!
In late February 2018, we learned that a site immediately adjacent to Coyote Creek in South San Jose was being considered for a bridge housing community. While SCVAS is supportive of transitional housing for the homeless, we believe this site is not in an appropriate location for a bridge housing community considering the sensitive riparian habitat and the distance from public transit and amenities (it’s isolated in an industrial area). We wrote a letter to City Council urging them to drop the site from consideration and instead expedite the process for a more appropriate site in District 3. Just a few days later, we learned that the site was removed from the list and the land will soon be transferred to County Parks!
In our ever-expanding cities, nature often gets tossed to the wayside and considered only as an afterthought. However, parks can play a vital role by providing critical wildlife habitat in urban landscapes, and so we continue to advocate for a focus on nature in various cities’ parks plans. For the past year, we have been engaged in the steering committee for San Jose’s update to its Greenprint - a long-term strategic plan that guides the future expansion of San Jose’s parks. In November 2017, when the City Council was presented with an update on the Greenprint process, we encouraged them to include nature and habitat quality when assessing existing parks and identifying future park sites. Thanks to support from Councilmember Don Rocha, our recommendations were added to the motion and approved unanimously by City Council.
Photo: Western Bluebird in a San Jose park, by Mackenzie Mossing
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.