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Photo by Tom Grey

Santa Clara County

Young Ranch: What it Means for Santa Clara County Hillsides

We have been following efforts to develop a 79-home subdivision on the 2,150 acres of Young Ranch, located in the southeast hillsides of San Jose. The ranch’s rolling hills and deep valleys are home to elk, deer, butterflies, birds, and wildflowers; these are beautiful landscapes that should be protected. The developers are offering to donate 58% of the parcel to the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan to help preserve the endangered species of the area, and to retain most of the developed part of the ranch as open space between and around the homes.

 

Although the project may initially appear to be environmentally sensitive, upon further review we discovered several reasons to be concerned. The Project amounts to spot zoning that damages natural resources in the county, setting a poor precedent for county development. We believe it violates the spirit of the Open Space Authority Measure Q, a 2014 voter approved measure delivering a strong statement by the people of the region in support of supporting the preservation of hillside areas and a minimal level of development surrounding the urbanized footprint of the region. Furthermore, the project encompasses land that belongs to the City of San Jose, but it is not compatible with the San Jose 2040 General Plan.

 

In October 2016, we sent scoping comments expressing our concerns to the County of Santa Clara, highlighting:

 

  • • Open space: a considerable amount of retained open space as proposed by the project is located amongst the development, reducing the likelihood of conservation entities managing these smaller parcels of open space

  • • Invasive species and disease: potential impacts of invasive species including plants from garden stores and domestic cats that may be introduced by future residents into an area that still retains endangered plant and wildlife species

  • • Pest control: the potential use by residents of poison-bait for rodent control could impact local wildlife

  • • Mitigation for aesthetics: as a mitigation measure, limiting formal landscaping to a small area immediately surrounding the residences allowed would appreciably reduce the aesthetic impacts of developing the natural terrain in addition to reducing water usage and minimizing the need for land alteration

  • • Precedent: Would other properties propose similar aggregation of development if this project were approved? We oppose spot zoning and the deleterious effect such zoning can have in undermining the overall integrity of planning.

We remain concerned with the effects of urban sprawl on the bird and wildlife species of our region, and the continued pressure on wildlife species as their habitats are reduced and fragmented while being invaded by humans, pets and automobiles. We will continue to advocate for the protection of this important hillside habitat from unnecessary development.