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Photo by Tom Grey

Conservation Corner March/April 2017

By Shani Kleinhaus, SCVAS Environmental Advocate


Santa Clara Valley Audubon recently filed suit against the City of San Jose, challenging the approval of the Topgolf Project in Alviso.

In December, San Jose City Council certified an Environmental Review Document and approved a General Plan Amendment to the Alviso Specific Plan in conjunction with planned development rezoning. This will allow a 36-acre site along North First Street to be developed into a commercial/retail space, hotel, and an indoor/outdoor Topgolf recreation facility: a three-story driving structure where groups drive golf balls into an artificial turf area surrounded by 170-ft. netting. This center will open in the direction of the Guadalupe River, and will have lights and music every day, from the evening to the early morning hours.


We believe that the City has violated the California Environmental Quality Act by providing an inadequate level of analysis and mitigation for this project, circumventing its own land use directives, and degrading the natural and social fabric of Alviso. The City failed to recognize the significant and permanent harm that this project will impose on the environment and the Alviso Community.


Situated in an ecologically valuable and sensitive area of the bay, Alviso is a small, quaint town known for its natural amenities. Along the waterfront, marshes, salt ponds, and tidal sloughs comprise the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge and Salt Pond Restoration project, contributing to the beauty and unique character of the coastal town. Flocks of wintering and migratory birds visit Alviso’s bay lands, making it a popular location for birders. In addition, the Guadalupe River provides habitat and a wildlife and migration corridor, to the enjoyment of the many residents who frequent the Guadalupe Creek Trail. Alviso is also home to the largest breeding Burrowing Owl population in the South Bay.


We consider development of the Topgolf project to be a significant and permanent loss of Burrowing Owl habitat, a resource that is desperately needed to support the largest remaining population of owls in the South Bay. As if the loss of foraging habitat for Burrowing Owls was not enough, the Topgolf facility will be surrounded by a staggering 170-ft netting structure adjacent to the Guadalupe River, creating an eyesore that will be seen for miles in San Jose, Santa Clara and all along Highway 237. What’s more, the project has been approved for late night use: bright lights, loud music, and drinking will be permitted on site until 2AM. Did we mention the development would also be located across the street from Alviso’s elementary school? Surely this project will cause a disturbance to migratory birds and to the Alviso community. 


Our lawsuit is based on our finding that the Mitigated Negative Declaration document produced by the City does not provide an adequate level of analysis and mitigation for the loss of Burrowing Owl habitat and the aesthetic impacts of 170-ft netting. We believe that the Topgolf project does not align with unique aesthetic and ecological qualities of Alviso, and is therefore an inappropriate development for this community.


A win for wildlife!

Los Gatos Town Council has selected wildlife-friendly fencing as a strategic priority for the Town, modifying the town code regarding fences to allow wildlife movement. Along with other environmental organizations, SCVAS asked town leaders to preserve permeability and migration routes. Rapid urbanization of the Bay Area has created a severely fragmented remnant wildlife habitat, forcing animals to traverse roads, highways, fencing and other barriers in order to migrate and access vital resources. With this, conflict between humans and wildlife often arise, posing a safety hazard to both animals and vehicle traffic. By developing an ordinance that restricts the use of impassable property fences, the Town of Los Gatos is making an effort that will make a tremendous difference in the ability of wildlife to move through our area. 


The City of San Jose is updating its Greenprint, a long-term strategic plan that guides future expansion of San Jose's parks, recreation facilities, and community services. PLEASE HELP by filling out the Greenprint Survey at and prioritize "natural places that support wildlife habitat and low impact recreation uses."


For more information or to get involved in conservation and advocacy work, contact Shani at