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Photo by Tom Grey

Conservation Corner May/June 2017

By Mackenzie Mossing, SCVAS Environmental Advocacy Associate


Young Ranch proposed development puts open space, wildlife, and birds at risk. After a 2014 defeat, YCS Investments is at it again with yet another proposal to develop Young Ranch – a 79-lot subdivision on the southeast hillsides just outside San Jose’s Greenline. A natural extension of Coyote Ridge, Young Ranch contains ecologically sensitive habitat where Tule Elk roam, Golden Eagles fly over the grasslands, and wildlife use natural springs to quench their thirst. In spring, wildflowers create spectacular displays, and the endangered Bay Checkerspot Butterfly hovers among the flowers.  We are concerned with the loss of this open space and habitat, and fear the proposed residential development will introduce cats and rodenticides onto the property, consequently impacting birds and other wildlife. SCVAS has joined other environmental organizations in submitting comments to the County highlighting our concerns and the inadequacy of the environmental impact report produced for the project.


Young Ranch by Shani Kleinhaus 


Another proposed development in the County, Cordoba Center, abuts Llagas Creek in San Martin and also has the potential to impact birds and wildlife. We have submitted comment letters to the County addressing our concerns with this project as well. 


Museum Place project threatens the birds of Plaza de Cesar Chavez. A proposal to add a 24-story mixed-use high rise to the Tech Museum in San Jose will cast a shadow on Plaza de Cesar Chavez, dramatically changing the environment of the park. Several palm trees in the park serve as nesting sites for Acorn Woodpeckers, and are slated for removal should they be affected by the shade. In a letter to the City of San Jose, we outlined our concern that the shading of the park and removal of these palm trees may cause the eviction of the Acorn Woodpecker colony. The development’s giant cliff of glass may also pose a hazard to birds that are susceptible to colliding with glass, including Cooper’s Hawks and Cedar Waxwings. We will continue to advocate and offer suggestions to protect birds in the park.


Google moves forward with a new campus development (Charleston East). In March, Mountain View City Council voted to approve Google’s new campus on Charleston Road. We were supportive of the proposal to replace some of the non-native trees, including redwoods, with tree species that regenerate our valley’s historical landscape. We hope that in just a few years, willows, cottonwood, sycamore, oaks and other native trees will provide an enriched habitat for birds and for people in North Bayshore. The Charleston East project embraces a complex set of ecological planning and sustainability concepts. From a bird’s point of view, the project proposes bird-friendly glass, minimized light pollution, and the replacement of linear street tree model with a complex palette of native plants and trees. Through our partnership with Google, we are able to offer guided birding tours of the various native habitats that have been integrated into the fabric of their current campus. We envision the Charleston East project will prove to be as successful as the current campus in providing sustenance for local and migrating birds.


A sand and gravel quarry and an endangered species mitigation bank are proposed for sections of the 6200-acre Sargent Ranch at the southwestern border of Santa Clara County. This is the latest in decades of efforts to use this land. Over time, dozens of oil wells have been constructed here, but efforts to develop golf courses, a casino, luxury homes and residential communities have all ended up in litigation and bankruptcy. SCVAS and other environmental organizations opposed the development of Sargent Ranch in the early 2000s, and we remain concerned today.


The Gilroy Dispatch describes Sargent Ranch as “a magnet for real estate developers, a Holy Grail to nature conservationists, and ‘most sacred grounds’ to a local Native American tribe.” Indeed, every inch of this land is holy to the Amah Matsun Tribal Band. Wildlife are free to roam and raptors to soar. The rolling hills of Sargent Ranch hide natural seeps of oil that creep down the slopes into the sycamore-shaded (aptly named) Tar Creek.


Though this area is a unique natural resource for residents and wildlife, sand is an important commodity and we expect to see support for local mining of sand and gravel. We will be watching as this plan moves forward and will consider the impacts of this project on birds and nature.


Photo: Tar Creek at Sargent Ranch by Shani Kleinhaus