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Photo by Tom Grey

Conservation Corner March/April 2019

By Shani Kleinhaus, Environmental Advocate


Light Tower Corporation Plans for Arena Green Park
In our most recent Avocet, we discussed the ubiquitous impacts of light pollution on all living things, and our concern over the prospect of a monumental lighted structure in a San Jose park. The Light Tower Corporation initially proposed to resurrect the San Jose Light Tower (1881-1915) as an iconic tourist attraction. Wikipedia tells us that the tower was possibly the world’s tallest free-standing iron structure at the time. It was so bright it cast distinct shadows a mile away, and impacts to wildlife were evident. Local police even sold birds that collided with the tower to restaurants. In May of 1900, the tower reportedly attracted a swarm of beetles, which were pursued by insectivorous birds; birds and beetles were electrocuted, causing stray cats to mob the base of the tower. Disruption of reproductive rhythms in birds were also reported by local farmers.
SCVAS has effectively protested the plans to resurrect the Light Tower. Recently, the San Jose Light Tower Corporation decided to focus instead on an iconic structure at Arena Green Park (part of Guadalupe River Park). An international design competition will be conducted to select the structure. We remain concerned, since Arena Green is where Guadalupe River and Los Gatos Creek converge - an ecologically sensitive site where Steelhead Trout migrate, beavers are occasionally observed, and dozens of species of birds nest or migrate. We are also concerned by the use of parkland to support a large, lit structure. City Council is tentatively scheduled to approve the site selection (Arena Green) and the process for the design competition on March 12. San Jose residents, please sign up with for updates!

Loggerhead Shrike by Sergey Pavlov

Dark Sky Policy 
As our cities transition to LED lighting, light pollution and sky glow are increasing throughout our landscape. LED lights are excellent in saving energy, and are thus important in efforts to reduce emissions. However, we must  also consider their impact on light pollution. SCVAS is asking the cities of Sunnyvale and Mountain View to review their policies and operations with the goal of reducing light pollution and  implementing dark-sky policies and practices. Mountain View and Sunnyvale residents, please sign up with for updates!
Coyote Valley
In January, our volunteers joined in with hundreds of people gathered in front of San Jose City Hall to Rally for Coyote Valley prior to the City Council discussion of Coyote Valley. At stake is the allocation of up to $50 million in Measure T funding for the purchase of land in Coyote Valley - land that can conserve agriculture and open space, and provide critically important habitat for birds and wildlife. Staff presentation to the City Council clearly favored industrial development in the valley, but it seems that pro-development arguments are starting to shift from the quest to develop the entire valley to more of a compromise. We believe that the undeveloped land in Coyote Valley should remain open space, and will continue to advocate towards the preservation of this important land.
Sally Jewell, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior, in a letter to San Jose City Council, January 22, 2019: “As you study the future of your region and sharpen the vision you would like to make a reality, I encourage you to shape your policies and investments to preserve irreplaceable natural spaces, not only for today, but for the health and wellbeing of the people and critters for generations to come.”
Migrating Newts Killed by Traffic
We love birds, but sometimes we aim to protect migration routes for other species. In Coyote Valley, it’s terrestrial mammals. In the Santa Cruz Mountains: Pacific and Rough-skinned Newts. In recent years, thousands of newts have been killed by traffic on Alma Bridge Road east of Lexington Reservoir as they migrate between the hills and breeding ponds. Our Environmental Advocacy group is working to raise awareness in the hope that solutions will be found to minimize this carnage.