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Photo by Tom Grey

Conservation Corner May/June 2019

By Shani Kleinhaus


Yellow-rumped Warbler by Lauren Mitchell

Boston Properties Almaden Project: In San Jose, a block-long, 16+-story glass building of over 1.5 million square feet is proposed at the edge of the Guadalupe River. The proposed design includes bird safety measures but as proposed, it encroaches into the riparian corridor in a site where the river boasts a healthy native riparian forest. We are greatly concerned, and will engage and provide comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report.
In San Jose, we continue to advocate for the preservation of Coyote Valley as open space and habitat.
  • • With other advocates, we helped direct an energy storage project from the valley floor to a more appropriate location in an existing warehouse in San Jose. The project should allow the retirement of the Metcalf Gas Power Station.
  • • We endorsed and promoted Measure T, which included the possibility of allocating $50 million to a pool of funds that would purchase land in Coyote Valley. We continue to advocate with the City to allocate the full $50 million for this purpose.  
The City of Mountain View rejected Google’s suggested plans for the Shorebird Area of North Bayshore. Google asked the City to allow the transfer of office development from the area close to Highway 101 to the area of Shorebird Way, and to allow the building of a dense, mixed-use neighborhood there. As part of this development, Google offered to remove five buildings to regenerate ten acres of habitat between the Egret Rookery and Charleston Marsh (Retention Basin), and to build an environmental education center. We hope future plans for the area retain the removal of buildings and restoration of habitat in wetlands and open space.
In opposition to Cargill’s proposed filling of the Redwood City salt ponds, SCVAS joined San Mateo County Supervisor, Dave Pine, and a growing number of organizations and political leaders, stating:
“We oppose development on the Redwood City salt ponds, because we don’t build on San Francisco Bay. 
Cargill Salt and luxury home developer DMB have colluded with the Trump Administration to weaken Clean Water Act protections for San Francisco Bay. They are again proposing to build on Bay salt ponds where massive public opposition stopped their 12,000-home project in 2012.
New housing on the Redwood City salt ponds would put people at risk from rising seas, destroy habitat for fish and wildlife, lack an adequate water supply, and worsen traffic. To combat climate change and create more resilient and equitable communities, the Bay Area needs more affordable housing near transit hubs and city centers, not on Bay wetlands.
Redwood City Mayor Ian Bain has said publicly that he does not want to see the salt ponds re-zoned for housing and prefers to see Cargill donate or sell the land for wetlands restoration.
We urge Redwood City to reject proposals for development on the salt ponds, and restore them as wetlands for Bay Area residents and future generations.” 
Stanford University is currently negotiating its growth plans with the County of Santa Clara to determine what Stanford should be required to do to mitigate the impacts of that growth. SCVAS has been advocating for bird-safe design and responsible lighting policies, as well as for the extension of existing protections (requirement for super-majority vote) for the open space in the Stanford Foothills. 
The calls for protection of open space brought County staff to recommend a 99-year extension of the super majority protections. SCVAS continues to follow the process to ensure that staff recommendations are implemented and the hills west of Junipero Serra Boulevard remain undeveloped.
Environmental Action Committee (EAC) Volunteer, Dashiell Leeds, has focused on the issue of light pollution and has encouraged responsible lighting in Santa Clara Valley cities. Dashiell has also engaged in the efforts to demand responsible planning for an iconic structure in Arena Green Park, on the confluence of the Guadalupe River and Los Gatos Creek in San Jose. Dashiell provides:
  • • We are happy to report that the Light Tower Corporation has stated that the iconic structure will NOT be a light tower. They are moving forward with an international design competition for a structure, with guidelines provided by environmental consultant, HT Harvey, and with a jury that includes a representative that local environmental groups (including SCVAS) selected for this position. SCVAS will continue to monitor this project as it goes forward to make sure that these sensitive riparian and aquatic habitats are protected.  
  • • We continue our advocacy for bird-safe design and responsible lighting (Dark Sky and Lights-out programs) in San Jose, Sunnyvale, Cupertino and Mountain View. Sunnyvale voted to prioritize the study of their LED lighting systems and to create a Bird-Safe Design/Dark Sky Ordinance. Similar policies are set to appear before the City Councils of Cupertino and Mountain View for work-priority voting. 
EAC Volunteer, Eileen McLaughlin, has been following developments near Alviso. Eileen provides:
  • • As traffic clogs Bay Area roads, many agencies are looking for a public transportation solution. In Alviso, two rail solutions are moving forward: The Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) which brings commuters from the southern part of the Central Valley, and the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJPA) that looks to connect the northern part of the state to San Jose. The Capitol Corridor plans are in the early stages of a study that will analyze rail alternatives to anticipate sea level rise and an increase in the future number of passengers. We are concerned because alternatives for both rail projects cut through the middle of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Together, the rail projects will bring 34 round-trip trains through the wetlands each day, and there will be additional freight trains at night. We raised a concern about wildlife “dead” zones near the tracks.
  • • Construction of the first sea level rise levee on the San Francisco Bay is beginning in Alviso. The Corps of Engineers will be stockpiling truckloads of soil to build Phase 1 of the new levee. That levee will replace and elevate the trail that is near the entrance of Alviso Marina County Park, running toward and along lands of the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge and parallel to the railroad. The project is expected to protect Alviso and to allow habitat restoration of former salt ponds on the Refuge to proceed.
With volunteer Anne Parsons, we have been working to reduce Pacific Newt mortality on Alma Bridge Road. In response to our advocacy efforts, the County of Santa Clara placed signs along the road, while they are exploring additional solutions.
Newt Crossing Signs along Alma Bridge Road