Friday, May 26, 2006

We are here

Click here, and click on the white box, and that's where Committee for Green Foothills is located.

Wikimapia is a new project allowing people to add notes and comments to a global map.


Thursday, May 25, 2006

Supporting Water District independence

We sent the following letter in support of separating some leftover connections between the Santa Clara Valley Water District and Santa Clara County government, changing them from semi-separate to separate agencies. Both agencies wanted the change, and it should make accountability clearer.


May 15, 2006

The Honorable Joe Coto

California State Assembly

State Capitol Room 2170

Sacramento, CA 95814

Subject: Notice of Support for AB 2435 (Coto): Santa Clara Valley Water District

Dear Assembly Member Coto:

The Committee for Green Foothills supports your AB 2435 to amend the Santa Clara Valley Water District’s (District) enabling act (Act). Our organization agrees with the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and the District Board of Directors that the existing arrangement no longer serves the interests of the County, the District, or more importantly the voters, residents and businesses of Santa Clara County. Your bill would specifically remove the County Board of Supervisors role in approving the District’s budget and appointing District Board Members.

AB 2435 will ultimately reduce costs to taxpayers and allow the voters to hold their elected officials directly accountable for decisions relating to water resources. Your bill will also make the District’s composition and budgetary process conform to that of other independent special districts throughout the state.

Our organization is very pleased that you have agreed to author this legislation, which was developed collaboratively by the County and the District. We are pleased to add our name to the list of supporters for this bill.

Please contact us if you have any questions.


Brian A. Schmidt

Legislative Advocate, Santa Clara County
cc: SCVWD Board of Directors, Fax: (408) 266-2897
Julie Maclay, Santa Clara Valley Water District, Fax: (916) 448-8499

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Preserving farming near San Jose

At the May 15th Environmental Issues Forum for the 2006 San Jose Mayoral Candidates, an event cosponsored by CGF, candidate Michael Mulcahy suggested that some sort of preference should be given to locally-grown food. The Committee for Green Foothills suggested a similar idea last year, and showed how new development could be required to help provide that preference in order to mitigate the loss of farmland in our area.

We hope that Mr. Mulcahy, and everyone else concerned with local farms, continue to pursue these ideas.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

CGF Political Breakfasts

With the wonderful support of the Peninsula Community Foundation, the Committee for Green Foothills was able to put on two "Political Breakfasts" where community members could talk with two respected community leaders about environmental issues. Below is a brief write-up on the Breakfasts, and we intend to add more information to other parts of the CGF website.

Political Breakfast: “Ethnic Diversity and Environmental Opportunity”, Tuesday April 4th, with featured speaker, Santa Clara County Supervisor Blanca Alvarado. Supervisor Alvarado talked about the importance of environmental issues to all communities, regardless of ethnicity. She referred to the statewide problem of the “fiscalization of land use” where governmental land use decisions do not further the interest of the represented communities. She discussed the proposed Santa Clara County General Plan Initiative to reduce sprawl and protect watersheds, modeled after a similar voter initiative in San Mateo County, and indicated she would likely endorse the Initiative. She discussed how Initiative supporters could get support from ethnically diverse communities by conducting outreach to churches, community centers, and non-English newspapers. She discussed how technically-challenging policy positions, such as CGF’s legal analysis showing inadequate legal compliance on restricting the increased paving-over of the County, could be tied to flooding issues with press releases and press conferences that would be read in ethnically-diverse communities. Supervisor Alvarado made recommendations for key people to contact in the Hispanic community

Following the meeting, environmental groups agreed to continue with outreach and set up a subsequent planning meeting in May.

Political Breakfast: “Water Rights and Water Wrongs: Lessons in water protection from an environmental perspective,” Tuesday, April 25th, with featured speaker Santa Clara Valley Water District Board Member Rosemary Kamei. Board Member Kamei discussed the history of the Water District and how few people understood that the Peninsula and South Bay still derive an extensive amount of their water from local groundwater sources. She discussed how groundwater overdrafting has caused serious problems and how the Water District has attempted to address them. She emphasized the success water conservation has had in recent years, keeping water demand nearly flat even as population has substantially increased in the County. She pointed out the global problem of climate change could have local environmental effects by increasing flood potential from increased sea levels and inadequate levees along the Bay, as well as reducing water supply. She emphasized the need for greater participation by the public on environmental issues. She discussed the importance of protecting local open space in the context of the County General Plan Initiative, but has not yet decided whether to endorse it. Other elected officials in the audience, Larry Wilson of the Water District and Jim Foran of the Open Space Authority, added their comments.

Board Member Kamei challenged environmentalists to increase public participation in water protection, and suggested environmentalists turn each April into an “Environmental Awareness Month” that culminates in Earth Day. Many audience members participate actively in environmental organizations, and following up these suggestions will be an important next step. The legal issue of impervious surfaces paving over the County was also discussed as one that will be further pursued, especially as CGF first analyzed this issue through a Water District Grant, and has had further opportunities to publicize it at Political Breakfasts sponsored by a subsequent grant from Peninsula Community Foundation.

PCF was expressly mentioned and thanked for its sponsorship at both Political Breakfasts, and in supporting materials.

Monday, May 15, 2006

More about Coyote Valley fiscal problems

Last week, we gave San Jose a copy of the previous blog post on the problem of unrealistic fiscal assumptions used to make Coyote Valley fiscally responsible, together with the short letter below.



May 8, 2006

Coyote Valley Specific Plan Task Force

Re: Draft Fiscal Analysis for Coyote Valley assumes housing prices will increase faster than income indefinitely

Dear Members of the CVSP Task Force:

The Committee for Green Foothills submitted comments last month on the Draft Fiscal Analysis for Coyote Valley. Please see the attachment that details the reason why a major expense – housing prices – cannot forever increase at a faster rate than the increase in income. The attachment shows that if annual housing expenses started at 33% of household income and increased at 3% annually, as assumed in the Draft, while San Jose household income increased at 1% annually, then after 11 years the housing expense would rise to 40.7% our household income. Clearly, any long-term assumption that housing prices will exceed income is not a conservative assumption as claimed by City staff, but rather the expression of “bubble” economics.

We further note that 1,000 housing units are designated as “affordable” for-sale units. A 3% appreciation rate of future new affordable units, even where deed restrictions govern resale prices, will quickly remove these newly-constructed units out of the “affordable” range. San Jose must adjust the fiscal analysis or acknowledge they will not meet the affordable housing targets.

Please contact us if you have any questions.


Brian A. Schmidt

Legislative Advocate, Santa Clara County

Friday, May 5, 2006

The problem with extending a trend forever

The Draft Coyote Valley Fiscal Report has a problem with extending a trend line indefinitely. It says that housing prices will increase at a rate of 3% above inflation indefinitely, for 50-60 years. This results in a similar increase in property tax receipts, which is then used to claim that Coyote will result in a fiscal surplus for San Jose.

However, the report makes no prediction for increases in median household income. Fortunately, we found useful data here: income rose 10% over 10 years, or slightly less than 1% annually. You might see the problem already - if income increases more slowly than a major expense - housing - that expense can't keep increasing at the same level indefinitely.

I need to find someone more versed in Excel than I am, but I tried to calculate how it would turn out. Assume average housing costs of 33% of income, which is probably reasonable for San Jose. To simplify numbers, assume an average household income of $100,000, increasing 1% annually, and housing costs of $33,000, increasing 3% annually.

End of Year 1: housing costs $33,990, income is $101,000 and housing now is 33.65% of household income. Interesting. Let's do that for 10 more years:

(calculations show costs of housing if it increases 3% above inflation each year for ten years)

Year 1: 33 + (33 * .03) = 33.99
33.99 + (33.99 * .03) = 35.0097
35.0097 + (35.0097 * .03) = 36.059991
36.059991 + (36.059991 * .03) = 37.1417907
37.1417907 + (37.1417907 * .03) = 38.2560444
38.2560444 + (38.2560444 * .03) = 39.4037257
39.4037257 + (39.4037257 * .03) = 40.5858375
40.5858375 + (40.5858375 * .03) = 41.8034126
41.8034126 + (41.8034126 * .03) = 43.057515
43.057515 + (43.057515 * .03) = 44.3492405
Year 11: 44.3492405 + (44.3492405 * .03) = 45.6797177

At year 11, divide $45,679.7177 by $112,000 (should be very close to household income appreciating 1% annually), and you get housing costing 40.79% of income, up from 33% ten years earlier. And the fiscal report thinks this can continue for 60 years. I think it can't - I don't even know if it could continue for eleven years.