Friday, June 22, 2007
Coyote Valley Specific Plan Task Force
Dear CVSP Task Force Members:
The Committee for Green Foothills learned just recently that owners of most of the land in Coyote Valley have refused to allow City consultants to access their land in order to prepare the Draft EIR. This contradicts a recent statement by City Staff that access was denied on 30-40% of the land, which itself was an alarming figure. The attached map from the City website shows that landowners who constitute principal movers behind Coyote Valley development are refusing to cooperate with the development process.
Given that the real purpose of this project from the viewpoint of those developers is to maximize the development potential, they appear to have concluded that they will be able to develop more if information about environmental impacts is constrained until a future point. That in itself is a major worry.
Beyond this problem lies a fundamental issue of why the City should even go forward with this project when the primary instigators and primary beneficiaries are refusing to cooperate with it. We recommend that the City simply suspend any further work on this project until those owners, or at least the owners of a majority of the land, decide they wish to cooperate. Any other course of action would be to hand control of the process ostensibly meant to benefit San Jose residents in general to the landowners who are impeding proper planning.
Committee for Green Foothills
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
For those who are interested, there will be a preliminary meeting at Cupertino City Hall tomorrow (Wednesday) in Room 100 at 4 p.m. People interested in seeing the environmental report that will ultimately result from this should be able to sign up on a receiving list, either signing up at this meeting or by contacting County Planner Mark Connolly, at (408) 299-5786.
We also encourage everyone to sign up for our Action Alerts to learn about how to affect crucial decisions on this quarry and on other important environmental issues in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
1. NMFS, USFWS and Cal DFG, together with all the environmental groups and some individuals, all stated they believed the project had growth-inducing impacts. Only County staff seem to think otherwise.
2. Staff stated at the Planning Commission hearing that future growth will require future environmental review. That is irrelevant and too late – the concern is that this lot line adjustment and road extension, widening, and paving will make future growth more likely. CEQA requires analysis of growth inducing impacts now, when the actions that make future growth more likely to occur.
3. Staff also stated that induced growth comes from oversized infrastructure, but the road is at the bare minimum size. This has two flaws: first, the currently-sized road presumably could bear additional traffic (staff never says how much), and having extended and widened the road will make it easier to simply widen it in the future. Second, the lot reconfigurations will facilitate development, independent of the road. The applicant has openly claimed the line adjustments are for estate-planning purposes, in other words allowing the parcels to split into separate ownership, greatly facilitating development of individual parcels.
4. The refusal of the landowners to allow the Native American group access to look for culturally-significant sites, including burial grounds, or even to meet with the group off-site, suggests that the best interest of the county in preserving the sites will not be protected. A number of Planning Commissioners expressed their concern about this issue. Representatives of the Amah-Mutsun group told me they were also concerned about growth-inducing impacts, so this is another reason for rejecting the project.
5. Staff analysis recommended approval of the project solely on the basis that it did not violate County policies (in their opinion), but this does not examine whether approval would be in the best interest of the County. There should be a pro-and-con analysis over whether the County is better off with this project.
6. A similar pro-and-con analysis should accompany a discussion of the alternatives to the project. The staff report wholly failed to discuss alternatives, virtually all of which are environmentally superior to the proposed project.
7. Failure to consider cumulative impacts from impervious surfaces and greenhouse gas emissions is a problem in this and other County environmental documents. Staff should be asked to report on whether a programmatic analysis of these issues is appropriate.
8. If approval goes forward, a project condition should be that only people with business on the property should be allowed access (e.g., landowners on
Monday, June 11, 2007
(Committee for Green Foothills wrote the letter below regarding Half Moon Bay's Pilarcitos Community Park. -Brian)
June 11, 2007
Mayor Naomi Patridge and Members of the City Council
Dear Mayor Patridge and Members of the Council,
The Committee for Green Foothills is deeply concerned about the City Council’s apparent interest in selling Pilarcitos Community Park, as reported in the news media, and agendized for Closed Session at the Council’s June 5, 2007 Special Meeting.
The city acquired this gateway property in October, 2004 from one of the coastside’s pre-eminent growers, Nurserymen’s Exchange. Through the generosity of the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST)’s no-interest loan, the city has been given three years to find the necessary funding for the park. We understand that POST has offered to extend their loan beyond the October, 2007 deadline, and to work with the city to secure grants so
The 21-acre park’s creekside setting and gentle slopes make it an ideal site for active recreation including soccer and baseball fields as well as passive uses such as trails and a community garden. The park’s Master Plan, adopted in November, 2005 after an extensive public process, provides the vision and guidance for meeting some of the long-standing critical needs for recreational facilities in Half Moon Bay and the Mid-Coast.
It was the clear intent of Nurserymen’s Exchange and POST that this property should become a
We recognize that the city needs to find sources of funding to make the park a reality. This is not an unusual situation - every new park that we have been involved with, over the years, has had similar challenges. Yet these challenges have been overcome.
We urge you to work with POST and other interested groups and agencies to make
Sincerely, Lennie Roberts, Legislative Advocate
Committee for Green Foothills
Lennie Roberts, Legislative Advocate
Friday, June 8, 2007
A while back I blogged about our Op-Ed on Coyote Valley that the Merc published. Spending time on an Op-Ed is a gamble, because it's a lot of work with no guarantee of publication. The version we sent them was the seventh draft, and although I was the named author, every staff member at CGF spent time looking at it.
To give an example of the work involved, I thought it would be interesting to show the first draft. The fact that it's very different from the final shows the work of everyone involved. The other interesting part is the effect of needing to be as clear as possible, which in practice and under the constraint of a word limit meant reducing the number of arguments from the draft below and explaining them more clearly. Anyway, I hope it's interesting!
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
We need to protect local open space so the kids have somewhere to connect to nature.
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
About 170 people turned out for the meeting, many if not most of them supportive of the concept of restoring the site, currently in salt production, to wetlands and open space. There was also a contingent of folks concerned about the lack of recreational space for youth sports, but many of them also supported restoration, as long as some accommodation could be made for the sporting facilities.
This site has special significance as it is the last large parcel on the Peninsula's bayfront not included in the efforts to restore the South Bay salt ponds. I urged the developers to think regionally when putting together a plan for the site, including making provisions to close a 2-mile gap in the SF Bay Trail and cooperating with efforts to restore wetlands. I also pointed out that the developers would need a change in zoning to support development on the site, currently most of the site is zoned tidal floodplain and 2/3s of the site designated for open space uses only. With the recent estimates that this part of the bay would be inundated with rising sea level and national trends post-Katrina not to build in floodplains, the developers would be wise to consider these major site constraints and trends in preparing whatever plan they do for the property.
At the end of the evening, the project lead for DMB called me the "MVP" of the evening since I ended up fielding most of the questions from the audience. I was very happy that most of the questions showed a real interest in seeing this property protected as open space and included in the wider wetlands restoration efforts.
To participate in future forums, please check out the DMB website for the property: http://www.rcsaltworks.com/. The next important step is to participate in the City's general plan process to retain the current zoning to protect this property. If you are a Redwood City resident and want to add your name to our action alert emails for this project, send your information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
~ Holly Van Houten, Executive Director
Monday, June 4, 2007
It might indicate something else about the ESA and about the slideshow that the animals are charismatic megafauna. Species that are less charismatic, like endangered mussel species, have done less well, because they get less attention.
Our area has its share of endangered species. We like the term "charismatic microfauna" for the federally-threatened Bay checkerspot butterfly, and we're working hard to protect it.
Friday, June 1, 2007
Via an excellent post in Gristmill, there's a Georgetown University study on property values in Oregon that found land use regulations actually increase property values. Prior to 2004, Oregon had the strongest land use regulations in the country. A private-property interest voter initiative in 2004 threw that system in disarray. The study found that until the voter initiative went into effect, property values in Oregon equalled or exceeded performance in similar but less-regulated counties in Washington, and also with Washington and California as a whole. As Gristmill describes:
How can restrictions on property increase value? Well, you'll have to read the report for a full explanation. But the simple answer is that while growth regulations may decrease the development potential, they can raise values through amenity values, scarcity, tax reductions, and agricultural protections, just to name a few.