Friday, March 28, 2008

Status of Coyote Valley

(We had an inquiry as to what's the current status of Coyote Valley, so I'm reproducing our response below. Some more info is in our press release here. -Brian)

The developers have suspended their application to develop 3,000 acres, so that project is dead (except for some details) until someone wants to pay to continue the planning process. We need to pressure San Jose to place stronger preconditions ("triggers") on development.

A prior-approved project, the Coyote Valley Research Park, could still happen if economic conditions allow it. They might not. We need to pressure San Jose not to extend deadlines for this project (its approvals will disappear if it doesn't start building by the deadlines, first of which is in 2013).

Gavilan College wants to build a massive 80-acre campus out on farmland in Coyote Valley instead of where people live and can commute to by public transit, so we need to fight that too.

A lot still needs to be done!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

KRON 4 News Interviews Brian regarding Coyote Valley

It's only 30 seconds in a 3-minute segment, but they did let us environmentalists talk about how stopping Coyote Valley development was very much a good thing.

To see it, click here (scroll down to the video stories shown on the bottom left, and look for “Coyote Valley Project Halts”).


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A great day for Coyote Valley!

(I think our press release speaks for itself. -Brian)

Committee for Green Foothills


Brian Schmidt, Legislative Advocate
phone (650) 968-7243, (415) 994-7403 cell

Committee for Green Foothills Welcomes Withdrawal of Coyote Valley Development Proposal, Calls for New Steps to Protect Against Sprawl

The Committee for Green Foothills (CGF) welcomed the decision today by the Coyote Housing Group to withdraw its proposal to develop three thousand acres of working farmland and vital wildlife habitat in Coyote Valley, and CGF called on San Jose to act now to stop new sprawl proposals. "The misguided proposal to get rid of prime working farmland and a vital wildlife corridor sank from its own weight, and from the work of all the organizations like Committee for Green Foothills that argued for San Jose's growth to be directed within the City instead of expanding it," said Brian Schmidt, Legislative Advocate for CGF. "The Committee for Green Foothills has worked for years to fight this proposal and the many proposals that preceded it, dating back to the 1970s. We're very glad that our work, along with the vital work of other groups like the Sierra Club, Greenbelt Alliance, and the Audubon Society, has helped to reach this point."

Schmidt called on San Jose to take new steps to protect this vital area.
"The Mayor has said there should be stronger 'triggers' in the General Plan to prevent developing Coyote Valley until it's really necessary. Other City Council members have called for prioritizing development in downtown and North San Jose before development comes to Coyote Valley. It's time to examine those priorities in the ongoing General Plan review."

Unanswered questions remain regarding other potential developments in Coyote Valley. "The Coyote Valley Research Park proposal received permits it never should have been granted," said Schmidt, "but economic conditions have stopped its development. In several years, those permits will start expiring, and it's time to examine whether that project should happen.
Gavilan College also has started planning a massive campus in Coyote Valley that makes little sense without urban development, and that process needs reassessment. The Habitat Conservation Plan had exempted much of Coyote Valley from its jurisdiction, and that also needs reassessment."

"We hope that the withdrawal decision creates a new opportunity for long-term agricultural survival and a vibrant ecology in Santa Clara County, and we salute the decision of the Coyote Valley developers to end the process," Schmidt continued.

Environmental organizations including the Committee for Green Foothills have closely followed proposed developments in Coyote Valley. Their extensive comments on a Draft Environmental Impact Report showed significant deficiencies in the report that failed to recognize the impacts of the proposed project. Committee for Green Foothills participated extensively in that process, and took the lead in showing how the fiscal analysis that purported to show a tax surplus for city government was based on unrealistic expectations of a continued housing boom. CGF also took the lead in showing that consultants used by the city to draft environmental and fiscal documents had first been hand-picked by the developers, and then hired by the city in a no-bid process.

# # #
About the Committee for Green Foothills
Committee for Green Foothills is a regional grassroots organization working to establish and maintain land-use policies that protect the environment throughout San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. Committee for Green Foothills, established in 1962, is a Bay Area leader in the continuing effort to protect open space and the natural environment of our Peninsula.
For more information about the Committee for Green Foothills or about our work on this issue, visit

Friday, March 14, 2008

CGF opposes inappropriate hillside San Jose development

(CGF sent the following short letter to the San Jose Planning Commission, supporting staff's recommendation to reject the proposed hillside development in San Jose's Evergreen District. More information is available here. -Brian)

Dear Planning Commission members,

The Committee for Green Foothills agrees with City Staff recommending denial of a developer's proposal to rezone hillside land in the Evergreen District from a quasi-public designated use to residential development. Any one of the many reasons staff have provided for why this proposal is a bad idea. Intensified development that would push into the 15% slope is a bad precedent, which may actually be the reason for the proposal.

We would only add to the staff comments that the proposal, if not rejected at this point, would definitely require an EIR. The conflict with existing land use policies constitute one reason for an EIR, but the loss of valuable open space, much of which could be conserved with the current use designation, and the visual impact on the neighborhood and on thousands of people driving by on Highway 101, also would be significant environmental impacts.

We urge the Commission to reject this project.

Please contact us with any questions.

Brian Schmidt
Legislative Advocate, Committee for Green Foothills

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Great news for Santa Clara Valley Water District - all environmental recommendations were enacted

I just wanted to follow up on the Urgent Alert we wrote up (and sent out by our diligent Office Manager Wendee on Saturday afternoon). The day before, the Water District finalized a decision to consider a number of recommendations made by the District's Environmental Advisory Committee (I'm the current chair of the EAC). More information is here, but suffice it to say that all recommendations were accepted, so the Water District is on record that industrial producers should be responsible for pollution from their products, and that the District will focus more closely on the environmental problems from erosion.

The District Board commented on the letters they received from the public, and said they appreciated and read the comments, all of them favoring our position.

Thanks everyone!


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Thank the stars that they're not around here

News reports suggest that arson against a mansion development in Washington state may have been the work of "ecoterrorists". The evidence released so far is skimpy, and even the term "ecoterrorism" is debatable to me, tying it to terroristic violence when "ecoarson" might be more appropriate.

Regardless, though, I'm very glad we don't have foolish people pulling these stunts in our area. They are so counterproductive that they would only make the job of sprawl-fighting organizations like CGF much tougher.

Civil disobedience, by contrast, is more of a mixed outcome. I could see it being counterproductive in many circumstances, but not always, and doesn't involve destroying property or even a slight risk to human life. Of course, civil disobedience is not a technique that CGF has used.


Monday, March 3, 2008

Amah-Mutsun comments on the issue of Coyote Valley development proposals

(Attached is a copy of a letter from Valentin Lopez, Chairman of the Amah-Mutsun Tribal Band, regarding development in Coyote Valley. It's important to recognize the cultural implications as well as the environmental implications from misguided development in Coyote Valley. -Brian)

January 4, 2007

Mr. Daryl Boyd
Planning Services Division
200 East Santa Clara Street
San Jose, CA 95113-1905

Subject: Coyote Valley EIR

Dear Mr. Boyd,

I am writing this letter on behalf of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band (AMTB). The AMTB is comprised of the descendents of Missions San Juan Bautista and Santa Cruz. Coyote Valley represents the transitional territory between the Amah Mutsun and the Muwekma tribes. Together, these tribes represent the indigenous people of Santa Clara County. The purpose of this letter is to express four concerns regarding the Coyote Valley development plan.

Our first concern pertains to the recognition that numerous Ohlone communities historically lived along the waterways of Coyote Valley. If County staff reviewed the historical maps of Coyote Valley, you would find that much of Coyote Valley was inundated with water much of the year. In a recent report by the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) on the historical ecology of Coyote Creek Watershed, they pointed out that Coyote Valley represents the single largest remaining wetland habitat in the South Bay Area. They also indicated the historic existence of numerous plant species in this area that were critical to the local Ohlone communities. The Amah Mutsun Tribal Band has developed a number of recommendations pertaining to such cultural habitats, one of which is that all construction should be no closer than 300 feet from a natural waterway. It is common, especially in such a heavily populated area, to encounter human burials very close to watersways. For the Coyote Valley development plan, we ask that the 300-foot requirement be implemented using historical maps that show the waterways prior to first contact. In the event this request cannot be honored, we request that a Native American monitor be employed for all underground construction work that occurs within the historical floodplain, and extending out to the 300-foot boundary limit. Furthermore, we ask that only monitors certified by the Society for California Archaeology’s Native American Program be employed.

Our second concern is that the Coyote Valley development plan presents south Coyote Valley as representing “open space.” We feel this is incorrect and grossly inappropirate. Much of the south Coyote Valley is occupied by small ranchettes. These ranchettes should not be considered open space. Privately owned properties such as these have far less protection and present far fewer opportunities for habitat restoration and enhancement, and protection of cultural resources than does publicly owned open space. Our Tribe requests that the City of San Jose provide a clearly written and legally defensible definition of open space and implement that definition in the Coyote Valley development plan. This definition should include provisions to ensure the survival of all existing wildlife in the areas defined as open space, as well as provisions for protection of cultural resources.

Our third concern is that there do not appear to be adequate protections built into the Plan to preserve the Native American village site we visited with County staff. It has been our experience that when the boundries of a cultural site are delineated only by the presence or absence of “hard” artifacts (i.e. stone, bone, and shell), the elements of the cultural landscape that were required to sustain the focal site are ignored, and most often developed. The Amah Mutsun would like the City of San Jose to recognize that when Native American artifacts are encountered, the surrounding landscape associated with those cultural resources should be included in the site designation. We have found that the methods employed by SFEI to reconstruct these historic habitats are sufficient for this purpose. We request that the City of San Jose consider applying protective measures to the full cultural landscape of this Native American village site.

We would also like to work with the City of San Jose on the Matalan Village site. We feel that this area represents a tremendous educational opportunity for the City and County. We would like to work with the City on the development of a cultural resource center here, including a simulated Native American village, a Mutsun/Muwekma history center, an arts, crafts, and gift center, a fire pit with theatre for story telling, tool making activities, etc. and onsite housing for several tribal members to provide 24/7 security. All structures should be built outside the village site area, as we do not want any construction to occur on known Native American sites. Our tribe would be pleased to work with City staff on the planning and capitol campaign for this cultural center, and can provide technical expertise on the development of exhibits and curricula for this facility. This site should also be available to our tribes’ for dances, feasts, and other ceremonial events.

Our final point concerns other village sites that exist in the Coyote Valley. We request that no construction project be approved for the fenced site that we could not access during our visit. It is critical that this site be adequately surveyed and consultation with Native Americans take place before project approvals are made. Finally, there are other cultural sites that have been lost to construction. We ask that no additional construction be within 300 feet of a know site. For these areas we recommend that a park be built on the site and that the park give recognition to the indigenous people.

In closing, we would very much like to work with City staff on protocols between the Tribe(s) and the City of San Jose to deal with the inadvertent discovery of remains prior to approving any construction project. As always, we are available to meet with you to discuss any or all of these comments. Please feel to contact us at your convenience.


Valentin J. Lopez, Chairman
Amah Mutsun Tribal Band