Monday, April 28, 2008

Committee for Green Foothills cited in "Last Child in the Woods"

CGF got a brief mention in Last Child in the Woods, an important book about how children have been losing their connection to nature, particularly the opportunity for unstructured play. The updated edition of the book includes this about removing legal barriers to access due to liability fears:

While we wait for legal reform, environmental attorney Brian Schmidt has an idea that just might help. Schmidt is an advocate with the Committee for Green Foothills, an organization working to protect local natural environments in the South San Francisco Bay Area. To liberate natural play, he suggests the creation of what he calls a "Leave No Child Inside Legal Defense Fund," a foundation that would pay the legal defense costs of select institutions and individuals who encourage children to go outdoors but are then hit with frivolous lawsuits.

I've suggested the Leave No Child Inside idea just as my personal idea, not as an official CGF idea (we'd have to decide if its close enough to our mission to be something that CGF officially supported). It's nice though to have Committee for Green Foothills recognized in the book.


Friday, April 25, 2008

MidPen expansion to the Coast is complete!

You probably thought that MidPen's expansion to the Coast, a major goal of CGF, had been completed years ago. That was effectively right, and now the final paperwork is done:

Victory for Open Space

Decades of effort by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District to dramatically expand the amount of coastal land in San Mateo County eligible for preservation may finally come to fruition, following a decision Wednesday by the state Supreme Court to reject a lawsuit seeking to block the expansion.

The court refused to review the February decision of a state appeals court that the district legally arranged to add as many as 144,000 acres of potential territory in coastal San Mateo County.

Now on to the work of protecting that open space!


Monday, April 21, 2008

CGF is everywhere during Earth Week

CGF has four tabling events for Earth Week, which I think might be a CGF record for the most appearances in a few days.

I manned one table at Full Circle Farm, a community effort to bring farming back to Sunnyvale on an 11-acre parcel that is just getting going. This type of community farming is something we'd very much like to see, and will be discussed in our upcoming newsletter.

While there, I finally had the chance to meet people from Bon Appetit, an onsite restaurant company that won the Santa Clara County League of Conservation Voter's Green Business of the Year Award for their use of fresh, local produce. I wanted to talk to them about using locally produced meat as well as produce. Turns out they're already doing it, but there's always more to be done.

All in all, a nice chance to see people I might not otherwise see.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

CGF comments on Gavilan's Coyote Campus Draft EIR

(CGF submitted the following comments on the proposal to put a large college campus in the middle of North Coyote Valley, a sprawl-inducing proposal that makes no sense given the collapse of other Coyote Valley development plans. -Brian)

April 7, 2008

Dr. Steven Kinsella,
Gavilan College

Re: Comments on Gavilan College: Coyote Campus Project DEIR, SCH No. 2007122009

Dear Dr. Kinsella;

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Coyote Campus Project (“Project”) DEIR. We conclude that Gavilan College (“College”) cannot legally approve the Project based on the inadequate DEIR. We understand that other groups and individuals have concerns about the wildlife analysis in the DEIR, which we share. We submit the following additional comments:

The DEIR fails to adequately discuss effects climate change has on water availability. A Superior Court finding that the State Department of Water Resources has not established the effect of climate change on water supplies (DEIR at 133) does not eliminate the College’s obligation to discuss the potential effects to the best of its ability. The DEIR fails to discuss whether the Project might have to be closed during droughts due to the effects of climate change. This inadequate discussion that fails to identify a significant impact leaves the DEIR critically flawed.

The discussion fails to identify whether 100-year flood plains would change as the result of climate change.

The discussion fails to include displacement of current farming elsewhere. Other agricultural production must take place of the lost production on this land and should be included in the emission totals. The DEIR therefore substantially underestimates the Project’s climate change impacts.

The DEIR conclusion that no individually or cumulatively significant hydrological impacts will result from the project is incorrect. Reliance on compliance with NPDES HMP standards is inadequate to justify the less-than-significant conclusion, because those standards only satisfy the “maximum extent practicable” standards of the Clean Water Act and Porter-Cologne Act, and were not designed as thresholds of significance. See the attached White Paper, “Controlling Cumulative Impacts from Impervious Surfaces,” for more information. In particular, the failure to control for hydrological impacts from storms larger than 10-year storms is not addressed by either the HMP or by this DEIR, invalidating the DEIR’s conclusions regarding hydrology.

The DEIR’s misplaces reliance on the compatibility between the IBM campus and nearby agriculture as the reason for concluding the Project will not be incompatible with nearby agriculture. The DEIR fails to compare the number of vehicle trips and the presence of people outdoors to the IBM campus for determining whether the Project would have a larger impact. The DEIR fails to analyze cumulative impacts from the Projects and other projects to determine whether they are incompatible with agriculture. Gavilan therefore cannot rely on the DEIR’s conclusions.

The conclusion that LESA scores show an inadequate Site Assessment scores result from a flawed analysis that understates the true agricultural value. The high land costs are irrelevant to whether the land is potentially irrigable. The water table in Coyote Valley is known to be quite high, and irrigated agriculture exists throughout Coyote Valley. The LESA scores therefore underestimate the potentially significant impact of the loss of agricultural resources.

The conclusion that the Project has no growth-inducing impacts is simply wrong. The discussion fails to consider that the lack of infrastructure is the primary obstacle to further development in Coyote Valley. Providing the extension of utilities along Bailey Avenue to the site will facilitate additional job development in Coyote Valley, making it more likely to reach the 5,000 jobs trigger found in the City of San Jose General Plan for large-scale development of the Valley. The conclusion that community colleges only serve growth instead of stimulating growth is both circular and ridiculous. No justification is given for this conclusion, when in fact a major development like the Project will have significant impacts. The complete lack of discussion as to whether the Project will encourage further development of the Coyote Valley Research Park, other industrial projects, or of a Coyote Valley Specific Plan-level residential development, fails to meet standards of EIR adequacy.

Please contact us if you have any questions.


Brian A. Schmidt

Legislative Advocate, Santa Clara County