Thursday, May 27, 2010

Good news - Water District to support Extended Producer Responsibility

On Tuesday, the Santa Clara Valley Water District reconsidered a recommendation to pull sponsorship and funding from the California Product Stewardship Council.  Several environmental leaders wrote into the District to ask them to continue their support.  I went to the budget meeting on Tuesday and pointed out that Extended Producer Responsibility - the idea that producers of toxins and other wastes are responsible for removing them from the environment - could help the cleanup of the many local areas affected by mercury. The Water District Board unanimously chose to continue sponsorship.

Congrats to the Water District for its decision, and hopefully we can make progress on the mercury cleanup.

-Brian Schmidt

Monday, May 24, 2010

"To protect City and minimize fiscal impact, a revenue guarantee should be included in the proposed development agreement"

The headline is from a fiscal analysis presentation to Palo Alto City Council today by the experts it hired to analyze the fiscal impact of the Stanford Medical Center expansion.  The idea is to ensure the risk of insufficient revenues from the expansion is transferred away from taxpayers and to the applicant, Stanford. (Also discussed here.)

This idea is striking because we proposed a similar thing in Coyote Valley, where a ridiculous fiscal analysis assumed steady growth in housing values and therefore rosy revenues.  We suggested the developers bear the risks if things somehow didn't work out.  The whole project broke down before we could see if developers would put their own money where their mouths are, but it's interesting to see someone else come up with a similar idea.

-Brian Schmidt

Friday, May 21, 2010

Victory for riparian protection in San Jose

Good news from the revision process for the San Jose General Plan - staff has included a 100' stream buffer from development in all but "exceptional circumstances" in the draft to be sent to the City Council.  This protection was originally omitted, but I pointed out the omission at Monday's Task Force revision, and staff agreed to include it.

To be sure, this is somewhat duplicative - the draft Habitat Plan for the county will likely have at least as stringent protections that will also cover San Jose.  This is insurance though in case something happens to stop the Habitat Plan and for the day when the Habitat Plan expires.

Good news!


Friday, May 7, 2010

Letter to Envision San Jose 2040 Task Force on "backloading" greenfield development

(We made some important progress with San Jose City Council, and this letter followed up on that issue.  -Brian)

April 26, 2010

Envision San Jose Task Force

Re:  Last week's decision by the City Council to consider "backloading" greenfield development

Dear Task Force Members;

Committee for Green Foothills would like to thank the San Jose City Council for accepting our suggestion that the General Plan revision process include consideration of "backloading" greenfield development in North Coyote Valley and east Evergreen until jobs capacity has been fully developed in other areas of the City.  The vote was to entertain and consider the idea, not necessarily to do it, but we are satisfied with and appreciate the decision.  I will also note that the idea has been briefly discussed before – I specifically raised it at the last Task Force meeting – but further consideration is always helpful.

A written version of my suggestion at last week's City Council meeting is attached below (I may have diverged slightly from the text when speaking).  As you will see from the text, I disclosed to City Councilmembers who may have been unaware of it that the proposal might mean the greenfield areas will not be developed before 2040, and they still supported consideration of the idea.

Regarding Coyote Valley Research Park, the only entitled project I am aware of in North Coyote or east Evergreen, the permits would allow them to develop if they still wish to, and upon development would no longer be considered greenfields.  If, however, the permit holders continue with their decade-long failure to build, then the backloading proposal as expressed to the City Council would mean they could not receive new permits until jobs capacity had been reached elsewhere.  Of course, in both this case and the hypothetical example given by Mayor Reed of a proposed development in east Evergreen, any proposal with sufficient advantages for the City could be accommodated with a General Plan amendment.

We are sure that the City Council direction intended this backloading proposal receive sufficient consideration, and we trust City staff to ensure that is the case.

Please contact us with any questions.



Brian A. Schmidt
Legislative Advocate, Santa Clara County

(Written version of the oral comments given by Brian Schmidt, Committee for Green Foothills, to the City Council meeting on April 20, 2010.  Actual oral comments may have diverged slightly from the written version.  The comment proposal was suggested for consideration in the General Plan revision process in a friendly amendment by Councilmember Ash Kalra, accepted by Councilmember Sam Liccardo and approved by the City Council.)

We support a minor but important variation on the current land use proposal that jobs development should happen anytime, anywhere in City limits.

We would like to ask the City Council to recommend a proposal to "backload" development of open spaces and greenfield until after other areas are developed.

 San Jose greenfields are East Evergreen and parts of North Coyote Valley, and the idea is that these areas would not develop until after jobs capacity has been fully developed elsewhere in the City, where greenfields aren't at risk.  This proposal would not affect existing permits like the Coyote Valley Research Park, the already-developed western half of the Evergreen, or the Water Treatment Plant area that is undergoing separate planning.

The advantage of this suggestion is it would encourage development where it is needed – Evergreen Village and East Evergreen, Edenvale, downtown, and North First Street.  It is possible that the suggestion means these Greenfield areas are not developed before 2040, but so long as the same development happens elsewhere that needs redevelopment, then that result is a good feature and not a bug in the General Plan.  Other areas of the City have the capacity for the same kind of development elsewhere, and if by some strange chance an important proposal could only happen on greenfields, such a proposal could be tied to a General Plan amendment.

Again we request that you ask staff to include this suggestion in some form as the revision process moves forward.  I'd be happy to answer any questions.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

CGF comments on the City of Santa Clara General Plan Revision

(Not as many of our open space issues arise in Santa Clara as in other cities like San Jose, but there are some relevant issues, so we discuss them below.  -Brian)

May 6, 2010

Julie Moloney
City of Santa Clara

Re:  General Plan Revision

Dear Julie;

The Committee for Green Foothills supports the comments of the Santa Clara County Creeks Coalition that will be submitted separately, and additionally submits the following comments for the Santa Clara General Plan revision.

*Biological Resources (5-121):  Recommend adding a sentence stating "landscaped areas can provide some habitat value to common native species, particularly birds and insects."

*Wastewater Conveyance (5-123) Recommend adding a sentence stating "the amount and percentage of impervious surface in the City affect the ability of the WPCP to treat wastewater."

*Conservation Goals (5-123) To reinforce the importance of common native species, change 5.10.1-G1 to "The protection of fish, wildlife and their habitats, including but not limited to rare and endangered species."

*Conservation Policies (5-123 to 124) To support above changes, add new policies:
      "Require use of native plants and wildlife-compatible non-native plants when feasible for landscaping done by City services or on City property."  (This policy could follow current Policy 5.10.1-P4.)

"Encourage property owners and landscapers to use native plants and wildlife-compatible non-native plants when feasible." (Following new policy suggested above.)

"Encourage downspout disconnection and encourage replacement of hardscapes with landscaping and permeable surfaces."(Following Policy 5.10.1-P5

Please contact us if you have any questions.


Brian A. Schmidt
Legislative Advocate, Santa Clara County

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A CGF quarry victory I didn't even realize had happened

Some good news from the Lehigh-Hanson Quarry in the hills above Cupertino and Los Altos:  on CGF's suggestion, they have changed the night-time lighting to decrease the light pollution offsite.  We suggested this years ago, and on a recent visit the quarry operators told me they had taken us up on the suggestion.  They said they've turned off the most prominent lighting, the ones on top of a tower, and only turn them on when maintenance is needed.  There's another set of lights on a conveyor that have also been reconfigured.

Perhaps not the biggest victory in the world, but it's an improvement.  The ability to see the stars is a natural resource that belongs to everyone, and light pollution is a documented environmental problem for both people and wildlife.

Also based on our suggestion, Lehigh changed the management of the rock scar above Los Altos Hills to prioritize completion of the visible section so revegetation can happen as soon as possible.  They anticipate finishing the visible section this year, with revegetation occurring at the very to in the 2011-2012 rainy season.

Plenty of other issues to work on there, however, so we'll keep focused.