Monday, June 18, 2012

De Anza College students conduct wildlife research in Coyote Valley

Coyote Valley has long been known to be a vital wildlife corridor linking the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Diablo Range. Now, with publication of "Safe Passage for Coyote Valley," students at De Anza College have brought attention to the role Coyote Valley plays in wildlife movements in South Santa Clara County:

"De Anza students have documented over 200 wildlife species that cross Coyote Valley, located in southeastern San Jose between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Diablo Range," said [De Anza environmental studies professor] Julie Phillips. "Their work has been pivotal in influencing decision makers to conserve the area."
De Anza also recognized CGF for partnering with students in this project. CGF has fought for years to preserve Coyote Valley as open space.

"[We were] fighting for Coyote Valley when we didn't have a lot of hope," said Brian Schmidt, who was acknowledged for his advocacy with the Committee for Green Foothills. "This is an honor being associated with it."
Read the full article at:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Support Caltrain Modernization

For nearly 15 years, environmentalists have supported the electrification of Caltrain. Caltrain modernization offers much more – cleaner, quieter, faster service that will draw thousands more people off the highways and roads of our community, out of their cars and onto the train.

From an environmental perspective, Caltrain modernization will reap tremendous benefits, particularly to air quality.  The modernization program will reduce emissions along the Peninsula rail corridor by a stunning 90 percent.  Improving our region’s air quality has obvious long-term health benefits. We know that poor air quality leads to asthma, heart disease, and even cancer.  By lowering diesel emissions, we can reduce childhood asthma and other diseases, which means lower health care costs and a better, healthier, standard of living.

Modernization will have ripple effects beyond our region’s air quality.  Electrification will allow Caltrain to operate more service to more stations, drawing as many as 30,000 more passengers each weekday away from our congested highways, thus reducing harmful emissions.  Electrified service will also lower energy consumption by 64%.  All of these benefits will help address climate change, and will help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

Modernizing Caltrain will support more transit-oriented development – walkable, liveable communities effectively and efficiently served by a core mass transit system.  The Peninsula’s downtown areas will be revitalized, and real estate values will be strengthened.  Real estate values for homes near the rail corridor will also benefit through improved air quality, reduced noise and vibration resulting from Caltrain electrification.

Improved air quality and health, reducing reliance on fossil fuels, strengthened real estate values, and revitalization of our transportation corridors – these are benefits that are within reach now with the early investment in the modernization of Caltrain’s corridor. 

We urge our lawmakers in Sacramento to act now to improve the health of our region. 

Fund the Caltrain modernization program.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

LAFCO Has Productive Goal Setting Workshop

The Santa Clara County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) set some important goals for itself in the next few years during its strategic workshop including working with special districts on transparency and accountability, revisiting policies, and education and outreach.

LAFCO commissioners also discussed what they felt should be key elements of their mission as they seek to craft a more comprehensive mission statement reflective of future goals. In addition to their core mission of promoting efficient growth, discouraging sprawl, and preserving agriculture and open space, they proposed elements such as:
  1. encouraging cities & districts to take advantage of fiscally beneficial opportunities arising from regional planning
  2. bolstering collaboration and partnerships (e.g. to aid in finding regional solutions)
  3. providing better oversight (e.g. of special districts) and resources (e.g. more comprehensive municipal service reviews) to other agencies and the community
  4. increasing monitoring (e.g. of special districts it periodically reviews)
  5. strengthening policies (e.g. agricultural policies) and their authority to better fulfill their mandate

The workshop began with a presentation of the abysmal history of land use planning across the county (and state) between 1950 and 1980 which brought about the creation of LAFCO.  It served as a valuable reminder of the continuing need for LAFCO to uphold its critical role of ensuring orderly growth most notably in the southern part of the county.  Development pressure continues to threaten the majority of the irreplaceable farmlands there and thus the capacity for - and sustainability of - local food production in the county. 

All in all, LAFCO had a productive goal setting workshop.  One which we hope will bear fruit.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Supporting County Parks Charter Fund

The Santa Clara County Parks Charter Fund is the primary source of funding for county parks and trails maintenance and for acquisition of new park lands. Created by voters forty years ago, not by raising taxes but by setting aside a portion of existing taxes for this purpose, its purpose is to fund parks and trails "of countywide significance," i.e. that benefit residents throughout Santa Clara County. The Parks Charter Fund has never been used to fund small neighborhood parks or playgrounds. However, that may change on June 5, when the Board of Supervisors considers a proposal to allow the Parks Charter Fund to be used for small parks in urban unincorporated areas.

Committee for Green Foothills believes that the intent of the voters to provide funding for regional parks and trails should be respected. However, CGF also recognizes that some unincorporated urban areas do not have nearby access to parks and trails that would provide all residents with the opportunity to enjoy safe, healthy outdoor activity, as well as the natural beauty for which the Bay Area is famous. Therefore, CGF is supporting an alternative proposal that will maintain the Charter Fund's policy of funding only parks and trails of countywide significance, but that will prioritize funding for trails located in urban areas that are deficient in park resources. For example, the Coyote Creek Trail, the Three Creeks Trail, and the Guadalupe River Trail all have the potential to provide opportunities for jogging, hiking, and biking to urban areas that currently have no easy access to County parks resources. These trails, unlike small neighborhood parks, would fit within the current County policy of "countywide significance."

The proposal to change the County policy on the use of the Parks Charter Fund would require an amendment of the County's General Plan and Parkland Acquisition Plan. This permanent change in official County policy would potentially open the door to the Charter Fund being drained of the resources needed to acquire and maintain regional parks as intended by the voters. In finding a middle ground where parks needs of unincorporated urban areas can be met through funding regional trails that run through those areas, CGF hopes to preserve the integrity of the County Parks Charter Fund and maintain our world-class county parks system for the benefit of the whole county.

UPDATE 6/5/12: At the meeting today, the Board of Supervisors deferred the vote on this issue until August.