Watch CBS News

Environmentalists, Lawmakers, Landowners Plan Future Of Coyote Valley

SAN JOSE (KPIX) - The fate of San Jose's last great chunk of open land lies in the balance. In an effort to preserve Coyote Valley, environmental groups converged on the city core.

"Together, we are protecting Coyote Valley," said Megan Fluke of the Committee for Green Foothills.

Ms. Fluke was speaking at a city hall rally where about 100 people gathered before a council study session on the future of Coyote Valley.

Coyote Valley is about 7000 acres of land on the south end of the city limits.

The land was once eyed by IBM, Cisco and Apple for major tech campuses. But plans fell through and the land has stayed practically untouched. It's now considered a valuable wildlife corridor between the Santa Cruz Mountains on the west and the Mount Hamilton range on the east.

"It's a crucial wildlife area for bobcats, badgers, even mountain lions who cross from one mountain range to another," said Brian Schmidt of the Greenbelt Alliance.

The City Council is deciding whether to apply $50 million in voter-approved Measure T funds to buy and preserve land in the valley.

Measure T was passed to save open space and provide flood control. Proponents argue that the only current development proposal, for a large warehouse and distribution center, could cause flooding with increased surface runoff.

"Keeping Coyote Valley undeveloped is the safest way to create flood protections," Schmidt said.

But private land owners like Ken Saso, whose family has grown cherries in the valley since the 1920's, say preventing development would hurt their families financially.

"I think I'd like as a landowner to have my choice of what I want to do with my property," Mr. Saso said.

Councilmember Johnny Khamis, who called for the study session, said he's for protecting wildlife. But he points out the land was set aside to someday produce 30,000 jobs. Khamis also said he's not sure it's the best use of Measure T money.

"What we promoted was flood control. And I don't know if it's going to protect us because it didn't the last time it flooded," Khamis said.

There are signs of San Jose's once grand plans for Coyote Valley, including a large concrete gateway that became a dead-end. Sidewalks built in the 1980's for companies that never came.

One preservationist says the land should stay as is because the age of sprawling tech campuses, once envisioned here, has come and gone.

"It does seem like the spread out corporate campus is not what people want," said Schmidt, who noted that tech companies today prefer urban environments, close to amenities like mass transit, restaurants and housing.

The City Council did not make any decisions during the study session and will continue to look at issues important to various interest groups.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.