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A History of Protecting Coyote Valley

Image by Carolyn Straub

Coyote Valley is a 7,400-acre area in southern San Jose and one of the last vestiges of Santa Clara County’s agricultural heritage. Still used today primarily for farming, it also functions as one of the few places where wildlife can migrate between the Diablo Range and the Santa Cruz Mountains. For decades, organizations have fought off a succession of development proposals in Coyote Valley. Despite some losses, our advocacy efforts have stemmed the tide of development.

In 1981, the ROLM Corporation requested an amendment to the Santa Clara County General Plan in order to develop a new plant in the agricultural lands of Coyote Valley. After Committee for Green Foothills and other environmentalists urged the County to uphold its general plan, ROLM withdrew its request.

In 1983, a proposed residential development threatened 5,000 acres of prime agriculture lands in Coyote Valley. Since the proposal conflicted with the San Jose General Plan, the people advocated for the City of San Jose to uphold the principles in their plan. Although the city council did not permit residential development, it did vote to allow industrial development on 795 acres at the north end of the 5,000-acre of Coyote Valley.

In the early 2000’s, local environmental organizations fought a proposal by Cisco Systems for a Coyote Valley Research Park, a 6.6 million-square-foot industrial campus in Coyote Valley. The campus, with an estimated 20,000 employees, would have brought massive development, traffic, and air pollution to this agricultural and open space area.

To give San Jose residents a greater voice in the debate over the future of Coyote Valley, Committee for Green Foothills helped start a grassroots organization, People for Land and Nature (PLAN). PLAN put a referendum on the ballot to allow the voters of San Jose the opportunity to vote on the massive proposal by Cisco Systems. After PLAN successfully collected 30% more signatures than required to put the item on the ballot, city officials declare that the text used in the referendum petition was incorrect, rendering the referendum invalid. Thankfully, in 2002, Cisco decided to put its Coyote Valley development project on the back burner indefinitely.

The area was again threatened in 2000 when San Jose undertook a massive planning effort called the “Coyote Valley Specific Plan.” Essentially, the plan called for Coyote Valley to be developed into a mini-city with 50,000 jobs and 25,000 homes, further exacerbating San Jose’s historic pattern of costly sprawl. We worked to build alliances to fight this ill-conceived proposal and advocated for recognition of the off-site impacts, including the jobs-housing imbalance and the need for sustainable working farms in Coyote Valley. After receiving extensive input from our advocates and other groups, San Jose decided to re-write its review of the proposal.

By 2008, San Jose prioritized the general plan revision process that emphasized the environment over fast-tracking Coyote Valley development. Developers eventually withdrew the funding to develop 3,000 acres of Coyote Valley, a major victory for environmentalists and San Jose residents alike.

In 2010 Committee for Green Foothills, along with others, successfully advocated for recognition of the ecological value of Coyote Valley and the designation of mid-Coyote Valley as an urban reserve in the San Jose General Plan (“Envision San Jose 2040”). Unfortunately, San Jose zoned the most ecologically important piece of Coyote Valley, the northern portion, for industrial use.

In 2017 we celebrated an important victory for Coyote Valley when we helped to permanently protect a 30-acre site in North Coyote Valley. Read more about the Permanent Protection of Panattoni Site in Coyote Valley here.

At the end of 2017, Committee for Green Foothills, along with other local environmental organizations, created the Protect Coyote Valley campaign with the goal to permanently protect Coyote Valley for wildlife and for future generations.

About Protect Coyote Valley

The Protect Coyote Valley campaign is led by Committee for Green Foothills and supported by Greenbelt Alliance, Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful, Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter, and SAGE — Sustainable Agriculture Education. It aims to preserve Coyote Valley, San Jose as open space that offers flood-buffering wetlands, an essential wildlife habitat and migratory area, and active farmlands.

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