Coyote Valley: Despite Progress, New Threat Looms

Peregrine feasts on red-wing blackbird. Photo credit: Chuq Von Rospach

by Mackenzie Mossing, Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society and Megan Medeiros, Committee for Green Foothills

Nestled in the southern reach of San Jose, Coyote Valley is a beautiful, unique and irreplaceable landscape of regional importance.

More than 200 species of local and migratory birds can be found in Coyote Valley, as they seek sustenance in agricultural fields, oak savannah, creek corridors, and wetlands.

Bobcats, coyotes and deer use the valley to migrate between the Diablo Mountain Range and the Santa Cruz Mountains, while also relying on the valley floor for habitat and vital resources.

During the wet season, Coyote Valley swells with water: heavy rains are absorbed by soils and dispersed into wetlands, contributing to San Jose’s flood control capacity and recharging the aquifer.

But all that Coyote Valley has to offer could be lost forever, as the threat of development continues to loom over this spectacular place.


Coyote Valley. Photo credit: Ralph Schardt

Hopeful progress

Throughout most of 2016 and 2017, the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society(SCVAS), Committee for Green FoothillsGreenbelt Alliance, and Sierra Club-Loma Prieta Chapter fought a proposal to transform 30-acres of Coyote Valley open space into a large distribution center along Fisher Creek that would significantly impact wildlife movement. Environmental organizations and local communities participated in letter-writing efforts and in public meetings, making their opposition clear to San Jose city officials and project proponents. The developer eventually dropped the proposal; and in June 2017, the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) purchased the land, protecting the parcel from industrial development in perpetuity.

Simultaneously, the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority released its Coyote Valley Landscape Linkage Report — a document that establishes a clear vision of functional land connection for wildlife and protected water resources in Coyote Valley. The report uses science to validate what we have always known: that preserving the valley is critical to the welfare of both people and wildlife in our region. Indeed, flooding in San Jose in 2017 would have been significantly worse had Coyote Valley been covered with asphalt and concrete.

Evergreen Senior Homes Initiative: a potential attack on Coyote Valley

While environmental groups have been organizing to bring an ecologically-focused, resilient vision for Coyote Valley to fruition, a new threat is emerging.

Positioning itself as a socially responsible solution to the Bay Area’s housing crises, the Evergreen Senior Homes Initiative is actually a potential developer attack on Coyote Valley.

How? Hiding behind a guise of affordable housing for seniors and veterans in the Evergreen neighborhood of San Jose, the initiative creates a new “senior housing” land use for San Jose. Placing this initiative on the June ballot, allows developers to build a luxury-gated community in the foothills skirting public scrutiny, environmental review, and traffic mitigations. Should it pass, developers who have been unsuccessful in developing Coyote Valley thus far could cover the valley in other gated communities and housing projects, eradicating any possibility of preserving the valley for wildlife, flood control, agriculture — and You.

The Protect Coyote Valley campaign agrees we need more housing — but not at the expense of this remarkable landscape. San Jose has space for tens of thousands more homes — in fact, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo just issued a plan to expedite production.

What can you do?

The campaign to protect Coyote Valley has been ramping up. In the face of ongoing proposals to develop Coyote Valley into corporate campuses, warehouses and distribution centers, and destroy its ecological integrity, environmental groups are collaborating in a regional campaign to protect the valley into perpetuity. Together the SCVAS, Sierra Club-Loma Prieta Chapter, Committee for Green Foothills, Greenbelt Alliance, Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful, and Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE) are working to establish a new vision for Coyote Valley — a vision that serves people and wildlife alike.

You can join this last chance opportunity to protect the valley. Pledge your support today.

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