By Brian Schmidt, Green Foothills Interim Legislative Advocate
Measure T: Continuing Long-Term Funding For Environmental Protection
The struggle to protect Coyote Valley has been a long one mainly featuring fighting destructive proposals to impose sprawl on this large open space area. In some cases, landowners and developers have realized that they can get very reasonable financial compensation for the land’s actual worth instead of continuing to fruitlessly attempt to get their projects approved.
The Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority (OSA) financial resources – including those of its partners – has been available to purchase and protect this open space.
And with the passage of the OSA’s Measure T the concept of preserving land on the urban edge has proven to resonate with voters and allows the agency to continue on this path.
Without Measure T, two-thirds of OSA’s funding under the status quo would expire in 2028. Measure T makes the current funding permanent, so its passage means $8 million annually will be spent in the parts of Santa Clara County that are part of OSA (its jurisdiction includes unincorporated Santa Clara County and the cities of San Jose, Campbell, Santa Clara, Milpitas and Morgan Hill). This extra funding going forward means more money to buy land, restore the environment, and open areas for public access.
Measure Q, the OSA’s prior funding measure that passed in 2014, provided $2.8 million to protect land and recreation within urban areas, $5 million in environmental education events throughout the county, and over $10 million for new acquisitions. In the last year alone, large acquisitions in Coyote Valley by OSA (and by Peninsula Open Space Trust, a nonprofit partner organization) have been part of the fundamental triumphs we have had there. OSA’s Five Year Report details how the voters’ money has been spent from 2015 through 2019, and gives an indication then of how much more can be done with future funding guaranteed by Measure T.
Coyote Valley’s Crucial Role In Passing Measure T
The public support for the OSA and Measure T comes with a clear focus in the last few years on protecting Coyote Valley. See the map above for thousands of acres of protected land purchased just in the last year, not to mention purchasing still more land like Rancho San Vicente and Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve in prior years.
Buying land near cities and in Coyote Valley are crucial purchases. Despite the high price of these valley floor lands per acre, they have high environmental value and are under real risk of development. A land manager or board of directors might think they look like they have done a better job if they buy a large, distant ranch than these smaller valley floor parcels, but those distant ranches are not under serious threat of intense development.
The public responded to OSA’s efforts in Coyote Valley by providing permanent funding for the agency and at much larger margin than six years ago when they narrowly voted to support temporary funding.
Measure T’s Crucial Role in Protecting Coyote Valley
Just as successful Coyote Valley protection efforts made it possible for Measure T to pass so overwhelmingly, that passage ensures that still more purchases and protection will happen.
The permanent funding that voters gave OSA through Measure T means the agency can plan for the long term. Approximately 1000 acres of land have been purchased in the Coyote Valley flatland, leaving over 6000 more acres in the valley and more than that in surrounding hillsides. Under no circumstances will all this land be purchased, but a funding stream through Measure T means a lot of it will be.
Voters have cast their vote to support local open space protection, and we will continue to work for that protection and Coyote Valley’s future.