What do you get when you combine the nation’s tenth largest city, tremendous pressure to pave over the last flat lands of the “Valley of Hearts Delight,” passionate advocacy organizations and a changing climate? An epic challenge that would rightly make one question how any organization could hope to conserve Coyote Valley, a piece of land critical for the health of our region.
Not surprisingly, it has taken many elements – POST’s technical abilities, a key conservation partner and clear public support – to make this vision a reality. Finally, after decades of debate over land use, the San Jose City Council recently entered into agreements with POST and the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority (the Authority) to acquire 937 acres at the northern end of Coyote Valley – an area essential for wildlife, water storage and the community as a whole.
Sometimes dreams do come true!
During POST’s 42-year history, we have preserved over 78,000 acres, creating a network of open space where people and nature can connect and thrive. Each conservation project is unique, and they come in all shapes and sizes – from a few acres to thousands, from donations by generous landowners to full fair market value acquisitions. The land deals we work on are often complex, and we continue to develop the skills and capacity necessary to carry them out.
Our key partner in protecting Coyote Valley, the Authority, has been through a similar evolutionary journey. However, they have also built the capacity to skillfully restore and care for natural resources for the long term while opening and maintaining areas like Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve for the public to enjoy.
The Authority is developing an inspirational vision for the future of Coyote Valley, so that once the properties are purchased, they can begin to steward the lands by restoring the Laguna Seca wetlands, implementing wildlife crossings and planning for public recreation.
Working together was a key factor in our ability to protect these critical properties in North Coyote Valley, but the support of elected officials who represent the 1.1 million San Jose residents also played a crucial role.
Since the 1980s, the vision was that Coyote Valley would be the next phase of expansion for the City of San Jose. The plan was to build large office campuses in the valley with adjacent housing. With this plan in mind, some infrastructure was put in place to accommodate it. The most obvious is the Bailey Avenue interchange at Highway 101, but there were also partially completed flood control measures, streets and sidewalks built to support the envisioned 6.6 million square feet of office and light industrial development that was allowed under the plan.
It became evident that political opinion had changed dramatically in June 2018 when San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo publicly opposed Measure B, which would have bypassed existing development limitations in North Coyote Valley. Voters followed his lead and defeated the measure, but they went a step further by making existing development restrictions permanent via passage of a successful counter measure.
But the Mayor was not done yet. Rightly gauging the mood of the public and the City Council, he placed Measure T on the November 2018 ballot – a $650 million infrastructure bond, of which up to $50 million would be used to protect lands in Coyote Valley. When the citizens of San Jose voted in a super majority to approve this bond, a new priority was set for this area to protect its natural resources, benefiting residents and wildlife alike.
We took on a challenge as complicated and demanding as Coyote Valley and have succeeded in completing our most complex land project to date. POST’s and the Authority’s experience and expertise, the turn in public opinion, our tenacity and passion for land conservation, and your support have all played key roles.
When I joined POST almost a quarter-century ago, there is no way I could have imagined that POST would be an essential player in the protection of Coyote Valley. And while there is much more to be done to fulfill the new vision of Coyote Valley, we are one step closer to ensuring that our region’s extraordinary balance of urban and rural landscapes is sustained for generations to come.
With your incredible ongoing support (and patience) through the decades, I’m so proud that we’ve reached this remarkable milestone. It is inspiring to realize how much we can accomplish when we all work together!
Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 80,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more