Published Wednesday, June 18, 2003, in the Hollister Freelance
Coyote Valley future laid out in detail
By Jon Jeisel
Open space land in the Coyote Valley south of Laguna Avenue west of
Santa Teresa Boulevard in south Santa Clara Valley. If you're going
to do it, do it right.
That's the theory behind "Getting It Right: Preventing Sprawl in
Coyote Valley," a report on development in Coyote Valley released this
month by the Greenbelt Alliance.
Officials at the San Francisco-based environmental and land-use
organization don't necessarily favor large-scale growth in the bucolic
6,800-acre valley between south San Jose and Morgan Hill.
But if Coyote is going to be developed into a new community within the
sprawling confines of the state's third largest city - a community San
Jose officials have projected for 50,000 new jobs, 25,000 housing
units and as many as 80,000 residents - alliance members said it might
as well happen the right way by employing the principles of "smart
With the report, the group seeks to avoid the style of development so
common throughout parts of the Silicon Valley: sprawling, low-story
office buildings that are surrounded by seas of parking and often
several miles via high-speed expressways from isolated residential
Instead, under the Greenbelt vision the valley's newest community
would incorporate the features of livable and popular areas such as
San Francisco, downtown Mountain View or Palo Alto, Oakland's
Rockridge area and downtown San Jose.
Based on the tenets of "New Urbanism," it would blend jobs, commercial
services, schools and higher-density, mixed-income housing styles -
together with transit service and a grid-based traffic system - to
create a self-sustaining community that would encourage use of the car
as little as possible.
The alliance and its consultants argue that Silicon Valley's economic
slowdown has given public officials and developers the opportunity to
pause and think differently - and better - over plans for Coyote
Valley that they say are now obsolete in the wake of the high-tech
"There was a vision related to a phenomenon of the economy that is in
a large measure, over," said Daniel Solomon, an architect who helped
craft the document. "There's an opportunity to rethink what that is
and not build the 1970-75 vision of a certain type of industrial
"It's not the vitality of what's going on now."
Large-scale Coyote Valley development plans - which currently include
provisions for campus industrial development in the north part of the
valley, housing in the middle and a "greenbelt" to to the south - have
been a source of controversy in the region. Outlying cities as far
south as Salinas have complained the growth would impact them as well,
especially in terms of housing.
Morgan Hill Mayor Dennis Kennedy said that he thinks that 80,000 new
residents in the Coyote Valley is too many - noting it's more than the
populations of his city and Gilroy combined - and would prefer a
community on the scale of existing area cities.
"I thought it was very well-done study and report, and I would hope
the city of San Jose incorporates as many of those concepts as
possible," he said. "I also hope the city of San Jose reduces the
amount of development."
He called the vision report a model for smart growth that all
communities can learn from and whose transit, greenbelt and housing
concepts portend positive impacts for Morgan Hill.
"I think what they've done is try to make it as much of a
self-sustaining community as possible, so you don't create a lot of
jobs but force workers to look elsewhere for housing," he said. "You
create the jobs and housing at the same time. That would minimize the
impact to the south especially."
The document focuses specific recommendations in the following areas:
* Building community: The plan would dissolve the artificial division
between the north valley - which is currently the projected
campus-industrial job center with the development of the Coyote Valley
Research Park - and the mid-valley area that is an urban reserve
projected for housing.
A town center on Bailey Avenue between Monterey Highway and Santa
Teresa Boulevards would be the primary commercial area, creating an
old-fashioned downtown with high-rise buildings with ground-floor
retail and offices and residences on upper floors.
Distinct neighborhoods would feature transit- and pedestrian-oriented
centers with small-scale retail, service, office uses and community
facilities to help form the identity of each area and prevent driving.
The blended average density would be 28 units per acre, architects
said - double to triple that of San Jose's current general plan
* Environment and Agriculture: The vision includes a network of 860
acres of regional, community and neighborhood parkland, including a
500-acre linear "greenway" along a restored Fisher Creek similar to a
larger "Panhandle" section of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Other
"view corridors" would take advantage of hillsides and other natural
The 3,300-acre south Coyote Valley area would be permanently protected
as a greenbelt buffer between San Jose and Morgan Hill. The report
suggests a moratorium on ranchette-style housing development in that
area until better protections can be hammered out.
The vision would add another roughly 600 acres of protected aglands as
well. About 2,380 acres of the agland surrounding the development
would become a "food belt" for education, tourism and sense of place.
* Social Equity: At least 20 percent of all housing units would be
designated as affordable housing for low-income residents, but would
be distributed throughout the valley to promote inclusiveness.
Architects also hope for a robust transit system featuring a Caltrain
station near the town center, a bus rapid transit line along Santa
Teresa Boulevard and a local bus loop linking neighborhood centers.
To accomplish the blend of housing and jobs, alliance officials admit
the vision would likely require the city and major developers in North
Coyote to renegotiate their intentions and land-use entitlements that
have already been issued for campus industrial development in the
northern third of the valley.
At least one major landowner there is receptive to the idea.
"They're right on, frankly," said John Sobrato, chairman of the
Sobrato Development Corp., which owns 300 acres at the corner of
Bailey and Santa Teresa.
Sobrato agreed that the original 1,100 acre North Coyote area should
be considered for mixed use, and suggested up to half as many adjacent
acres should also be targeted for such development to help cover
"I think the housing ought to be intermixed right with the
industrial," he said. "This works ... We're not talking heavy
industrial. We're talking engineering and software type uses.
"The campus industrial users don't want housing on their site, but
there's nothing wrong with having it adjacent to it."
The vision also assumes access by expanded transit service, something
that's admittedly questionable at the moment because of unprecedented
financial woes at the county's bus and transit agency, the Valley
Edwin Chan, aide to Santa Clara County Supervisor Don Gage - whose
district includes the Coyote Valley - said the report is interesting
and appears to seek common ground in terms of desires for open space
and smart growth. He said Gage will likely add his comments when the
report is presented to the special committee appointed by San Jose
leaders to craft an official Coyote Valley specific plan.
The document is not meant to be a mandate, but is presented as
suggestions that the city of San Jose can use as it crafts that plan,
said Jeremy Madsen, the alliance's field director.
"We see this as a resource for them to flesh out ideas," he said.