San Jose to preserve open space in North Coyote Valley

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In the South Bay, where the need for housing is a major issue, the San Jose City Council decided Wednesday that preserving open space is equally important. The undeveloped land is in the far south end of the city in the Coyote Valley where housing was once envisioned.

A dozen years ago, there were plans that Coyote Valley, with nearly 20,000 acres of agricultural fields and orchards, might be developed for 25,000 homes. Then came the recession. San Jose ran into budget problems. Environmental groups argued the land should be preserved as open space.

After years of debate, the City Council voted unanimously to approve the spending of $46 million in voter-approved bond money to acquire 937 acres in the vicinity of Bailey Avenue and Santa Teresa Boulevard.

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"Today, we turn the page on the long standing debate about north Coyote Valley and start a new chapter. A chapter that finally recognizes the inherent value of our land and the importance of protecting it," said San Jose City Council member Sergio Jimenez, whose council district includes Coyote Valley.

The land is being sold by a private land owner and by a developer. Additional funding came from the Peninsula Open Space Trust and a third partner, the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority. The total deal is worth $93 million.

A "no trespassing" sign affixed to a chain link fence indicates the land still is in private ownership. But the goal someday, after a master planning process, could lead to the land being preserved as agricultural land. It could be used for hiking by the public or maybe even be used for flood control.

Other advocates say wildlife will also benefit. Bobcats, coyotes and deer cross this habitat to migrate between the Santa Cruz mountains and the Diablo range. Development would have put them at risk.

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Walter Moore of the Peninsula Open Space Trust was pointing at a map showing the 937-acre site and the lands around it.

"You can see the green on either side of it. Those are protected lands," said Moore. "We hope to now take this incredible block of land and connect it all the way through."

While critics might argue the land is needed to ease the housing crisis, San Jose leaders say they're trying to avoid sprawl and to locate new housing near public transit to ease traffic congestion. Mayor Sam Liccardo also said it was important to deliver the open space that residents funded by a 71 percent vote in favor of Measure T, a bond measure on the November 2018 ballot.
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