More open space will be included in upcoming development on San Francisco Bay’s south shoreline, thanks to determined advocacy by Baykeeper and other local environmental groups.
The San Jose City Council recently approved a plan for industrial and commercial development on land surrounding the San Jose-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility, which is some of the last remaining open space along the Bay in Santa Clara County.
A coalition including Citizen's Committee to Complete the Refuge, Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, Baykeeper, Committee for Green Foothills, and the Sierra Club advocated for changes to the plan, and won some hard-fought improvements. More land will be left open and undeveloped, including some land along Coyote Creek, which flows along the site. This land will likely be used in the future for upgrades of the wastewater treatment plant. Some burrowing owl habitat will also be preserved, though not to the extent considered critical for recovery of the growing population of the species along the South Bay shoreline. The council also agreed not to install a solar facility within existing wetlands.
However, we are discouraged by the extent of industrial development that will be allowed in the lands surrounding the treatment plant. Ideally, the city would site this industrial development on abundant already-developed land throughout San Jose and preserve the lands along the shoreline for wildlife habitat, flood protection, and valuable open space.
In addition, the plan allows development along a flood-prone section of Coyote Creek, behind levees that FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) has assessed as inadequate. The San Jose City Council refused to postpone some of the development until a plan for more levee protection is in place, despite objections by council members Sam Liccardo, Ash Kalra, and Kansen Chu, who voted against the project and in favor of phased implementation.
Baykeeper will take any additional opportunities to advocate for further environmental protections in this South Bay development project. We will also continue our efforts to preserve open space and prevent unwise development along all of San Francisco Bay’s shoreline.