Op-Ed: Let’s All Protect Coyote Valley So It Can Protect Us

Heading south on Highway 101, the city in our rear view mirror, we’re actually still in San Jose until we reach Morgan Hill, though the open space may deceive us.

Looking out our driver-side window, even during our recent heavy winter downpours, we probably aren’t thinking about these still mostly undeveloped hills—capturing the rain, allowing it to percolate it down into an aquifer just feet below the surface of the Coyote Valley—as part of the largest and most important watershed serving Silicon Valley.

We’re probably not thinking about this on a hot summer day, surrounded by brown and seemingly bone-dry hills, but still drinking from its clean waters.

Few of us realize that one of the most spectacular wildflower displays on the planet is right here in these hills for a few beautiful but ephemeral weeks of spring, that tule elk roam the rare serpentine soils which sustain a dozen species of rare plants and the last population of bay checkerspot butterflies.

Looking right, we may notice the beauty of the bucolic Coyote Valley but we are still overlooking so much. Coyote Valley provides many vital ecosystem services, including natural flood control and a buffer against the severe weather events exacerbated by climate change, clean air and water, local agriculture, recreation, and wildlife habitat and corridors between mountain ranges.

We’ll lose if the valley is developed.

That’s why we’re asking our leaders to protect Coyote Valley so it can protect us. This was the idea behind “up to $50 million” for “preventing flooding and water quality contamination, including the acquisition of open space in Coyote Valley for these purposes” in Measure T. This would be a shift away from the former build-it-out vision so the City Council conducted a “study session” on this conservation vision before it decides on allocating the measure’s funds.

The San Jose council has come a long way from the ’80s and ’90s when development by Apple and Intel of this last open space between San Jose and Morgan Hill seemed inevitable. It’s come a long way even from just 2007 when a draft environmental report on build-out plans received a 1000 pages of negative comments from the public.

Most of us overlook this second-chance little sister of Santa Clara Valley. Yet the public has always been ahead of lawmakers when it comes to conservation.

Back in 2000, we easily gathered the signatures required to place a measure on the ballot to protect Coyote Valley but then dropped the effort due to the threat of lawsuits over technicalities in its language and after negotiating concessions from the development proponents. And voters supported Santa Clara Valley Open Space Measure Q with 68 percent, Bay Restoration Measure AA with 70 percent, and Santa Clara County Parks Measure A with 78 percent!

Much of the talk from proponents of developing in Coyote Valley is about how the jobs will help the city budget. But a new state vehicle-miles-traveled law coming into effect next year to address the impacts of transportation on climate places a heavy fee on traffic mileage. This commuter tax will steer development with lots of employees away from distant Coyote Valley toward existing urban San Jose where the hope is that people drive less by living closer to where they work. Large projects providing few jobs may still want to go out there but those projects won’t much help the city’s budget.

And there’s a damn good reason for the vehicle-miles-traveled fee: to push development into the hinterland would be to deny the urgency of our climate crisis.

“There is no documented historic precedent” for the action needed at this moment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) wrote in its 700-page report on the impacts of global warming of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit, or 1.5 degrees Celsius. We have just about a dozen years to correct the course we’re are on.

San Jose now has a “Downtown Strategy 2040” since city planners have learned that urban services are less expensive to deliver than those of sprawl development.

In November, voters passed Measure T with an overwhelming 71 percent of the vote. While momentum for the conservation of the Coyote Valley has continued to build with Peninsula Open Space Trust and Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority announcing an $80 million effort, threats remain; warehouse proposals have come forward, and developers continue to see their own shade of green.

We can’t afford the loss of the ecosystem services—and yes, of the beauty, too.

Measure T dollars can restore the wetlands and “green infrastructure” that will provide much more flood control to downtown neighborhoods, which experienced $100 million in flood damage in 2017.

The City Council will take up the allocation of Measure T funding in early February. Let's protect Coyote Valley so it can protect us.

David Poeschel chairs the Guadalupe Regional Group Conservation Committee of the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter. Terry Trumbull is an environmental studies professor at San Jose State University. Opinions are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected]


  1. > And there’s a damn good reason for the vehicle-miles-traveled fee: to push development into the hinterland would be to deny the urgency of our climate crisis.

    Well, since I and MANY others “deny the urgency of our climate crisis”, there is NO good reason for the stupid “vehicle-miles-traveled fee”.


    “Record-breaking cold shuts down schools in the Midwest”

    This doesn’t sound to me like “global warming”.

    • > Well, since I and MANY others “deny the urgency of our climate crisis”, there is NO good reason for the stupid “vehicle-miles-traveled fee”.


      Executive overview. High mileage cars are cutting into the states gas tax (COUGH EXTORTION) so they came up with this scheme.

      On topic though…Develop the heck out of Coyote Valley. The valley was ruined in the last few decades, so why stop there? Also, there are speckled butterflies all over the valley, I’ve spotted them as far west as the Los Gatos creek trail. Last time someone used spreckled butterflies as a reason to not build, it was Silvercreek Valley. It wasn’t conservation for the butterflies though, it was for the humans that didn’t want poor people moving in next to them. I suspect the same in Coyote Valley.

      • Wow, Robert, Your lack of valid logic astounds me; you must not believe in Climate Change either… Ever hear of ‘greenhouse gasses’ — Do you believe in them? Your quote: “Develop the heck out of Coyote Valley. The Valley was ruined in the last few decades, so why stop there?” —- So your Trump-like stance, namely ignorant, is ‘It’s already ruined, what’s the dif?’ Ever hear of the concept of groundwater recharge? Ever hear the words, ecosystem, habitat, SPECIES EXTINCTION? Believe in any of those concepts, either?

        Secondly, and, Regarding the use of Coyote Valley as a useful flood plain to Coyote Creek. Citizens need to be asking this question: What happened to all of our bond money, to the SCVWD for Coyote Creek flood protection– I don’t have the year specifics…. someone please help fill in the blanks if you can.

        Melanie Richardson, Engineer with SCVWD, was lead engineer on this project. 3 years ago, as you know, Coyote Creek flooded 40,000 residents, (low-income residents) in downtown SJ. ….. ok — SHE needs to take RESPONSIBILITY for what happened to these tax paying,low income, hard-working residents of SJ. What is the status of those residents, today; 3 years later? Did they find “Affordable” housing in SJ? We don’t hear in the news…..what happened to those people…
        Ok but I am starting to digress..

        Melanie, in grand Peter Principle fashion, has been PROMOTED in the SCVWD. Promoted. Residents need to start questioning WHERE are their tax dollars being spent?? WHERE did that Coyote Creek money get allocated to? — A different project? Where is it. What happened to the ‘flood control design’? Why is there no accountability — OK furthermore; KNOW YOUR ROLE> Namely, SCVWD, being our flood control provider for Santa Clara Valley, is responsible for: Groundwater Recharge also.

        Yes, I buy into the concept that Coyote Valley provides natural infrastructure to help lessen the effects of high flows from Coyote Creek in the winter…….. But let’s not forget: the ROLE of the SCVWD, is: Flood Control for Santa Clara Valley, and, they have failed us. (3) years ago.

    • Here is just one example of dire consequences due to our (real) climate crisis.
      The OCEANS: Regulate global climate. That is called: SCIENCE. Read about it.

      • > That is called: SCIENCE. Read about it.

        Dear Carolyn:

        In fact, I have an actual college degree in science. I’ve “read about it”.

        Many of us would be curious to know: Are YOU a scientist?

        The reason this is important is that many people who are NOT scientists really DO NOT understand what science is.

        So, please feel free to educate us: WHAT is called SCIENCE?

        The scientists in the audience will then grade your response.

        • Oooh, you have a piece of paper? So what, but do you have a sista? …
          I am not a scientist, but I know that what I wrote about the oceans regulating the earth’s climate is: truth……I glanced at your ‘outside the bubble’, and quite frankly am not impressed. You seem to suffer from paralysis of analysis; a genius, in your own mind perhaps? I read about how you seem to dislike ‘Progressives’ quite a lot……..But when I got to your white supremacist attitudes about race, I turned you off. And, BTW, Y’er no scientist.

          • > That is called: SCIENCE. Read about it.
            . . .
            > I am not a scientist,
            . ..
            > And, BTW, Y’er no scientist.

            Greatest SJI contribution EVER, CAROLYN! I think you will be included among the ranks of the SJI immortals.

            We can’t wait for your explanation of the “Green New Deal”.

            I’m a bit fuzzy about the part where we destroy agriculture and industrial production and yet pay everybody an equal income. How is this going to work when there is no capitalism?

            Will the hunter-gatherers be accepting cash or Apple Pay? Will they still be able to buy things on Amazon. If airplanes are banned, will Amazon still be able to make deliveries with drones?

          • > Oooh, you have a piece of paper? So what, but do you have a sista? …

            You’re new here, CAROLYN, aren’t you.

            This is where all the community college lecturers jump in and accuse you of being “anti-intellectual”.

            You’re NOT “anti-intellectual”, are you?

  2. Buying farmland for farmers, Welfare for the rich.

    Buying open space for retires to bird watch, Welfare for the rich.

    Rebated for solar panels for homes using $300/month in electricity, Welfare for the rich.

    Rebates for Telsas, Welfare for the rich.

    Bike lanes, Welfare for the rich.

    Sanctuary Cities, Welfare for the rich.

    Raises property values and rent at the cost of the middle and working class.

    How can Progressives be so blind?

    You want to help the most vulnerable, build, build, build. Cheaper rent, real starter homes, more non-corporate labor demand and end the massive regressive sales and gas taxes.

  3. Let’s All Protect Coyote Valley So It Can Protect Us

    Let’s not.

    Their idea of “protecting” that location is uber-expensive, it won’t do what they claim, and the rest of us won’t “lose if the valley is developed.”

    Until enviros have skin in the game, ie: their own money at risk, instead of trying to sabotage others, they’re the same kind of do gooders who’ve made a fiasco of everything they’ve touched.

    If they want to “save” some land… buy it! That’s at least honest — unlike what the Sierra Club and others are doing.

  4. I grew up in San Jose when there were orchards, and it was beautiful to see the blossoms in the spring. Now it’s all city, from the east hills to the western slopes of the santa Cruz mountains. Folks, it’s time we stopped. The population has grown, and that growth will continue. At some point, if Coyote Valley is developed, the growth will continue, and the traffic will be terrible and the air will be worse, and the water….what water?
    Let’s stop sprawling before it’s too late. We’ve done enough damage to the natural environment.
    Protect Coyote Valley.

  5. Boogie Man in all this: Water Supply Should those already here lose their front lawns to newcomers, more traffic, and sprawl?

  6. There would be plenty of water if the giant Auburn Dam project had been completed.

    But the same enviros who want to “protect” what’s not theirs stopped the Auburn project from being finished. That dam would have doubled NorCal’s water storage, but now it’s just an ugly hole in the ground – causing far more damage to the environment than anything in the Coyote Valley. Not to mention the wasted taxpayer $Billions.

    No one mentions the non-stop flood of illegals, either. This state has been saying they’re “11 million” since the mid-’90’s. Today they’re still saying the number of illegals here is still “Eleven million”. As if.

    Every one of those illegals uses water, just like anyone else. If they were sent back to their country of origin, the current water supply would be adequate. But no one is doing that, and the huge influx of people coming here illegally contiues unabated. No wonder we have a water emergency.

    Lack of water is a far more serious problem than people moving to the Coyote Valley. And if it’s a natural environment some folks want, they should move to Lake County. That place will probably never be built up, and it continues to lose population.

    But truth be told, most of the folks complaining about the Coyote Valley will never move there either. They’re reacting to a vision in their mind’s eye, not to reality.

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