Time for complacency on Coyote Valley is at an end

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In a move that’s reminiscent of when the soon-to-be-opened
Metcalf power plant was forced upon the South Bay, San Jose Mayor
Ron Gonzales and San Jose City Councilman Forrest Williams have
concocted a plan to remove some of the

triggers

that must occur before Coyote Valley development can occur.
For decades, the City of San Jose has promised that five things
must occur before Coyote Valley can be developed:
In a move that’s reminiscent of when the soon-to-be-opened Metcalf power plant was forced upon the South Bay, San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales and San Jose City Councilman Forrest Williams have concocted a plan to remove some of the “triggers” that must occur before Coyote Valley development can occur.

For decades, the City of San Jose has promised that five things must occur before Coyote Valley can be developed:

5,000 new jobs in Coyote Valley

Stable financial outlook for City of San Jose

Five-year economic forecast projecting balanced budgets or surplus each year

Financial stability in fiscal relationship with State of California

Returning police, fire, and library services to 1993 levels

These commonsense promises made to the residents of San Jose and to the greater region – as Hollister’s rapid growth in the 90’s proved, San Benito County is not too far away to feel the effects of Silicon Valley’s successes or failures – were put in place to ensure that one of the last remaining rural areas in San Jose would not be developed until it made sound economic sense. These triggers assure residents that the city would not expand its infrastructure and service commitments before current residents’ service levels were restored.

That only makes sense: How can the city justify taking on 80,000 new residents, building miles of new water and sewer pipes, roads, and drainage ditches, protect them with police and fire services, and provide quality of life measures like libraries and parks when it’s not adequately meeting the needs of current residents? It’s obvious, it cannot, and it should not.

But there is economic pressure to build homes, and time pressure on Gonzales to build a legacy. BART and major-league baseball are looking iffier by the minute. What’s a termed out mayor to do? Develop Coyote Valley, apparently.

While there’s pressure to build homes, there is absolutely no pressure to build industrial or office space. Although the Bay Area housing market is inexplicably strong, the commercial real estate market is in a tailspin.

At the same time, thanks to unfunded federal mandates and to the chronic state budget woes, local governments are facing fiscal crises, and San Jose is no different. It has cut its budget drastically for the last three years, is struggling to close a $58 million deficit, and even Gonzales admits that at least two more years of cuts are ahead.

So, with his second term ending in 2006, we shouldn’t be surprised that Gonzales is moving to drop the two most difficult triggers: a balanced or surplus budget outlook, and the number of new jobs in Coyote Valley.

We shouldn’t be surprised, but we should be outraged. This move raises the alert level on Coyote Valley. We cannot be complacent any longer. We cannot console ourselves that it’s a problem that’s decades away.

If Gonzales is successful in this ill-advised plan, we can most likely forget any thoughtful, smart-planning-driven design for Coyote Valley. Instead, we’ll have piecemeal development driven by home developers guided by their bottom lines, not the quality of life for South Valley or the South Bay.

We’re not sure why Gonzales and Williams concocted this harebrained scheme, and quite frankly, we’re not sure we care. But we do care deeply about South Valley’s quality of life, and that’s why we’re urging residents, environmentalists, appointed and elected officials to do everything in their power to make sure the proposal meets a swift demise.

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