Coyote Slows Down

After a hot summer, the Coyote Valley planning process cools
San Jose – A plan with the potential to spur haphazard development in Coyote Valley was roundly rejected by the task force directing its growth Monday night.

The plan, proposed by San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales and Councilman Forrest Williams, would have allowed housing developments in any increment and anywhere within the plan area just north of Morgan Hill.

Task force members said that plan at least appeared to go against the intent of the Coyote Valley Specific Plan, which calls for a centralized, transit- and pedestrian-friendly community of 50,000 people.

“I don’t want there to be an escape route,” Santa Clara County Supervisor Don Gage said, adding that rules developing Coyote Valley growth need to push developers in the direction of a variety of housing styles. “I can see things getting out of control.”

By rejecting the proposal, the task force strengthened other aspects of the plan designed to ensure that Coyote Valley develops with a coherent strategy into a self-contained community of housing, schools, parks, retail and industrial and service sector jobs.

And it also appears that a rush to build new houses in Coyote Valley to take advantage of a hot real estate market has lost significant momentum.

Coyote Valley development has always been predicated on attracting thousands of new jobs to the region. But in August, economic consultants claimed that Coyote Valley development would be self-sufficient. By building houses, they said, the city of San Jose could afford to build the initial phases of an estimated $1.6 billion in necessary infrastructure.

But those projections may have been too optimistic, as were plans to ask the San Jose City Council to sign off on development plans for Coyote Valley as soon as November. Homebuilders were predicting that construction of 5,000 new houses in the area as soon as 2008.

San Jose Planner Laurel Prevetti said Monday night that development scenarios won’t be worked out until at least early 2006, and that planning staff has returned to a pace of work more appropriate for a project that is likely to take 30 years or more to complete. She suggested that planners had rushed to get material ready for the task force.

“I think after the response we’ve gotten, we have our work to do,” Prevetti said. “We don’t want to bring anything that hasn’t been fully vetted and reviewed. I think there was a sense that the show must go on, but we learned that maybe there are times when the show shouldn’t go on.”

Whenever it is accomplished, developing the 7,000 acres of Coyote Valley will eliminate the last significant rural buffer between San Jose and South County. San Jose planners envision a community of 50,000 jobs, 25,000 homes and 50,000 residents.

The city has had plans for the area for decades, but moved on them when it thought Cisco Systems was going to build a 5,000-employee campus in the area.

Since that project fell through, planners and politicians have been working on a plan to attract homebuilders and employers, who have traditionally chosen the rest of Silicon Valley over San Jose.

The plan has come under continuous attack from environmentalists, Morgan Hill Unified School District officials, who would be responsible for Coyote Valley, and property owners in southern Coyote, who believe they are being frozen out of a financial windfall because the city won’t develop the so-called greenbelt.

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