Environmental advisory committee suspended

Environmentalists are unhappy again with the people planning
development in Coyote Valley.
Gilroy – Environmentalists are unhappy again with the people planning development in Coyote Valley.

The advocates, who have been protesting the loss of critical habitat and other ecological resources if San Jose were to turn its southwestern edge into a community of 25,000 homes 50,000 jobs and 50,000 residents, are criticizing planners for suspending an advisory committee of environmental interests.

Brian Schmidt, of the Committee for Green Foothills, said suspending the committee eliminates the advocates’ one real opportunity to provide input to the Coyote Valley Specific Plan Task Force.

“Environmental groups have been sidelined at the task force level,” Schmidt wrote in a letter of protest to the city.

Schmidt was joined in his protest by representatives of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, the Greenbelt Alliance and the Sierra Club.

San Jose Planner Salifu Yakubu said the committee was suspended to avoid duplicating work in the planning process, and he offered to arrange an environmental focus group later this year.

“We continue to be committed to an open, public process with input opportunities for our many stakeholders,” Yakubu said.

The task force was convened in 2002. It’s 20 members represent San Jose, Santa Clara County, several homebuilders and planners and representatives of the city’s parks department and the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority.

The suspended technical advisory committee is made up of several environmental groups as well as experts on water, roads and transportation.

Committee member Melanie Richardson, a water supply expert with the Santa Clara Valley Water District, said the time is right for San Jose planners to put the committee on hold while they sort through the volumes of information they’ve collected in the last two years.

“The staff just needs to sit down and do some work and come up with a product for us to comment on,” Richardson said.

Coyote Valley is the largest remaining rural buffer between San Jose and South County. Under the tenants of the city’ general plan, Coyote Valley development is not supposed to occur until at least 5,000 new jobs go to the area. Lately, Mayor Ron Gonzales has been leading an effort to reformulate the plan to immediately allow residential development.

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