Planners, developers claim new 50-acre campus in north Coyote
Valley disrupts plan
San Jose – In a sign it’s easier to design a new city than actually build one, San Jose planners discovered Monday they have no control over the first major development in Coyote Valley.
Officials from Gavilan College said they intend to open a new campus of at least 50 acres in north Coyote Valley as soon as 2009 – an area San Jose planners have set aside for industrial and hi-tech jobs critical to the Coyote Valley Specific Plan.
At the latest meeting of the specific plan task force Monday night, several members of the committee criticized the school for not conforming to the plan’s elements and pleaded with school officials to change their design and consider looking for a new location.
“We want the college there, too; however, there’s a finite amount of space,” San Jose Councilman Forrest Williams said. “If we give away an area for job opportunities, we have to squeeze that in someplace else. We’re not opposed, we just want to work together. … Things that may have worked before need to be looked at in a different light.”
Gavilan President Steven Kinsella said he was willing to work with the task force, but said the site for the new campus is not negotiable.
James Goodell, a consultant working for Gavilan said the real estate market dictated that the school move quickly to buy the land, which will cost at least $8 million. The school will spend an additional $50 million on facilities.
“We need to make a buy that protects our long-term ability to serve [the region],” Goodell said. “We’ll work as hard as we can to make it work, but at the end of the day, we can buy it and we can do it.”
In about a year, the San Jose City Council will make a final decision on its plans to develop Coyote Valley with 25,000 homes, 50,000 jobs and 80,000 residents. Lately, San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales and Williams have been pushing for changing the rules to develop the area, hoping to allow residential development before thousands of new jobs come to the area as currently required in the city’s general plan.
Gavilan, which is based in Gilroy, has satellite campuses in Morgan Hill and San Benito County serving more than 6,000 students. Kinsella said Gavilan loses 2,000 students a semester to junior colleges in San Jose because the school lacks a presence in Coyote Valley. If Coyote Valley is eventually inhabited by 80,000 people, it will represent one-third of the population in the school’s service area.
The plans for the new campus call for 30 acres of building and 20 acres of parking. Gavilan officials hope they can reach a deal with San Jose to share the 30 acres of athletic fields the school is required to have. They intend to offer a full complement of academic and vocational programs with a focus on technology.
But the school is located across the street from IBM on Bailey Avenue, in the area that is supposed to fill up with a large portion of the 50,000 new jobs envisioned for Coyote Valley.
Gavilan’s proposed campus also interferes with the road network that planners have designed and takes up a lot of land meant to produce development fees and tax revenue to pay for the construction and maintenance of the massive infrastructure needed to build in Coyote.
Kinsella said the school intends to build a campus that is denser than the standard community college, but must also conform to state regulations for junior colleges, which call for strict requirements on parking and facilities in exchange for funding.
Dan Hancock, a developer with Shappell Industries, attacked Gavilan officials for “hiding behind” state mandates.
“Twenty acres of parking is so incongruous with everything we’re doing in that plan,” Hancock said. “You’ve got to get past this state standards, can’t do mentality.”
Goodell said the school has to meet standards to get funding. He said the state won’t pay for parking garages because they’re too expensive.
“It’s a curse,” he said of the parking issue, “but the average age of our students is 29 and they drive to campus, one at a time.”
Whatever leverage San Jose officials do have is their ability to withhold an agreement on sharing athletic facilities. The school hopes to avoid buying another 30 acres of land, and students can’t transfer to either of the state’s school systems without physical education credits.
Kinsella said that it’s possible the school could arrange a deal on 30 acres that are not adjacent to the campus, as it’s done with Gilroy High School, but said that option is unattractive.
“We don’t want to do that,” he said. “It’s far away and if you forget a roll of tape everything comes to a halt.”