Preserve or develop? San Jose City Council set to make big decision on Coyote Valley

Preserve or develop? San Jose City Council set to make big decision on Coyote Valley
Photo Credit: Protect Coyote Valley
By Wesley Severson - Published on November 16, 2021.

A huge vote this week by the San Jose City Council will determine whether 314-acres of open space along the northern part of Coyote Valley will stay wild or turn into an "Amazon-style" industrial park. The land in question sits near the intersection of Bailey Avenue and Santa Teresa Boulevard and is one of the last remaining chunks of Coyote Valley that has not been fully protected from development. For decades, the land has been zoned for massive warehouse-style business centers that can house up to 5,500 workers each.

According to the Mercury News, Crow Holdings Industrial based in Texas is pushing preliminary plans to build two facilities that span 600-yards each. They would take up 126-acres of open space and would also require the leveling of the popular Spina Farms Pumpkin Patch and fruit stand. Several environmental groups along with the city are trying to prevent that from happening but farmers who own the land are already in contract to sell to Crow Holdings. That means any successful effort to protect the 314-acres will likely set off an intense legal battle. 

Former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed is part of the legal team for the property owners. He tells the Mercury News, “The council certainly has the power to implement a vision for open space in Coyote Valley, but what they can’t do is use their zoning power to jam it down the property owners in a way that makes them sell their land for below market value. If you really want to protect the open space, you need to do more than pass a resolution. You need to buy the land or the development rights.”

Planning Commissioner Justin Lardinois supported a recent proposal to change the land use designation of the property to protect it from development. “The future of Coyote Valley is a recurring debate. Once you build on a natural resource, you can’t get it back. Developers will always want to build, so protecting Coyote Valley from urban sprawl is always an ongoing fight,” Lardinois told San Jose Spotlight.

Coyote Valley spans 7,400 acres between San Jose and Morgan Hill and much of it is protected. As the Mercury News notes, 937 acres of the northern portion was bought by the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority and the Peninsula Open Space Trust in November of 2019. This year, the two groups have bought another 391 acres. That’s on top of the purchase in October of last year of more than 1,800-acres in the southern part of Coyote Valley by local governments and environmental agencies. As for what happens to the northern chunk slated for warehouses, we will have to see what the council decides and what the aftermath of that decision will be.