Assemblymember Ash Kalra on Tuesday jumped into the fight to protect Coyote Valley by introducing legislation to create a conservation program to oversee the area.
Located in South San Jose and parts of unincorporated Santa Clara County, Coyote Valley is a 15,000 acre piece of mostly undeveloped land that’s home to hundreds of species of wildlife. For decades the land has been at risk of development as Silicon Valley outgrows its boundaries, and the debate was reignited in January after Councilmember Johnny Khamis proposed a study to hear from environmentalists, landowners and developers on how best to use the land.
San Jose lawmakers have mulled spending $50 million on Coyote Valley conservation efforts from Measure T funding. The $650 million bond, approved by voters in November, focused on disaster preparedness, public safety and infrastructure.
Assembly Bill 948, Kalra’s proposed bill, would create a conservation program under the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority. The authority, which has been active in the Coyote Valley discussion already, would “undertake projects to conserve, protect and restore the natural and working land aspects of Coyote Valley and the multiple benefits these lands provide,” according to the bill’s language.
The owners of the land, Brandenburg Properties, could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
Marc Landgraf, external affairs manager for the Open Space Authority, told San José Spotlight that they were focused on protecting the land “in perpetuity.”
“That way we can start planning for restoration of natural resources where appropriate or providing trail systems,” he said.
If approved by the Legislature, AB 948 would also declare Coyote Valley as a resource of “statewide significance” and define concrete boundaries of the space. Kalra noted that this would be the first time the state has an opportunity to do so.
“I am proud to introduce AB 948, which would help preserve Coyote Valley as a remarkable place for people, wildlife and our environment for generations to come,” Kalra said. “What Coyote Valley offers is irreplaceable: Vibrant wetlands, an essential wildlife habitat and migratory area, active farmlands, a resource to fight climate change and open space for all to enjoy.”
Andrea Mackenzie, general manager of the Open Space Authority, said that they were “thrilled” to be able to work with Kalra in protecting Coyote Valley.
“Coyote Valley is a multi-benefit landscape that provides our region with habitat for wildlife, water resources and agriculture that are so important especially in the face of climate change,” Mackenzie said.
Environmentalist groups who have fought to protect Coyote Valley applauded the new legislation.
Kiyomi Yamamoto, a representative from the conservation nonprofit Greenbelt Alliance, has been active in urging the San Jose City Council to take action in protecting Coyote Valley.
“With the continuous rapid urbanization of San Jose and the region, it’s becoming increasingly urgent that we protect Coyote Valley,” Yamamoto told San José Spotlight. “The Valley’s active agriculture and natural working lands provide us with clean drinking water and a natural defense to the changing climate.”
Coyote Valley has also become an increasing part of the discussion around San Jose’s defense against flooding. In 2017, Coyote Creek, along with other river systems, flooded into three neighborhoods,evacuating residents from their homes. Since then, environmentalists have emphasized the benefit that the valley has as a natural flood plain.
Kalra’s bill text echoed this and the other climate benefits the land could bring to the state.
“Coyote Valley’s natural resources provide opportunities for many climate and natural infrastructure benefits, including flood attenuation from improved wetlands, increased water supply from groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration from natural and working lands,” read the bill’s text.
Contact Grace Hase at [email protected] or follow @grace_hase on Twitter.