Will San Jose’s Coyote Valley cater to tourists?
Environmental advocates are concerned about the effects of agricultural tourism on Coyote Valley south of San Jose. File photo.

    With Coyote Valley shielded from urban development through 2040, San Jose’s long defended southern reserve is now being eyed for tourism.

    Some local property owners would like to see a six-mile stretch of Monterey Road—from Metcalf Road to Morgan Hill—developed with restaurants, wineries, motels and bed and breakfasts. But environmental advocates who for years fought to preserve the wildlife and open space area are concerned of the effects of agricultural tourism on Coyote Valley, which would in theory bring more people, pollution and traffic to the region.

    Alice Kaufman, policy and advocacy director for Green Foothills, shared her concerns with city leaders yesterday during a community meeting over Coyote Valley’s future. Kaufman said the creek adjacent to Monterey Road is where coyotes, bobcats, badgers, mountain lions, fish and migratory birds move between the Santa Cruz and Diablo mountain ranges—one of the last intact connections between the two ranges. Monterey Road is already a hotspot for roadkill, she said. Underpasses for wildlife have been planned, but not yet built.

    “Coyote Creek is really the backbone of the wildlife corridor through Coyote Valley … they can’t go through developed areas,” Kaufman told San José Spotlight. “If we introduce things like outdoor event spaces, restaurants, beer gardens and so on … it means nighttime lighting, noise, activity, trash, food scraps and all sorts of other disturbances.”

    Dating back to 1960, San Jose planned for 50,000 jobs and 25,000 homes in Coyote Valley—roughly 7,400 acres between San Jose and Morgan Hill. Over the last 60 years those plans have deteriorated as the city updated its plans for growth and shifted away from Coyote Valley. Since 2019, San Jose, Santa Clara County and the state have banded together to shield the area from planned development through 2040. Environmental groups, land trusts and government agencies for years have been buying up swaths of the valley to protect the region from urban development.

    Though Coyote Valley is touted as an agricultural jewel of the South Bay, farming has been in decline—fields sit fallow south of San Jose proper and land owners are looking for ways to make money on their families’ investments spanning back generations.

    The city is conducting a study of the corridor to find ways to support the agriculture industry on lands east of Monterey Road, as well as tourism alternatives that strike a balance between land owners’ wants while respecting conservation. The study is expected to be completed in early 2024 and will include community input.

    San Jose Councilmember Sergio Jimenez, who represents the annexed portion of Coyote Valley, said the city’s study is meant to bring all involved parties to the table and listen to their wants and needs.

    “My expectation is that the process is going to be objective, it’s not going to weigh in one direction or the other,” Jimenez told San José Spotlight. “It’s really going to just be a very objective attempt to see what’s feasible there.”

    But development options in the valley are limited. None of the parcels being surveyed have city power and water running to them, nor is it planned, according to Greg Goodfellow, a consultant working on the city study. Much of the area is considered sacred Indigenous land, which could add to the cost of any development.

    Ken Saso said he’s lived on Monterey Road for nearly 80 years. He’s one of the Coyote Valley property owners left hanging in the wind after the city annexed his property. Saso said he and other property owners want to be “more progressive” than just agriculture for future development.

    “The promises of services so we could develop our land—that was tied together (with annexation),” Saso said. “Sixty-something years we’ve been waiting. We have been paying for services.”

    Peninsula Open Land Trust has expressed interest in working with property owners on Monterey Road to protect the land from development. Saso said he is worried continued investment in agriculture in Coyote Valley might be the wrong decision.

    “We are not sure at all if (agriculture) is going to be there five or 10 years from now,” Saso said. “This is for real. People have to make a living … when you can’t make money, that’s why land sits fallow.”

    Several San Jose residents spoke in support of developing farm stands, restaurants, bed and breakfasts, wineries and breweries. But Craig Edgerton, executive director at Silicon Valley Land Conservancy, said it’s simply proposed for the wrong place.

    “To have any further development close to Coyote Creek doesn’t make a lot of sense based on the science that’s been done,” Edgerton said.

    Contact Ben at [email protected] or follow @B1rwin on Twitter.

    Comment Policy (updated 5/10/2023): Readers are required to log in through a social media or email platform to confirm authenticity. We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, hate speech, excess profanity or make verifiably false statements. Comments are moderated and approved by admin.

    Leave a Reply