Santa Clara County Supervisors Approve Development Restrictions in Unincorporated Coyote Valley


In an effort to preserve much of the unincorporated Coyote Valley for agricultural purposes, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has approved restrictions on new developments, blocking the possibility of any future large-scale housing. .

Tuesday’s vote marks the first time in the county’s history that limits have been placed on land zoned for agriculture.

It comes nearly a month after San Jose City Council agreed to rezone parts of the valley within their city limits to prevent any development that includes proposals for warehouses and distribution centers.

County restrictions affect farmland in the middle and southern parts of the valley that runs parallel to Highway 101 and Santa Teresa Boulevard between Bailey Avenue and Cochrane Road.

The area, with a total area of ​​4,750 acres, is about three times the size of San Francisco’s Presidio Park and is home to crops of wheat, hay, alfalfa, oats and mushrooms. Coyote Valley as a whole is approximately 7,400 acres and spans an area south of San Jose to the northern tip of Morgan Hill.

The restrictions on new development include three major changes. Any single family home on a plot of more than five acres must also be used for agriculture. Second, all structures built for non-agricultural purposes are capped at a floor area of ​​7,500 square feet per parcel. Finally, the total “development area” of any non-farm building, which includes the driveway and lawn of the structure, for example, is capped at one acre.

Supporters for the board’s decision on Tuesday called it a victory for the region’s farmers and for preserving the county’s agricultural roots. Environmentalists had expressed concerns about the impact the new housing could have on the area’s wildlife, such as foxes, coyotes, badgers and sometimes puma.

Luis Gaytan, who rents 120 acres of land in the restricted area, said the council’s vote made him “happy” and gave him a sense of security.

“I don’t see myself going to Gilroy or Los Banos (in Merced County) to start a new farm,” said Gaytan, who has worked in the area for 25 years and grows mainly alfalfa, wheat and alfalfa. oats with cattle. “For me, it’s very, very important. This is what I do for a living. “

The future of Coyote Valley remained uncertain for many years. Since the early 1980s, the northern part of the valley was seen as a prime location to create thousands of jobs given its proximity to San José, while tech companies were also looking to the area for businesses. campus.

But environmentalists, along with city and county leaders, have over time prioritized the area for agriculture and wildlife. In 2019, a $ 93 million deal was struck to preserve the region’s 937 acres. And in March, an additional 331 acres were purchased by a Palo Alto-based environmental group.

Andrea Mackenzie, who oversees the San Jose-based Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, which has purchased hundreds of acres of Coyote Valley for preservation, said the area provides “critical” passage for wildlife and supplies drinking water to Silicon Valley. Additionally, she said, the region has one of the last remaining floodplains in the region, which acts as a “sponge” to help prevent surrounding areas from being inundated.

Others who own an acreage in the region, however, were disappointed with the outcome of the vote.

Kirk Spreiter, a Napa real estate agent whose family has owned 300 acres of land in the valley for about 100 years and currently leases it to farmers, said the housing shortage in the area made development in the area critical.

“I don’t really see the area as a nature reserve to begin with,” he said. “It’s right next to the highway. We are in a housing crisis. Without more housing, demand keeps increasing.

Along with Tuesday’s vote, the board said it would meet again in the spring to consider tax incentives and subsidies for farmers in the region.

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