CGF Joint letter on protecting San Jose hillsides from sprawl

(CGF sent the letter below with other organizations on using the Draft General Plan to protect San Jose hillsides from sprawl.  We also sent a clarification that the support from city staff referred to staff’s original March 21, 2011 position, and that staff’s later positions have varied.  -Brian)

October 25, 2011  

San Jose City Hall

200 E Santa Clara Street

San Jose, CA 95112

To:  Honorable Mayor Reed and San Jose City Council,

We strongly support Open Hillside (Plan Option #1) as recommended by the Planning Staff and members of the Envision San José 2040 General Plan Task Force to modify Policy Goal LU-19 and add further restrictions on the allowable development intensity for lands with Open Hillside designation, keeping the proposed limitation of 10% of developable land.

We respect and support the hard work of the Staff and Envision San José 2040 General Plan Task Force over the past four years for transit oriented development which ties into AB32, SB375 and San José’s Green Vision Plan (GVP). The plan has strong goals for economic growth, environmental stewardship, and enhanced quality of life for San José residents by putting emphasis on infill development. The prioritization of jobs and housing within the Urban Group Boundary (UGB) and on transit corridors begins to correct past errors in land use policy. The General Plan update integrates San José’s GVP which includes metrics for water conservation and adopting a general plan with Measurable Standards for Sustainable Development. Staff’s comprehensive evaluation for Plan Option #1 reinforces the GVP and most importantly development of urban villages with transit oriented blend.

The Envision 2040 Task Force unanimously voted and approved the draft General Plan on Monday, September 12, 2011. Staff and the Envision 2040 Task Force requested that the Planning Commission and City Council consider five other options to the 2040 Plan Update as Task Force members were split on the Open Hillside land use policy. The Planning Commission met on Wednesday, September 29, 2011 and did not support Plan Option #1,

with one dissenting vote from the Chair, Hope Cahan.

Chair Cahan expressed concerns regarding environmental impacts on water issues. The discussion was limited and did not connect the Envision 2040 policies/goals or linkages to performance metrics in GVP for water conservation (Goal #6), open space or quality of life amenities.  Development outside of the UGB conflicts with water goals from the GVP and with water conservation goals in the Draft Plan under MS-3 which includes a metric for reducing city wide per capita water consumption by 25% by 2050 utilizing a baseline from the 2010 Urban Water Management Plans of water retailers. Water sustainability is a major concern not only for San José residents and businesses but also for the State of California. Staff’s analysis and recommendation to prohibit new development in the UGB should be supported.

LU19.6 recommends not providing urban services to new development outside of UGB. We agree that adding any type of development with the exception of agriculture outside of the UGB will overload already stressed police and fire departments, add financial burdens for capital investment from taxpayers and compete for existing public infrastructure funding for roads and maintenance as well as increase the water demands. Furthermore, it will not meet San José’s goal of creating vibrant, walkable communities with reduced greenhouse gas emissions and reduced traffic.

We support the recommendations in LU19.8, which limits environmental impact in the UGB. Adding new development outside of the city’s boundaries conflicts with many policy and goals in the plan. Below is a partial list of policies and goals that conflict with development outside the UGB:

Goal LU-17- Hillside/Rural Preservation.
Preserve the valuable natural resources of the hillsides, and protect their aesthetic
and habitat amenities to enhance the rural character of these areas.

Policies – Responsible Management of Water Supply
Ensure that development within San José is planned and built in a manner consistent with fiscally and environmentally sustainable use of current and future water supplies by encouraging sustainable development practices, including low-impact development, water-efficient development and green building techniques. Support the location of new development within the vicinity of the recycled water system and promote expansion of the SBWR system to areas planned for new development. Residential development outside of the Urban Service Area can be approved only at minimal levels and only allowed to use non-recycled water at urban intensities. For residential development outside of the Urban Service Area, restrict water usage to well water, rainwater collection, or other similar environmentally sustainable practice. Nonresidential development may use the same sources and potentially make use of recycled water, provided that its use will not result in conflicts with other General Plan policies, including geologic or habitat impacts. To maximize the efficient and environmentally beneficial use of water outside of the Urban Service Area, limit water consumption for new development so that it does not diminish the water supply available for projected development within San José’s urbanized areas.

Goal MS-18 – Water Conservation.  Continuously improve water conservation
efforts in order to achieve best in class performance. Double the City’s annual water conservation savings by 2040 and achieve half of the Water District’s goal for Santa Clara County on an annual basis.

Policies – Water Conservation. MS-18.2 Require new development outside of the City’s Urban Service Area to incorporate measures to minimize water consumption.

Goal ER-1 – Grassland, Oak Woodlands, Chaparral and Coastal Scrub.
Preserve, protect and restore the ecological integrity and scenic characteristics of grasslands, oak woodlands, chaparral and coastal scrub in hillside areas.

Goal ER-6 – Urban Natural Interface. Minimize adverse effects of urbanization
on natural lands surrounding the City’s developed areas.

Goal EC-4 – Geologic and Soil Hazards. Minimize the risk of injury, loss of life,
and property damage from soil and slope instability including landslides, differential settlement, and accelerated erosion.

Goal PR-1 – High Quality Facilities and Programs. Provide park lands, trails, open space, recreation amenities, and programs, nationally recognized for their excellence, which enhance the livability of the urban and suburban environments; preserve significant natural, historic, scenic and other open space resources; and meet the parks and recreation services needs of San José’s residents, workers, and visitors.

Goal PR-3 – Provide an Equitable Park System. Create a balanced park system that provides all residents access to parks, trails, open space, community centers, dog parks, skate parks, aquatics facilities, sports fields, community gardens, and other amenities.

Thank you for your continued efforts and leadership as indicated for your creative support for the Three Creek Trails project. We implore you to consider and restrict Open Hillside Development outside of UGB, and not develop them before 2040.  Please continue to focus development inside the urban growth boundary, positioning San José as a place for present and future generations to live, work and enjoy. 

Respectfully submitted,

Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter, San José Cool Cities, Committee for Green Foothills, Greenbelt Alliance, San José State Students and Alumni, David Marsland (District 1), Former Co-Chair San José Cool Cities, Susan Marsland (District 1) Helen Chapman (District 6), Megan  Fluke (District 7), and Jessica Gonzales (District 8)

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