Major step forward in San Jose (and a minor step back)

Yesterday, San Jose approved the General Plan that the City and we (together with other environmental groups) had been working on for years.

Good coverage in the Mercury News:

About two dozen speakers addressed the council on the Envision 2040 goals that include: adding as many as 470,000 new jobs and 120,000 new housing units; encouraging growth in North San Jose, North Coyote Valley, Evergreen and Edenvale, among other areas; building a high-density mix of housing, office and retail near transit corridors and commercial centers; creating “urban villages” designed as central places where people live, work and shop; and increasing the number of trails and bike paths, and protecting urban reserves in mid-Coyote Valley and South Almaden Valley.

We can’t really emphasize enough how important and groundbreaking it is to have put Mid-Coyote and South Almaden off limits to development for the next 30 years.  For the last 40 years the San Jose General Plans have done their best to destroy those rural landscapes and wildlife corridors, so this represents a significant contraction in the overreach of the past, and a first step in acknowledging a Silicon Archipelago of vibrant cities and protected land.

So that’s the very good news, along with other issues like transit oriented development that will reduce incentives for sprawl, and increased stream protection.  On the bad side, they did little to help protect North Coyote Valley, and with the exception of Councilmember Ash Kalra, refused to protect hillsides from inappropriate golf courses and cemeteries.  And the environmental review was completely inadequate, missing the additional opportunities given by environmental review to protect against environmental impacts.  CGF stated our position at the meeting:
And finally, an excellent column by Scott Herhold outlined a major next step that we’re still working on:

End the system that allows developers to pick their own environmental consultants. San Jose is virtually alone among major Bay Area cities in allowing developers to pick their own environmental consultants. The conflict is inescapable. A consultant who craves more business from the same developer might view traffic numbers, say, in a way that favors the project.
Other cities do it better. In some cases, the city staff members pick the consultant and then bill the developer. In other cities, like San Francisco, the developer picks from a group of consultants: The city then pays and bills the developer.
The bottom line? A Thousand Wishes helps. A little steel would help more. Envision that.


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