Our comments on the Vintage Subdivision project and North San Jose

CGF submitted two short comment letters on the Draft EIRs for a subdivision in the hillsides above Milpitas, and on the large development planned in North San Jose. They’re reproduced below.


(To see a satellite picture of the Vintage Estate area click here. It’s the brown hilly area south of the main road.)
April 25, 2005

Rob Eastwood
Santa Clara County Planning Office

RE: Comments on the Vintage Estates Cluster Subdivision DEIR

Dear Rob:

The Committee for Green Foothills submits the following comments on the Vintage Estates Cluster Subdivision DEIR:

The public hearing should be established at or shortly after the expiration of written comments, not before. CGF has made this suggestion before to the County, that the public hearing will only include substantive comments when commentors have prepared written comments. The hearing for this project was over 2 weeks ago, and we suspect that few comments were received at that hearing. If the County wants to make efficient use of the Planning Commission’s time, it should have a policy that the hearing should coincide or follow the written comment deadline.

Open space monitoring and funding should be a condition of approval, and should make use of the Santa Clara Open Space Authority. We understand that zoning code section 5.45.050(D) 1 states landowner maintenance obligations shall be specified in order to preserve natural resources when part of the environmental mitigations for a project. The landowners themselves do not have the necessary management capability and an inherent bias against spending the resources necessary to do adequate maintenance. The County is not as well situated as the Open Space Authority to maintain the land’s open space character. An adequate mitigation fund and co-dedication of the easement to the OSA would allow proper maintenance.

The mitigation measures required to reduce cumulative visual impacts are feasible. None of the proposed mitigations present undue burdens on the Vintage Estate developers; they are simply conditions that are commonly met by developments in many other parts of the County to avoid creating visual impacts. If the County approves this project, these mitigation measures should be included.

Air quality emissions should include analysis of greenhouse gas emissions. As we have stated in comments on another DEIR that failed to consider greenhouse gas emissions, carbon dioxide is the main pollutant causing global warming, and can have significant environmental impacts. The lack of a regulatory standard for carbon dioxide does not mean that it can be ignored, and other agencies take global warming effects into account. See, e.g., “Air Quality Analysis Guidance Handbook” (“The SCAQMD adopted a policy on global warming and stratospheric ozone depletion on April 6, 1990, that committed the SCAQMD to consider global impacts in its rule making and in drafting revisions to the AQMP”) available at www.aqmd.gov/ceqa/handbook/CH3_rev.doc. For residential development such as this, the County should develop a standardized analysis such as it has for other air emissions, and include construction emissions, vehicle emissions, and ongoing home heating emissions.

If greenhouse gas emissions were found to be cumulatively significant, adequate mitigation funding to reduce other greenhouse gas emissions in the County would be an appropriate and feasible method to reduce the impact to a less-than-significant level.

Wetlands mitigation should be required regardless of whether the wetlands identified on-site fall under federal Clean Water Act jurisdiction. It is our understanding that state protection for wetlands under the Porter-Cologne Act remains even where federal jurisdiction for protecting wetlands may not exist. See “Effect Of Swancc v. United States On The 401 Certification Program”, available at www.waterboards.ca.gov/cwa401/ docs/stateregulation_memorandum.pdf. Wetland mitigation minimums described in BR-12.3 should therefore apply.

It is also our understanding that the typical mitigation ratio for constructing new wetlands is at least 3:1, not the 1:1 ratio specified in the DEIR at 3.9-28, based on the reason that it is difficult to ensure that newly constructed wetlands will be viable. The ratio described in this DEIR should be modified.

Aside from the above comments, the Committee expresses no opinion on whether this project should be approved.

Please contact us if you have any questions.


Brian A. Schmidt
Legislative Advocate, Santa Clara County
April 25, 2005

Andrew Crabtree
Department of Planning, Building, and Code Enforcement

RE: Comments on the North San Jose Development Policies Update Draft Program EIR

Dear Andrew:

The Committee for Green Foothills submits this comment letter on the North San Jose Development Policies Update Draft Program EIR (DEIR). The Committee takes no position regarding whether the City should approve this project and its associated environmental documentation. As a general matter, the Committee supports focusing development in already developed areas, rather than needlessly sacrificing agricultural land as may occur in Coyote Valley.

Land use impacts should include discussion of the effects of the jobs-housing imbalance beyond the City of San Jose. Like Coyote Valley, this project provides insufficient housing to accommodate the increased jobs projected to result from the project. The DEIR notes that the City has had a shortage of jobs compared to the number of employed residents in the City, while failing to note that the majority of nearby jurisdictions have the opposite jobs-housing relationship. The DEIR should discuss the impacts from the project in displacing the people who lived in San Jose and worked nearby – those people are not going to disappear.

Thank you for the opportunity to present these comments, and please contact us if you have any questions.


Brian A. Schmidt
Legislative Advocate, Santa Clara County

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