Santa Clara County open spaces are at risk! The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) is pushing Santa Clara County to put sprawl housing on open space, farmlands, ranchlands, and natural habitats where no urban services exist. Fortunately, Santa Clara County is pushing back. Please tell ABAG to uphold Santa Clara County’s appeal and stop allocating massive amounts of housing on undeveloped open space!
What’s Happening: ABAG Is Promoting Sprawl, Contradicting State Policy and ABAG’s Own Goals
ABAG is the regional planning agency responsible for, among other things, determining how much additional housing is needed in each part of the Bay Area. This is known as the Bay Area’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). RHNA assigns a share of our needed future housing to each city and county based on a methodology approved by ABAG.
Every eight years, RHNA allocation numbers are revised. ABAG is working on a revised number right now. Under the previous allocation, ABAG respected its obligation to protect open space and concentrate proposed housing where it is most appropriate – in cities. It assigned relatively little residential development to rural, undeveloped areas of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties.
Unfortunately, in the most recent revision, ABAG proposed a more than 1,000% increase in the number of planned housing units – that is 3,125 units compared to 277 in the last cycle – in unincorporated Santa Clara County. Since the vast majority of unincorporated Santa Clara County is rural, this puts Coyote Valley and other rural areas at risk of urban-level development.
San Mateo County and other Bay Area counties also experienced very large increases in planned housing units in rural areas. These drastic increases contradict one of the objectives of RHNA in state law, specifically that of “promoting infill development and socioeconomic equity, the protection of environmental and agricultural resources, the encouragement of efficient development patterns, and the achievement of the region’s greenhouse gas reductions targets.” This state law recognizes what ABAG seems to have forgotten — that building sprawl development in open spaces is bad for the environment.
Why It’s Important: Housing Should Be Built Where It Will Promote Climate Resilience and Equity
Building thousands of homes in areas without water lines, sewers, power, sometimes even without roads, and far from hospitals, fire stations, police, and government services is simply a bad idea. It would destroy farmlands, ranchlands, habitats, and even floodplains – all areas where massive growth should not happen, areas that help in strengthening our climate resilience. It imposes greenhouse gas and other pollutants on everyone else, and affordable housing is often unworkable due to the distance from jobs, public transportation, and services.
Santa Clara County has asked ABAG not to promote sprawl, and to rethink its methodology. ABAG’s answer has only been to suggest that the County should negotiate with cities to absorb some of the housing it proposes to allocate to rural areas. This is not a tenable long-term solution and furthermore is not guaranteed to work. It is ABAG’s responsibility to allocate housing quotas appropriately.
We too have weighed in on this situation, co-authoring two letters to ABAG with other environmental groups to address the issue. We will be submitting additional comments in support of the County’s position to help protect Coyote Valley and other open space.
What You Can Do: Support the County’s Final Appeal to ABAG to Protect Open Space
Join us in submitting comments supporting Santa Clara County in their final chance to appeal to ABAG. Email ABAG and ask them to stop pushing sprawl proposals on unincorporated open space lands in Coyote Valley and the rest of Santa Clara County.