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Open Space Element Added to San Jose Sustainability Plan

Coyote Valley, San Jose. Photo: Cait Hutnik

On Tuesday October 24, the San Jose City Council unanimously approved an additional $75,000 for consultants to add an open space element to the city’s draft Environmental Sustainability Plan (ESP). The plan was widely criticized at an August 21 review by environmental groups for its silence on the relationship between open space and sustainability.

“The work that the city is doing with this consultant regarding the San Jose low carbon plan is an important piece of work for the city’s road to [meeting the 2016 Paris Agreements],” said Committee for Green Foothills Legislative Advocate Paul Ledesma at the October 24 meeting.

“This amendment allows Price Waterhouse Coopers to conduct additional community outreach, specifically related to any connections with open space, facilitate design of the document, incorporate feedback received from the public, and finalize the document for adoption by the City Council.” – San Jose Director of Environmental Services Kerrie Romanow, October 24, 2017

“Currently the plan appears to be silent on the importance of protecting and stewarding our natural and agricultural lands,” critiqued Greenbelt Alliance South Bay Regional Representative Kiyome Yamamoto at the August 21 meeting. “Allowing natural areas like Coyote Valley to continue its important role in absorbing floodwaters that threaten our communities and are only projected to worsen with Climate Change.”

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo shocked open space advocates by responding that the commercial development of Coyote Valley, fought off successfully by conservationists a decade ago, is inevitable.

“Well before I came into office, there were expectations that were created on the development of Coyote Valley… If we want to go down the road of saying those entitlements go away, somebody better be ready to write a check. And it better be a very big check,” said Liccardo.

How strongly the Environmental Sustainability Plan will actually protect the little open space still left in San Jose is yet to be determined. City staff did not report when they would return to the council with an updated ESP including an open space element.