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LandWatch Letter to San Jose Planning Commission


September 5, 2000

Chairperson and Members
San Jose City Planning Commission
c/o Department of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement
City of San Jose
801 North First Street #400
San Jose, CA 95110

RE: Proposed Coyote Valley Research Park

Dear Members of the San Jose City Planning Commission:

LandWatch Monterey County urges your Commission to insist on an adequate environmental review of the proposed Coyote Valley Research Park. We also urge you--if you determine to approve the proposed project--to condition your approval so as to mitigate what will clearly be its most devastating environmental, economic, and social impact.

We do not think that the Final Environmental Impact Report before you complies with state law.

First, it does not adequately describe or analyze the project. The project, in fact, is more than the proposed Cisco campus. As the City's own analysis shows (and as the provisions for infrastructure demonstrate) the real project coming before you is the full development of the Coyote Valley for the purposes specified in the General Plan. The materials that you have received make clear that if you permit the Cisco proposal to proceed, the rest of the development contemplated in the General Plan will not only inevitably but promptly follow. The City of San Jose has not done an environmental analysis that truly reviews the total impacts that can be expected if you make a decision to allow the Cisco project to proceed. Such an analysis is absolutely required, not only to comply with state law, but also to put the city in a position truly to understand the implications of the decisions you are contemplating. CEQA does not allow a lead agency to "piecemeal" a project analysis. It must analyze the entirety of the impacts that are to be expected from a decision they propose to make. Please insist on such a full environmental analysis on this proposal.

Second, even if the project were only the Cisco campus (obviously a large project in its own right), the final EIR has not adequately responded to the substantive comments submitted on the draft. CEQA absolutely requires a lead agency to provide substantive replies to the substantive comments it receives. The courts have consistently said that a lead agency cannot "brush off" the real concerns raised by those who comment on a draft EIR. That is what is happening here--unless your Commission exercises its independent authority to demand that adequate environmental review actually occur.

As one example, LandWatch and others have extensively commented on the absolutely false assumptions about housing impacts that are contained in the draft EIR. No adequate response has been forthcoming. The impacts that we and others have identified consist of actual, physical impacts to the environment. If Cisco is permitted to create 20,000 new jobs in its proposed new campus, and is permitted to "export" the housing demand created by that action, then real impacts on the physical environment, including traffic congestion, air pollution, and loss of farmland will occur in other jurisdictions, including on areas within Monterey County, and in cities located in that county.

Furthermore, to the extent that significant new information is contained in a final EIR, the EIR must be recirculated for additional comment. Various public agencies that have tired to work in good faith with the City of San Jose, and to alert the City to the environmental and other impacts that will be caused by approval of the Cisco project, have already let you know that the City's failure to recirculate the latest environmental document--or even to allow adequate time to review and respond to it--is a violation of CEQA. LandWatch joins in their protest.

When the Cisco proposal was officially submitted to the City of San Jose, in March, 1999, the San Jose Mercury News ran a picture of Mayor Ron Gonzalez literally "holding the door open" for Cisco CEO John Chambers, while shaking Mr. Chambers' hand at the same time. Your job is not to serve as "door openers" for project applicants. Your job is to review proposals against the standards provided by state law and the City of San Jose General Plan. Your job is to make sure that the California Environmental Quality Act is properly applied. Please take these responsibilities seriously, and refuse to certify an EIR that is not adequate under state law--and that most importantly doesn't give you the information you need on how to mitigate the obvious impacts of the massive proposal before you.

Project Mitigation
There is no question that one of the most devastating impacts of the proposal before you will be the "export" of housing demand to other areas. This is the definition of "urban sprawl," and the impacts of this phenomenon are not only "environmental," but social and economic as well. Creating jobs without nearby housing for the workers who will fill those jobs is not only damaging to our environment, it is undermining our economy and unraveling social stability. Everybody knows it--so why don't we do something about it, as we make the decisions that allow this destructive process to continue? With respect to past decisions, it might be said that every new job creating project was simply "too small" for it to be feasible to require housing to be build concurrently. That isn't a valid excuse here. If we don't address the issue of "jobs/housing balance" here, when one of the largest and most successful corporations in the world proposes a massive campus covering 688 acres of currently open space, with other open space areas immediately adjacent, then we are basically saying that we will continue to destroy and undermine our economy, society and environment, and that we just don't care.

Please tell us this isn't true! Please act responsibly, and stop the destructive processes of urban sprawl at a place where it truly can be stopped. The proposed Cisco project should not be approved unless it includes housing. That's the way to act responsibly--and that is something that is absolutely feasible, and within your power, because you can condition a project approval to require that significant new housing be provided as the new office buildings are constructed.

I am attaching a description of a project actually built in Addison, Texas, nearby Dallas. It is attractive, affordable, and is just the type of housing that would appeal to many of the workers who will be attracted to the jobs that Cisco is proposing to create in the Coyote Valley. The Addison Circle development (as described in the recent Urban Land Institute publication, Density by Design) is built at a gross residential density of 54.6 units per acre. The gross project density is 37.5 units per acre.

LandWatch asks you to require, as a condition of approval of this project, that 3500 units of housing also be constructed, on the Cisco site or elsewhere within the Coyote Valley. At 37.5 units per acre, that would mean that only 93 acres would be required. This is eminently feasible. In fact, with some redesign, it could be provided on the current site--and you could eliminate a lot of those 22,000 parking spaces that the project is currently proposing. We understand that the proposal would require a General Plan amendment and a redesign--but that doesn't make it impossible or infeasible, it only means that the City will have to go beyond what the applicant wants, and do what is actually best for the long-term public interest. Incidentally, this kind of a requirement, while it would undoubtedly be opposed by Cisco, would actually meet their long-term best interests as well, because attracting and retaining good employees in this region is going to become ever more difficult, because of the lack of affordable, nearby housing. In fact, a project on the Cisco site that could provide housing for a significant number of workers would help Cisco, as well as the City of San Jose and the region as a whole.

LandWatch Monterey County is dedicated to fundamental land use reform at the local, regional, and state level. Our "Mission and Goals" statement is attached. We urge you to require an adequate environmental analysis of this project. We also urge you, when it's time to act on this project, to require Cisco to provide significant on site or adjacent housing, to help stop the destructive process of urban sprawl that is fouling our air, and covering our priceless agricultural and open space lands. Urban sprawl is not only, or even most importantly, an "environmental issue." Above all, the evil of urban sprawl is that it is unraveling the social fabric that binds us together in families and communities. When we require the workers who are the basis of our economic success to lose two to four hours a day in senseless commuting, searching for housing they can afford, then we are taking from them time that they might otherwise use to strengthen their families, or to participate meaningfully in our community life. Ultimately, neither our economy nor our society can sustain the continued damage we are causing by our unwise land use decisions. This is a place where we can do better. We urge you to make use of the opportunity to do so!

Thank you for taking our comments seriously.

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LandWatch's mission is to protect Monterey County's future by addressing climate change, community health, and social inequities in housing and infrastructure. By encouraging greater public participation in planning, we connect people to government, address human needs and inspire conservation of natural resources.



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