development shows mayor's political maturity
San Jose Mercury News, July 2, 2007
Political leaders like to
talk about their accomplishments in terms of making
things happen, whether it's building a park or improving
services like police protection. But sometimes it's more
important to stop something from happening. That's the
kind of victory San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed should be
celebrating this holiday week.
At last week's final council meeting
before summer recess, Reed made sure no houses will be
built in the rural Coyote Valley until the effects on
the rest of the city are clear.
Specifically, on a 10-1 vote, he
persuaded the council to reaffirm the "triggers" in
place to determine when Coyote should be developed. This
makes it nearly impossible to alter those triggers
before a review of the citywide general plan is
completed several years from now, placing potential
Coyote growth in the context of the whole city's goals
and quality of life.
This may seem an esoteric accomplishment,
but it's not.
The triggers are supposed to ensure that
when Coyote is developed, it will improve the city's
financial health. Otherwise, there's no reason to pave
over some 3,500 acres. Since business growth is what
provides the tax dollars to support neighborhoods, one
of the triggers calls for significant numbers of jobs in
the valley before housing is added.
2002, a city task force began designing a Coyote
community with the population of Mountain View that
would mix homes, offices, stores, parks, schools and
open space into walkable neighborhoods. The work made
sense at the time because existing industrial-zoned land
in the city was filling up.
Two things have changed. Recovery from
the dot-com crash has been slower than expected, so
millions of square feet of office space still go begging
in Silicon Valley. And in 2005, the city council added
26.7 million square feet in job capacity to North San
Jose, where new development can make use of existing
roads, sewers and other costly infrastructure.
That means Coyote is unlikely to be
needed for economic growth for decades to come. But
developers want to build housing now, since it would be
immediately, immensely profitable.
They had hoped to persuade a council
majority this winter to alter the triggers so housing
could be approved before the general plan review was
complete. They hired a herd of lobbyists and built a
coalition that includes labor - all those construction
jobs - and some housing advocates, since the plan calls
for 20 percent of Coyote housing to be affordable -
although high-density affordable homes in a remote
valley with no place to work nearby would be dubious.
The council's decision last Tuesday to
reject premature development was reassuring. Three
members - Madison Nguyen, Sam Liccardo and Pierluigi
Oliverio - favored putting off any alteration of the
triggers for a decade or more. Oliverio voted against
Reed's proposal because he said it didn't go far enough.
Nguyen, Liccardo and Oliverio had the
right idea. But Reed's measured approach was politically
wise, making it all but impossible for the rest of the
council to dissent.
This was a preliminary victory, of
course. The debate now moves to the general plan arena.
But the mayor, the planning department and others will
at least have an opportunity to build their case to the
task force and the public. The lobbying juggernaut will
be less invincible in a forum of neighborhood leaders
and others who aren't dependent on developer support for
from Friends of Coyote Hills: This article shows a mayor
with vision and leadership, not influenced by special
interest groups such as developers, who want immediate
profits at the expense of citizens’ quality of life and
tax burden to support city services (schools, police,
fire, water, etc).
Furthermore, we agree that “business
growth is what provides the tax dollars to support
neighborhoods, one of the triggers calls for significant
numbers of jobs in the valley before housing is added.”
While there is abundant housing development in Fremont,
the city continues to lose companies to other cities,
such as Protein Design Labs (an established biotech
company), Scios (a Johnson & Johnson company), and
others. Take a look at the large surplus of office space
throughout the city.
Fremont citizens have
the opportunity to give input now, as the General Plan
is updated, on what’s important for our future—schools
that are not crowded because of overdevelopment,
protection of open space (including
and quality of life for present and future generations.