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Wednesday, September 25th, 2002 @ 10:23 PM
Subj: S Almaden Valley Urban Reserve Development
From: nlascola@mindspring.com (Nancy)

The opposition to the proposed Urban Reserve Development of a sports complex is much more involved than simply the severe traffic increase to the already heavily impacted road system. Those who take this “shallow” view, don’t truly understand the issue, possibly due to a lack of education/information about the proper planning process and why what’s in the general plan today - was put there in the first place. This urban reserve is the San Jose’s last chance to “get it right”. If the Almaden Urban Reserve specific plan is allowed to be circumvented with piecemeal, unplanned projects - the entire community has failed.

The South Almaden Valley Urban Reserve (SAVUR) encompasses a large area of rural land that is currently located within the boundaries of the county's jurisdiction. SAVUR is immediately surrounded by additional rural properties that do not fall within the urban reserve, but are still considered a "San Jose" address. These rural areas encompass hundreds of families.

Most whom reside within the rural areas of Almaden Valley understand that the SAVUR was set aside for future annexation into the City of San Jose. This is understood to mean that SAVUR will be developed. The residents of this area look forward to the improved infrastructure that this annexation will bring with it. Since the general plan calls for a specific plan prior to major growth inducing developments taking place, it's been somewhat a relief that SAVUR has been protected from becoming an unplanned, "piecemeal" victim of developers' inclinations.

In recent years, some developments have taken place with little notice from the nearby residents. One is the recent expansion of Challenger School when they added 14 new classrooms and a large sports field to the leased property. Another, while vehemently opposed by the City of San Jose, is the County's approval of the Chinese Christian Church development approximately one mile from the corner of Harry and McKean Roads and across the street from Horseman's Association.

Immediately following came the proposed Sports Complex development. Discovering this development will require substantial improvements, inclusive of but not limited to many structures (concessions, bathrooms, storage, batting cages, etc.), access roads to accommodate 40,000lb fire trucks, leach fields, etc., generated the concern about growth inducement that will be created without the specific plan in place.

To those familiar with the general plan for SAVUR, it was becoming apparent that growth and development in SAVUR is taking place little by little. Certainly not as the general plan had called for. Finding a loophole (of sorts) by calling a 20-year term "temporary" appears to ease the ability to amend the general plan to allow for something that was never intended to be part of the plan for SAVUR in the first place. Should the verbiage for the general plan amendment be approved by the city, then the statement recently made to some "a sports complex has always been in the plan for the urban reserve" will become black and white. It is not there now. It has never been there. This proposed text amendment dramatically changes the intent for the urban reserve planning.

The specific plan becomes project oriented. The specific plan cannot take place with a clean sheet of paper when the planners are focused on "where do we place this project?"

SAVRA is an alliance of families. Our members are volunteer coaches for youth soccer, among other sports. We have soccer, little league and girls softball moms, dads, grandparents and participants that live in and around SAVUR. The children of the urban reserve and surrounding rural areas attend both the SJUSD schools and local private schools. Our children play sports and games on the local school fields and public parks. These families formed SAVRA as an effort to effectively monitor the intent of the general plan for the urban reserve. These families believe in the integrity of the general plan and the desire to plan the reserve thoroughly and thoughtfully.

As rural residents, we gladly endure the existing traffic and noise from those that have the opportunity to enjoy the urban reserve and surrounding areas for their recreational use. Our narrow, little country access road is often used for events. While on occasion the roads are blocked to traffic during such events, still they are a welcomed part of this community.

As our county representatives and AYA characterize that the complex use will be selective to the private league participants, we view that it will not be minimal. We wait with interest to review the initial study since the AYA provided figures to the county that the traffic increase would be approximately 50% of today's existing use on McKean Road. The increase to Almaden Expwy and Harry Rd. are of additional concern. This increased road utilization will occur during current heavy use times.

The City of San Jose is the co-developer of this project, which has created a complexity to this development and general plan amendment. As the co-developer, the city's ability to be impartial or unbiased can be considered by some as negated. As the owner of the property, the San Jose Unified School district is also one of the developers. This 40 acre parcel will be leased by the City, for $1. per year for a cumulative term of 20 years. The benefactors of this development will be select league participants and their competing teams from other areas.

The issue of a shortage of fields is an interesting one. There are at least 9 schools in the immediate area that all have fields. There's been a claim that the fields are in unsafe condition, yet there's the intention for the leagues to continue to trample on them and leave them as such for the school districts' budget to address. There are also area parks and private school facilities. Could it be easier to grade some areas of existing parks to add a few more softball fields for our youth? Almaden has a 23.5 acre park, in addition to many other parks. For tournament use, there are two proposed sports complexes currently being developed within a reasonable distance, that already have the city infrastructure in place to serve them. While there's been discussion, there has yet to materialize an analysis of this suggestion of a field shortage.

Enclosed please find for your review, the City of San Jose letter, dated 6/30/99 opposing the Chinese Christian Church. It seems the concerns of the City were recently similar to the concerns we voice today. As a group, we've gone to the extent to educate ourselves on this matter prior to making our own decision of the position we take. Please don't hesitate to inquire should you be interested in some of the public documents we currently have. As members of the Almaden Valley community, we value the opportunity to express an accurate view.

Yours truly,

Nancy Lascola
President - SAVRA

Attachment:

June 30, 1999

County of Santa Clara Planning Office
Development Review Section
County Government Center
70 West Hedding Street
San Jose, CA 95110

Attention: Hugh Graham
Subject: Chinese Church in Christ Use Permit

The City of San Jose has reviewed the Initial Study prepared for the Use Permit for the Chinese Church in Christ, located within San Jose's Sphere of Influence and Urban Reserve. Based on the limited information in the Initial Study, the City considers a Negative Declaration inadequate environmental clearance for this project and that an EIR should be required.

Development of a church and ancillary facilities in the South Almaden Urban Reserve has the potential to create significant growth-inducing impacts. Extension of water service to the site, which is currently outside the City's Urban Service Area, could create development pressure in the area and foster growth. The potential for additional premature growth to occur in the area should be fully explored in the environmental analysis.

Although the proposal may not conflict with the County General Plan designations or policies, it is inconsistent with City land use designations. General Plan policies for the Urban Reserve and the General Plan Growth Management Strategy. Therefore, the proposal has the potential to result in significant land use impacts. The City does not consider that establishment of a church on the project site is consistent with the Urban Reserve designation of the City's 2020 General Plan. The Plan calls for low intensity rural land uses within the Urban Reserve until completion of an overall specific plan for a planned residential community with supporting commercial and public facilities. The City considers siting a church in the Urban Reserve premature until such a plan for the area has been adopted.

I hope to impress upon County staff how important it is for San Jose that the integrity of the Urban Reserves be maintained. The Urban Reserves in both South Almaden and Coyote are intended for future residential communities when the policy triggers are satisfied and the City can justify expanding its Urban Service Area.

Our concern is much more than matching the proposal with the General Plan Land Use Designation. Premature development in the Urban Reserves will frustrate the Specific Plan process and preempt land use alternatives before they can be analyzed or discussed in a community planning process. Piecemeal development can also stimulate land speculation and set a precedent for more piecemeal development. I request that you consider the serious impacts the subject proposal will have on San Jose's ability to implement its General Plan.

In addition, the project description acknowledges that the environmental analysis does not address the entire project as shown on future plans for the site. In accordance with CEQA and case law, the environmental analysis should consider the whole of the action, in other words, the entire site development including the sanctuary and youth center.

In conclusion, the City does not consider the Negative Declaration to be adequate based on the limited information included in the Initial Study. Further analysis should be completed that addresses the issues raised in this letter prior to completion of environmental clearance.

In summary the issues are:

  • Growth-inducing impacts.

  • Premature demands for facilities and services.

  • Land use impacts: urban uses in rural area outside Urban Service Area.

  • Contrary to San Jose General Plan policies and Growth Management Strategy.

  • Piecemeal CEQA review of the project.

If you have questions regarding the City's concerns regarding the environmental review for this project, please contact Julie Caporgno of my staff at 277-4576.

Sincerely,

James R. Derryberry, Director
Planning, Building and Code Enforcement

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