Saving Working Landscapes
South Santa Clara County’s open spaces and working landscapes are home to a diversity of wildlife, recreational opportunities and some of the best farmland in the Bay Area. Greenbelt Alliance is working hard to ensure the area’s rural character is maintained while local communities are able to benefit from growth. Local food, agritoursim, access to hiking and biking, breathtaking vistas and vibrant downtowns with access to fast, convenient transportation is our vision for the future of the Valley of Heart’s Delight.
Three current planning processes provide important opportunities to ensure these values direct how growth happens. The Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan is a groundbreaking effort to create a unified conservation program to preserve critical habitat in Santa Clara County. Santa Clara County is embarking on updating its 25 year old General Plan starting with the Health Element, an opportunity for residents to ensure unincorporated lands remain a vital resource for rural and urban dwellers to have ready access to fresh food and recreational opportunities. Morgan Hill has recently acknowledged the viability of agriculture as a part of a robust, sustainable local economy. Unfortunately, while the city is drafting agriculture mitigation policies it is simultaneously planning to develop prime farmland in its southeast quadrant. Now is the time to get involved.
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Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan
The Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan, started in 2006, is a long-range conservation strategy to enhance ecological diversity and habitat function in about two-thirds of South Santa Clara County. Designed to last 50 years, the plan will eventually lead to the permanent protection of 45,000 acres of habitat and working landscapes through a combination of easements and acquisition. In addition, the plan encourages building in the right places by curbing development from the most ecologically valuable lands supporting the endangered species. Development in these sensitive areas, primarily located on ranchlands, parks and natural areas, will be charged a mitigation fee.
Greenbelt Alliance is a part of Habitat Conservation Now.
Santa Clara County General Plan Health Element
Santa Clara County is embarking on an update of its general plan starting with the health element. County general plans provide guidance on land uses in unincorporated areas where most of the open spaces and working landscapes are. The health element should identify community health objectives such as reducing obesity, access to healthy foods and safe environments for walking and biking. Greenbelt Alliance is working with county staff, local organizations and community leaders to ensure that the planning process includes all voices.
Greenbelt Alliance has a long history of working with Morgan Hill to focus its growth in the downtown core and appreciate the value local agriculture brings to its bottom line. We are happy to see Morgan Hill developing agricultural mitigation policies that have the potential to ensure local farms flourish. We are concerned about the proposed plan for the southeast quadrant, land that is not currently inside the city limits. Morgan Hill has plenty of room for growth within the urban growth boundary and should focus its attention there. Any expansion planning should follow exhaustion of these opportunities and completion of the agricultural mitigation policies. Greenbelt Alliance is working with city staff, local groups and community leaders to help ensure Morgan Hill’s growth enhances residents’ quality of life and protects the unique opens spaces and working landscapes that surround it.