Picture of Michele Beasley

Michele Beasley

An alternative vision for Morgan Hill (MAP)

Morgan Hill is blessed with open space treasures like Henry Coe State Park, the second largest state park in California; Anderson Lake County Park, a magnet for boat enthusiasts and picnickers alike; Coyote Creek, surrounded by popular trails and bike paths; and El Toro Mountain, whose silhouette is enshrined in the city’s logo.

The City wants to capitalize on being a regional recreation destination by expanding its urban footprint into the Southeast Quadrant, an area made up of 1,400 acres of working farms and greenbelt lands east of Highway 101. The problem with the City’s plan for the Southeast Quadrant is that Morgan Hill residents have expressed a desire to preserve local farmland as it contributes to the community’s identity and pastoral setting.

The new Sports-Recreation-Leisure zoning designation (read it here, PDF) would allow development of indoor sports centers, batting cages, boutique hotels, cricket grounds, and more in the Southeast Quadrant. We commend Morgan Hill for wanting to provide its residents with active lifestyle options, but it does not need to come at the expense of local agriculture, which is also essential for healthy living. Greenbelt Alliance envisions a more equitable distribution of active and passive recreation throughout the city and opposes any development in the Southeast Quadrant. Annexing this land into city limits sets the stage for its eventual conversion from farmland to other uses.

Morgan Hill, best known for its strawberries, mushrooms, and bell peppers, is a vital part of Bay Area agriculture. Andy’s Orchard is a local jewel and owner Andy Mariani has been dubbed the “Flavor King” by Sunset Magazine. Tim Chiala offers up his CSA, TIMptations, providing a medley of fresh vegetables right to your door. The City should focus on supporting the rural amenities it already has and balancing that with the need to create other active living outlets. Read more about the outlook for agriculture in Morgan Hill.

Morgan Hill is perfectly situated to have the best of both worlds: more homes, jobs, and shops surrounded by a greenbelt of open spaces, including working farms. A multi-use trail system could connect schools, parks, and community centers to downtown, the Caltrain station, and beyond. Meanwhile, the Southeast Quadrant can become an agri-tourism destination, taking advantage of local food movements (learn more about local food efforts here). Here is a map of how we envision all of these things coming together:

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

The City says that it is committed to preserving agriculture—something that residents have said they want too. And once you’ve tasted one of Andy’s Baby Crawford peaches, you will understand why this place was known as the Valley of Heart’s Delight long before it was Silicon Valley. Morgan Hill is where both these valleys can thrive, but the City has to make it a priority.

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