The Santa Clara County Planning Commission will hear Young Ranch on Thursday, April 24 at 1:30pm in the Board of Supervisors Chambers at County Government Center, 70 W. Hedding Street, San Jose.
On the rural side of San Jose’s urban growth boundary lies Young Ranch—2,150 acres of rolling hillsides, serpentine grasslands, and Bay Checkerspot butterfly habitat. It is also the scene of one of the larger hillside development battles in recent Santa Clara County history. YCS Investments, Inc., which owns Young Ranch, has proposed the development of nearly 80 luxury homes on this site. The homes would be built on 10% of the land meaning the remaining 90% of the property would be protected open space.
Greenbelt Alliance took a look at the Young Ranch proposal and asked ourselves, “Is this the right development in the right place?”
The recent adoption of the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Conservation Plan propelled YCS into action. However, their proposal faces some fierce opposition, not only from environmental groups, but from residents of the abutting Silver Creek neighborhood.
The interesting wrinkle in their development proposal is that two-thirds of Young Ranch is within the City of San Jose, but outside the voter-approved greenline—which prohibits growth—and is designated as open space in the city’s General Plan. The remaining one-third of the property, which is where the proposed development would be located, is Santa Clara County land. This means that the City of San Jose would be expected to de-annex the land in order for YCS to maximize their desired build-out. On top of that, San Jose, and not Santa Clara County, would likely get stuck with providing urban services such as police and fire protection and maintenance of city streets, to an area that is supposed to be rural.
But we need more homes, right?
It is well-documented that San Jose has overstocked the single-family home market, yet has a dearth of compact homes near transit. The median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in San Jose is $2,300/month, which is out of reach for many working families. In order to maintain our region’s high quality of life, we need to do better. We need to protect the natural landscapes that clean our drinking water and freshen our air. We need to provide more homes that people can afford in walkable, transit-friendly neighborhoods. Young Ranch accomplishes neither of these goals.
Immediately east of Young Ranch lies Richmond Ranch, which is marketed to those seeking executive estates. Greenbelt Alliance draws the line on rural sprawl at San Jose’s greenline. The City of San Jose has such great potential for development within its urban footprint. And the more we develop the county’s rural lands, the more we drive up the cost to permanently protect nearby open space.
The Bay Area has shown its commitment to protecting natural and working landscapes and promoting infill development within our cities and towns. The answer to our question is simple: this is neither the right development nor the right place. That’s our line in the sand.