SAN JOSE – City planners have recommended a controversial expansion by Cisco Systems Inc. into one of Silicon Valley’s last remaining agricultural areas.
Despite objections from environmentalists and neighboring communities, as well as threatened lawsuits, the city’s planning commission on Wednesday said economic, legal, social, technological and other benefits outweighed the environmental impact.
The Internet equipment company wants to build a $1.3 billion, 688-acre office complex in the northern part of the Coyote Valley’s remaining 6,000 acres of hills and farmland. The city’s largest private employer, it has completed six new office construction projects at its San Jose headquarters in recent years, and Cisco estimates it will need room for 20,000 more as it adds about 1,000 employees a month.
The city’s planning commission report released online late Wednesday is the latest salvo in what has been a running battle of words — and soon could evolve into legal wrangling — between proponents and opponents of the large-scale project.
Opponents argue the development would destroy the area’s agricultural character and bring to mostly rural communities congested roads and housing prices that have rocketed 34 percent in just a year.
Coyote Valley was incorporated into San Jose in 1958, but the city has delayed substantial development in the area because it does not get enough tax revenues from businesses to pay for city services such as sewer lines, libraries and schools. Planners say new housing will not be built in the area for years.
The Sierra Club and Audubon Society contend the project threatens endangered spotted butterflies, red-legged frogs and a variety of plant species, and will worsen the air quality in the region because of increased automobile traffic.
“Cisco seems to be in a big rush to get this project through, but I don’t know what their hurry is. Do they want to get it done right away or get it done right?” said Dan Kalb, executive director of the Sierra Club’s Loma Prieta chapter.
The San Jose Planning Commission has scheduled meetings for late this month and early October to consider the report. If approved, the matter goes to the city council, which is expected to give it the go-ahead.
Mayor Anna Caballero of neighboring Salinas said she and other city leaders would renew their objections to the development at upcoming hearings before deciding whether to take legal action.