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Environmentalists sue to block Cisco building plans

The Associated Press
Wednesday November 29, 2000

Charging that the city of San Jose violated the California Environmental Quality Act, environmentalists and communities to the south sued to block Cisco Systems, Inc.’s 688-acre research park proposed for one of Silicon Valley’s last remaining rural tracts. 

The Sierra Club, the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society and the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments, representing 18 cities in three counties, claim the environmental impact report for the project did not address all of the project’s possible environmental consequences and that it underestimates the impact on area communities. 

The San Jose City Council in October approved the company’s plans for a $1.3 billion corporate park for 20,000 employees in Coyote Valley in southern San Jose. 

The Sierra Club and Audubon Society contend the Cisco project will threaten endangered animals such as the red-legged frog and will worsen air quality through increased traffic.  

They remain opposed despite the company’s promises to donate $3 million and help raise $97 million more for open-space preservation efforts. 

The lack of housing near the proposed site also raises concerns about increased commute traffic. 

“It’s clear there was an alternative to the city that would have dramatically reduced the impacts, and that alternative was to provide housing,” said Stephan Volker, an attorney representing AMBAG. 

The suits were filed Tuesday in Santa Clara County court. 

David Vossbrink, San Jose’s communications director, said the environmental impact report is adequate and that the project is a good move for the city. 

“I think the proposal for the Cisco development is the opportunity for San Jose to implement the vision for its long-term land use plan implemented 20 years ago,” he said.  

“The environmental impact report that was circulated early this year was reviewed widely and commented on, and those comments were responded to.  

“We believe the project does enjoy widespread public support as an example of smart growth,” he said. 

Salinas city officials had been in talks with the city of San Jose about possible compensation to soften the huge project’s effect – including subsidies for rail, affordable housing and an apprenticeship program in Salinas schools.  

But Tuesday morning the city decided to file a separate suit, saying that the environmental impact report does not address the entire region. 

“We fully expect this will be the first of several projects to come, and we felt this project needs to be the defining project, setting forth regional analysis,” said Salinas City Attorney Jim Sanchez. 

Salinas is a member of AMBAG and is the largest of the southern communities that would be affected by the project. 

Cisco spokesman Steve Langdon said the company intends to see the project through. 

“We are disappointed that these parties have chosen litigation over collaboration,” he said. e have remained willing to work together out of the courts, but we’re also very confident that the city of San Jose will prevail in the courts.”