A debate over a 7,400-acre stretch of public space at the edge of San Jose was revived Jan. 22 at a rally before the City Council’s discussion of a $650 million infrastructure bond approved by voters in November.

Situated between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Diablo Range, Coyote Valley is a critical corridor for animals and wildlife, as well as a protective buffer between Coyote Creek and the San Jose metropolitan area.

Environmental activists, business leaders, farmers and politicians have rallied around its protection as a result, but others say the city needs to catch up to its neighbors by providing adequate local jobs and mitigating hours-long commutes.

“Where would New York be without Central Park, where would San Francisco be without Golden Gate Park?” South San Jose Councilman Sergio Jimenez asked the crowd at the rally, throwing his support behind keeping the valley as a public open space.

Measure T was approved by voters in November as a general obligation bond to repave streets and improve the city’s emergency preparedness, allocating up to $50 million in land acquisition for the valley.

Coyote Creek flooded in February 2017, causing over 11,000 people to evacuate their homes in South San Jose and completely submerging mobile homes in the Rock Springs, William Street and Oakland Road neighborhoods.

Jimenez, whose district includes the affected areas and Coyote Valley, said the wetland must be guarded as an important watershed and flood control zone. He spoke at a rally of about 100 people, organized by the Greenbelt Alliance San Jose and the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority.

“We will be known forever by the tracks we leave behind,” he added, using a Native American proverb to emphasize the valley’s roots alongside Amah Mutsun Tribal Band Chairman Valentin Lopez, Mayor Sam Liccardo and former U.S. Rep. Mike Honda.

The central portion of Coyote Valley is protected from urban sprawl through 2040 and its southernmost region is a permanent green space and water buffer, but the city categorizes the north as an “Employment Lands Growth Area” with the potential for 35,000 jobs. Though housing was once planned for the northern area, the current general plan only allows industrial uses for the region.

A staff report pointed out that neighboring cities, such as Mountain View, have as much as 28 percent of its land allocated to employment use, but San Jose has only 15 percent. Fifty-seven percent of its land is housing and 28 percent is parks and public land.

The city emphasized its commitment to environmental initiatives such as Climate Smart San Jose during the study session, but showed a troubling lack of jobs in the city — only 0.85 jobs for every resident, compared to three jobs for every resident in Palo Alto.

The City Council has also discussed moving a large portion of existing jobs in the Coyote Valley area into downtown San Jose.

Its ongoing discussion will determine the impacts of such a move, and the City Council will return to the table in February to vote on uses for Measure T money.