Redefining Progress

Setting the Standard in Coyote Valley: Scenarios for Sustainability (S2) Analysis of Preliminary Development Options


I. Synopsis

Scenarios for Sustainability (S2) is an urban planning tool that provides decision makers with quantitative information about the degree to which alternative development options achieve environmental, economic, and social sustainability objectives. S2 combines elements of two well-known sustainability indicators created by Redefining Progress: the Ecological Footprint (EF) and the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI). This report applies S2 to the debate over the future of San José’s Coyote Valley by providing a preliminary comparison of the City’s Specific Plan with the Getting it Right (GIR) vision advanced by Greenbelt Alliance.


Coyote Valley is a largely undeveloped tract of agricultural land just south of San José, some of which lies within the city’s urban growth boundary, some within its sphere of influence. As it is the largest development project now contemplated in the Bay Area and as issues of sprawl, pollution, farmland loss, traffic congestion and affordability make daily headlines, all eyes are focused on how San José develops this sensitive area and if it can achieve a delicate balance between accommodation of growth and preservation of the Bay Area’s unique quality of life.


The debate over how much and where to develop and what form that development should take is a debate that is often highly politicized but one that cries out for impartial analysis. S2 meets this need by addressing multifaceted concerns over environmental, economic, and social sustainability in a quantitative fashion. Here, our quantitative measures include the ecological footprint, the costs of lost farmland, non-market costs of carbon dioxide emissions, capital exports needed to pay for oil from afar, and equity in the distribution of housing types and access to open space. By providing quantitative measures of sustainability that vary as planning parameters are modified, S2 is a tool the City can use to design a final development plan in Coyote Valley that minimizes its ecological footprint and maximizes its contribution to genuine human progress.

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