Coyote Valley Disasters

California has experienced many disasters over the past century, and given its geographic location and climate there is always a risk of earthquake or fire. While the risk of an earthquake occurring in the Coyote Valley area is lower than in other parts of California it is still a risk that must be taken seriously. Damage from fire is also a grave concern as the lack of rain raises the fire risk, particularly during the height of the summer months. Dry conditions, coupled with strong winds, can cause thousands of acres of land to be razed by fire in a matter of hours.

The following are some of the worst disasters experienced in the past century:

Affecting Oregon, Nevada and California, the Great Flood was so named due to it being the largest flood in history for the 3 states. After several weeks of heavy rain and snow falls in Oregon, when the snow melted flooding that began in Oregon continued south into California, traveling as far south as San Diego. The melted snow filled valleys, and flood waters swept away several towns, broke dams, destroyed homes and fences killing domestic animals. The flood waters also completely ruined large areas of farm lands.

Though the earthquake itself only lasted a minute the aftermath lasted for four days as a large part of San Francisco burned as a result of gas mains breaking causing sparks to ignite. As water mains were also damaged firefighters were left with very little water to fight the massive blaze with. 500 city blocks were damaged, 3000 citizens lost their life, and around 225,000 people were left homeless. Landslides were another side effect of the short-lived earthquake, with one major one being the Devil’s Slide that caused $1 million of construction equipment to be lost at the Ocean Shore Railroad.

In the New Year of 1982 a heavy downpour of rain affecting the San Francisco Bay area caused thousands of flows of debris to travel from the county of Santa Cruz, culminating in a number of landslides that were estimated to have resulted in damages of around $66 million. Though the rain storms had caused 33 deaths it is believed that 25 of those deaths were as a result of landslides.

An earthquake of a magnitude of 6.9 that hit central California in October was felt particularly strongly in and around Santa Cruz and San Francisco, but also was reported as being felt as far away as Nevada. As a result of the quake many buildings were destroyed, fires broke out, and the city of San Francisco was without power for a number of days. The quake occurred shortly before a World Series game was about to start at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

Extremely dry conditions coupled with strong winds created a blaze that before it was brought under control burned over 1500 acres of land, destroyed thousands of apartments and houses and killed twenty-five people. What began as a small brush fire ripped through heavily wooded, hilly areas near Berkeley and Oakland.

A severe heat wave with recorded temperatures being as high as 110 degrees caused the Los Angeles and Central Valley regions to suffer greatly during July of that year. As a result of the high temperatures over 140 people died, most of them senior citizens unable to cope with the extreme heat conditions.

In the early part of 2017 California experienced its wettest winter for a century, causing flooding in Oregon and Nevada flowing into the Northern part of California. Roads and highways sustained damage to the tune of about $1 billion. As the flooding came after a bad drought many areas were not prepared for the onslaught of water from rain and melting snow. While roads were damaged lakes and reservoirs were refilled putting an end to the drought conditions in April of 2017.

California’s warm, dry climate is largely responsible for many of the droughts and floods that occur. Though many cause only minor damage to farm lands and challenge city storm water drains to cope with the copious amounts of water, once in a while significant damage occurs causing roads to be impassable, power lines to be brought down, and floodwaters causing damage to lower levels of many homes.

California is also at high risk of earthquakes, with many small ones being felt throughout various parts of the state. Residents of the state are only too aware that the likelihood of a repeat of the San Francisco and Los Angeles earthquakes that devastated California last century is high compared to many other parts of the United States. Seismic activity is being constantly recorded in the hopes of being able to accurately predict the next ‘big one’ and warn residents in time to avoid loss of lives.

San Francisco Bay Area: Interesting Facts

Whether you want to call them “tall tales”, legends or myths there are many interesting facts about the San Francisco Bay area that simply sound too far-fetched to be true. Urban legends if you will. That is just one of the things about this unique part of California that makes it fun to both read about it and visit. 

Here are some of the more "colorful" but true ones:

While sharks do live in the bay they are small and not very dangerous at all. Great White sharks do live out in the Pacific Ocean but rarely enter the bay. Prisoners in Alcatraz were likely told that the waters surrounding the prison were filled with sharks just waiting to eat them to deter them from trying to make an escape attempt.

The Golden Gate Bridge, famous for its “International Orange” color, was originally planned to be painted black with yellow stripes by the U.S. Navy. Although to many the bridge appears to be red in color it is in fact orange, and was originally intended as a sealant applied before the actual paint colors. The theory behind the choice of black with yellow stripes was to enable the bridge to be more visible in a fog.

San Francisco passed a law in 1867 that made it illegal for “ugly” people to show their faces in public. Fortunately this law is not longer in effect, but it has to make you wonder as to what was considered ‘ugly’ and who made the decision as to who was considered ugly enough to not show their face in public.

The Chinese Fortune cookie that we are all familiar with receiving alongside our Chinese dinner was invented in San Francisco. If that surprises you then you may be even more surprised to discover that the fortune cookie was invented not by a Chinese immigrant but by a Japanese resident, Makoto Hagiwara. The same Japanese gentleman is responsible for the famous Japanese Tea Garden located in Golden Gate Park.

The cable cars seen slowly making their way up and down the steep hills of San Francisco are a National Historic Landmark. Of over 2500 recognized landmarks nationwide 142 of them are within California but the cable cars are the only ones that move, traveling at a steady 9.5 mph.

San Francisco has an official musical instrument. While you may instantly think of the guitar or any number of other commonly heard instruments of today it is actually the accordion.

It is commonly believed that street names were painted on sidewalks as a result of the dreadful earthquake of 1906 so that should the street signs and landmarks be destroyed people could use the names on the sidewalks to keep their bearings. While the idea has merit the street names first started appearing on sidewalks before the 1906 earthquake occurred. Sadly no one proofread the signs before being painted so there are a large number of misspellings.

Fans of Irish coffee may be surprised to learn that although the coffee drink was originally invented in Ireland it would never have gained the popularity it enjoys today if it had not been made popular by Jack Koeppler, a bartender working at the Buena Vista Hotel. Koeppler was so impressed with the drink that he traveled to Ireland to learn how to make it the correct way so he could serve it to the hotel patrons.

The dead in the San Francisco Bay area outnumber the living by approximately 1000 to 1. Burial within city limits is outlawed due to space constraints. Many graves were moved to Colma between the 1920’s and 1940’s but two graveyards still remain in the city; one is located behind Mission San Francisco de Asis and the other one is in Presidio (National Cemetery).

While many believe that San Francisco is built on just a small number of hills it is built upon more than 50 hills. Many of the hills are very steep, making them difficult to walk or cycle up, but those standing at the top can enjoy magnificent vistas across the bay. Though not the steepest in the world, San Francisco is home to two streets that are considered to be extremely steep by international standards – Filbert and 22nd Streets.

San Francisco is the first recorded location in the continental U.S. to have had the bubonic plague epidemic break out. It started in 1900 within the Chinatown district.

Preservation Plans for Coyote Valley

An $80 Million Preservation Plan

With the ecological importance of Coyote Valley being recognized by many organizations both local and nationwide there is an $80 million plan in place to preserve it and the wildlife that makes its home there. Sitting between the Diablo Range and the Santa Cruz Mountains, Coyote Valley is of vital importance to many animals that use the open space as a corridor to travel between the two mountain ranges.

The Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority and the Peninsula Open Space Trust (non-profit environmental group) have worked closely together to formulate the plan to preserve not only the valley itself but also an additional 1000 acres to the north over the next 10 years, allowing the animals a safe area to roam freely despite the growing population of Silicon Valley.

This plan is a far cry from that proposed in the 1980’s and 1990’s when Coyote Valley was attracting the interest of tech giants Apple and Cisco Systems, both companies wanting to build huge, sprawling campuses on the farmland and ranches located on the southern edge of San Jose. Today the focus is on preserving the land and preventing businesses from developing it.

The ultimate aim of the plan is to allow the wildlife in the area to live without fear of being pushed out by developers or hit by vehicles, breeding and hunting at will. To do this the plan will require tunnels to be built under highways that will provide safe passage for the animals. The plan also includes restoration of the wetlands to preserve many species that are becoming endangered. This will involve purchasing open space and the right to develop it. The purchase of the necessary land is likely to come with a hefty price tag attached. Recent sales figures indicate that 30 acres of land could cost as much as $6 million.

As recently as 2015 Panattoni Development Company of Newport Beach sought permission to build a huge warehouse facility and distribution center that would have included almost 200 parking spaces and a large number of truck docks, in order to encourage the likes of Amazon to the area. Once news of the proposed construction reached the ears of the local people and environmentalists concerns were raised that the traffic, noise and loss of farm land would negatively impact the area.

Walter Moore

Peninsula Open Space Trust president Walter Moore indicated that the purchase of the land by the group would be beneficial to developing a means for the wildlife in the area to cross from one side of the Monterey Highway to the other. Currently dozens of animals are killed attempting to the reach the other side, causing great risk to motorists. A tunnel under the Highway would allow the animals to cross in safety.

Moore also indicated that the land purchase price was fair market value, which gives a clear indication to other landowners in the area that the Trust is prepared to pay a fair price for their land, which is 10 times that which they typically pay to preserve land. The purchase of the land is the first for the organization and shows their commitment to Coyote Valley.

Though the necessary land is likely to cost an estimated $80 million Moore believes that half of that amount will be donated by individuals, a quarter by private foundations and the remaining quarter from public sources.

Wildlife Migration

According to a recent comment by Sam Liccardo, Mayor of San Jose, the development of Coyote Valley is not completely off the table, but that the focus was more on attracting tech companies to North San Jose and downtown. Liccardo also advised that Google was being encouraged to build a new campus in the downtown area of San Jose, for an estimated 20,000 employees. Talks between the city and Google were continuing but no decision had been made as yet.

Though the land sought by the Trust is currently farm land, ranch land and fruit tree orchards the approximately 7,100 acres that make up Coyote Valley was once a mixture of wetlands, streams, oak woodlands and other natural elements. Biologists believe that although there has been some development the main areas of focus can be largely restored to allow the bird life and wild life a vital corridor.

Studies conducted in the area have revealed that wildlife is using it to migrate, and that if development is allowed to occur the ability to move freely between the mountain ranges will be seriously impaired, giving the wildlife no way to escape from fire or flood, and an inability to forage further afield for food. As movement is critical to the survival of many of the larger animals that call Coyote Valley ‘home’ for much of the year the plan to preserve the area will ensure these animals have a better chance of survival.