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July 8, 2009 > Open Space Authority

Open Space Authority

By Meredith Eidem

California is definitely "Going Green" so don't forget Open Space Authority (OSA), a task force that seeks to protect the county's quality of life by preserving the overall quality of the environment.

The Open Space Authority's primary goal is the preservation of underdeveloped land in its natural state.

It acquires and manages lands in an ecological manner so that there is preservation of the home territories of wildlife and native plants, safeguards water sources, maintains landscapes and vistas, and offers outdoor recreation that respects the natural environment.

In 1994 the cities of San Jose, Campbell, Santa Clara, Milpitas, Morgan Hill and the County of Santa Clara passed resolutions to be included in the Open Space Authority.

Its first property was purchased in January of 1999: 3,207 acres on Palassou Ridge, east of Harvey Bear Ranch Coyote Lake county Park. OSA dispersed its first funds under the Urban Open Space Program to the cities of San Jose and Santa Clara.

OSA dedicated its first trail in May 2002 on Sierra Vista above Alum Rock Park and in 2003 it secured its first agricultural preservation in South County, and in 2004 it opened its first preserve south of Calero County Park which provided direct access to OSA trails, an equestrian area with visitor amenities.

The Milpitas-Berryessa area is directly west of watershed lands of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and includes the primary watershed for Berryessa and Penitencia creeks.

Acquisitions could protect riparian corridors where red-legged frogs and tiger salamanders, both protected species, have been observed.

Alviso Adobe is a historic preservation. It is a two-story Monterey colonial style adobe structure that is 175 years old. In 1997 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

There is an orchard, garden, and there will also be an outdoor activity area for the public to gather. Completion of this project is pending while the City of Milpitas pursues additional funding.

Unfortunately there have been conflicts with resolutions this year may hamper some of the organization's goals.

In 2001 voters responded to escalating land prices by approving a second assessment district, known as District Two. But after six years of litigation Open Space Authority will be returning assessment funds that were paid on real property for open space and parklands by real estate taxpayers to the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority.

The California Supreme Court has held that it was imposed in violation of the California Constitution.

"People are entitled and should be given the opportunity to request a refund" states Patrick Congdon, General Manager of the Santa Clara County OSA.
Therefore, those who paid the assessment between tax years 2002-03 and 2007-08 are entitled to claim a refund.

The refund will vary depending on the type of property (single-family residential, multi-residential, commercial) and the length of ownership.

A single-family homeowner would receive about $20 each year he or she paid the District Two Assessment, or about $120 if he or she owned the property for the entire six years the Assessment was charged.

A record of owning property in the OSA boundary is also required. Residents may have already received the personalized refund claim forms in the mail, which they can complete and send by first class postage by September 23 of this year or they can go online to Congdon also said that he hopes any new owners of the properties will tell the former owners who may be entitled to the refund.

Currently, according to Congdon, purchases by Open Space Authority just aren't happening because the values are too high so there have not been any negotiations for purchases such as San Francisco watershed lands. OSA is doing its best to not overextend itself, but that can be difficult when maintenance of open space is very important and costly as well as having to run an office with the same allocations they have had since 1994.

The costs have doubled, but the allocations are the same. Grants, private donations, partnering with the nature conservatory and the Peninsula Open Space Trust will all help them to achieve their goals in the Milpitas area of establishing trail connections to the county parks and protecting scenic views of the city.

There are many ways to get involved. Residents who are interested in OSA park improvements (this is not the same as soccer fields), can contact their respective council representatives.

There are activities for everyone. Try these upcoming events - the Panorama Power Hike at the Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve on Friday, July 17, 8 to 11:30 a.m. or try an evening event such as the Bike Night at Rancho Canada del Oro Open Space Preserve on Friday, July 24, 8 to 11:30 p.m.

For more information, go online to For more information about the litigation and refunds, call (888) 284-9087 or go online to

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