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Alviso--The Santa Clara County Planning Commission appears poised to make changes in the Alviso development plan--changes that may give at least some concessions to the interests of the community's Spanish-speaking residents and environmental activists.

"I recognize Alviso as a jewel," Commissioner James Zetterquist said. "I'd rather err on the side of caution."

Commissioner Sharon Goodbolt agreed. "It's an important area," she said. "If we make changes, we can't change them back."

After a five-hour public hearing earlier this week, the commission reluctantly approved the Environmental Impact Report on the plan but deferred action on the plan itself until November 10.

The Master Plan would speed high-tech and commercial development of the Alviso community, an isolated, largely Spanish-speaking area that has some of the South Bay's last open-space wetlands.

Most, but not all, of the public speakers opposed the plan. Several members of the Alviso Task Force, which helped develop the plan, spoke in its favor.

Planning Department staff member Laurel Prevetti said, "it's pretty plain that the commission is headed in the direction of change."

Just how much change is not yet certain. Commission members expressed concern that the plan did not do enough to protect Alviso's environmentally sensitive open space, and did not provide enough of a buffer between development zones and the existing community. But while several hours of public hearing testimony produced many reasons why the present plan was flawed, nobody presented an alternate plan.

Commissioners at times appeared almost overwhelmed by both the approval process and by the potential scope of change it would bring to Alviso and to the Santa Clara Valley in general. When commissioners at first looked as if they were not going to approve even the EIR, a somewhat testy Planning Commission director Jim Derryberry said that was not the proper way to express disapproval of the plan.

It appeared unclear whether the commission has the desire, the ability, the information or the political will to make radical changes in a plan that is highly desired by local developers.

Opponents of the plan are optimistic.

Community leader Ruben Orozco, who had gloomily predicted before the meeting that the plan would probably "sail right through," said following the meeting that he was "crossing all [his] fingers" and hoping for the best.

"It's clear the commissioners don't like the plan," said an ecstatic Craig Breon, environmental advocate for the Audubon Society of Santa Clara County. "Now we've got a week to come up with changes."

Few doubted that Breon would come up with something. About a half an hour into his non-stop, staccato presentation before the commission, Breon announced that he was changing microphones. "Why?" commission chair Brian Grayson asked. "Did you wear the other one out?"
J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

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