If you are shopping to buy a home in Silicon Valley, you will be given a report, once in contract, regarding any endangered species‘ habitats on or near the property. How does this impact your use of the land, should you complete the purchase?
You might be surprised at how many at risk or endangered species there are in Silicon Valley. The Bay Checkerspot Butterfly has several areas in Santa Clara County which are impacted, including Communications Hill, areas near Coyote Valley and San Martin, the Silver Creek area of Evergreen and many other areas along the east foothills and south county. Others include: Golden Eageles, Tri-Colored Blackbirds, Western Pond Turtle, San Joaquin Kit Fox, Steelhead Trout, California Tiger Salamander, Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse, and many more animals, fish, birds and plants. A couple of days ago, I was reading that the threatened marbled murrelet, a sea bird which can roost up to 70 miles inland, is in Los Gatos (near Highway 9 and Daves, if not more places as well). They nest in old growth redwood trees – something that Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, and Saratoga have in abundance near the hills!
Suppose that the area in which you want to buy a home is within the habitat of an endangered species such as the red legged frog, the famous subject of Mark Twain’s The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and our official state amphibian. This is information that will be listed within one or more of the property reports, so read the Natural Hazard Report, Environmental Hazard Report and Tax Report you get in escrow very carefully. Now that you know where to find this information, what does that mean?
For the most part, if you are purchasing, or own, a property that is already developed then your endangered guests and neighbors are easy to satisfy – simply do not harass, harm, or remove them. Mostly that means you’ll have to refrain from using certain pesticides that are harmful to the species. The EPA has this interactive map on their website to help identify pesticide use restrictions around the Bay Area.
If you want to landscape undeveloped parts of your yard, you may be restricted to native landscaping. I have seen this along certain creeks, where a set number of feet from the waterfront can only be planted with indigenous flowers, bushes or plants. So if you want a lawn, it’s not happening! Additionally, you may not be able to put in a solid wood fence, but need to do something more open, such as wrought iron, so that the protected species can move about unhindered.
If you plan on building, such as making an addition to your home, your project will have to be analysed to make sure it won’t impact any critical habitat. If a project is permitted then there may be additional fees, the proceeds of which go to further the species and habitat protection. Farmers and developers must adhere to much stricter criteria, since they make a much bigger impact on potential and existing habitats.
That being said, this is a general guide for potential homeowners and restrictions vary from case to case.
For home buyers, the best thing you can do is research – learn what you can about the requirements for homeowners in the region before you buy. If you’ve decided to buy or own a home in protected habitat, current homeowners can stay up to date on the regulations, make sure that important changes to the yard are permitted, and be doubly sure to follow environmental laws (pool water goes to sewage, not to the gutters and streams!).
If the property you want to buy in the Santa Clara County or in San Mateo County is in an area for endangered species or one at risk, learn what you can about the requirements for homeowners in that region. More information can be found through local public resources, including Fish and Wildlife Services.
For more reading:
For the little environmentalists, the EPA has made a free, printable coloring book of local endangered species.