Why San Jose Should Rethink the Urban Confluence Project

The Urban Confluence project proposes a modern resurrection of the San Jose light tower valued at $ 150 million. While this may seem attractive to some, those in charge of San Jose should recognize the damage a 200-foot-long lighted structure will cause to the environment and residents. Science tells us that light pollution generators should be perceived as any other source of contamination due to ubiquitous and devastating effects on health and nature. Regressive projects like this should be a thing of the past.

Death sentence against birds (and airplanes). Light pollution poses a novel global threat to ecosystems, with widespread biological damage similar to climate change. Birds are among the victims of over-lighting. Your migration behavior is changed by light. The attraction of birds to light should come as no surprise to San Jose. Historical records show that birds were attracted to the original light tower: “Birds and insects came in violent contact with the tower and electrical wires and fell to the ground among the dead,” and locals “made money selling birds that collided with the tower.” , to local restaurants. “Why recreate this horrific scene? In addition, airports do not recommend illuminated attractions because interactions between birds and airplanes can be fatal to both. Is it advisable to lure flocks of nocturnal migratory birds to the edge of the airport security zone?”

Dark creek corridors are essential for wildlife. At the confluence of the Guadalupe River and Los Gatos Creek, Arena Green Park is a holdover from times when creek ecosystems thrived. Despite the stresses and strains of urban life today, these streams still support endangered fish species, migratory birds, and the occasional beaver. All depend on the darkness in their life. Increased ambient light affects the movement of the animals as well as the daily and seasonal behavior of the wild animals. Why rob our wild animals of their habitat?

The residents appreciate nature in parks. Polls before COVID-19 showed that San Jose residents prioritize access to wilderness even in the core of the city. The residents want clean, well-tended park landscapes and ecologically sustainable brook corridors. Monuments and tourist attractions ranked lowest on the list. Why not give the residents of San Jose a butterfly garden, a clean stream, and a shady park? Acknowledge the public’s hopes and aspirations after the pandemic and ask what residents value most.

Art is in the eye of the beholder. One cannot ignore a 200 foot lighted structure on the valley floor. The leaders of San Jose can expect many people to have a strong dislike for it. It will dominate the San Jose night sky and like electronic billboards from a distance, the view from the hills will be a drop of light pollution. Similar to the Los Angeles “Reef” project, which is visible day and night from a great distance. Residents’ dismay and complaints are sure to follow. Why increase public fear and dismay?

The pandemic sharpened our senses and helped us appreciate the value of nature, birdsong, dark, starry nights and the beauty of the Milky Way. Why would San Jose intentionally choose an icon that obscures the sky and symbolizes a legacy of dead birds and ongoing environmental damage? Having a lighted tower across the city is polluting and shouldn’t be encouraged in the 21st century. It’s time for San Jose to rethink this project and hopefully redirect philanthropy in the city to better causes.

Shani Kleinhaus is the environmental attorney for the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society. Katja Irvin is co-chair of the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter Capital Committee.

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