Adjacent to the even more massive San Felipe Ranch, which totals over 28,000 acres of Silicon Valley land and is owned by the heirs of Bill Hewlett and David Packard, the 3,653-acre Richmond Ranch at 7500 San Felipe Road has traded hands for $25 million.

While the former cattle ranch is currently zoned for agricultural uses, that hasn’t prevented the development of other former ranch or agricultural land in the area, such as right across the road.

And unlike the development rights to the San Felipe Ranch, which have been donated by the Hewlett and Packard families to the Nature Conservancy in perpetuity, no such restrictions have been placed on the Richmond Ranch land which is technically ten individual parcels and sits 13 miles from downtown San Jose.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by jwb

    Development here would be an abomination. I would expect Greenbelt Alliance to go to war against it.

  2. Posted by Monty B

    They should cover it with housing. It’s just barren scrub land. We already have a massive amount of far more interesting parkland surrounding the entire Bay Area. YIMBY!

    • Posted by Notcom

      Why be so restrictive? California is surrounded by hundreds of thousands of square miles of undeveloped land in Oregon, Baja, Nevada…not to mention the world’s biggest aquarium to the west: YICBY!

    • Posted by Frank C.

      A much smarter “YIMBY” position would want dense housing plus mass transit on this land. Simply adding a few thousand single family homes achieves nothing here but more traffic. But this is still silly position because it’s so unrealistic (set aside the arguments for habitat preservation, esthetics, etc.)

      Or, preserve all/nearly-all of this land, and focus on actual realistic expansions of transit and densification in better locations in the already-built environment. The battles certainly won’t be any harder, and you’d have more beneficiaries of new transit. But to some people, it’s much more fun to just yell “do what I say” and not do any hard organizing work that has a chance of paying off. I mean, if somebody thinks dense residential housing is going to be built in preserves or on the coast, that’s just idiotic.

      • Posted by Mark

        Great points, but won’t happen. Things that seem logical don’t work that way in the Bay Area. For example, BART will keep pushing the limits of its exurban expansion and building huge stations in highway medians or the middle of nowhere surrounded by massive amounts of parking, rather than focus on much-needed lines in denser areas or infill stations. Developers will continue to carve out cul de sacs from farmland to build cookie cutter townhomes only to be lived in by folks complaining about their horrific commutes. You reap what you sow.

        • Posted by Frank C.

          I know – I’m just saying the above to argue for activists to focus on actions with some degree of realistic possibility, not zero. To a degree, everything I say is actually happening. It’s just happening to a very inadequate degree.

        • Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

          BART isn’t the only solution for mass transit. The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority does operate a light rail that could expand a line to this area if the will to do so was there. The political problem for the “YIMBY” position would be raising the sales tax in order to fund the new light rail corridor to an as-yet-undeveloped area.

          • Posted by gentrified is a dirty word for clean

            VTA is an even worse joke than Muni or Caltrain. Unbelievably painfully slow. The only people who ride VTA more than 2 miles from downtown SJ are recent H1-B arrivals from India who can’t yet afford a used Toyota Echo.

          • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

            True, VTA is not a competitive transportation system. Instead it is part of lifeline support for the disadvantaged. I needed to go from Sunnyvale to Los Gatos, a mere 10 mile journey. VTA’s best connection was two and a half hours, about the speed of a brisk power walk. Solution was to just bike which required about half the time.

            Those who complain about Muni should try the transit systems in other counties to see what really bad transit is like.

      • Posted by Tom Hirschfeld

        Speaking as an actual yimby member, the “smart” yimby policies are for dense urban infill, not turning farmland into housing. Theres much better development opportunities near the existing caltrain and VTA stations. This land should remain open space.

      • Posted by Goodmaab50

        Parkmerced 2 or 3

        With a mass transit link to downtown…

        Garden rental apartment community tied to the mass transit and protect open space by developing agricultural designed inner courtyards. Warm springs and San Jose Bart link would be a key connection through gilroy to this area…

  3. Posted by SF Walker

    How lovely, this is likely Williamson Land with low taxes and zero money to be made from a cattle operation. Based on the topography it seems unlikely that this can be developed into anything agricultural, not sure what the water supply is etc, and no mention of a house or other ranch buildings. 7K + dollars for ranch land is superexpensive but the location is super primo. I hope they enjoy it as open space and put up lots of blue bird boxes. It’s an amazing privilege in our crowded area to have access to so much space you can call your own.

    • Posted by BobN

      The Richmond Ranch has three living areas, including several ranch houses, one dating back to the 1880s, a barn, stable and other outbuildings along with natural springs and a creek. Nearby is Silver Creek Country Club boasting a championship golf course and an active tennis club.

  4. Posted by Amewsed

    Wow, it is rare this amount of space changes hands. Highest and best use.

    Excellent development for nicer and larger homes with ample green space and private trails. Helps keep the Silicon Valley families in the area w/o sacrificing space for convenience. Not McMansions and single trophy homes but high quality and highly efficient homes would do this land justice.

    • Posted by Brian M

      Unlikely. Have you driven around Silver Creek? It’s McMansions and Tract-Homes-on-Steroids as far as the eye can see.

      The modern elites want splash. Media rooms. Vast echoing foyers. Five car garages. And gates to keep the lesser out.

  5. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    SF Walker is probably right that this parcel is under the Williamson Act or some other conservation easement. It would have sold for much more if it had significant subdivision and development potential. FWIW land in this vicinity subdividable down to quarter acre lots would go for over $500K/acre or over a billion for this parcel.

    • Posted by jwb

      The Santa Clara County GIS does not show this land as being under either Williamson or conservation easements.

      [Editor’s Note: Or as we wrote above, “unlike the development rights to the San Felipe Ranch, which have been donated by the Hewlett and Packard families to the Nature Conservancy in perpetuity, no such restrictions have been placed on the Richmond Ranch land.”]

      • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

        Well there’s got to be some legal obstacle to development: zoning or minimum parcel sizes that limit the number of sellable units that can be created. $25M is a bargain even if the land is limited to minimum 5 acre lots. This is an area of rolling hills and is at least 50% buildable. And by SF standards it is 90% buildable.

        I agree with other commenters that sprawl is not the answer. Building here in North LA South SJ will just stress already congested transportation systems. Much better to infill and there are plenty of locations that can support that in Santa Clara County.

  6. Posted by Futurist

    Preserve it in perpetuity as public open space.

    California has no obligation to provide housing for anyone who wants to live here. Try Nevada.

    • Posted by Hunter

      That’s your thoughtful response to the many folks who grew up here but cannot find affordable housing? As for me, I can’t wait for the Baby Boomer die off. Good riddance.

      • Posted by Futurist

        Your response is crude and vulgar at best. There are probably many reasons why some people cannot afford Bay Area housing, including higher education, lack of highly paid job skills, saving money, living within one’s means, etc.

        Blaming some particular group just shows your own lack of responsibility.

        Fact is, there are many other affordable places and states. We all make choices.

        • Posted by Serge

          Spot on.

        • Posted by Frank C.

          How about for firefighters and schoolteachers? Should they decline in quality because they can’t attract good ones who don’t want a 90 minute commute?

        • Posted by Brian M

          Not any cruder than “I’ve got mine. Buzz off”. Which is basically YOUR response.

  7. Posted by Dave

    Ah, don’t you just love those golden California hills. Nice photo of two lonely trees and also of the “lost” cow with the San Jose skyline in the background.

    The photo of the Santa Clara Valley brings up a telling point. The Bay Area is running into a major problem in that it is running out of buildable land. Open buildable land. The hills are now generally off limits and they should be. Even here, this parcel, if eve developed, would be restricted to a small number of very expensive homes on large plots. It will have no impact on the housing crisis whether built on or not.

    Short of the old military station in Concord there is not any place where a large, large single/multi-family project can be built. The Tri-Valley area is running out of land also. One option might be to effectively absorb portions of Sacramento County that touch the Contra Costa boundary and build out that area. In any case, unlike places like the LA Basin, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and Seattle, there is a growing shortage of readily developable land. This along with other issues often mentioned on SS could impede Bay Area business growth. That gets back to the whole density debate and that lack of it in most of the Bay Area.

    The photo shows how San Jose is rapidly developing a mid-rise skyline. The issue is many want to build “true” high rises but the San Jose International makes that impossible in the existing/historic downtown. There has been some talk of a second downtown further away and south where the city could truly build up. LA is developing several such concentrated business centers as is Washington DC and others metros too. BTW, the 8 million plus square foot Google office project will be the largest single such project ever built in the Bay Area.

    • Posted by jwb

      Don’t be ridiculous. With a moderate application of urban development principles you could easily house the entire population of the Bay Area within the existing boundary of San Jose. Yes, you’d have to bulldoze a lot of parking lots, but that’s what a real city looks like.

      There is an existing plan for Coyote Valley that houses and employs 80,000 people on only 7,000 acres of land, 2/3rds of it farms and open space, and with practically all of the buildings smaller than 50 feet. It’s only sprawl that has failed here. We’re not running out of land.

      • Posted by Dave

        You’ll note I referenced the density debate and the lack of it in most of the Bay Area. It gets back to that and developing places like the Oakland CBD into a center rivaling the SF CBD. And doing something like with perhaps a second SJ downtown. And building out El Camino from SSF to Burlingame. That is the only solution for the Bay Area. Develop widespread density centers going forward – and stop forcing all the density into SF.

        • Posted by Notcom

          But that’s how the development narrative in the BA works: SPUR, the Bay Area Council and their ilk continue to push for taxpayer funded “investments” – a second BART tube, HSR – that are primarily designed to benefit SF. Oh, sure, there’s the usual “rising tide” argument that this benefits all of the area, which is perhaps true in the sense that if I get five dollars, give it to you, you make six, give me three back then I’ll have two more than I did before I had the five….but many of us might want a better return.

          • Posted by jwb

            That’s a kind of silly take. The East Bay has done virtually nothing to capitalize on its investment in BART. There’s a 10-acre parking lot at North Berkeley BART. Most of Berkeley is built up at less than 20 dwellings per acre. There is virtually nothing within walking distance of South Hayward, Fremont, South Fremont, Union City BART stations. A mainline railroad, Capitol Corridor, serves parking lots.

            It is true that San Francisco groups play to their own advantage, but it is also true that East Bay plays along.

          • Posted by Notcom

            “Virtually nothing” except for, oh, housng @ El Cerrito del Norte, Fruitvale, MacArthur, downtowns Oakland and Berkeley, mixed-use developments in Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek…

            But back to my point – which was a response to Dave’s – that political players here seem to have little interest in developing alternate CBDs (SPUR’s branches, notwithstanding); as for the EB “playing along” with it: yes, I agree they do…and I think they should stop.

          • Posted by Dave

            Very true. HSR should by all rights have gone to Oakland and, IMO, it ultimately will. Another BART tube? Oakland to Alameda to the SF airport area. The SF CBD is nearing capacity but still SF is trying to make room for another 50K jobs in the Central SOMA. That is but one example of how SF’s over-influence on the region is hurting the region.

      • Posted by Frank C.

        Moreover, as long as we’re talking about what is possible (not necessarily likely), cities like San Leandro, Hayward, South SF, San Bruno, Richmond, etc, could all *easily* add medium or high rises near rail to collectively add hundreds of thousands of units to the region. Each of those cities would get much wealthier, too.

        • Posted by Dave

          Drove own El Camino to Burlingame on Monday. There are no new condo complexes going up. There have been maybe a dozen built on the stretch between SSF and Burlingame in the past 6 or 7 boom years. Many block square parking lots, many one/two story commercial buildings. Forget hi-rises, they could add many mid-rise complexes alone and probably add up to 10K plus units of housing.

  8. Posted by S

    I thought San Jose created an urban boundary in the 70’s and can’t sprawl out further?

    • Posted by jwb

      “You can afford Unincorporated Santa Clara County! Selling now! From the low $5 millions!”

  9. Posted by Adam

    The majority of the Bay Area is simply not dense enough. Spreading outward puts far more strain on all forms of infrastructure than building up does. We need more apartments and condos, more townhouses and mixed-use, and fewer detached homes with patches of lawn spread out across acres of former open space.

  10. Posted by Orland

    Zero population increase rather than more growth and development is what we should be pursuing.

    • Posted by Futurist

      Yes. completely agree.

      • Posted by Frank C.

        Genius. Go tell the business world that it is time for them to stop economic growth.

    • Posted by Dave

      Ironically, the Bay Area is a laggard in population growth, projected, by 2030 and beyond. Forget Seattle – and that single metro area will add more population than the SF/Oakland and San Jose metros combined. Seattle should surpass SF/Oakland in population by 2040 – places like Phoenix, Houston, Las Vegas and Dallas will add far more residents than even Seattle.

      • Posted by Brian M

        while disagreeing vehemently with Futurist’s NIMBY on Steroids ideology (maybe we can introduce Chinese-style residency pass systems and one child limits/mandatory abortions?), this kind of Chamber of Commerce giddyness about eternal population growth is pretty disconcerting as well. Phoenix and Las Vegas have major climate change and water supply issues, Houston already spreads for dozens if not hundreds of miles, and Dallas is facing the first symptoms of the Sprawl Ponzi Scheme fiscal crises already at play in California.

  11. Posted by MB

    Sprawl Jose soon to be climbing over the hills!

    • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

      I doubt that will occur. At most there might be a few dozen “horse properties” developed on this parcel.

  12. Posted by Rodney

    Build It Baby Build! We have lots of open space and need more mansions. More mansions mean more housekeepers and gardeners. Forget the spotted butterfly… We need more housing! The taxes on houses would ;ay for more homeless to get free ATM cards and stuff…

  13. Posted by Martin Seebach

    None of the comments suggesting high rise residential projects mention the biggest, least controllable and most probable issue; EARTHQUAKES. 1989 was a mess and not all that high on Richter scale. Wrap your mind around a 10 but don’t do it near a high rise anything.

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