Trophy Homes Flatten Natural Habitats, Courtesy of Shapell Industries

According to Shapell, its multi-million dollar housing development at Gilroy’s Eagle Ridge “represents a quiet enclave of exceptional one- and two-story residences where a feeling of peaceful seclusion flourishes amidst the vast, unspoiled open space.” While the gated community may indeed be peaceful and even secluded, the open space is not exactly unspoiled. Four- to six-bedroom houses, paved roads, and a 600-acre golf course mar what used to be pristine rolling hills. Since 1947, Shapell Industries has built 64,000 homes throughout California. The homes in the Gilroy foothills sell for around $700,000.

With its mature oaks and manzanitas, the golf course gives an illusion of permanence. General manager Mark Gurnow says Shapell uses monitoring to ensure that there is no groundwater contamination: “Our pesticide application is very minimal, less than most agricultural endeavors. The groundwater quality has actually been improving. We also use 100 percent reclaimed water from Santa Clara County for irrigation.”

Still, says Michele Beasley of Greenbelt Alliance, “We need to ask ourselves if this is the best use of land. It’s possible to reduce the amount of water used on a course, limit pesticides, and even preserve the natural trees, but you can’t escape the fact that a golf course and pricey homes have a huge impact on the land.”

Wildlife and plants are affected by habitat destruction, noise, outdoor lighting, traffic, and pollution. Shapell homeowners may enjoy their wild neighbors, but are they good neighbors in turn?

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