Downtown Gilroy in ’03 spotlight

GILROY
– There are just two days left to apply for a seat on a crucial
city committee that will help shape the future of the city’s
downtown and heavily affect the tone of future revitalization
efforts there.
The title of the group
– the Downtown Specific Plan Task Force – may sound a little
lengthy or convoluted. And observers may note that the city has
already conducted several planning efforts for downtown over the
years – with varying opinions about how extensively they were used
or followed.
But by its very nature, the Downtown Specific Plan will be a key
part of downtown’s future.
GILROY – There are just two days left to apply for a seat on a crucial city committee that will help shape the future of the city’s downtown and heavily affect the tone of future revitalization efforts there.

The title of the group – the Downtown Specific Plan Task Force – may sound a little lengthy or convoluted. And observers may note that the city has already conducted several planning efforts for downtown over the years – with varying opinions about how extensively they were used or followed.

But by its very nature, the Downtown Specific Plan will be a key part of downtown’s future.

Unlike some past plans which were more advisory in nature, the plan will hold actual authority over much of what occurs along the city’s historic commercial core along Monterey Street over the next two decades.

“It’s a legal thing,” said City Manager Jay Baksa. “Everything that comes in for development in that area is judged against the Specific Plan.”

So far, there aren’t enough applications in the hands of city officials to fill out the group.

As of this morning’s press deadline, five people had turned in applications for the eight non-governmental seats on the task force – although City Clerk Rhonda Pellin said applications for task forces usually come in at the last minute.

Members sought for the task force include two downtown property owners, two downtown business owners, two citizens at large and a member each from the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

So far, applicants include David Peoples, president of the city’s downtown association; Gilroy Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Susan Valenta, downtown property owners Joan Buchanan and Jim Gailey and former councilwoman Connie Rogers.

They would potentially join Council members Al Pinheiro and Roland Velasco, who have put in bids for two seats reserved just for Council. Cat Tucker and Russ Valiquette have also put in bids for two seats reserved for the Planning Commission.

The task force’s role will be to interpret the general policy statements and visions laid out in the city’s overall master land-use policy “Bible,” the General Plan, that was adopted by City Council this summer.

Those statements and visions will be turned into a more specific series of regulations and rules affecting key issues in the downtown. The list may include everything from residential building standards to parking rules and regulations to the kind of financial incentives offered by the city for renovations or new construction in the area.

“It becomes a legal arm of the General Plan,” Baksa said.

The group won’t be starting from scratch. While other plans have been crafted for the downtown over past years and employed to help guide projects such as the streetscape improvement projects along Monterey Street or the city’s transit center, they were more advisory in nature.

Those plans will likely come up for review during the specific plan process and become a basis for discussion, giving task force members a definite starting place, Baksa said.

“There’s been a lot of work done up to this point on these advisory plans and recommendations,” he said. “This will give everyone a chance to re-examine those and say ‘This still works’ or ‘This doesn’t work and let’s go a different direction.’ ”

Pinheiro, who has made downtown a centerpiece of his agenda while on the Council, said the city’s plans to renovate the downtown streetscape will have to be an important cornerstone of any discussions on the specific plan.

Ideally, the city would have crafted an overall specific plan first and then fit in the streetscape, he said.

“In my book, it sounds backwards to me,” he said. “You do the specific plan first and then fit in all those things in the streetscape you’re trying to do.”

But the city will have to work with what it has, he said.

“We have a streetscape that’s been developed, and now we have to find a way to do a specific plan that uses that as part of the total picture …” he said.

Council will also discuss downtown-related issues several times in the next few days.

Downtown area incentives appear on the agenda during a general economic development report and discussion at Council’s annual retreat Friday. That portion of the meeting, held at the Hilton Garden Inn at 6070 South Monterey St., begins at 1:30 p.m.

Council is also slated to receive an update on a cornerstone of downtown – the status and future of Old City Hall – more in-depth Monday during a special study session that begins at 6 p.m. at the Wiley House Cultural Center, 140 Fifth St.

Applications for the downtown task force are due at 5 p.m. Friday at Gilroy City Hall, 7351 Rosanna St. Interviews before Council will follow Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. For information call 846-0400.

Leave your comments