Beware too much growth

By Jessica Lira
When I returned home from college for Christmas 2003, I was
shocked to discover traffic, and a Costco off Tenth Street. What
was going on in Gilroy? Gilroy was transforming, and I had only
been gone for three months.
By Jessica Lira

When I returned home from college for Christmas 2003, I was shocked to discover traffic, and a Costco off Tenth Street. What was going on in Gilroy? Gilroy was transforming, and I had only been gone for three months. Not much later in the summer of ’04, we had a Ross, a Borders, a drive-thru coffee shop, and more than enough people to keep these businesses flourishing. Gilroy is facing a notable increase in its population, but we ought not to stand on the sidelines and watch this growth lead to problems down the road, such as excessive development, financial strain, environmental problems, and the loss of our intimate community.

We all witness the current population growth as we sit in longer lines at traffic lights and notice our schools becoming overcrowded, but how much is Gilroy actually growing? According to the Gilroy General Plan, Gilroy’s population is predicted to increase by 50 percent in 2020 from 41,464 in 2000.

This growth, combined with a 70 percent increase in the number of jobs, will allow local residents to live and work in Gilroy, but will also result in rising property values. Gilroy takes pride in its diverse population, but as a result of an increase in the overall cost of living this diversity may suffer as many of Gilroy’s residents, including teachers and police officers, are forced to move into low-income communities like Hollister and Los Banos. The Gilroy General Plan cautions that as more people begin to commute to Gilroy for work, businesses may decide to move closer to their workforce, weakening our original plan for economic growth.

Population growth will also negatively impact our health and our environment.

The General Plan recognizes that because of Gilroy’s location at the southern tip of the industrialized Santa Clara Valley, we already have issues with our air quality. More jobs and more housing will bring more people to Gilroy, and along with more people will come more cars.

The American Academy of Family Physicians reports that pollution irritates the eyes, throat and lungs, and is especially harmful to those suffering from heart disease and asthma.

In addition to our health, the International Society of Environmental Botanists has shown that pollution and development can negatively affect our soil and the balance of minerals, plants, and animals that contribute to a healthy ecosystem. So, although the deer and wild boar may be “invading” some of Gilroy’s property, remember that we need them to maintain a healthy level of biodiversity.

Affordable housing and the preservation of a healthy locale are important to us, but the impact of growth on our community family is in itself a noteworthy concern.

I appreciate knowing my grocery store clerk and the local police officer driving down Miller Avenue. Gilroy is an overall healthy place to live, away from the bustle of San Jose, but the reality of maintaining an intimate community is becoming more difficult.

Recently, my dad pointed out to me that as Gilroy continues to grow, interactions may become less simple and personal. For instance, being able to run to our mechanic’s house to drop off keys may be a much less likely way to handle business in a few years. He expressed his regret that I may grow up not truly experiencing the advantages of a close community like Gilroy.

Although there are many problems that accompany population growth, our community still would economically benefit from the increased tax revenues that such growth would bring.

The General Plan Update Committee thoughtfully drew up Gilroy’s General Plan, considering the developmental, environmental, and economical issues that would retain valuable characteristics of current Gilroy while still allowing for the economic opportunities that could prosper Gilroy.

However, the debates behind community development do not stop with this committee. Proposals for development are brought before the Planning Commission for approval every year.

Growth in Gilroy is inevitable, but we should not permit development that we may later regret. Such superfluous development may result in costly effects like the relocation of businesses.

As a community, it is important that we make our voices heard and communicate our vision for our community to the Planning Commission. If you are concerned with Gilroy’s development, I encourage you to attend the next Planning Commission meeting. The commission meets at 6pm the first Thursday of each month in the Council Chambers, 7351 Rosanna Street. For the current agenda see: http://www.ci.gilroy.ca.us/cityhall/planning_commission.html.

Do not let the starry night disappear because there are too many lights.

Guest columnist Jessica Lira is a sophomore at Stanford University majoring in human biology, an interdisciplinary major attempting to link the sciences and the humanities. Anyone interested in writing a guest column may contact Editor Mark Derry at 842-6400 or [email protected]

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