Victorian Vision for a Dilapidated and Unsafe Downtown Gilroy

Dear Editor,
A handful of Gilroy downtown buildings have been
earthquake-retrofitted after the 1989 Loma Prieta quake, but the
vast majority have not.
Dear Editor,

A handful of Gilroy downtown buildings have been earthquake-retrofitted after the 1989 Loma Prieta quake, but the vast majority have not. I avoid downtown like the plague because downtown landowners cannot bother to reinforce their brick buildings. These buildings are unsafe, deathtraps. Anyone spending time in these unreinforced buildings is NUTS – how easily we forget that several people died in Santa Cruz’s downtown buildings from falling brick in 1989, just the sort of buildings that exist in downtown Gilroy now.

If downtown’s landowners do not wish to retrofit their buildings, I support the city condemning every last one of them. Then landowners would have to tear down buildings and build anew, perhaps creating “Victorian-style” buildings similar to Mountain View’s downtown.

Gilroy would be better served by tearing down much of downtown and rebuilding from scratch. Landowners should gut their downtown buildings, redesign for three or four stories (with offices and/or living-spaces above storefronts), soundproof all interior spaces, quakeproof and fireproof according to existing building codes, make the alley/rear facades pleasant-looking, and create attractive “Victorian-style” front facades (using late 1800s muted colors such as French blue, dusty rose, dusty gold, etc.)

Assuming that landowners continue to refuse to operate in concert with each other and with the city, entropy will do the job. Existing neglected buildings will get more dilapidated, and in five, 10 or 20 years the need to condemn will become urgent. At least some of the buildings will get sold at bargain-basement prices.

It appears that Gilroy’s dingy downtown, over time, is the result of hundreds of individual negative decisions and hard-hearted attitudes. Gilroy’s downtown of today is a glittering example of “The Power of Negative Group-Think.”

Laura J. Shulman, Gilroy

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