Gavilan Plays Hardball

Our View: Land acquisition equals leverage for community
Gavilan College President Steve Kinsella turned the tables on the Coyote Valley development powers that be Monday night – and it was a thing of beauty.

Coyote Valley Specific Plan Task Force members, arrogant and exclusive, were at long last ousted from their powerful perch by a leader who has the gumption to play hardball when it’s necessary.

Kinsella, concerned that Gavilan College would be frozen out of Coyote Valley plans, tied up a land site and announced plans to open a campus in north Coyote Valley as soon as 2009.

Task force members were aghast, “How dare Gavilan make plans without including us!”

Turnabout is fair play in this case, and frankly it’s gratifying to see our college president fight for what could significantly strengthen Gavilan’s regional role. If Coyote Valley winds up as a community of 50,000 in the not-too-distant future, Kinsella surely wasn’t going to sit on the sidelines and wait to be told what to do.

For years, San Jose officials have frozen Gavilan Community College – and the Morgan Hill Unified School District – out of the planning process. No one from the college was allowed to join the specific plan task force, even though the college is charged with serving the residents who planners hope to draw to the now-rural region.

Now the smug task force has no choice. Gavilan is in the driver’s seat, and if the task force doesn’t like the current location of the college on Bailey Avenue across from IBM because it gets in the way of their cozy little plan, they will have to negotiate with Gavilan.

“We want a college there, too; however, there’s a finite amount of space …” said San Jose City Council and Coyote Specific Plan Task Force Member Forrest Williams. “… we just want to work together.”

Williams’ words are hollow sentiment when every action the task force has taken has excluded Gavilan.

Dan Hancock, a task force member representing Shappell Industries, scoffed at the notion that Gavilan College would meet state mandates for parking requirements.

“Twenty acres of parking is so incongruous with everything we’ve been doing in that plan,” Hancock said.

That’s the task force’s fault.

Bravo for Kinsella and the Gavilan Board of Trustees. They had the foresight to purchase land before it got any more expensive and understood that without leverage San Jose officials would simply keep dictating plans like they do on everything from VTA priorities (think BART) to high school placement (think Sobrato High School) to Coyote Valley development (think about the lack of South Valley representation on the task force).

Kinsella has stood up to the San Jose bully embodied by San Jose’s mayor. Until Ron Gonzalez is replaced by someone who understands how to build relationships, all the leaders in South Valley should take a cue from Gavilan’s strategy: Play hardball with San Jose or you’ll be waiting at the gate, locked out of the game without a ticket or a prayer.

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