Principled by Compassion

Our View: Bob Dillon’s last minute change of heart regarding the
Rancho del Sol project was a triumph of compassion over
The Rancho del Sol project proposed by South County Housing was a good one: 303 units, a blend of market- rate homes and units designated for low-and very low- income families, to be built in north-central Gilroy. True, the project required a change in zoning regulations. True, the developer was asking the city to allow it to bypass Gilroy’s building permit competition. But proponents argued that the project, with its diverse mix of housing, exemplified the spirit of the Neighborhood District Policy.

The reasons cited by councilmen Bob Dillon, Craig Gartman, and Roland Velasco for voting against the project were also good: valid reasons, principled reasons. Equality before the law is not a principle to be lightly discarded.

If Council suspends the zoning regulations for one project, why not for another? If for one developer, why not for all developers?

If zoning ordinances are to be set aside for specialized ordinances, designer ordinances and preferential treatment, why have zoning ordinances at all?

As is usual with such projects, the Rancho del Sol project came before council in two parts: first the request for the zoning regulation change, then the building permit request.

With three councilmen voting in favor of the zoning change and three opposed, the project seemed dead in the water. South County Housing representatives left the chambers before part II came up on the agenda, saying that lacking the requested zoning change, they would probably have to sell the property.

But after a brief adjournment, Councilman Dillon returned to the dais and joined the pro-affordable housing threesome in voting to grant permits for Ranch del Sol.

“I just changed my mind on it at the last minute,” said Dillon. “South County does great work, and my hope is that they will be able to come back with new language (for the zoning change request).”

Change of mind or change of heart? Bob Dillon has been known throughout his tenure on city council as a man of principle.

In all probability, he lost his seat in the last election due to a principled refusal to use city funds to publish a ballot statement.

It is almost ironic that one of Bob Dillon’s last acts in office would be to allow a triumph of compassion over principle.

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