Eye on Gilroy Growth

Revisions to the Residential Development Ordinance competition
n By Serdar Tumgoren Staff Writer

Gilroy – Local homebuilders will have a chance to comment next week on sweeping changes proposed for Gilroy’s building permit competition.

The city is holding an open house Tuesday to discuss revisions to the Residential Development Ordinance, which governs the permit competition at the heart of Gilroy’s growth control efforts.

City leaders are eager to retool the 200-point grading system used in the RDO competition, as it is widely known, in hopes of encouraging more affordable housing and eco-friendly designs. They also hope to reward projects that help finance downtown paseos, sidewalk repairs or other public projects, and to eliminate points for traffic circulation plans and other design elements that have become a routine part of the approval process.

In conjunction with the new point system, city officials are considering a new ordinance that spells out how developers can earn extra points by using energy-efficient designs such as solar power.

The RDO competition governs the vast majority of development in the city. Officials rely on the grading system to decide which projects should get the most building permits, and how fast the homes should be built.

They are eager to revamp the system in time for an RDO competition this summer, when developers will jockey for 191 building permits for market rate homes. First, however, they must decide how much of an edge in the point competition they should give to affordable, eco-friendly and other projects with social benefits.

“The planning commission was very concerned about the rating system and the commission very much wanted to look at input from the development community, so much so that they (delayed a vote) for a month,” said City Planning Manager Bill Faus.

Developers, homebuilders and the general public are invited to learn about and comment on the proposed changes at next week’s open house. City Planner Melissa Durkin will be on hand to answer questions and gather feedback. Commissioners and council members hope to vote on a final draft of the RDO revisions in May.

Durkin can be reached through the planning department at 846-0440.

Las Animas school

conversion discussed

City leaders support a school district plan to convert Las Animas Elementary School into homes, but they don’t like the way school officials are going about it.

Rather than pass through Gilroy’s building permit competition, the Gilroy Unified School District hopes to fast-track the project by invoking a special exemption city leaders approved several years ago, as part of a bail-out for cash-strapped Bonfante Gardens.

The regulatory change that allowed Bonfante to receive 99 building permits is designed specifically for nonprofit groups such as the horticultural park, according to Councilman Craig Gartman. He and other councilmen and planning commissioners discussed the project with school officials this week at a joint study session.

“The sense that I got is that the school district kind of understands that no, they are not going to get that exemption,” Gartman said. “We told them submit you’re application in July for the (standard building permit) competition.”

Gartman said he was not willing to make a special exception based on concerns about time constraints.

School bond monies approved in 2002 have fallen $6.9 million short of the monies needed for various projects, and school officials are eager to convert Las Animas to help finance a new elementary school in southwest Gilroy. The school district is currently trying to acquire the land for the new school through the use of eminent domain.

Steve Brinkman, GUSD’s assistant superintendent of administrative services, could not be reached for comment. The school district has not indicated how many homes it hopes to build on the school site, or how much money they hope to raise through redevelopment.

Gartman and Mayor Al Pinheiro said they prefer to see the school district compete for building permits alongside other developers seeking a share of the 191 permits that will be doled out later this year. If it cannot get the exemption, the school district will probably have to meet new standards for affordable and eco-friendly housing if it hopes to edge out competition under a revamped grading system for housing projects.

The district’s plans for Las Animas Elementary School will likely score high as an in-fill project. That category of the competition rewards projects that lie near existing city services and utilities. Las Animas Elementary School is located in north central Gilroy at 8450 Wren Ave.

“As far as the school site being converted to residential,” Pinheiro said, “I think it’s a perfect in-fill site.”

Applications for this year’s building permit competition are due in July.

editor’s note

This new Thursday feature spotlights

commercial and residential development in Gilroy, as well as policies affecting growth.

E-mail story ideas to [email protected]

RDO Open House

What: Homebuilders invited to comment on changes to building permit competition

When: 4 to 5pm, April 18

Where: Council Chambers at City Hall, 7351 Rosanna St.

To view the planning Commission agenda, visit www.ci.gilroy.ca.us.

Contact Planning Commission Chairman Tim Day at 842-1270 or [email protected]

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