Resolution for downtown? Resolve and creativity

When it comes to solving the decades old problem of fixing
unreinforced masonry buildings downtown, the city of Gilroy has to
be realistic.
Setting an all-encompassing gold standard for any upgrade,
essentially the current city position, will not work. It
hasn’t.
1. Take care of the most worrisome safety hazard, then go from there

When it comes to solving the decades old problem of fixing unreinforced masonry buildings downtown, the city of Gilroy has to be realistic.

Setting an all-encompassing gold standard for any upgrade, essentially the current city position, will not work. It hasn’t.

What’s needed is compromise, creativity and a good old-fashioned hard look at what’s going to get the job done that doesn’t cost building owners a ton of money. The fact is, it’s expensive to fix up an old building and there has to be a return on that investment.

A new building code standard should not compromise the safety of the public in terms of falling hazards. Bricks should not be falling from the sky killing people when the next significant earthquake rumbles from the depths of the earth. Safety is job No. 1.

2. Preserving the historic feel of our downtown is vital to its future

But there are ways to eliminate the worst hazards without requiring a full retrofit to the new quake building standards in place today.

Oakland, for example, has set a Bolts+ retrofit criteria that deals with the safety hazard. Gilroy should adopt a similar program and ensure that construction is suitably inspected such that within the prescriptive criteria residents know the buildings will not spew bricks from the walls.

Working with building owners is key. Preserving the unique architecture of our downtown with its historic appeal will, in due time, preserve its future. Downtown is the focal point for a community’s image.

Gilroy has great parks, a fabulous location, a burgeoning wine industry, beaucoup bargain shopping destinations, the world famous Garlic Festival and a downtown that every Gilroyan wants to be better.

3. Costs are down, and it’s the perfect time to create new incentives

It’s time to take two steps forward without taking one step back.

That means getting a new building standard approved very soon while the construction industry is slow and sub-contractors, just happy to have work, are charging far less.

It also means that the city must look at ways to provide some creative incentives for undertaking the work. Is state block grant money available for low interest loans? Will a local bank partner with the city to offer low interest loans?

Mayor Al Pinheiro should consider a stump speech appeal entitled “Buy a Building and Fix It – please” to the Rotary Club, the Chamber and any other organization willing to listen. Resolve is the way downtown can be fixed. Resolve.

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