Five homes parked in neutral

From left, Jonathan Saddler, Jorge Parga and Maher El Habi, cut

Every morning, Nina York walks around the block to the Gilroy
Senior Center where she’s the life of the party. As construction
continues on the City of Gilroy’s new library, funded by a $37
million library bond voters approved in 2008, York and her four
neighbors face the possibility of losing their homes.
Every morning, Nina York walks around the block to the Gilroy Senior Center where she’s the life of the party.

It would take the 87-year-old 10 minutes to get there with her walker if she didn’t stop several times on the way to talk and joke

“I’m very popular,” she said. “I’m having a ball here.”

As construction continues on the City of Gilroy’s new library, funded by a $37 million library bond voters approved in 2008, York and her four neighbors face the possibility of losing their homes.

York has had her grass-green abode for 54 years.

“My daughter was only 4 when we moved here. My husband died in this house. I don’t want to move,” said York as she held her walker behind the door screen.

A earmark of little more than $2 million has been written into the library budget to pay for the purchase of the homes and the moving expenses for each of the five families. A consultant will be hired to mediate between city and resident, as required by state law.

The Dowdy Street homes are not the only option for the city, but acquiring new land from willing sellers may be a good option in the long run, said Councilwoman Cat Tucker.

The city has a five-year master plan to expand its campus, and buying the five Dowdy Street homes for an 82-space library parking lot may be an early step in that direction.

The Library Commission will decide in a December closed session meeting whether to purchase the Dowdy Street homes or go with another proposed option of building another story on the old police department parking lot – now used for staff parking – on Seventh and Church streets, said Tucker, who sits on the Commission with councilmen Dion Bracco and Bob Dillon.

The Seventh Street parking lot would stay within the amount earmarked for parking in the library bond, and also provide enough parking for the new facility, said project manager Dan Johnson.

State law requires three parking spaces per 1,000 square feet, said Johnson, who was contracted by Gilroy to oversee the city budget for the library.

But the city is currently looking for other uses for the old police department. If so, it will need even more parking spaces.

The Commission does not favor taking the homes through eminent domain, said Tucker. If they are not willing to sell, however, she said she would try to pursue adding a second story to the Seventh Street parking lot.

The project is currently $6.5 million under budget and about two weeks ahead of schedule. The concrete has been poured on the second deck and a yellow archway can already be seen.

“I’m very happy with the process,” Dillon said.

The new two-story building replaces a 12,500-square-foot structure that had stood at 7387 Rosanna St. since 1975.

But the unresolved parking issue is becoming more urgent as more concrete is poured.

“We’ve had several community outreach meetings,” said Tucker. “People are being told what the plans are.”

Most of the residents of the 7300 block of Dowdy Street are retired, and many of them moved in when the homes were built more than 50 years ago, said Dowdy Street resident Diane Miller.

Miller has lived on the quiet street since the 1980s.

“We’re deeply rooted longtime residents,” she said and points to the houses on both sides of the street listing the names of her neighbors.

The Millers, who live on the home bordering the police department, are not as concerned with selling their home as they are with imagining a wrecking ball tearing down the redwood frames and the sturdy concrete of their house. It has survived an earthquake or two, said Daymond Miller, but its white walls don’t have a crack to show for it.

If they sell their home, they will move to Arizona, Daymond Miller said.

The Millers move York’s trash out to the street every Tuesday, and take her to doctor’s appointments.

York is diabetic and has suffered two strokes.

York was told of the possibility of losing her house when Measure F was voted on in 2008. The bond received almost 70 percent of voter support and the building of the two-story, 54,000 square-foot library – which is slated to be built by spring 2012 – was 11 percent complete as of last week.

A native of Russia, York spoke only a few words of English when she moved to Gilroy. When her husband died 13 years ago, visiting the Gilroy Senior Center on Hanna Street became a daily routine. One she doesn’t want to let go.

“I have 20 fruit trees and 12 rose bushes,” said York, sitting on her off-pink armchair.

Her living room is impeccable, with barely any signs of use. If she moves, she wants her garden to come with her, but she doesn’t think that will happen.

“It’s going to be a big mess because no one wants to move,” she said.

Daymond Miller would go on fishing trips with York’s husband for hours on end – or until Nina called. It was the kind of friendship where 30 minutes of silence didn’t make it awkward, he said. Now the couple keeps an eye out for York.

“As you get older it’s hard to see the neighborhood transition,” said Diane Miller, as her husband interjects: “into a parking lot.”

Those on the other side of Dowdy Street are not as concerned.

“I heard, but I didn’t put any faith in it,” said Juanita A. Gallo. “It doesn’t matter either way.”

Gallo added she’d rather not see her neighbors leave.

Next door, Al Awbry has a similar sentiment. City officials told him the parking lot will be bordered by a high barrier, so he doesn’t expect to be bothered by people loitering in the parking lot.

“At my age, I can’t get too enthused about anything,” the 86-year-old said.

He said he knows people across the street on a first-name basis and would be sorry to see them go.

But York will not leave without a fight.

“I would advise them not to do it,” she said. “Nobody wants to leave and there will be too many lawyers.”

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