City: Arts Alliance knew building limitations

Opinion

Dear Editor, After reading the Dec. 9 edition of the Dispatch, I think it important for the City of Gilroy to provide some clarification in reference to several articles and opinions that appeared concerning the Interim Gilroy Center for the Arts building use limitations.

To clarify, the site is properly zoned for the intended land use as a cultural arts center. Contrary to the article statements, no further zoning actions are necessary. It is important to note that the city remains supportive of the existing Art’s Center site as a forum for arts-related activities having both purchased the site for ultimate construction of a cultural arts center, but also having entered into a lease of the existing building so that the Gilroy Arts Alliance can utilize the site for the advancement of their arts programs.

The city has programmed an eventual Arts Center into the Public Facilities Impact Fees which will, over the long term, raise funding necessary for a new building. At the request of the Arts Alliance the city leased the organization the site in early 2010 for use as an interim arts center. The city responded to an Arts Alliance written proposal in which the organization indicated that they desired to rally community support through fundraising to improve the old Salvation Army building, and also create an outdoor area so that they could hold outdoor performances. Prior to signing a lease, the city helped the Arts Alliance and their architect evaluate the site and explained the occupancy limitations of the building.

Prior to signing a lease, and in order to manage expectations for how the building could be used, the city helped the Arts Alliance evaluate the site, explained the occupancy limitations of the building and during the past two years has worked to assist the Arts Alliance to incorporate a community garden. In fact, the Arts Alliance’s architect submitted a letter to the Alliance in March 2009 indicating that the building could be used “‘as-is’ if the proposed occupancy and use are similar to the previous occupancy and use.”

Prior use was retail sales, not public assembly creating an important public safety difference. Because the building had been used as a retail facility, and not for public assembly uses, the city, in 2009, informed the Arts Alliance that the building could not be used for public assembly purposes until such time as a seismic evaluation was complete, necessary seismic upgrades were made if required, fire sprinklers installed, required toilet room fixtures and physically challenged accessibility and emergency exiting code upgrades completed based on Section 3408 of the California Building Code, which the city cannot override.

Even though the Alliance’s 2009 proposal identified outdoor performances and did not identify indoor performances the city has worked with the Gilroy Arts Alliance in a proactive, accommodating and responsive manner to help them find ways to hold limited indoor performances. To this end monthly meetings are held with city staff and Art’s Alliance representatives so that individual special events can be identified and processed in a timely manner.

Though the Alliance has not met the 30-day special event timeline requirement on a number of occasions, the city has nonetheless worked hard to help accommodate the Alliance’s programming on very short timeframes. Starting in 2012, the city will revert to the original use terms spelled out and agreed to by both parties in the original lease agreement.

While the city is supportive of the Art’s Alliance and excited about working with them to advance the arts in Gilroy, the city must also take its responsibility for guaranteeing the health and safety of the public very seriously. The limitations placed on the use of the building are not based on the zoning of the building, but rather on the seismic rating of the building and the California Building Code. With the proper building certification, the Alliance would be free to host larger events in the building without the need for a special events permit.

Joe Kline, public information officer, City of Gilroy

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