Wounds aplenty, but taking the chainsaw to heritage oaks? Shame

Mark Derry

Licking my wounds … not sure which gashes were inflicted by our just-completed home loan refinancing process or which were the result of the 49ers loss Sunday. Both were unnecessarily tortuous. The 49ers should have and could have overcome the bad calls and won the game, but I agree with our Gilroy brethren, former 49er QB Jeff Garcia, who said in a radio interview that the final play fade route throw from Colin Kaepernick to wide receiver Michael Crabtree, which resulted in an interception, was the wrong call for a number of reasons. The throw would have had to have been perfect, said Garcia. Yep, not the smart call or the percentage play, and I appreciate Garcia telling it like it is. He, after all, learned from the best. His father, Bobby, still calls them like he sees them.
That’s exactly what Gilroy residents should do about downtown. It’s survey time everyone. Next time you’re at the screen, get ready to do just what the city is asking: “Tell the City what your priorities are for Downtown revitalization by completing an online survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/DowntownGilroy2014.  The survey will be active through Tuesday, Feb. 4, and results will be presented to the City Council as they consider a City Action Plan for Downtown.” Saddle up, ride into the survey and let your voice be heard. The longer I’m here – 28 years now – the more I believe the dismal state of our downtown is the numero uno when it comes to holding Gilroy back. It’s a poor reflection on our community. “Vibrancy, not vacancies,” would be a good slogan to adopt – with a timeline attached. Wouldn’t it be great to see a high goal set by the City Council, the Downtown Business Association, the Chamber and the Economic Development Commission? Goal: All vacant downtown buildings will be occupied by April 11, 2015, then work together to get it done by streamlining the permit process, setting up incentives, reaching out to prospective tenants and committing to better lighting and directional signage to public parking.
Signs that say “Do Not Cut Down” shouldn’t be needed on “heritage” oak and other elder trees as developers go about the business of building homes. Gilroy has words in the city ordinances, but enforcement appears to be either questionable or non-existent. Guess the ordinance needs more teeth. Old trees are worth something, to homeowners and to the aesthetics of the community. Pruning a 100-year-old oak is one thing, chopping it down to fit in another half a house into a development plan quite another. As the economic home-building engine starts to humm again, let’s make sure we have our ducks in a row insofar as community values go.
Gilroy should value the possible growth in the health care industry, says the strategic draft economic development plan currently being formulated – and job retention from existing businesses is also high on the report’s list. An Editorial Board discussion Tuesday with Lee Butler, the city’s Development Center Manager, and economic consultant Doug Svensson affirmed this. That said, the possible closure of Saint Louise Hospital – 500-plus jobs, plus all the ancillary support work for janitors to laundry to office managers – should put Saint Louise at the top of the retention list. And let’s not pooh-pooh this at the outset with the comfortable conclusion that a community-oriented buyer will emerge. Let’s see some proactive movement from city and service organization officials so there’s no “you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone” lament a year from now.
A year from now, Gilroy will be starting construction on a new community center near the city-center complex. That’s a pipe dream, but it’s happening in Morgan Hill at the Community Recreation Center, built by the city and operated by the YMCA, which reminds me … the annual YMCA campaign that’s kicking off now supports so many programs from soup – that would be the lunch program at the Gilroy Senior Center which has 200 signed up – to nuts … ah, well that might be the YMCA’s after school programs that more than 500 young people go nuts for. So, when the Y campaigner comes a knockin’ on your door, please know that a healthy donation contributes mightily to a healthier Gilroy community.  
Not a healthy situation when weather patterns, plagued with drought, show no signs of relenting. Heard that 1850 was the last time our area had so little rain. So, we’ll have to ask the mayor to check his diary (just kidding, Don). but don’t worry 49er fans, the days until the San Francisco Giants open spring training are few, and strangely, if this keeps up any trek to the Arizona desert won’t feel much different than being at home.
Home is where you should give and the Gilroy Foundation is accepting grant applications for the 2014 cycle. Deadline: Jan. 31. The Foundation awards grants from $500 to $20,000 and $98,500 is available this year for qualifying nonprofits, schools and city programs. Criteria and applications at gilroyfoundation.org.
Reach Editor Mark Derry at [email protected]

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