Drivers are behaving so badly in Gilroy’s gated Eagle Ridge community that residents say they are afraid for their lives. People speed, blow stop signs and have no respect for traffic laws, they said.
Dozens of them packed the City Council chambers Monday to ask police to step up traffic enforcement in the 900-home golf course community of 4,000.
“There is a unique problem there, someone is going to get killed. It’s bad,” said Mayor Perry Woodward, who had to recuse himself from voting because he lives at Eagle Ridge, but spoke as a resident.
Hosein Fallah, treasurer of the homeowners association, showed closed-circuit TV footage of motorists blithely driving through a stop sign in the 120-acre development.
“We just want police visibility,” said resident Steve Garcia during public comments, adding that he’s been flipped off by speeders. “Residents are frustrated with the feeling that people think we are privileged and don’t need [traffic] enforcement. If we have hotspots, please mind them.”
Gilroy police patrol Eagle Ridge as part of their regular beat and for 10 years and they have been authorized to issue traffic citations along its Club Drive perimeter. However, because it’s a private development, the City Council must first approve a resolution to authorize police to do the same along its interior network of roads and intersections.
Currently, Eagle Ridge security handles traffic complaints, but penalty notices to resident offenders, which can result in liens on their property if not paid, have not done the trick, Fallah explained before the meeting.
Rather, he said, a traffic enforcement officer, with power to write tickets on the spot, would be more effective in deterring bad and potentially, fatal behavior.
In other parts of the city, when residents complain, a traffic officer is usually sent out to monitor and then radar a potentially dangerous driving hotspot, explained Gilroy Police Chief Denise Turner.
More than a dozen Eagle Ridge residents spoke in support of council action on the matter.
One resident said, while she did not personally see speeders and suggested she may not live in a hotspot as others in the audience might, the situation has bred “negative behavior,” with frustrated residents posting pictures of speeders on social media and others standing in their front yard giving dirty looks to passing motorists.
City staff recommended the council put off any resolution until a series of citywide traffic studies from 2013 were updated, to determine the best use of limited police resources.
The crowd, for the most part, was not having it.
“Don’t delay this to make another report,” said Eagle Ridge resident Arnold Flores, adding that both his wife and young son had dangerous run-ins with speeders. “We are here making ourselves heard.”
During discussion on the dias, Councilmember Dion Bracco said he was against doing more studies and suggested instead a trial period where an officer from the traffic unit is sent to Eagle Ridge.
“They pay taxes like everyone else. If they have issues, send a traffic officer out.”
Andy Faber, the city attorney, said routine traffic enforcement at Eagle Ridge would require an ordinance by the council.
“We cannot just say immediately, ‘Chief go out there and do traffic enforcement.’ Police are out there when they are available, and will continue to stop and cite when they see it. It needs to come back to council,” said Roland Velasco.
The council resolved to revisit the item at its next session and to update the three-year-old citywide traffic studies, including the recent one undertaken by Eagle Ridge, in its analysis.
City Administrator Gabriel Gonzalez said the update should be complete in time for city budget workshop meetings in the spring.
In an effort to make the city more friendly to people wanting permits, the council Monday approved nearly $60,000 for audits of the Community Development Department and the city’s development review process.
The reviews were suggested at the council board retreat earlier this year.
Woodward said the reviews, which will be conducted by Management Partners, a management consulting firm with offices in San Jose, Orange County and Cincinnati, Ohio, are an answer to a “perception in the community that the permitting process is not customer friendly.”
A lack of customer service, inconsistent directions, and layers of requirements that seem to change depending who one talks to in the department, are among the complaints Woodward has received from people who want to develop in the city.
As part of the review, Woodward said, best practices in other communities will be studied.
“This is not just about new construction, but also developing downtown. The current process ranges from very difficult to broken. Building or renovating downtown can be onerous for people with good ideas,” he said.
Woodward said while a relatively small expense, these reviews are an important city initiative.
“This is the beginning of a big transformation of how we deliver those services to the community,” he said.
A planned review of the Public Works Department has been shelved for the time being for budget reasons and “recent and impending management changes in the department,” according to a city staff report. Instead, staff have developed a new organizational structure for the department, which is undergoing budget analysis. The results of this work will be presented to the council for consideration in the next couple months.
Farewell to Servin
The City Council said thanks and farewell to Henry Servin, the traffic engineer who brought roundabouts to Gilroy, at its regular meeting on Monday.
Servin, whose last day is Friday, after four years at City Hall, was presented with a proclamation of appreciation by Mayor Perry Woodward, who touted the engineer’s technical prowess and major contributions to the city of Gilroy as both a valued member of the public works team and a representative on the technical advisory committee of the Valley Transportation Authority.
“He’s been a vital advocate for Gilroy at the regional level and will be sorely missed,” Woodward said.