It is not easy getting through the permits and fee process to start a business in Gilroy compared with other cities. Local architects say it can take from one to three years to start a business with additional fees that may not be known upfront. Many potential investors have gotten discouraged and moved on to our neighboring cities.
Based on our discussions with the city, Gilroy is working on a land management and planning system that they hope to deploy in 12-18 months that would make it quicker and easier to start a business in Gilroy.
Here is how the city is improving the ambiance and desirability of Gilroy:
- Power washing: The downtown sidewalks are cleaner due to more frequent power washing by the city.
- Maintaining improvements: The city is maintaining the Paseo and new tree lights.
- Marketing: The new visitgilroy.com website created by the Welcome Center pitches Gilroy as a destination one would want to visit.
- City parks: Parks are cleaner with the addition of more accessible garbage cans in high traffic areas; more doggie bag stations have been installed; Las Animas tennis courts are locked at night, preventing defecation on the courts; and blatant drug dealing has diminished.
- The Bicycle Commission added classy bicycle racks downtown.
The blighted condition of the buildings in downtown Gilroy discourages investment. If progress cannot be made with the current building owners, the City Council should enforce the Historical Vacant Building Ordinance to address some of the current buildings that are not in compliance. No longer should people see sheets, shower curtains and plywood covering the windows, cracked glass, missing tiles, mold through the paint and crumbling butcher paper, etc.
We asked the council to discuss with the Economic Development Corp. the possibility of finding an anchor tenant and targeted businesses for a successful downtown. “20 Ingredients of an Outstanding Downtown” recommends the following mix of businesses.
- Ten places that sell food: soda fountain, coffee shop, bistro, cafes, sit-down restaurants, wine store, outdoor dining and confectionary are a must.
- Ten specialty shops: such as galleries, antiques, (not secondhand stores), collectibles, books, clothing, home accents, outfitters, brand-specific businesses, a kitchen store, cigar store, etc.
We also asked the council to get a handle on the number of homeless moving to Gilroy. We have seen fewer homeless people in the downtown area and a quicker police response to homeless calls. The city has deployed a pilot program consisting of additional hours by Gilroy police to proactively deal with homeless concerns in commercial business areas to include downtown. The Public Works Department, after proper noticing, is removing debris and rubbish from illegal encampments.
Gilroy Growing Smarter hopes to continue to partner with our City Council to identify pressing needs in our community. However, we need everyone’s help to keep the momentum going. Let your council members know they are headed in the right direction and encourage them to continue to do the work needed to create a better community.
Connie Rogers, chair of Gilroy Growing Smarter, is a former Gilroy City Council member and president of the Gilroy Historical Society.