Bravery vs. Babbittry at the City Council

Dear editor,

The many concerned citizens at the July 3 City Council meeting endured a very long and tedious sales pitch for Skippy Spiering’s Apartment Complex Masquerading as Agri-Tourism proposal for blighting Hecker Pass. Trouble is, the promotional talk that touched on and attempted to defuse every objection to the project was delivered by a Gilroy city planner, whose salary is covered by taxpayers who will suffer under this cynically designed monstrosity. Even the developer acknowledged the city employee did a much better job than he at selling the plan. The city’s planners called the Hecker Pass corridor “The Jewel of Gilroy,” but then again, unscrupulous people are always looking to steal jewels—and this one was plucked at the meeting.

The plan, described by many as a “monstrosity”, a “strip mall” and a “monolith,” was reportedly approved by an historian who attested to the rural authenticity of the design. As it turns out, this expert on barns works from 582 Market St. in San Francisco, where barns are pretty hard to find. I don’t know how much the city paid for this historian, but I would have offered my input for free; a few years ago I did a blog for the Gilroy Dispatch on barns (on the paper’s site, search for “Barn Again”) and I’ve been around here for 59 years. I’m sure longtime local historians like Connie Rogers, Beth Wyman, Teddy Goodrich, Elizabeth Barratt, Mike Monroe and others would also gladly donate their knowledge because they care deeply about our area; this could have been a substantial savings to the city.

As a college student I read Sinclair Lewis’ novel, Babbitt, an indictment of the soulless boosterism of some who place profit above the quality of community life.

On July 3, I listened to dialogue that could have been lifted from his satirical novel, as a parade of cheerleaders for “progress” told how Skippy’s plan would bring happiness and prosperity, drawing hoards of tourists to our little corner of the world, despite the protestations of so many citizens who told of their fears of traffic on narrow streets, danger to playing children, erosion of property values, degradation to our rural atmosphere, noise and light pollution, blocking of views—the loss of much that had attracted them to Gilroy and prompted their financial and emotional investment. Many testified they had no real knowledge of the possibility of a project that was so tall and oversized. These taxpayers said any mention of future development was that it would have only an agricultural nature that could include rural-type mom-and-pop commerce. Others said there was no mention at all.

But there is bravery to report, and it is heartening. At a Planning Commission hearing, commissioners Tom Fischer and Sam Kim stood out for their clear statement that even if Skippy’s proposal met the letter of the Hecker Pass Plan, it did not meet the spirit, and needed downsizing. At Monday’s meeting it was Dion Bracco and Roland Velasco who represented the community rather than boosterism when they called for a redesign.

Phill Laursen

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