New force for Gilroy’s downtown

– The future of Gilroy’s downtown is now in the hands of eight
GILROY – The future of Gilroy’s downtown is now in the hands of eight individuals.

City Council chose Monday the group of people that will help revise the legal framework that governs the future of Gilroy’s historic downtown area – the Downtown Specific Plan Task Force.

Narrowed down from a group of 22 applicants, the city chose Jim Habing, Pamela Martin, Jim Gailey, David Sheedy, Gary Walton and Richard Young to serve on the task force. Habing, Martin and Walton each received six votes, while Sheedy and Gailey received five and Young four out of a possible seven Council votes.

The document that these members will work to create, the Downtown Specific Plan, is expected to have a huge influence on downtown’s future and revitalization efforts. Unlike some past downtown plans which were more advisory in nature, the plan will hold actual authority over much of what occurs along the city’s historic commercial core along Monterey Street over the next 20 years.

“I’m ecstatic,” Habing, who owns the Habing Family Funeral Home, said upon hearing about committee members. “Those are all good people.”

The task forces’ role will now be to interpret the general policy statements and visions laid out in the city’s overall master land-use policy “Bible,” the General Plan, which was adopted by the Council this summer.

Those statements and visions will be turned into a more specific series of regulations and rules affecting key downtown issues. The list may include everything from residential building standards to parking rules and regulations to the kind of financial incentives offered by the city for renovations or new construction in the area.

“I hope it’s a task force that can make some real changes,” Habing said. “It’s going to take some bold decisions, but I think we can do it.”

Habing has watched as other Bay Area cities have realized the potential of their downtowns, and he said it was past time that Gilroy gets to work.

“I think it’s our turn,” he said. “It’s overdue, but it’s our turn.”

The group won’t be starting from scratch. While other plans have been crafted for the downtown over past years and employed to help guide projects such as the streetscape improvement projects along Monterey Street or the city’s transit center, they were more advisory in nature.

Those plans likely will come up for review during the specific plan process and become a basis for discussion, giving task force members a definite starting place, City Manager Jay Baksa said.

“There’s been a lot of work done up to this point on these advisory plans and recommendations,” Baksa said in January. “This will give everyone a chance to re-examine those and say ‘This still works’ or ‘This doesn’t work and let’s go in a different direction.’ ”

Pinheiro, who has made downtown a centerpiece of his agenda while on Council, said the city’s plans to renovate the downtown streetscape will have to be an important cornerstone of any discussion on the specific plan.

After some debate, the Council voted 4-3 to accept Councilman Al Pinheiro’s suggestion to create two new positions for members of the city’s Economic Development Corporation and Downtown Development Corporation.

EDC Executive Director Bill Lindsteadt will represent that group, while builder James Suner will represent the downtown corporation.

“I find it very, very important these two bodies be represented automatically because they have a big interest in downtown,” Pinheiro told the Council.

Councilman Peter Arellano, who dissented along with Roland Velasco and Craig Gartman, said the business community already has several seats on the task force. He said if additional members were added, they should be citizens at-large.

“The citizens of Gilroy would like to have input on what happens in their downtown,” he said.

Arellano also tried to convince the Council to add another member representing the city’s historical society, but only Charlie Morales supported his motion.

Staff Writer Jon Jeisel contributed to this report.

Downtown Task Force

Jim Habing

Business Owner

Experience: Vice president for the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, past vice president of GDDC, past president of the Garlic Festival, Rotary Club

Pamela Martin

Property Owner

Experience: Executive Board: Gilroy Foundation, Past Chairwoman and Advisory board member for the Gilroy Garlic Festival, 14 years involvement with local schools.

Jim Gailey

Property and Business Owner

Experience: Grew up in Gilroy, Gavilan student trustees member

David Sheedy

Experience: Building Board, Sound Wall Commission

Richard Young

Property and Business Owner

Experience: Lived in Gilroy for more than 60 years, Library and Culture Commission, PAC Committee, Cultural Building Task Force

Gary Walton

Property Owner and Builder

Experience: Board member of the Gilroy GDDC, Morgan Hill Downtown Design Committee member, interview committee member for Gilroy Streetscape Architect selection and MHUSD and the impact fee advisory committee for MHUSD.

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