Our View: The City Council should grant the school district
building permits for the Las Animas School site, but with one key
Should the City Council give the school district housing permits and a zoning change for the current Las Animas Elementary School site? The request present a dilemma.
On one hand, by granting exceptions to the city’s housing cap to various good causes from nonprofit theme parks to affordable housing to downtown development, the Council has far exceeded the growth rate it promised residents to adhere to. Gilroy has rendered the housing cap virtually meaningless by exceeding it by roughly 30 percent.
But, like the other housing permit “exceptions” that have become the rule, this is a good cause. Helping the Gilroy Unified School District finance construction of a desperately needed second high school is perhaps the most worthy of all exceptions. So, what should the City Council do about the district’s request to exceed the cap further by rezoning the land to allow the construction of about 130 homes on the site after the current school is closed?
It’s a Hobson’s choice, so let’s weigh the pros and cons.
On the plus side, granting the exemption significantly raises the property’s value, helping the school district. It prevents the prospect of an unsightly, long-time empty school building that would be a target for vagrants and vandals. The land sits in the midst of a residential area, so residential development makes sense.
On the negative side, allowing the exemption increases the strain on city services, already stretched thin by the extra 1,000 housing units that the city has awarded in excess of the 10-year cap of 3,450. In addition, it rewards poor planning on the part of the school district, which could have made this rezoning request years ago, before the city exceeded its housing allotment cap.
On balance, the city should grant the rezoning request, with one caveat: It should require that any funds from the sale and development of the Las Animas School site be dedicated to building Christopher High School. That’s a reasonable request in exchange for the special exemption that GUSD is seeking.
These funds should not be wasted on consultants, questionable new hires or programs of dubious benefit to the district’s goal of achieving academic excellence. Building a second high school was endorsed by the community when the district’s bond measure passed, and it is entirely reasonable for the city to seek a binding commitment that Las Animas proceeds will be spent on Christopher High School.
Rezone but with a requirement: It’s the best compromise for this Hobson’s choice.