The city council has carved out a vision for Gilroy’s next 15 years and, after its annual two-day strategic planning session, there’s a blueprint that outlines the steps needed to establish Gilroy as one of the most desirable destinations in the country.
If all goes to according to plan – one constructed through input from Mayor Don Gage and the city council – then Gilroy will gradually take steps to becoming a financially sound, high-performing city with a safe, thriving downtown as well as one full of top notch recreation spots for visitors and residents alike to enjoy.
“We came out with a documented road map that we can follow for the next 15 years with measurements and accountability,” said council member Terri Aulman. “Everybody can look at it to see where we’re going.”
No longer being called a “city retreat” like in years past, this yearly meeting of the minds – with the intent on setting a direction for garlic city that ties together a 15-year vision, a 5-year strategic plan and a 1-year action plan – charts a path for a prosperous future.
“It was really good to see how the council was so unified about the big picture stuff. The coming together was really, really encouraging,” said Jane Howard, Executive Director for the Gilroy Welcome Center. “My expectations were high. I went in optimistic. I left very, very satisfied.”
High praises were aplenty for strategic planning facilitator Lyle Sumek who not only performed hour-long interviews with every member of the council to learn about their city priorities before the sessions began, but developed a 10-section packet based on their responses breaking down each topic of discussion.
“This was the first time that I’ve been through a planning session with an outside facilitator. This was kind of a new experience for us,” said council member Peter Leroe-Munoz. “What I thought was very helpful was that he works with so many different cities all over the country that he brought a broad perspective to the discussion.”
Howard added: “He was very skilled in letting everyone be heard, but staying on focus about where we were in the planning session.”
Sumek will finalize the public document in the near future and ship it to city administrator Tom Haglund who will then give copies to all the council members for one final review before “Vision 2028” becomes official. Each year, the mayor and city council will review the plan and make any amendments necessary to reach the ultimate goal for Gilroy.
“I think we all worked well together. It was surprising to many of us that we all had similar visions,” said council member Cat Tucker. “I think it was productive. We now have a concrete vision and a strategic plan and there will be some accountability with staff.”
Council member Perry Woodward has publicly not been a fan of past city retreats, calling them just “extended city council meetings.” But this year, Woodward had a different take about the way the strategic planning session was conducted and how much was accomplished.
“This is my sixth retreat and this was by far the best orchestrated retreat and I attribute that to a large part to the facilitator. He really caused us to do more long-term policy discussion,” said Woodward. “I thought it was really refreshing compared to retreats from past years.
“This was really an opportunity to sit down with my colleagues and discuss our vision of what Gilroy is going to be like 10, 15 years down the line.”
Council member Dion Bracco was not a big fan of bringing in an outside facilitator before the two-day planning session, but he was won over by Sumek and what he brought to the table.
“I actually wasn’t on board with having a facilitator,” said council member Dion Bracco, “but once we got started, I was really happy with it and glad we did it.”
While the meeting started from the long term destination for Gilroy in 2028 and worked its way back with yearly and five-year project intervals, some of the first-year initiatives – with the goal of being completed within the first calendar year (see graph) – included the implementation of a downtown city action plan and establishment of a regional gang task force.
“It covers everything from Year 1 in 2013 to 2028. This is still a working document, so every year we will review this and look at it,” said Gage.“(The facilitator) put the guiding principles in here, which allowed us to think of this directly instead of sitting there trying to create it, which takes a lot of time.”
The long term goal, or “Vision 2028,” had eight key principles: 1) A thriving downtown, a top priority and one subject to much debate over the years; 2) Art and culture; 3) Complete neighborhoods; 4) Access to recreational and leisure activities; 5) Green City, one that’s environmentally friendly; 6) Easy access and mobility, like the paseos in downtown; 7) Inclusive Gilroy community for all, making the city a great place to live; and 8) Tourism.
“Time will tell what gets done this year,” said Bracco, “but I think we’re going to get a lot done because of the retreat.”
The council cemented vision, mission statement, and goals and objectives from the outline created by the facilitator through his interviews with the members. For each long-term principle, a list of 12 courses of action were proposed. The council members then selected their top seven of the 12. The facilitator kept tabs and the overall top seven from those 12 were marked for that specific principle. Ones that did not make the final cut weren’t eliminated, but pushed to future years.
For example, under Principle 3 to achieve a thriving downtown, there was a goal of providing a destination for residents and the region, so “we want downtown to be an attraction for the local community as well as our visitors,” explained Gage. “In other words, come to the outlets and then go to the downtown.”
“We’re working on what we want the downtown to look like,” the mayor added. “Do we want junkie businesses? No, we don’t want that. We want to get rid of all the unreinforced masonry buildings or fix them up and start to develop – as some of the businesses have – commercial on the bottom and residential on the top floors.”
The overwhelming top priority in the 5-year strategic plan was maintaining a financially sound, high-performing city. Some of the ways to do that were outlined as “be more customer-oriented, provide first class municipal services (i.e. sewer, garbage and water) and have engaged residents who help in the process.” Also in the top four for the first five years were: upgrades to the city infrastructure and facilities; create a more livable Gilroy community; and developing a thriving downtown.
“I don’t think they are all attainable, but unless you have a map you won’t know if you’re headed in the right direction,” said Woodward, who believed it was not only the responsibility of this council but future councils to stay the course for Vision 2028. “It always helps to have a cohesive vision of where you’re trying to get to. This is a good step to that end.”
Barb Grantner from Gilroy Gardens listened in at the community room inside the Gilroy Police Department. Gage opened up the floor to residents at the very beginning and the end of each session.
For Grantner, the Vice President and General Manager at Gilroy Gardens, sitting in on her first two-day strategic planning session was time well spent.
“It was well worth my time for someone who owns a business in the community to hear the direction the mayor and the council has for the city,” said Grantner. “The community, the city and the businesses all had similar views of what they want this city to be, and that can only be positive.”
Grantner also sits on the Visitors Bureau/Gilroy Welcome Center board, which will be presented with an overview of the two-day strategic planning session by Howard in the coming days. The Welcome Center is a funding recipient and economic development partner of the city.
“It was such a different format (from last year). I just felt this particular strategic planning session, with a facilitator, paid huge dividends in terms of an outcome,” said Howard. “It’s critical to be present to hear the philosophical discussions, the direction the city agrees to go in and what role we play so we’re all in sync.”
The city council seemed to be in sync about what they wanted for the future of Gilroy and the steps it will take to get them there.
“It was very productive. Everybody stayed focused. There was humor involved and nobody sniped the other person on their ideas or comments, which isn’t allowed. They all participated,” said Gage. “I think we accomplished a lot more than I expected to accomplish.”
City of Gilroy Management Agenda
1) City Services and Cast Analysis
2) Department Performance Audits Program Development
3) Pension Reform: Report
4) Paseo Development
5) Technology Communications Master
1) Comprehensive Fee Schedule
2) General Plan: Updates
3) Strategic Plan: Institutionalization
4) Website Upgrade
5) LED Street Lights
City of Gilroy Policy Agenda
1) City Economic Development Policy and Tools
2) Regional Gang Task Force/Strategic Plan Implementation
3) Residential Development Ordinance/Development Standards
4) Unreinforced Masonry Buildings
5) Downtown City Action Plan
1) Police Service and Staffing Plan
2) Youth Center Evaluation (including alternative)
3) Lap Pool/Water Features
4) Library Parking
5) Arts Center Facility: Upgrade