Development, impact to schools hot topics at joint meeting

More than 1,600 new homes will be built at the Glen Loma Ranch development by 2020. The Gilroy Unified School District does not have currently have capacity for the scores of students anticipated from that, and future, residential growth.

GILROY—The rapid growth of residential developments and how they’re approved were hot topics at a joint meeting between Gilroy Unified School District trustees and the Gilroy City Council on Sept. 23.
GUSD Superintendent Debbie Flores reported the district does not have the capacity to accommodate new students anticipated from the largest development Gilroy has seen, Glen Loma Ranch. The project is currently under construction between Santa Teresa Boulevard and the Uvas Creek Corridor and will add 1,643 new homes to the city in 17 separate neighborhoods by 2020.
“If we had Glen Loma to do over again, we’d probably do things a little differently,” GUSD trustee James Pace said. Moving forward, district and city leaders say they’re committed to working together on developments that require new school facilities.
“All of us are committed to talking about these developments,” Flores said. Talks directly between district officials and a representative for a developer seeking to add approximately 750 acres to city limits have been ongoing, she said.
“I wish that had happened with the Glen Loma project,” Flores remarked.
Glen Loma Ranch anticipates paying $13.5 million in school impact fees to the district by full build-out, according to its website.
Hundreds of other new residences will be built over the next few years and newly constructed homes in west Gilroy are “flying like hotcakes,” community development director Kristi Abrams said. She reported no slowdown in building and said there’s a push for more residential housing.
But if the project to expand Gilroy north of Day Road is approved later this year, the district may need more than the lone elementary school they’ve been planning on building for two years, according to Flores.
“We’re going to plan for the largest density,” she said of the application from a group of investors, Rancho 101, LLC, to transform a majority of the 750 acres into housing.
The project initially included 721 acres, but was amended Sept. 23 to include additional land. Based on that, Flores said the district might need “a few elementary schools, a middle school and a high school.”
The project’s upper portion will be senior housing and will accommodate 4,000 new residents in 1,600 units, according to Abrams.
Five-story complex a safety concern
In August 2014, the City Council approved a five-story affordable housing complex for the southwest corner of 10th and Alexander streets. The 263-unit San Ysidro Court development will be built within a year and at 58 feet would be the city’s tallest building, Abrams said.
Its location downtown sparked concerns about safety—from whether firefighters have the equipment to battle a high-rise fire to whether a crossing guard would be needed for student safety.
“We don’t want elementary school students to cross,” Flores said, adding that buses will pick them up directly outside the complex while middle and high school students living there will walk to class.
While Las Animas Elementary currently has capacity for some new students, the district will need a new elementary school up and running by 2020, according to Flores. Negotiations about land for that future school are ongoing, she said.
Enrollment affected by building
Currently, 11,480 students attend school within Gilroy Unified, Flores reported. That number has grown over the last 10 years, in keeping with construction of new homes in the area.
Enrollment is directly influenced by development in Gilroy, she said. And as more building occurs, city and district leaders say they want to keep communication lines open.
Toward the end of the meeting, Councilman Roland Velasco—who along with Mayor Don Gage were the lone representatives from the council—invited GUSD trustees to speak up if they have issues with a development coming before the council.
“I want to send a very clear message to you guys: Don’t be afraid to contact me,” he said.
Every development proposal that comes to City Hall is sent over to the school district, when they have an opportunity to comment, City Administrator Tom Haglund said. But if the district has concerns about a project, he stressed that the timing is key.
“The most important time for the district to comment is prior to entitlements,” Haglund said, referring to when the council makes a final decision on a project. “Once entitlements are given out, it’s all over basically.”