Bad Sidewalks and No Sidewalks

Gilroy’s longest serving city clerk and the first appointed by the City Council, Susanne Steinmetz, was remembered by the council at its April 4 meeting.

The session was convened in memory of Steinmetz, who died March 23. In 1960, she was the first person to be appointed city clerk. Remembered for her remarkable memory and attention to detail, Steinmetz served for 37 years.

The April 4 meeting also marked the first time new City Administrator Gabriel Gonzalez sat on the dais. The Santa Cruz native was sworn in and introduced to the chamber by Mayor Perry Woodward.


State of the sidewalks

The council received a report on the state of the city’s sidewalks, including an update on the city’s 80/20 Sidewalk Reimbursement Program which helps residential property owners pay for critical repairs.

The city requires, according to state code, that property owners maintain the sidewalk area along the front of their property. This includes concrete replacement and repair.

To help property owners comply, the city started a 50/50 sidewalk replacement program in 1994 to help residential property owners with the cost of maintaining their sidewalks. The program changed to 80/20 in 2008.

As part of the program, the city provides technical advice, recommends suppliers and an inspector ensures the contractor chosen by the property owner follows city guidelines.

The property owner is required to get three bids for the repair work and once work is completed, the owner is reimbursed for approximately 80 percent of the cost.

Last year, the program served 45 property owners, with the city funding $194,676 of $230,338 total repair costs. The owners’ portion came out to $35,662.

Each year, the city funds the program to the tune of approximately $250,000 to $300,000.

At the council meeting, city staff said the budget would need to be increased to about $1 million a year to fix all the city’s residential sidewalks.

In 2012, a citywide sidewalk survey was conducted, consisting of 13,452 properties.

At that time, the city identified 4,622 properties with damaged sidewalks, estimated at $6.6 million in repair costs.

A new sidewalk survey is planned for this summer.  

Apartment complex appeal

Wary of potential litigation should they deny the appeal of a proposed senior housing development on Monterey Street, the council voted to move discussion to a future meeting.

The council, in a closed session, will discuss the applicant’s appeal of a February 18 planning commission decision that denied the architectural and site permit application for the construction of a 75-unit four-story senior apartment complex on the east side of the busy thoroughfare.

“I’m not in love with this project,” said Mayor Perry Woodward during council discussions. Located in a designated gateway district, the proposed affordable housing project designed for residents 55 and over would be sharing a street with a towing service and the business park that currently houses the Dispatch and a building supplies company.

“What were we thinking?” asked Councilwoman Cat Tucker regarding the mixed uses allowed under the gateway district zoning designation as part of the Downtown Specific Plan approved by the council.

Tucker had sat on the Downtown Specific Plan committee and city staff said this is the first housing project on the east side of Monterey Street to come before the council under the zoning designation.

As was the case at the March 21 council meeting, when the applicant’s appeal was first heard, the safety of residents walking along Monterey Street was brought up repeatedly.

Alexis Gevorgian, principal of AMG & Associates, the developer behind the project, told the council he appreciated their comments and was cognizant of the safety issues.

He wanted, however, to “put it all in perspective” and point out that the apartment complex would be for people 55 and over, not Alzheimer’s patients or those requiring assisted living.

He said it would also be affordable, thus providing critical housing for those who may be living with family members because they can’t afford rent on their own.

“We always abide by the law,” Gevorgian, said, adding the project complies with the city’s general plan, downtown specific plan and that they have been working and negotiating with city staff for 18 months.

The City Council will next discuss the project at a closed session meeting and directed staff to determine if it is feasible to require a sidewalk from Luchessa to 10th Street as a way to mitigate safety issues.