Growth or no growth? Official votes both ways

Councilmember Fred Tovar ran as an anti-growth candidate but his vote to extend a growth ordinance conflicts with his stance on Measure H.

There was more than met the eye last Monday at the Gilroy City Council meeting when the council voted 5-2 to reject city staff’s recommendation to approve an extension of the city’s Residential Development Ordinance with Councilmembers Peter Leroe-Muñoz and Fred Tovar being the two dissenting votes. Councilmember Tovar’s vote to extend the ordinance came into conflict with his position of voting in favor of Measure H in last year’s election.

Tovar was the lone supporter of Measure H among members of the city council and his vote to extend the Residential Development Ordinance, which essentially would allow for further growth until the adoption of the next General Plan, seems to contradict his support for Measure H.

Measure H, a measure that halted the further development outside the city’s boundaries was approved by more than 66 percent of Gilroy voters. Councilmembers Dan Harney, while aware and concerned about the shortage of housing in Santa Clara County, voted to decline the extension based on the will of the voters.

“My decision to go against staff recommendation was the understanding of what Measure H was meant to stand for and what the voters wanted,” Councilmember Harney said.

While the will of Gilroy voters was to halt the further growth of Gilroy, California still grapples with a shortage of affordable housing. According to a recent story ran in the San Jose Mercury News, Santa Clara County’s average amount of housing being built at 5,270 is far below the 21,978 new homes needed. The lack of available housing has led to skyrocketing rents, further exacerbating the housing crisis.

While the rejection of the Residential Development Ordinance puts the brakes on new development, projects that have already been approved such as Glen Loma and Hecker Pass will continue.

“People are upset about the rapid pace of growth and I hope I have taken a small step to slow down the growth in Gilroy,” said Mayor Roland Velasco after last week’s city council meeting. “Residents are upset about the traffic and the impact on our schools. It’s a quality of life issue. Once the general plan is completed, we can have a conversation on the overall growth rate in Gilroy.”

Councilmember Tovar was called and emailed to comment on this report however we have yet to get a response.