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June 22, 2024
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City halts negotiations on Gilroy Gardens property

Future of 536-acre site back to drawing board

The City of Gilroy has halted negotiations with a company that previously showed interest in purchasing the city’s 536-acre property that includes Gilroy Gardens. 

In a May 9 announcement, Gilroy Communications Manager Rachelle Bedell said the city has ceased talks with BayEcotarium that began under an exclusive negotiating agreement. The city council voted to enter into the ENA with BayEcotarium in February, and the ENA period is set to expire in June.

Mayor Marie Blankley clarified that even though Gilroy officials are no longer negotiating with BayEcotarium on a potential sale of the Gilroy Gardens property, the ENA is still in effect. That prevents the city from entering discussions on the property with anyone else until after June 5. 

“Based on the progress to date in meetings with BayEcotarium and the Ad Hoc committee, the City Council decided not to pursue further negotiations under the ENA,” Blankley said. 

The council decided to halt the BayEcotarium negotiations in a recent closed session meeting, Blankley added. 

BayEcotarium is a nonprofit organization and “the San Francisco Bay Area’s largest nonprofit watershed conservation group,” says a Feb. 5 city staff report. It consists of six institutions that focus on marine education, habitat restoration and watershed preservation. It operates Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco. 

City officials at the Feb. 5 council meeting indicated they were “considering a sale or long-term lease” of the Gilroy Gardens property, located at 3050 Hecker Pass Highway, “to drive post-Covid economic recovery with direct (TOT tax) and indirect revenue, job growth and tourism destination brand diversification.”

The city staff report added that a potential sale and development could include “opportunities for various ecotourism programs and events, as well as the continued operations of Gilroy Gardens” theme park. 

The ENA agreement included the formation of a three-member city council ad hoc committee to work with the city administrator on the negotiations. 

But now, with BayEcotarium currently out of the picture as a potential buyer, the future of the Gilroy Gardens property is back up in the air. 

Blankley has noted that the Gilroy Gardens theme park occupies only a small portion of the property owned by the city, and the city should continue looking into a strategy to develop the remaining unused property in a way that brings ongoing revenue to city coffers. 

The city purchased the 536-acre Gilroy Gardens site in 2008, at a cost of $13 million. 

In March 2023, the city council voted to declare the property as surplus, an action required by the state before the city could move forward with any attempt to develop the site with non-housing uses. 

Michael Moore
Michael Moore
Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.

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