Zach Hilton said the Gilroy Bicycle Pedestrian Commission has made many strides in promoting an active lifestyle within the city.
Among those accomplishments, the commission, of which Hilton serves as chair, installed bicycle racks downtown, and introduced a number of initiatives, such as the Downtown Bicycle Parking Plan and the Citywide Bike Parking Ordinance. Hilton also created Bike Match Gilroy, where residents can donate bicycles to those in need.
But during those four years on the commission, Hilton said he’s seen opportunities pass the city by that would have benefited the community.
“While we have had many accomplishments that directly benefit the community on the Bike/Ped Commission, I have seen many missed opportunities pass us by on the city council level,” he said. “This is due to lack of relationship building, the willingness to have an open mind, and the lack of continuing education/training.”
With that in mind, Hilton, a 20-year City of Oakland firefighter/paramedic, is running for one of the three open city council seats in November.
Gilroy needs to focus on promoting affordable housing within the city, Hilton said, especially now after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 330 in 2019. The bill aims to speed up housing construction in the state by barring local governments from reducing the number of homes that can be built for the next five years, among other things.
One such way is to support building accessory dwelling units on existing single-family lots, which Hilton said would allow older residents to move into a smaller unit but still live on their property and earn income by renting out their larger home.
With more housing comes more traffic, yet Hilton said this can be alleviated by making neighborhoods more walkable and bike-able, eliminating the need for vehicles to get around town. Hilton said the city needs to update its Neighborhood District Policy in a way that allows housing units to be built in sync with services, parks and schools. For example, the city should require services to be in place before 50 percent of a housing project is completed.
A bike parking ordinance, which would require residential developments to provide a place for residents to store their bicycles, as well as reducing the city’s vehicle parking requirements on new developments, coupled with nearby services, would reduce the need for vehicles, according to Hilton.
If elected, Hilton said he would establish an internship program for high school and college students, providing local young people “valuable education and work experience,” adding that he is already providing such an opportunity with his campaign.
“Many legislators began their careers by interning,” he said. “It is an invaluable way to gain a true understanding of the Gilroy City Council’s democratic process, as well as an excellent opportunity to make important contacts while serving the community.”
Among other issues, Hilton said he wants the city to streamline its business permit process to speed up the time it takes to approve an application within 30 days.
“After completion of the building checklist, the business should be allowed to open, and not prevented from opening their doors based on subjective findings,” he said. “This models after SB 330 for residential developments.”
Hilton said his experience managing projects and policies will aid him on the council.
“I understand that the community wants to feel engaged all the time, and I will continue to do this just like I have during my term as a commissioner,” he said. “I will continue to improve my training/education as a councilmember by attending conferences, webinars and regional meetings. I will continue to meet as frequently as needed with all bargaining units, to understand their concerns. Lastly, I have an open mind.”