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October 1, 2023

A look back at some of the major Gilroy stories of 2022

For more than two years, people have clamored for the return to “normal” after the uncertainties of a pandemic.

In 2022, we got a taste of normalcy, but it was far from being predictable.

Covid-19, which dominated the headlines in 2020 and 2021, seemingly took a backseat in 2022, despite being always present, and even spiking toward the end of the year.

The effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February was felt locally, triggering record-setting gas prices and anxiety over threats of a nuclear armageddon.

The wet weather to close out the year, coupled with the unbearably and historically hot end to summer, was a reminder of our planet’s ever-changing climate.

We said goodbye to some influential Gilroy figures, and celebrated the accomplishments of many throughout the year.

In this article, we recap some of the major stories that shaped 2022 and will continue to impact Gilroy for years to come.

Good year, bad year for garlic

It was quite a mixed year for Gilroy’s signature bulb.

A cool winter and a dry spring and early summer did wonders for the crop. In June, Christopher Ranch began distributing its 2022 garlic harvest, which consisted of more than one million bulbs, or about 105 million pounds.

In an earlier interview, Ken Christopher, executive vice president of Christopher Ranch, said the Gilroy-based company has processed enough California-grown garlic to satisfy all of its customers. That was a significant statement, as two years ago, the nation experienced garlic shortages coupled with skyrocketing demand during the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Garlic’s cultural standing in Gilroy, however, took a hit in 2022.

After two years of hanging in limbo, the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association officially dashed the hopes of many by announcing in April that it would not hold its traditional event for the foreseeable future.

Further details unfolded in the weeks following the announcement. The biggest hurdle, festival organizers said, are skyrocketing insurance premiums, and the inability to find any insurers willing to take on the risk of such a large-scale event.

The association did hold a series of smaller events in 2022, harkening back to its roots, and envisions a smaller festival in 2023.

On Dec. 12, the co-founder of the Garlic Festival and a Gilroy icon, Don Christopher, died at the age of 88.

The founder of Gilroy’s largest private employer, Christopher Ranch, Christopher was a celebrated figure whose philanthropic spirit drove him to improve the futures of countless young people.

Election year drama

While political drama dominates any election year, 2022 seemed to have more than usual.

The three Gilroy City Council seats up for election in November had the potential to change the dynamics of the nonpartisan but traditionally right-leaning council, and local Democrats sought to take advantage of the opportunity.

Despite a city where the majority of voters favor blue candidates in federal and state races, the three Democratic-backed council candidates came up short in their bids. Voters elected Tom Cline to replace longtime Councilmember Peter Leroe-Muñoz, who announced he would not seek a fourth term, while Dion Bracco and Carol Marques retained their seats.

Perhaps the issue that divided voters the most this year was centered around a councilmember who wasn’t up for reelection.

Councilmember Rebeca Armendariz, first elected in 2020, came under fire in late 2021, when a Halloween party at her home ended in a shooting that left one man dead and injured several others. A second partygoer died later in 2022.

In April, a city-commissioned investigation by Hanson Bridgett concluded Armendariz violated several city ordinances, saying she helped organize the party. Armendariz was issued 10 administrative citations.

That report provided the fuel for a group of residents to launch a recall petition, an effort that lasted for most of 2022. Near the end of the year, the effort failed to bring the matter to the ballot, after the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters determined the proponents did not gather enough valid signatures.

Recreation goals move forward

The idea to make Gilroy a recreation destination gained traction in 2022.

The effort began in 2020 with the formation of the Gilroy Economic Development Partnership, a group of various business, city and other local officials that set its sights on developing the mountainside behind Gilroy Gardens, pursuing an ice rink at the Sports Park and reviving downtown’s Gourmet Alley.

In June, the city council approved a term sheet with Sharks Sports & Entertainment to pave the way for a future operating agreement that could establish a pair of ice rinks at the Sports Park in the southern end of Gilroy.

Negotiations will continue well into 2023, but city officials say the passage of Measure D in November, which amends the city charter to speed up the construction bidding process, will prove beneficial for the potential Sharks project.

In September, the council entered into a one-year exclusive negotiating agreement with Select Contracts to discuss the various aspects behind a bike and adventure park near Gilroy Gardens.

Seismic retrofitting of various downtown buildings neared completion in 2022, and Gourmet Alley will get a needed sprucing up thanks to a $3.9 million grant the city received from the state in March.

In 2023, Monterey Street visitors can stage a bona fide beer crawl, with more than five new breweries and taprooms scheduled to open, in addition to the spots already established. Residents and visitors are also eagerly anticipating the planned return of Gilroy Bowl in 2023, currently undergoing a massive renovation to add a new restaurant and sports bar, along with nine bowling lanes.

Erik Chalhoub
Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.

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