To my council colleagues, city staff and the public, I am very excited to be a part of the many changes coming to Gilroy this year. I will continue to bring to these meetings not just the views of myself but those of my constituents.
We have many policies and practices that need to be updated to 2021 standards and fortunately these are finally coming with the recent adoption of the General Plan 2040. Legislating policy in house oftentimes doesn’t require budget allocations, and many best practices are already open sourced. Our entire Zoning Ordinance will be amended to meet the standards of our general plan too, and I look forward to being a part of that process.
I’d like to find some common ground when it comes to homelessness, affordable housing, climate action, streamlining business permits, technology implementation, and most important our human capital or our employees. Many of these issues we can’t solve alone, and we need to leverage partnerships that currently exist and be flexible when it comes to new partnerships. Many organizations have a for-profit and non-profit side of their business structure. The non-profit side can obtain grant funding for the city and oftentimes are more in touch with grant funding opportunities in places where we aren’t.
For homelessness, the community has partners like the Gilroy Compassion Center and St. Joseph’s already, but we need to learn how we can become better partners. Destination Home has provided $1.4 million to Gilroy residents since the pandemic began March 2020, which directly prevented homelessness. As stated at a recent Gilroy Housing & Neighborhood Revitalization Committee meeting by Compassion Center’s Tim Davis, “Funding is not the biggest obstacle, it is the political will.” We do know the right policies and programs to end homelessness.
For affordable housing, we have a partnership with HouseKeys, who currently manages our below market rate housing and has brought in just shy of a million dollars recently to Gilroy. We can work with them to further strengthen our housing options for all residents of Gilroy and make changes to our housing policies with items like a housing inclusionary ordinance which requires a percentage of affordable housing to be built in all developments.
For climate action, we can utilize REACH building codes that require all electric construction of new buildings, join the other cities within Silicon Valley Clean Energy and adopt clean building codes that keeps cost of construction low, prevents pollution, and utilizes the grid’s clean energy. Installing infrastructure to City assets like solar and EV charging capabilities will move us in the right direction. Grant funding is available. State law is once again ahead of us by requiring EV capabilities in multi-family residential and commercial developments but we still have time to further strengthen it and set a good example.
For streamlining the business permit process, we need to cut out the parts that slow down the grand opening days for a business. It’s not a fair playing game when a potential business that knows a council member can get special attention, while those that don’t have any connections are subject to delays. After completion of the building checklist, the business should be allowed to open, and not prevented from opening their doors based on subjective findings. When we remove barriers to opening businesses quickly, then local jobs of all incomes will be more readily available. Everyone should have access to jobs that pay a living wage, and the ability to expand their skills.
Lastly, we need to continue to invest in smart technology and human capital of our workforce. Our ability to manage our assets and infrastructure by email, phone calls and log books needs to be in the past. We have a GIS-based asset management program called Cityworks that’s not being used to its full potential and our public works crews don’t have that technology at their fingertips yet. This program can take our entire recent citywide sidewalk inspection, and build out budget requests to enhance our sidewalk program. We currently can’t take care of an aging city and at the same time future projects that are here at our doorstep today.
Zach Hilton is a member of the Gilroy City Council.