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Gilroy
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June 18, 2021

Guest View, Zach Hilton: Transit-oriented projects improve quality of life

I write on behalf of my Gilroy City Council Member Office, in support of Valley Transportation Authority’s Transit Oriented Development in Gilroy and in response to a recent letter from Gilroy Growing Smarter (Gilroy Dispatch, May 21).

1. Downtown Gilroy is the urban core of Gilroy (Leavesley Road to Luchessa Avenue along Monterey Road) and is two miles long. There is a mix of residential all along this core and in all different forms. The VTA TOD site has within walking distance single family homes, multi-family, and mixed-use residential. Our recently adopted Interim Objective Design Standards (with the full adoption coming later this year) will prevent a building looking like Alexander Station. 

Our need to build more high-density housing is here now, will be a part of the future housing needs of our community, and especially needed when built around transit. When about 88 percent of our land is zoned for single family homes, we don’t have many options but to go higher. With the recent adoption of our city’s General Plan 2040, we as a community called for bold actions that include providing high density housing options, affordable housing for all, and continuing to promote cleaner modes of transportation. We encourage existing and proposed development to incorporate Transportation Demand Management measures such as car- sharing, transit passes, and unbundling of parking (requiring separate purchase or lease of a parking space) where such measures will result in a reduction in vehicle miles traveled, reduction of required amount of parking or an increase in the use of alternate transportation modes. We have planned for projects like this and have the resources in 2021 to make them successful. 

2. The parking lot has already been shown to be underutilized and VTA states that you will gain more ridership for transit through TOD. Parking lots, especially empty ones, do nothing for Gilroy to be able to maximize our collection of property taxes and a TOD mixed-use project will generate significant property and sales tax. When transit riders shift their modes to getting to transit to walk/bike/ride-share/carpool/transit, you get more that will hang out downtown before and after their commutes.

3. Our next Regional Housing Needs Assessment cycle is 2023-2031. That housing element is currently being worked on by city staff and is due Jan. 1, 2023. This project’s timeline shows that if constructed it will be in that next RHNA cycle where we will be required to build more housing than in the current cycle. 

4. Projects that are transit-oriented allow people to live and work near public transportation, which helps clear the air, ease traffic and adds infrastructure investments to the community. We are creating more walkable/bikeable places to live that don’t require you to own a car and providing much-needed housing for our graduating high school seniors, teachers, city employees other than managers/directors, and college grads to come home to. This site already has families, children, young, and old living around it. Sumano’s Bakery is moving its operations next door and that project will create needed jobs for many that live in affordable housing. Sumano’s Bakery redevelopment of an existing under-utilized commercial site will enhance the area. Further, the commercial bakery includes an inviting storefront that adds to the diversity of business in the downtown by providing another location for residents to walk or bike as well as the ability to buy high quality bread locally.

6. The City Council has made a bold statement in our strategic goals that we are committed to safe and affordable housing for all Gilroy residents and followed that up with a multi-year contract with HouseKeys to manage our below market rate housing units. HouseKeys will play a key role in advising city hall on programs and policies that we can implement to further strengthen our below market housing portfolio. HouseKeys will be working with all of our BMR projects to ensure lease compliance, safety for the residents, management responsibilities and more. The city can back all that up with code enforcement and adding conditions of approval. We can no longer just build and then walk away; we have to play an active role and we just committed ourselves to that.

Zach Hilton is a member of the Gilroy City Council.

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