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December 4, 2023

Hecker Pass property draws two inquiries

County parks department, ag firm express interest

The City of Gilroy received two inquiries from agencies interested in its hillside property behind Gilroy Gardens, but none are looking to build housing on the steep 342-acre terrain, City Administrator Jimmy Forbis reported.

Gilroy officials are looking to develop the Hecker Pass hillside into a tourist destination, having received two proposals from recreational and entertainment companies earlier this year.

But negotiations stalled after the city learned that it could have been in conflict with Assembly Bill 1486, also known as the Surplus Land Act, City Attorney Andy Faber told the city council during a May meeting. 

That bill, approved in 2019, requires jurisdictions to make all “surplus” properties—defined broadly as land that is not currently in use by cities, counties and districts—to be made available to affordable housing developers before they can be sold. 

The council on Aug. 2 agreed to declare the property surplus. Under the law, affordable housing developers have 60 days to state their interest after a jurisdiction declares the property a surplus. If a developer does step forward, the jurisdiction must enter into “good-faith” negotiations with them for 90 days.

The city is not required to sell the property under the act.

No housing developer stepped forward during the 60-day period, Forbis told the council on Oct. 18. However, it received two inquiries by the Oct. 11 deadline. 

One was from the Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department, which was interested in acquiring the land for parks and trails, according to Forbis. The other was from an investment group looking to use the property for agricultural purposes, but Faber said the city is not required to negotiate with them because it doesn’t fall under the open space or housing use confines of the Surplus Land Act.

The city plans to open negotiations with the county parks department shortly, Forbis said.

Also during the Oct. 18 meeting, the council unanimously approved the city’s water management and shortage contingency plans, which are required to be filed with the state every five years.

The plan states that the city averages about 6.7 million gallons of water per day. However, despite a rising population, the city’s water usage has decreased, and as of 2020 was on par with 2000 levels.

The contingency plan outlines a series of water conservation levels the city could take in response to a drought. The most severe, Level 6, would declare a water shortage emergency, and require a usage reduction of more than 50 percent. Such a declaration would also give the city administrator the ability to withhold building permits at their discretion.

To view the plan, visit bit.ly/3jidKFH.

Erik Chalhoub
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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