Thank you to the Cities Selection Committee (Mayors of Santa Clara County), and I am grateful for the opportunity to apply for the Cities Association’s Alternate Commissioner to Santa Clara County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO). 

LAFCO is where cities go to expand their boundaries. Gilroy continues to be pressured into expanding their city boundaries by developers and local electeds who want to build expensive single family homes. Those of us that want to prevent sprawl, value smart growth, know sprawl would be costly for our city—which can’t afford to provide urban services to these new developments—will continue to apply to be in these positions. 

Zach Hilton
Zach Hilton

I have been watching and participating in LAFCO meetings since I was Chair of the Gilroy Bicycle Pedestrian Commission from 2017-20 and elected as an At-Large Gilroy City Council Member in 2020. I value LAFCO’s mission of minimizing sprawl, preserving open space, encouraging efficiency of services, fiscal sustainability and accountability and transparency. 

I have been deeply involved with Gilroy’s General Plan 2040 implementation and getting our Housing Element certified with State HCD. I promote the values of smart growth in Santa Clara County, and we will need to continue to examine the ways in which land use patterns can be the limiting factor as we work toward affordability and equity. 

As a firefighter/paramedic, I bring a unique and valuable perspective to the service review process that LAFCO conducts for each of our cities. I have hands-on experience with what it takes to provide these services efficiently and effectively, as required by LAFCO. I believe my independent third-party perspective would be of great benefit for all the cities of Santa Clara County, and I’m excited to be able to serve you all in this way. 

I am also a firm believer in LAFCO’s policies of protecting agricultural lands and open space from premature conversion to development. While many cities in our county are built out, I see Morgan Hill, San Martin and Gilroy as areas that we need to protect from further urban sprawl. As a council member for the City of Gilroy, I represent those in Gilroy and the rest of South County who support sustainable land use planning in line with LAFCO policies. 

I was proud to publicly support LAFCO staff’s recommendation in 2023 for the City of Gilroy to focus its future housing growth in our downtown and transit corridors, rather than through the city’s application to expand the Urban Service Area to allow single-family home sprawl on adjacent unincorporated farmland. I supported the staff recommendation not only because Gilroy has eight years of capacity for building in infill areas and thus has no need to expand our city boundaries for housing, but also because more sprawl would be costly for our city, which cannot afford to provide urban services to this new development.

At least once a year the Cities Selection Committee (Mayors of Santa Clara County) appoints local electeds to many other regional bodies, including the Association of Bay Area (ABAG) Executive Board and Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) Regional Planning Committee. 

ABAG is the official comprehensive planning agency for the San Francisco Bay Area region and Plan Bay Area 2050, which connects the elements of housing, the economy, transportation and the environment. ABAG’s mission is to strengthen cooperation and coordination among local governments. In doing so, ABAG addresses social, environmental and economic issues that transcend local borders. 

Gilroy has a seat at the table through General Assembly (GA) meetings which are held in the spring and fall each year as part of the GA Conference, where they determine policy and adopt the annual budget and work program. In addition, the GA reviews policy recommendations from the ABAG Executive Board (made up of local electeds) and reviews the bylaws of the ABAG Association. 

Every year a General Assembly and Business Meeting conference are held. Their annual conference explores vital issues that impact our region and any official delegate or alternate may propose a subject of consideration. Business and civic leaders, elected officials, academic scholars, city planners and private citizens attend this popular conference as well. 

It’s never too late to get involved, and please vote March 5. 

Zach Hilton

Gilroy City Council

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  1. It’s my understanding that urban utility infrastructure would be the developer’s financial responsibility. I could be wrong. Would you expand on this and how it would financially burden Gilroy City in the short and long terms?

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