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As we make progress on implementing our General Plan 2040 we are going to need help from our Community Based Organizations (CBO). 

The past two years we have reported back to the state regarding our Environmental Justice section that we have been implementing with a Spanish translation for newsletter, meetings and more. There’s so much more happening in the community that we can report back on and implement as a community. 

Zach Hilton
Zach Hilton

Today, and throughout much of California and U.S. history, communities with lower incomes, lower levels of education and higher proportions of minority residents often bear a disproportionately large burden of exposure to environmental hazards. These environmental inequities are largely a result of land use policy and zoning regulations.

Environmental justice objectives and policies should seek to reduce the unique or compounded health risks in disadvantaged communities through strategies such as reducing pollution exposure, improving air quality and promoting public facilities, food access, safe and sanitary homes, and physical activity; promote civil engagement in the public decision-making process; and prioritize improvements and programs that address the needs of disadvantaged communities.

I hope that our new Housing and Community Services Division can begin to attend and actively participate in these events, so that next year’s General Plan update can be more robust. 

When I attended the State of the Valley this year, the Second Harvest CEO was there, and she stated that 1 out of 6 residents in Silicon Valley needs their services for free food. Second Harvest has been providing free groceries on Tuesdays at San Ysidro Park for years. 

Santa Clara County Public Health is about to launch their $2.5 million Caltrans ATP grant in East Gilroy called Gilroy Moves and it is focused around physical activity and promoting public facilities. 

Currently, Berkeley Food Institute, in partnership with Nueva Vida Community, is working on a Food Justice Vision which had a kickoff event March 21 at Gilroy Unified School District and local residents from the Latina Coalition of Silicon Valley are researching our implementation of our General Plan 2040 Environmental Justice section too.

When visiting neighborhood groups the topic of safety always comes up. While sometimes the request is for more police patrols, their perception of safe communities is clean streets, smooth streets and the absence of empty lots. The physical environment is the biggest factor in perceived and real safety of the community. 

Our residents deserve to feel safe walking on any sidewalk in Gilroy. I support repairing sidewalks, adding more trees for shade, and enhanced lighting. 

The burden of replacing sidewalks should not be with the homeowners who were not a part of the decisions to place trees that would do so much damage to the public sidewalks. Year-to-date my office has worked with our state and federal legislators to secure $5.2 million for project funding that directly benefits our residents, from a bike/pedestrian trail extension on the westside, San Ysidro Park on the eastside, and an enhanced crosswalk for senior housing on the southside. 

As a Silicon Valley Clean Energy Director we recently approved $12 million of program funding for our Multi-Family Direct Install Program and built into the program are tenant protections referred to as “renovictions.” Gilroy has the largest number of 100% deed restricted low-income units (1,770) in SVCE’s affordable housing stock. There are many smaller projects of five-plus units that could benefit by converting their old gas wall heaters for a heat pump unit that can provide air conditioning in extreme heat, and improve indoor air quality.

I look forward to working with SVCE, consultants, and local community based organizations in getting some of this funding for our residents. 

Safe communities are climate resilient communities. Gilroy faces significant climate risks including fire, flooding and extreme heat. Severe flooding and wildfires have historically and recently caused serious property damage and economic challenges for local residents—in a community that is also grappling with health issues caused by rising temperatures. 

Gilroy’s location at the edge of Santa Clara County along the Highway 101 corridor and in between two large landscape blocks has resulted in high sprawl development that threatens vital farmland and lands that are critical for conservation goals. 

Zach Hilton

Gilroy City council member

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