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 the views of my constituents to these meetings, as well as my own. We have many policies and practices that will continue to be updated to 2023 standards that come along with the adoption of our General Plan 2040.
Our legislative work plan has been formed over several meetings and will be formalized in June when we adopt the two-year budget. Along with several new housing laws that make it quicker and easier to build all types of housing, I will be focusing on a Transit First Policy introduced by my office. At the March 13 City Council budget priority workshop, city staff presented an update to the General Fund forecast. For FY24, staff forecast a $3.7 million surplus due to excess distribution from the County’s Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund (ERAF), an interfund loan repayment, and increased utility user and property tax revenues than previously projected.
I am in full support of laying the groundwork for a Civic Center Master Plan and building a community center that is for all ages. The focus on a free safe place for our youth to have after school and on the weekends is a top priority for me. The City of Gilroy and Gilroy Unified School District have many facilities that can be used by the community for free.
I am proud to have worked with Rep. Zoe Lofgren on identifying two projects for her Community Project Funding requests and am excited to see the projects come to completion this year. As part of the Omnibus Federal Spending Bill, the City of Gilroy received a total of $4.5 million for two projects (San Ysidro Park/Christopher High Pathway) that will benefit opposite ends of our community, and build off the recent success of community-based programs that are a benefit to our residents.
Redevelopment and new construction will create additional hotels, housing, jobs, restaurants, industrial opportunities and shopping experiences. The City of Gilroy was awarded a $3.9 million grant through the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) Clean California Local Grant Program for improvements within Gilroy’s Historic Downtown. Gilroy’s project includes the renovation and beautification of Gourmet Alley and Railroad Alley between Fourth-Seventh Street, renovating these spaces into pedestrian and bicycle-friendly pathways through infrastructure and aesthetic improvements. Santa Clara County Public Health secured a $2.5 million Caltrans Active Transportation grant for East Gilroy with a goal of promoting safe routes to community hubs. I’m very confident that staff will continue to find grant funding opportunities that directly benefit all of our residents.
The consequences of failing to effectively and aggressively confront our housing crisis is hurting thousands of our residents, robbing future generations of the chance to call Gilroy home, stifling economic opportunities for workers and businesses, worsening poverty and homelessness, and undermining our environmental and climate objectives. Thankfully millions of dollars in funding have poured into Gilroy to help our most vulnerable address their rent burden. Data from our housing element shows 21% of households are considered extremely low-income, making less than 30% of Santa Clara County’s area median income (AMI).
The arts are alive in Gilroy. In 2021, I was contacted by SV Creates (Santa Clara County Arts Council) to build a relationship that wasn’t here prior in Gilroy. From those first initial meetings blossomed into an Arts Círculo held at 6th Street Studios & Art Center and around the corner at the Neon Exchange. Today we have a monthly Arts Roundtable, and so many doors continue to open. Blue Shield partnered and offered a grant for the mural at 6th Street Studios & Art Center in our Downtown.
On behalf of my office, my student interns, and my family, I am excited for the challenges that 2023 has to offer. There are still many things to be addressed, and I am taking them head on. Through the power of public participation, I am confident that 2023 can be one of the best years that Gilroy has ever had. For my full statement, please visit www.zachhilton.com.
Zach Hilton is a Gilroy City Councilmember.