Though the old county hospital site on Southside Road has long been abandoned, supervisors are hoping to turn it into an asset for the community. The building itself, on Southside Road, has fallen into disrepair since it has been empty dating back at least until 2008.
Ideas for the property range from affordable housing to a bed and breakfast or hotel that could serve tourism along the Cienega Valley wine loop. The supervisors talked up the scenery on the property which includes vistas out over the valley.
But before anything can be done with the property, the supervisors will have to decide what to do with the former county hospital building that is on the site.
Public Works Director Steve Wittry brought a report to the board Tuesday at the request of Supervisor Margie Barrios who wanted to know if the county could sell off the property. Wittry distributed some recent photos he took at the site to supervisors and residents present at the meeting.
“I wanted to provide some visuals to identify the current status of what it looks like,” Wittry said. “I wanted you to understand the situation it is in.”
Wittry said there has been substantial removal of electrical wiring and copper from the building by trespassers. Some of the stripping of wires happened while the building was still connected to PG&E and the county staff members since had the electricity turned off.
Many of the no trespassing signs posted on the building have been torn down and the boards covering doors or windows have been removed. A board covering a roof access entry point was also removed. Wittry said the Hollister Police Department and San Benito County Sheriff’s Office don’t patrol the area much.
“A lot happens out there that we aren’t aware of,” Wittry said.
He said aluminum handrails from inside the building were removed by trespassers and someone had started a fire in the building that charred the floor.
In 2009, members of the Homeless Task Force presented to the board of supervisors an idea to turn the hospital building into a permanent homeless shelter.
One of the concerns with the building is that a 2010 assessment report found the building contains hazardous materials such as asbestos, paint and other substances.
“That firm prepared an estimate of abatement costs close to half a million dollars,” Wittry said.
He asked the supervisors to move $5,000 from the Courthouse Renovation project fund to the Building and Grounds Budget unit to conduct an appraisal of the site.
“Perhaps someone might want to purchase the property for a bed and breakfast or a hotel for the wine trail,” he said.
Barrios said she had visited the property two years ago.
“It was not as horrific as it is now,” Barrios said. “People don’t care and they go out and vandalize it.”
She said “it sits in a beautiful area where the views are phenomenal.”
Supervisor Anthony Botelho called the site an “under utilized asset.”
“I want to establish the value and go about putting it on the market – whether it’s the private sector or affordable housing,” he said.
Botelho asked to have the $5,000 returned to the Courthouse Renovation project if the property is sold.
The supervisors approved the appraisal and budget transfer 4-0. Supervisor Jerry Muenzer was not in attendance.