Opponent of 400 block development questions process

A vocal opponent against developing the 400 block of San Benito Street was taken aback by the city clerk’s response to his request that council members consider placing an advisory question about the open space on the November ballot.
Rolan Resendiz is a local artist who has led the opposition against the city’s planned sale of the downtown open space, at the corner of Fourth and San Benito streets, to a developer with plans to build condominiums and a new Community Foundation for San Benito County center.
In early May, residents packed Hollister City Hall for the council’s decision to sell the 400 block despite pleas from opponents, largely arguing in support of maintaining an open space for the public, and proponents rallying for social and economic benefits from the project. Since then, the city has been in talks for a potential sale, while Resendiz asked for a ballot vote on the plot at a June 20 council meeting and in a letter by email to council members dated July 1.
Resendiz shared City Clerk Tom Graves’ response to that email with the Free Lance. Graves could not be reached before press time but did return an initial call.
In the response, Graves writes that the city council received his letter and members would receive their latest email correspondence. Graves then shared his view, speculating how the council might respond to the Resendiz request.
Graves wrote:
“As you know, there has been considerable discussion about this property, culminating in the City Council vote on May 2, 2016, directing the City Manager to proceed with an exclusive negotiation agreement with the Del Curto Brothers Group for their acquisition of the so-called ‘400 block property.’ The City Manager entered into this agreement as directed by the council on June 16, 2016.
“Because of the unambiguous action of the council on May 2, 2016, to enter into a negotiation agreement after many months of a long, detailed process, I do not believe the council would entertain your request to place this item once again on its agenda.”
That tone at the end of the Graves email drew a response from Resendiz in an interview with the Free Lance.
“It doesn’t seem legally binding,” Resendiz said. “It seems very opinionated and wishy-washy.”
Generally, a city clerk has such duties as overseeing election administration, assisting candidates, providing document access and recording council meetings.
From the City Clerks Association of California:
“The City Clerk is the local official who administers democratic processes such as elections, access to city records, and all legislative actions ensuring transparency to the public. The City Clerk acts as a compliance officer for federal, state, and local statutes including the Political Reform Act, the Brown Act, and the Public Records Act. The City Clerk manages public inquiries and relationships and arranges for ceremonial and official functions.”
Resendiz said his hope is to get council approval for a ballot advisory question before an Aug 12 deadline. The only option for the November ballot in the regular election cycle, due to timing, is for a council approval. Otherwise, Resendiz said development opponents would look at prospects for a special election next year.
Telling from the city clerk’s response, though, Resendiz believes it indicates he maybe can’t go forward with his request.
“That’s the general impression I got from it, but it’s not definitive,” he said.
Council members like Karson Klauer, however, actually make the decision on the 400 block. Klauer was among four of the elected officials in favor of negotiating exclusively with Del Curto Brothers Construction on a deal for the grassy plot, which is often the home of community gatherings. Mayor Ignacio Velazquez is openly against the sale, but can’t vote on it because he owns the neighboring property, The Vault building.
“I think it’s all part of the process,” Klauer said of the opposition speaking up.
As for an advisory vote, Klauer said that’s something he would need to look into more yet. He said he has continued to hear community feedback on the issue, but isn’t sure if he’s heard anything that would prompt reconsideration on the council level.

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