400 block petition to go before council

City leaders Tuesday inched closer to deciding the fate of the vacant 400 block in downtown Hollister.

In closed session at the Hollister City Council meeting, council members decided to vote on Mayor Ignacio Velazquez’s successful petition to halt development on the city-owned parcel at a meeting later this month.

“Action was taken by a vote of 4-0,” announced City Attorney Soren Diaz. The mayor was not part of the discussions. “The city council instructed the city clerk to submit, at the next regular board meeting, the petition per the 400 block referendum for a decision by the city council as to whether to submit that petition to a referendum or to decide to nullify the resolution that approved the development and disposition agreement with regards to the 400 block.”

The city council will consider the petition at their next meeting on Monday, September 18.

At that time, the council could vote in open session to either rescind their decision to sell the vacant lot to the Community Foundation for San Benito County and the Del Curto Brothers Group or to send the matter over to the ballot box for local voters to decide.

“I appreciate they’re finally acknowledging the signatures and referendum are valid,” said Mayor Ignacio Velazquez, who led the charge for the referendum. “I hope they do the right thing so we can move forward and work with the public on something for the entire community to give us a vibrant downtown.”

Velazquez turned in a petition with 2,398 signatures to the city clerk on July 11. The signatures were reviewed by the San Benito County Registrar of Voters and subsequently certified by Assistant County Clerk Angela Curro on July 27. The petition had 1,660 valid signatures, 60 more than the 1,600 required.

Up until now, the city has been waiting on a legal opinion from the California State Attorney General’s Office on the petition’s validity.

City officials have questioned whether the petition could undo the council’s previous action because they are unsure as to whether the resolution was legislative or administrative.

This is important as the resolution (or decision) to sell the grassy downtown plot can only be undone by referendum if it is determined to have been a legislative act.

The city has yet to receive an opinion from the state attorney general’s office, but City Manager Bill Avera said an opinion is expected either this Friday or the next at the latest.

“It’s kind of unprecedented,” Avera said about the referendum. “We’d rather have them take their time and make sure we get a solid opinion.”

While the city election official is expected to declare the 400 block petition sufficient at the September 18 council meeting, council members don’t have to make a rushed decision.

“They still have some time as far as what they’re going to do,” Avera said. “Nothing needs to be decided at that meeting.”

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