Hollister mulls residential growth plan

City council considers cap on new single-family homes

The Hollister City Council at a special meeting on December 11, 2017.

As the Hollister skyline changes with the construction of new housing, city leaders are looking at an annual cap on new single-family homes as part of a residential growth management plan.

At a special city council meeting Monday, local policymakers fielded comments from a crowd that was largely in favor of continual growth as a way to spur economic development and continue the city’s recovery from a devastating years-long building moratorium and economic recession.

The council expects to adopt its growth management plan early next year.

“If we start talking slow growth, that will affect business in our community,” said San Benito County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Juli Vieira. “If there’s no housing for employees, why would a business want to come to San Benito County?”

Because of a massive sewage spill that sent 15 million gallons of wastewater into the San Benito Riverbed, Hollister was unable to undertake any new construction until a moratorium was lifted in 2008, as the Great Recession and related housing crisis hit.

Since 2008, 560 homes have been built within Hollister city limits, including 144 units constructed last year alone.

“This has got to be 200 to 300 units minimum,” resident Marty Richman said in response to a council suggestion that the number of single-family homes be capped at 165 per year. “One-hundred and sixty-five units means don’t come here, we’re not going to be building anything for anyone,”

Ultimately the council settled on an annual allotment of 244 units of single-family homes, with Mayor Ignacio Velazquez dissenting and a recusal from Vice Mayor Karson Klauer. The recusal stemmed from one of Klauer’s real estate clients who expressed interest in submitting a development proposal under the growth management plan.

Pinnacle Strategy President Victor Gomez echoed Richman’s point.

“Marty made an excellent point, we’re not doing our fair share when it comes to housing development here in Hollister,” Gomez said. “I understand public sentiment and concern about growth, but our numbers show we’re not doing our part to contribute to the short housing stock in California.”

The state needs to add 180,000 new homes annually just to keep up with population growth, according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development. Currently, the state adds less than half of that—80,000.

Mayor Ignacio Velazquez advocated having mixed types of units in new neighborhoods.

“The mix is important to me so we’re providing communities within neighborhoods,” Velazquez said. “It works well and is being done all over. I think we really have to be pushing toward that goal so we’re not isolating one neighborhood only for affordable housing.”

There was no talk of limiting affordable housing, senior housing, secondary units, special needs housing, and rentals.

The council directed staff to look into having the program sunset at the completion of the next general plan update, which is currently underway and serves as a guide for the city to map out its growth over the next two decades. The council also wanted staff to look at making minor changes to a scoring system that is used to rate potential development projects.

The growth management program is expected back before the council for adoption in January.

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