When Lois Bandeira-Locci was campaigning four years ago for the District 7 seat on the Gavilan Joint Community College District board, the driving factor of her candidacy was the delayed development of the San Benito County extension campus.
As her term nears an end in November, Bandeira-Locci has answered many of her own questions as to why the Fairview Corners property remains an open field, and the reasoning behind differing allocations of 2004 bond dollars toward building the campus.
“That’s why I campaigned to get on the board in the first place,” said Bandeira-Locci, who is not seeking re-election. “It’s very important to make clear that no matter what the board could have done or should have done, there has never been approval to build at the Hollister site. … We are still waiting. It’s very frustrating.”
The well-versed trustee, who said she researched 10 years of board minutes to get the bottom of the issue, pointed out that environmental assessments have yet to be finalized since the 80-acre property was purchased in partnership with Morgan Hill-based Dividend Homes for $8 million more than a decade ago. Gavilan was also required to obtain “incidental take permits” and buy mitigation land for the California tiger salamander, a federally endangered species found at Fairview Corners.
Bandeira-Locci represents Gavilan’s District 7, an expansive boundary area that stretches from Fairview and parts of southern Hollister down to the district border at Coalinga and back north up through Aromas and San Juan Bautista.
“I’m working the best I can to get the word out that there is an opportunity here. There will be no incumbent running in District 7,” said Bandeira-Locci, who urged residents living within her trustee boundaries to seek office and help make sure the San Benito campus is completed with future bond measure funds.
At a May 21 meeting in Gilroy, the board focused on the potential for a new bond measure to be placed on the Nov. 6 ballot. No action was taken to move forward, but consultants reviewed results from a 2017 survey with those in attendance.
That community survey, conducted via phone and email between Aug. 31 and Sept. 14, 2017, was built around the possibility of floating a $248 million bond measure in November to fund facility upgrades at the main Gilroy campus and a new satellite campus in San Benito County. Of the 610 likely voters, 65 percent were in favor of the ballot measure and 27 percent were against it.
“The (board’s) overall reaction is that the numbers are quite positive,” Bandeira-Locci said.
In a unanimous vote May 21, the board approved funds for a second survey, with results expected in July. At that time, the board is expected to make a decision on whether to move forward with a November measure. Bandeira-Locci said the new survey will zero in on the measure’s average cost to property owners and on how long it would be in effect.
As proposed, the measure would cost local property owners no more than $25 per $100,000 of assessed value, or about $113 per year, for as long as bonds are outstanding, according to Gavilan staff.
“The board has a level of consensus about doing the right thing and making San Benito a priority,” Bandeira-Locci said. “(The board) wants to see a San Benito site, and we have the numbers out here. Most students are commuting over there” to the main Gilroy campus.
In San Benito County, there are 1,860 students from Hollister, 94 from San Juan Bautista and nine from Tres Pinos who attend Gavilan, where total enrollment was 7,221 in fall 2017.
Since 1997, Gavilan students have attended a variety of classes at the Briggs Building in downtown Hollister, which offers limited student services and a variety of courses. This semester, 61 classes are being offered at Briggs.
A Phase 1 proposal for the San Benito campus includes options for one main building, portables for additional classrooms as needed, parking, a student center, library and athletic fields, according to Gavilan staff’s presentation.