California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has spoken, and a ballot initiative that could have blocked development of the 400 Block in Hollister has been officially repealed by a 4-0 vote. Mayor Ignacio Velazquez recused himself from the vote because he owns property next door.
There are few parcels of grass in California that have drawn as much scrutiny and public consternation than the block at the corner of San Benito Street and San Juan Road. The site, which has been empty since the Loma Prieta Earthquake destroyed the buildings there in 1989, is now open to development.
“It’s been 30 years; it’s time to put shovels in the ground,” Councilmember Ray Friend said.
In June 2017 the city council approved a proposed joint development by the Del Curto Brothers Group and the Community Foundation of San Benito County to develop a mixed-use project that would feature community and commercial space, and potential residential units on the 400 block.
Velazquez, who owns The Vault that borders the property on the south, came out as a vocal opponent of the proposal to sell the city-owned property at a price below current appraisals and organized a successful petition drive to force a decision at the ballot box.
Following Becerra’s decision in late April, in which he stated that “the city resolution is not subject to referendum,” the council on June 25 enthusiastically voted to repeal the referendum.
“For a city of 37,000 people, the referendum would have made 1,600 people make a decision for the rest of us,” Vice Mayor Mickie Luna said. “In addition to that, this would have cost the city $25,000 to $30,000. I hope people look at that and understand.”
For resident Marty Richman, the council’s decision was a victory for representative democracy.
“We can’t take everything to the ballot, and if we did, nothing would ever get done,” Richman said.