Council OKs 400 block use of Briggs Structure

Mixed-use building and community center to use spots

The 400-block project on Feb. 4 won City Council permission to use parking spaces in the Briggs Parking Structure for the proposed mixed-use building and community center.

The 3-1 council vote allowing the developers to use the structure first came before the council in late 2018 and again in the final meeting of January. After council directed changes to the agreement an amended version came before the council on Feb. 4.

Mayor Ignacio Velazquez recused himself from the vote because he owns The Vault banquet hall on San Benito Street, adjacent to the Briggs structure and 400-block site. He has consistently recused himself from any 400-block votes in the past several years because of the potential of a conflict of interest.

Velazquez has been vocal about his opposition to the sale of the property to the Community Foundation of San Benito County and the Del Curto Brothers, not just because of the concept of the development but also because the city sold it for $300,000 below the most recent appraised value of the property.

A 2015 appraisal had valued the land at downtown Hollister’s busiest corner at $390,000. In September 2016, an updated appraisal placed the property’s market value at $690,000. The property was sold to the developers and the foundation in June 2017 for $390,000.

The current project is made up of two phases: The first is the philanthropic center, which will serve as office space for various nonprofits in San Benito County, including BenitoLink, a non-profit news website funded in part by the foundation. The second phase includes ground-floor commercial space with second-floor apartments.

In October the city’s Planning Commission approved site and architectural application for a “philanthropic building” and mixed-use space on the 400-block site.

When it came to the developments’ use of the parking structure the council had asked the city staff to address a number of concerns with the structure being used for the apartments and community center. How apartment tenants will access the structure remains up for debate– City Manager, Bill Avera, told the Free Lance that he hopes the structure will be open 24 hours a day to avoid conflicts with keys and automated gates.

Avera told the Free Lance that the proposal differed from the last time it was presented to the council because of the addition of loading zones on San Benito Street, a lot line adjustment and the relocation of a trash enclosure.

An original proposal had included 20 parking spaces reserved for the community center, but that was taken out of the plans.

District 2 councilmember, Rolan Resendiz, pulled the item from the agenda for discussion. He has consistently aligned with the Mayor’s vies of the project and he questioned why Del Curto Brothers was not paying to use the spaces.

Avera said the developer’s would not be paying to use the spaces, but a maintenance cost was still to be worked out. Ultimately, the council agreed to strike the language that the developers would be using the structure at “no cost” from the agreement.

Council member for District 3, Honor Spencer, made a motion to approve the agreement. Mayor Pro Tempore, Marty Richman and council members Carol Lenoir and Spencer voted in favor of the project. Resendiz voted against it.

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