City prepares for general plan update

Hollister has changed dramatically in the last 13 years since the city’s general plan was last updated. Now city staff and council are preparing to start the drafting process for a new general plan that will serve as a map for growth and development in the city.

The city’s current general plan was updated in 2005, with annual plans through 2023. In 2005, the city had 35,234 residents; in 2017, the most recent U.S. Census estimate, the population stood at 38,404, 9 percent higher.

Abraham Prado and Bryan Swanson with the Hollister planning department anticipated a new general plan update would take close to two years.

At the March 18 council meeting, Prado presented the council with the 2018 general plan progress report. The annual report updates the council members on how the city met the goals of that plan.

The existing general plan laid out goals for housing aimed at infill of “islands” or pockets of undeveloped land within the city limits. It also directed building toward the downtown area.

“Directing residential activity downtown creates market-rate housing stock without contributing to sprawl or consuming the greenfields that surround the city,” the general plan states. “The additional residences also establish an expanded market for retail, entertainment and other commercial services in downtown Hollister.”

“Essentially, it will be a document that will preserve the history of Hollister but also it will be a document that will provide a vision for the future of the city of Hollister,” Swanson told the Free Lance. “It’s a living document and provides the city a good guidebook with how to move forward.”

Prado said that throughout 2018, 16 site and architectural reviews were approved, along with two pre-zones for annexation, six tentative maps, two minor subdivisions, nine conditional-use permits and one general plan amendment.

During the presentation, Prado answered questions from council members who asked about the process of updating the plan. Swanson said the purpose of the general plan is to provide a blueprint for the city to follow in coming years. The current general plan has been criticized by county and city officials as outdated, from unplanned annexations brought before LAFCO to the projection of growth within the city.

The plan was not updated following the building moratorium that was in place in Hollister for six years until a new waste treatment plant was built. The moratorium halted all building until 2008, after which the city was hit by the Great Recession.

One of the first steps to updating the plan is to create a general plan advisory committee, which is made up of two city council members, two planning commissioners and one member at large. The current pan’s advisory committee was made up of Raymond Friend, Charles Scott, Armando Atencio, David Huboi, Elizabeth Gage, Raymond Pierce, Franz Schneider, Dan Craig and Mark Gibb.

Prado told the council that the process for assembling the committee was already underway, and that the planning staff was working on contracting a company that would assist the city in assembling an environmental impact report.

An updated city plan would provide a new look at the future of the city—issues like land use, housing, circulation and health and services.

In the series of goals set by the general plan are things like the Highway 25 bypass, which was completed in 2009. The new expressway on Highway 25 is expected to be completed in about five years and may affect goals and projections made in the general plan.

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