Mayor appeals 400-block planning decision

Threatens lawsuit if appeal is unsuccessful

Mayor Ignacio Velazquez is moving forward with his plans to appeal the Hollister Planning Commission’s approval of a tentative map for the 400-block projects in Hollister.

The projects include the Community Foundation’s non-profit offices and a mixed-use condominium building on San Benito Street at Fourth Street. On April 11, the mixed-use space and foundation received approval by the planning commission, which approved a tentative map, conditional use permit and minor subdivision for the Del Curto Brothers and Community Foundation of San Benito County.

Prior to the planning commission decision, Velazquez sent a letter through his lawyers, Robert Perlmutter and Edward Shexnayder at Shute, Mihaly and Wineberger, claiming that the decision violated a number of environmental and city codes.

When the sale of the property on the 400 block neighboring The Vault, Velazquez’s banquet hall, was first approved, Velazquez gathered signatures to get a referendum on the ballot that would overturn the decision. Although the petition gathered enough valid signatures, California Attorney General Xavier Beccera said the decision could not be subject to a citywide vote.

Velazquez abstains on voting on decisions regarding the 400 block, but has sent two letters to the planning commission and spoken out against the issue “as a private citizen.” He left the room for the vote at the May 6 council meeting, which set the date for the appeal hearing of the planning commission decision.

Any city resident can appeal a planning commission decision within 15 days. At the meeting the council decided on the date that the appeal would be heard. The 400-block decision was also discussed in closed session ahead of the public council meeting.

The council agreed to the appeal date hearing on May 20. This is when the council will review the planning commission’s decision and make a determination on whether or not to uphold the decision. Velazquez previously told the Free Lance that if the decision is upheld, he plans to sue the city to overturn the 400-block plans.

Velazquez and his lawyers believe the project’s approval is unlawful because “the project violates the maximum residential density for the project site; the project does not qualify for a density bonus; the project requires full CEQA review; (and) the city should comply with the state law requirements for street vacation.”

The city’s planning department replied to each of Velazquez’s points, but he believed they did not offer significant explanations.

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