– San Benito County and Hollister continued to grow at a snail’s
pace in 2006. But as Santa Clara County starts booming again, and
with the end of Hollister’s sewer moratorium on the horizon, things
may be changing.
Hollister – San Benito County and Hollister continued to grow at a snail’s pace in 2006. But as Santa Clara County starts booming again, and with the end of Hollister’s sewer moratorium on the horizon, things may be changing.
According to data released this week by the state Department of Finance, San Benito County gained 290 new residents last year, an increase of only 0.5 percent. And Hollister, which accounts for more than half the county’s population, grew by 112 people, for a year-over-year increase of 0.3 percent.
That’s a far cry from the 1990s, when San Benito County grew by 45.1 percent, making it the fastest-growing county in the state.
Of course, substantial population growth is difficult when residential development is at a standstill due to Hollister’s state-imposed moratorium on sewer hookups. The area’s expensive housing hasn’t helped either, said Al Martinez, who heads the county’s Economic Development Corporation. Many who have lived and worked in Hollister in the past can’t afford local homes, he said.
David Roemer, an associate planner with the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments, said that San Benito County is, in many ways, a “bedroom community” for Santa Clara County. Slow growth in Santa Clara during the first half of the decade contributed to a similar trend in San Benito, Roemer said.
“As (Santa Clara) starts to grow again, people may start trickling back to San Benito,” he said.
Martinez said that Santa Clara’s growth and development sends more than homeowners to Hollister. When the Silicon Valley is bustling, he said, business owners looking to lower their expenses migrate down to San Benito.
“When (Silicon Valley is) going, we feel the effects, and that’s usually beneficial,” Martinez said.
However, the new boom may not drive as many commuters to San Benito as it has in the past. Daniel Pizano, a real estate agent who sells homes in San Jose, said rising gas prices and a wider range of options means that fewer people want to deal with a long commute.
“Two years ago, I heard about Gilroy and Hollister on an almost daily basis,” Pizano said. “Now you’re not hearing that; people would rather buy a townhouse in San Jose.”
Even Hollister residents who make the commute right now are starting to reevaluate their situation. John Rinck works in San Jose, and he said he’s been thinking about how nice it would be live only five or 10 minutes from work.
“It’s definitely crossed my mind,” he said.
Slow growth since the moratorium started in 2002 has been hard on local businesses, Martinez said, because many of them count on new housing and new residents. Things should pick up when the city’s new sewage treatment plant is completed next year and the moratorium is lifted, he said.
Rinck acknowledged that it’s been frustrating watching local businesses struggle – particularly with new stores and restaurants springing up regularly in Gilroy – but he said the moratorium has also been “a nice break” from the rapid growth of the 1990s.
“I’d rather see no growth than stupid growth,” Rinck said.
Anthony Ha covers local government for the Free Lance. Reach him at 831-637-5566 ext. 330 or [email protected]