Local officials and consultants are getting ready to begin an environmental study of the Strada Verde Innovation Park, a 2,767-acre mixed-use commercial and technological project proposed in northwest San Benito County.
The upcoming effort to complete an Environmental Impact Report will take several months, and is a crucial step toward the beginning of construction on the project.
“The EIR will evaluate the potential physical and environmental impacts of the SVIP project for each of the environmental impacts” listed in state environmental guidelines, says a “Notice of Preparation” of EIR. The San Benito County Resource Management Agency released the notice on April 11.
The public is invited to two EIR scoping meetings on April 27 and April 28. The purpose of these meetings is to solicit input from the public, neighbors and other interested people about what exactly the EIR should study.
Potential impacts of the SVIP that will be studied in the EIR include aesthetics, agriculture, air quality, biological resources, cultural resources, energy, geology and soils, noise, transportation/traffic, greenhouse gas emissions, tribal resources and more, says the county notice.
The notice describes the SVIP project as “a new automotive research and development campus and business center.”
Local voters first learned about the SVIP proposal during the November 2020 election season. Ballot Measure N would have approved the Strada Verde Specific Plan on the same site—in the area of Highways 25 and 101 near the Santa Clara County line—but it was rejected by 60% of voters who cast a choice on the measure.
The SVIP project is proposed by Newport Pacific Land Company. Details include a 1,077-acre technology testing grounds, 127-acre research park, 253-acre ecommerce use, 24-acre commercial site, 227 acres of agriculture, a 252-acre greenway, 394-acre Pajaro River preserve, 153-acre habitat preserve and nearly 300 acres of infrastructure, water storage and right-of-way, according to the county notice.
When fully built, the SVIP would include more than 7.2 million square feet of technological, research and commercial structures, says the notice of preparation.
No housing is proposed on the Strada Verde site, according to planning documents.
The triangular-shaped property where SVIP is proposed is about seven miles south of Gilroy and about nine miles northwest of Hollister. The site is bound by Union Pacific Railroad tracks to the northwest, and agricultural land to the south. Most of the surrounding land uses include agricultural and open space. The Pajaro River runs along the north side of the site.
To the northeast—about 70 feet from the SVIP site—is the TriCal agricultural fumigant facility.
The primary entrance and exit to the Strada Verde park would be a new road connecting the southwestern corner of the project area to the Betabel interchange on Highway 101, according to the county notice.
The developer has submitted an application for a San Benito County General Plan amendment, a specific plan, zoning amendment request, vesting tentative map and a development agreement—all of which will be studied in the SVIP environmental study, says the county notice.
The Strada Verde Specific Plan submitted to the county in February states that the project “will serve as an innovative and self-sustaining new technology-based employment center, with a focus on automotive research and development.”
The “one-time economic impact” estimated from the construction of Strada Verde could reach more than $2.4 billion, with more than 15,000 construction jobs, says the specific plan. When completed, the project could supply up to 11,000 permanent jobs and $660 million in annual payroll.
In addition to identifying potential environmental impacts of the SVIP proposal, the upcoming EIR will also suggest measures the developer could take to mitigate the impacts, says the county notice. The EIR will also consider the impact of a number of project alternatives, including no project at all.
Newport Pacific Land Company initially tried to pass a General Plan amendment for the SVIP project through the voters in November 2020, but it failed at the polls. The developer is now seeking approvals through the county’s land use process.
The project’s plans have not changed noticeably since it was proposed as Measure N in the 2020 election.
San Benito County has scheduled two public scoping meetings on the upcoming Environmental Impact Report for the Strada Verde Innovation Park proposal. The purpose of the meetings is to obtain public input on the EIR analysis for the commercial mixed-use project. The meetings are scheduled for 10am April 27 and 6pm April 28 at the Board of Supervisors chambers, 481 Fourth Street, in Hollister. The public can also attend the meetings virtually by Zoom, by visiting zoom.us/join, or calling 408.638.0968 or 669.900.6833.
To access the meetings on Zoom, enter the following information for each session:
– April 27: Webinar ID: 818 8356 6493. Passcode: 919237.
– April 28: Webinar ID: 889 7494 1304. Passcode: 487210.