A draft map filed with San Benito County shows what the proposed Lee Subdivision will look like on Old Ranch Road.

The San Benito County Board of Supervisors will start 2023 by deciding whether to approve the 141-unit Lee Subdivision residential project in southeast Hollister. 

It is the first new housing proposal in unincorporated San Benito County that the board has considered in several years, and was rejected on a 3-1 vote by the planning commission on Nov. 16. Bill Lee of the Lee Family Trust, the project applicant, appealed the commission’s decision. 

The board of supervisors held an appeal hearing on Dec. 13. After a lengthy discussion that included a long line of residents offering public comment, the board opted to delay a vote on the project to Jan. 17. That meeting will take place after newly elected supervisors Mindy Sotelo and Angela Curro will be sworn in and seated. 

The Lee Subdivision is proposed on a 27.45-acre property at 291 Old Ranch Road, according to a county staff report. The Lee Family Trust—consisting of trustees Bill Lee, William Scott Lee and Michele Marie Lee—has proposed a total of 141 residential lots, internal streets, a public park and passive open space. The plans include 121 single-family detached homes; 20 single-family attached units; and 25 Accessory Dwelling Units. 

The site is surrounded by rural residential projects to the west, rural homes with vineyards and winery to the north and vacant agricultural land to the south and east. Some of the nearby vacant lands are slated to be developed with more rural residential and the Gavilan College San Benito Campus, the staff report continues. 

The Fairview Corners residential project has been approved on a property that borders the southern edge of the Lee Subdivision site. 

Currently on the Old Ranch Road site are a one-story home and barn, which will be demolished to make way for Lee Subdivision if and when it is approved, according to county staff. 

In order to build the project, the Lee Family needs county officials to certify an Environmental Impact Report for the proposal, adopt a mitigation and monitoring program, and change the zoning to Residential Mixed and Planned Unit Development. The applicant is also seeking approval of a tentative subdivision map and an affordable housing agreement for the Lee Subdivision. 

The planning commission denied these requests at the Nov. 16 meeting. The board of supervisors on Dec. 13 decided to delay a vote until the body’s first meeting of 2023. 

Bill Lee, a Hollister resident who works as the Executive Director of San Jose-based Martha’s Kitchen, said many of the homes in the proposed subdivision will be affordable by design and marketed to people who work at local jobs. The smaller of the proposed homes will use less electricity, water and other resources, thereby keeping long-term costs down for the future homeowners, Lee explained. 

“This is housing for our native sons and daughters,” Lee told the board Dec. 13. “The reality is, so many of the projects in this county have been built to be profitable. It’s time for something smaller and more affordable.”

More than 20 people spoke during public comment at the Dec. 13 meeting. These included project supporters representing local schools and organizations, who praised the Lee family for their past charity work and a pledge to pay higher development fees than required in order to support future expansions of public resources in the area. 

Representatives of Hollister High School noted that the Lee family has indicated it will pay 166% of the county’s normal required development fees for the Lee Subdivision proposal; and these extra funds will help speed up the planning and construction of a second high school for San Benito County students. 

Shawn Tennenbaum, Superintendent of the San Benito High School District, added that the Lee Family has committed to working on a program with the district to ensure that residents who work for local public agencies will be given top priority to purchase homes in the new subdivision. 

“(This) project will allow students to achieve high quality education, present quality employment opportunities and allow our educators and young people to remain and/or return to our wonderful community,” Tennenbaum said. 

Some of the discussion at the Dec. 13 meeting centered around how affordable the new homes will really be for San Benito County residents. The county staff report notes that the applicant has proposed 15% of the units to be designated for “moderate” and “above-moderate” income buyers with household incomes between 120-150% of the median area income. 

Furthermore, the Lee Subdivision developer has also proposed paying an “in-lieu” fee to the county of $4,500 for each market-rate home proposed in the development. These funds would go toward a down payment assistance program for future buyers of affordable homes in San Benito County, according to county staff. 

San Benito County resident Julio Rodriguez said the Lee Subdivision as proposed would “exacerbate the affordability crisis.” He also noted that the county has an “imbalance” of jobs and available housing units due to residential costs climbing while salaries stay mostly stagnant. The result is the buyers of new homes tend to be wealthier people who are moving here from the South Bay and other areas. 

“San Benito County’s socioeconomic makeup is changing. The majority of (new) houses are not for people living here,” Rodriguez said. “To say that this is going to provide some affordable housing—frankly, it’s not enough. There are people being displaced in this county as we speak.” 

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


  1. I’m still not sure why Hollister can’t fathom a Taller, Larger Apartment Building complex spanning the same area with 10 times as many homes and a mass transit plan incorporated into the long-term development.

  2. Lee is talking the same game that developers talk all the time. Just vague words that can mean anything. For example, “This is housing for our native sons and daughters,” “It’s time for something smaller and more affordable.”, “residents who work for local public agencies will be given top priority to purchase homes.”, and “many of the homes in the proposed subdivision will be affordable by design and marketed to people who work at local jobs.” All just happy talk to fool the planning commission and the council.

    The reality is that if this project is approved by the time it is finished it will be beyond the cost of anyone in Hollister.

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