Lately I have been coming across the refrain that newer residents of San Benito County are somehow hypocritical if they voice concern or opposition to the out-of-control housing growth. This could not be further from the truth. Our newly settled neighbors have some of the strongest justification to oppose growth because they have seen what happens when orchards turn into houses and they don’t want that same future for us. 

To provide some background, San Benito County has been experiencing seemingly unfettered growth over recent years. For perspective, over the last decade San Benito county was one of the three fastest growing counties in the state. This rising population is completely swelling and straining our infrastructure 

The majority of new residents have migrated to San Benito from places like Santa Clara County, as well as other bay area counties. So are these Silicon Valley transplants hypocritical if they oppose the type of growth that enabled them to move to San Benito? No, of course not. They took advantage of an opportunity to improve their quality of life by moving to a more rural and charming county. I might have done the same if I was in their shoes. 

They moved here for specific reasons. A lot of them moved here because San Benito County offered the almost indescribable “small-town feel” that we all desire. They moved here because San Benito County does not feel like the busy rootless communities of Silicon Valley. 

Naturally we can conclude that they do not want their new home to turn into exactly what they escaped from. In short they don’t want San Benito to become San Jose. 

It is perfectly reasonable to live within unrestrained suburban sprawl, experience the negative effects, and consequently fight against this type of growth in a new place. Many of our new community members have a first hand understanding of why out-of-control growth is so detrimental to a community’s culture and sense of place. 

All residents of San Benito County have a right to oppose the endless continuation of suburban sprawl, regardless of how long they have lived here. New residents did not “contribute to the problem” as some would suggest. That accountability falls onto the public policy makers and housing developers that have encouraged and allowed these poorly planned decisions to be made. 

Rather than attempt to dismiss the concerns of those who recently moved to San Benito County, we ought to heed their warnings. They have seen what happens when the churning of soil becomes the pouring of asphalt; when houses are raised instead of crops. 

Dom Zanger

San Benito County Supervisor, District 1

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