– Measure S, the general plan amendment sponsored by developer
Pulte Homes, divided Hollister’s City Council and the audience at
Monday night’s Council meeting.
Hollister – Measure S, the general plan amendment sponsored by developer Pulte Homes, divided Hollister’s City Council and the audience at Monday night’s Council meeting.
The City Council voted 3-1, with one abstention, to support a resolution drafted by Councilman Doug Emerson in opposition to the measure. Before the vote, a steady stream of speakers argued – often heatedly – both for and against the resolution.
Measure S, if passed, will amend the city’s general plan to redesignate 1,300 acres of agricultural land as a “mixed-use residential community.” Once the city’s moratorium on development is lifted, this land would be exempt from the 244-unit annual limit on residential allocations imposed by Measure U; instead, Pulte subsidiary Del Webb could be issued up to 650 building permits a year.
Emerson’s resolution lists 16 points about the measure – most of them negative – including its proximity to the municipal airport, the fact that the city will be required to issue building permits for 650 homes a year, the absence of water and wastewater treatment facilities and the perceived risk that if Pulte Homes decides not to build the project, future developers would only be obligated to include 35 senior units in their projects. The resolution concludes by urging Hollister residents to vote no on Measure S.
Marty Richman, a frequent guest columnist in the Free Lance, was the first audience member to comment.
“I’m not going to go through all my objections (to Measure S),” he said. “I can’t do it in two minutes; I can’t do it in two hours.”
Richman gave three primary reasons for his opposition: the project’s size, its location and the measure’s revision of the general plan.
“I can’t imagine a worse place to put a development of that size,” he said.
Annette Giacomazzi, a local resident hired by Pulte to lead the Yes on Measure S campaign, called Emerson’s resolution “a sham” and defended the proposed development.
“Why are you so afraid?” she asked the councilmembers. “Are you afraid of improving our roads? Are you afraid of the steady stream of revenue to improve our downtown?”
Giacomazzi also criticized those who object to Measure S on the basis that it’s an inappropriate way to change the general plan. She said the state constitution protects the right of citizens to put measures on the ballot.
“By opposing Measure S based on process, you are denying voters this important right,” she said.
Ralph Beaudoin approached the resolution from a personal perspective, noting that he and his wife – both in their 70s – live in a two-story home, and although they are currently healthy, “one day those stairs are going to get too steep.” Beaudoin said he’s been trying without success to find an affordable one-story home.
“I’m looking for a reasonable alternative to moving out of Hollister,” he said. “As far as I can tell, Del Webb would provide that.”
The City Council was also addressed by Tom Cosgrove, a former Lincoln City councilman currently employed by Pulte. Cosgrove argued that a similar Del Webb retirement community had dramatically improved the quality of life in Lincoln City.
“The residents of Hollister are counting on you to do better than your predecessors,” he said. “This is the only ray of hope on the horizon for people who voted for you.”
Supporters have called the Del Webb project a shot in the arm for Hollister, a description that Tony Ruiz contested.
“This isn’t a shot in the arm,” he said. “It’s a shot in the head. No county wants to grow when the majority of its population is over 55.”
Ruiz called the development “the biggest threat Hollister has ever faced since I was born here in 1938.”
Jim Van Sant spoke in favor of the measure, pointing to the additional revenue that the development could provide for the city.
“This would provide the fees to solve many problems I’ve heard about in these chambers,” he said.
In her speech supporting Emerson’s resolution, Christine Breen focused on all the work that has been put into the city’s general plan; she praised the plan as guiding growth in an environmentally friendly way.
“The real issue before us is whether the site selected is appropriate under the general plan adopted less than one year ago,” Breen said.
When it came to a vote, Councilmembers Emerson, Pauline Valdivia and Mayor Robert Scattini supported Emerson’s resolution.
“The city’s greatest need is for young, working-class families,” Emerson said. “Not one of these homes is going to a young, working-class family.”
Emerson also noted that the projected $15 million in funds that the Del Webb project could raise for schools might not be that useful. Schools can only use developers’ fees to construct new buildings, but Emerson said most schools have bigger problems with their operating budgets.
Scattini said he agreed with many of Emerson’s concerns, but added that not enough attention had been paid to the development’s location, which Scattini argued was dangerously close to the airport.
“This airport is going to grow,” he said. “It’s going to grow to the point where anybody retired who wants to live (in the Del Webb development) must have a screw loose.”
Councilman Brad Pike voted against the resolution. He argued that a report highly critical of the Del Webb project was “very flawed.” The report was commissioned by the City Council and composed by three independent firms.
“All (the measure) does is change the color of the map,” Pike said. “Once adopted, the general plan does not remain a static document.”
Pike asked City Attorney Stephanie Atigh several questions about the project’s impact. Atigh confirmed that the developer would be required by law to mitigate any environmental impacts, unless the City Council decides the project is important enough to approve without mitigation. At Emerson’s prompting, Atigh added that the developer is not required to mitigate economic impacts.
Pike also asked the audience if anyone thought he wanted to “destroy Hollister,” a question that led Richman to interrupt Pike’s speech.
“You asked a question of the audience,” Richman said when Pike asked him to be quiet. “If it’s a rhetorical question, you should say that it’s rhetorical.”
Eventually, Pike asked the sergeant at arms to escort Richman out of the meeting. Richman returned after Pike’s speech.
Councilwoman Monica Johnson abstained from the vote. She said she didn’t understand why the City Council was taking a position on this ballot measure only, when there were other ballot measures she cared about.
“The voters will tell us what they want,” she said. “Our job is to work at making it work for them and for the community.”
Anthony Ha covers local government for the Free Lance. You can reach him at 831-637-5566 ext. 330 or [email protected].