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September 26, 2022

Updated: Zoning update to promote less sprawl, more walking

City planning staff at a meeting Thursday will present a major
revision to the zoning ordinance intended to point Hollister toward
preventing urban sprawl while fostering a more eco-friendly and
walkable community.
City officials are considering a major revision to the zoning ordinance intended to point Hollister toward preventing urban sprawl while fostering a more eco-friendly and walkable community.

The expansive update got its first review at Thursday’s planning commission meeting. The proposed update is meant to bring the ordinance in line with the city’s most recent General Plan update, a city council mandate that guides the development process.

Hollister Planning Manager Mary Paxton said a few areas of town are in for bigger changes than others once the new zoning rules go into effect.

She said residents in eastern Hollister shouldn’t expect too much change to the physical landscape. Downtown residents, meanwhile, can anticipate higher densities in the future with the city’s goal of having more apartments and businesses in that district. And in the West Gateway area of Hollister, the zoning changes also would cater to higher densities and multi-level apartment buildings, she said.

“Nationally, there is a push for communities with less sprawl and a smaller carbon footprint,” Paxton said. “We’d like it to be easier for people to walk to the grocery store and for housing to be more affordable. Zoning ordinances are a primary tool to achieve the General Plan’s goals.”

Chris Morrell works as a real estate agent with Intero Real Estate in Hollister and said she thinks the city has the potential to be a leader in green thinking and eco-friendly community planning. She said, however, heavy traffic downtown makes her hesitant to take her children on walks there for fear they may step in front of a vehicle.

“As a community, I know we need to grow,” Morrell said. “I just think we need to preserve our small-town feel. That’s what makes Hollister special.”

A zoning ordinance designates a multitude of areas with each occupied by certain types of development such as low-density residential, general commercial and mixed-use designations.

With regard to fostering more environmentally friendly practices and walkability, Paxton noted how the new ordinance would allow a small grocery market to open in any residential area – an effort to encourage short walks instead of drives.

It also would require bicycle racks in front of many businesses, removing barriers that hinder walking paths, adding public benches and paving new streets without cul-de-sacs.

City Councilwoman Pauline Valdivia said she’s excited to see Hollister move toward a more environmentally sound community. She credited the city’s planning commissioners who worked “extremely hard” on the revisions.

“We need growth, but we need smart growth that doesn’t overwhelm the community,” Valdivia said. “When the moratorium on building is lifted, we need a strong plan and vision to follow. This shows we are moving in the right direction.”

As owner of Off The Chains Bike in Hollister, Brian Lucas is no stranger to encouraging alternative transportation. He said, however, the bicycle is still used mainly as a way to stay fit and not as a practical means of transportation. He said while he would love to see more bike lanes and racks around town, actually convincing people to ride or walk will be hard.

‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink,” Lucas said. “As much as I’d love to see more bike lanes, I just don’t see how they will fit them on the streets. And even if they are there it doesn’t mean they’ll be used by bikes.”

Citizens already living or working in an area with a revised designation might also experience a direct impact.

For example, if a resident is living in a zone that changes from residential to industrial, they could stay there but would not be able to build additions on to the property. Similarly, with businesses, if it is located in a commercial or industrial zone and that designation changes to residential, the business may continue to operate but will not be allowed to expand.

City’s general plan

The General Plan of the city of Hollister outlines six major goals and 13 strategies for achieving them. At Thursday’s City Council meeting, new zoning ordinance revisions were proposed to more closely follow Hollster’s General Plan.


1. Encourage pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use development downtown.

2. Provide core services in every neighborhood.

3. Encourage multiple modes of transportation.

4. Provide a range of housing styles and affordability levels.

5. Provide for an environment that encourages healthy living.

6. Promote economic and environmental sustainability.


1. Attract and maintain a diverse mix of land uses downtown.

2. Create an appealing physical environment for living, working and shopping downtown.

3. Promote affordable housing and special-needs housing development.

4. Encourage development of a diverse range of housing styles.

5. Establish design standards and project reviews to foster diverse housing types.

6. Create and improve natural open spaces for public use.

7. Strengthen physical infrastructure connections throughout all neighborhoods.

8. Provide access to social and community services from neighborhoods.

9. Where appropriate, protect and preserve natural resources from development.

10. Create environmentally sustainable design and development.

11. Develop a strong and diverse economic development framework.

12. Support bike and pedestrian-oriented development and circulation systems.

13. Create a supportive environment for transit use.

Curtis Cartier
A staff member edited this provided article.

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