Alex Gomez (pictured at far left), father of Jaime Jesus Gomez, was joined by family members, friends and neighbors for an April 1 vigil on Rustic Street honoring his son and Daniel Eli Gonzalez, who were killed in a drive-by shooting outside the home. Photo: Michael Moore

For more than two years, people have clamored for the return to “normal” after the uncertainties of a pandemic.

In 2022, we got a taste of normalcy, but it was far from being predictable.

Covid-19, which dominated the headlines in 2020 and 2021, seemingly took a backseat in 2022, despite being always present, and even spiking toward the end of the year. Still, popular annual events like the San Benito County Fair, San Juan Bautista Arts & Crafts festival and Oriana Chorale recitals returned to enthusiastic crowds. 

The effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February was felt locally, triggering record-setting gas prices and anxiety over threats of a nuclear armageddon. 

The wet weather to close out the year, coupled with the unbearably and historically hot end to summer, was a reminder of our planet’s ever-changing climate. 

In this article, we recap some of the major stories that shaped 2022 and will continue to impact San Benito County and its residents.

Shooting shocks neighborhood

A March 26 shooting at a home on Rustic Street took the lives of Jaime Jesus Gomez and Daniel Eli Gonzalez. Three other people were injured in the violent incident, which police say was perpetrated by a single shooter who acted on a case of “mistaken identity.”

Alex Gomez (pictured at far left), father of Jaime Jesus Gomez, was joined by family members, friends and neighbors for an April 1 vigil on Rustic Street honoring his son and Daniel Eli Gonzalez, who were killed in a drive-by shooting outside the home. Photo: Michael Moore

Alfredo Zendejas, 28, was arrested April 1 in relation to the incident. He was charged with two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder, and remains in custody at San Benito County Jail. 

Hollister Police Chief Carlos Reynoso and other law enforcement authorities held a press conference at the police station April 1 to announce the arrest and decry the senseless nature of the deadly violence. Although Zendejas is suspected of ties to illegal gang activity, the victims were “innocent bystanders.”

“There is evidence to suggest he was targeting an individual that may be associated with that home and mistook one of the victims as that individual,” Reynoso said. “We have no record of any of (the victims) being in any gang.”

Commercial on the way?

It was a tough year for those hoping for tighter restrictions on future commercial growth here. And the failure of Measures Q and R in the Nov. 8 election will likely make it easier for massive projects to proceed in 2023. These include the 2,777-acre Strada Verde Innovation Park near Highways 101 and 25, a planned 388-acre expansion of John Smith Road Landfill and the 26-acre Betabel node commercial project—although the latter of these might face a challenge in the courts after lawsuits were filed in late 2022. 

Measure Q would have amended the county’s General Plan to require voter approval for the future rezoning of agricultural, rural, rangeland and other open space properties in San Benito County. It would also remove commercial node designations from the county’s general plan. 

Measure R would have amended the county General Plan to establish a 3.5-mile radius buffer around the TriCal property on Highway 25 “that is authorized to handle bulk scale potentially hazardous chemicals such as chloropicrin or methyl bromide (or similar soil fumigants),” reads the measure text. 

Both measures were soundly rejected in the Nov. 8 election, with more than 56% of voters saying “No” to Measure Q and 64% against Measure R. 

Return of the motorcycle rally?

Will the Hollister City Council decide to host the once-popular Independence Day motorcycle rally in 2023? That depends on how strictly they want to follow the will of the voters, though lingering questions remain about the costs and viability of the event. 

In the Nov. 8 election, Hollister’s voters overwhelmingly supported Measure T, asking if the Motorcycle Rally should return to Hollister on the Fourth of July weekend. More than 63% of voters said “Yes” to the measure. 

But the results of the measure are non-binding, and it is still up to the city council to decide if the rally should return to Hollister. The event has been hugely popular in years past, bringing thousands of bikers to Hollister from all over the state. 

In March, the city council voted 3-2 against hosting an Independence Day rally for 2022, after the police chief expressed concerns about the uncertain availability—and likely hefty costs—of adequate law enforcement and security personnel for the event. 

New faces on the dais

Will a slate of new elected officials bring the change that many San Benito County residents are hoping for in 2023? 

For the first time in 12 years, Hollister has a new mayor in Mia Casey, who campaigned on creating “a business-friendly community” and investing in more infrastructure and road improvements. Casey defeated incumbent Ignacio Velazquez in the Nov. 8 election, with more than 58% of the votes cast. 

And by the end of January, new faces will have taken over the majority of the San Benito County Board of Supervisors. Dom Zanger won the race Nov. 8 for the District 1 seat, and was sworn in earlier this month. He defeated Betsy Dirks in the general election. 

In the June 7 primary, supervisors-elect Mindy Sotelo and Angela Curro won the races outright to represent Districts 3 and 4, respectively. 

Sotelo and Curro will be sworn in and take their seats on the board at the first meeting in January 2023. 

Erik Chalhoub contributed to this report.

STAY SAFE IN 2023 The aftermath of an Aug. 14 accident shows the wreckage of a 2014 Tesla after it collided with a tractor-trailer on Highway 156, west of Fairview Road. All four occupants of the Tesla—a mother and three children—died as a result of the crash, according to authorities. File photo.
YEAR OF CELEBRATION A prolonged highlight of 2022 was the City of Hollister’s sesquicentennial, or 150th anniversary celebration. Festivities started in June with the Saddle Horse Show Parade, and continued throughout the summer with street dances, arts and crafts events, a kiddie parade and a formal gala (pictured) on Aug. 6 at the downtown Hollister Veterans Memorial Building. File photo.
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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.


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