Gilroy expansion off the table — for now — in new twist for land-use fight

by Nathan Donato-Weinstein
The developer behind a 721-acre expansion to the city of Gilroy has asked the city to halt the process, following vocal public opposition and a government agency’s lawsuit over the plan.
“Basically, it’s simply a matter of giving everyone more time for input, more community involvement,” said Skip Spiering, who represents a consortium of landowners just north of the current city limits. The plan now? To hold more community outreach meetings and wait for the completion of the city’s general plan update, which is expected sometime this summer.
The slashed and checked outline shows the expansion of Gilroy if a boundary change gets the go-ahead.
The slashed and checked outline shows the expansion of Gilroy if a boundary change gets… more


The announcement, made in a press release issued this morning, presses pause on a process that could eventually add 4,000 mostly single-family homes to the city. The expansion of the city’s boundaries is the first step, and in December a deeply divided city council voted to apply to a government entity — the Local Area Formation Commission, or LAFCO — to do just that.
Last week, in an unprecedented move, LAFCO sued the city over its environmental impact report, saying it was inadequate. A competing group of property owners also sued the city on environmental grounds.

The fight has become one of the most closely watched issues in regional land use because it touches on a huge issue of how southern Santa Clara County could and should develop. Opponents have said it will pave over priceless farmland for suburban sprawl, while proponents say Gilroy is growing and needs the additional land to remain a healthy community.
Spiering said the decision to withdraw the application came after a request from Gilroy Mayor Perry Woodward, who has been a vocal proponent of the proposal. Woodward didn’t immediately return a phone call on Wednesday. The news release included a quote attributed to Woodward stating that he wanted more time for people to better understand “the benefits to our community” from the project.

“It’s better to make sure that everybody is happy with the decisions,” Spiering said. “I’ve been in this a long time. Anything that’s perceived to be rushed, people get upset.”
Spiering said the decision to delay the process could also blunt criticism that the project was being rushed. “One of biggest complaints is we were going on the (old) 2020 general plan plan and they’re updating it and we were rushing the issue,” Spiering said. “Now you can’t say we’re rushing the issue.”

Technically, the city is the applicant to LAFCO for the boundary extension, and Spiering is simply withdrawing his request for the city to move the process forward.
Interim City Manager Ed Tewes said the council would meet next month to discuss the applicant’s request in open session. There are no plans to re-open the city’s environmental impact report on the project, he said. But he noted he would expect that the move would short circuit the lawsuit, which could have cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend.
“If they don’t have a project they want to proceed with, then there’s no sense to continue litigation that’s unnecessary,” Tewes said. “We believe it moots the lawsuit.”
It’s unclear whether the latest twist in the process would end up changing the proposed project in some way in response to community input, or simply buy the applicant more time to gain support.
Attention could also shift to the ballot box, where it’s possible that both proponents and opponents could seek the binding opinion of voters.
I’ll have more on the south county development scene in the weeks ahead.
Nathan Donato-Weinstein covers commercial real estate and transportation for the Silicon Valley Business Journal.


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