In early February, members Linda West and Carol Marques, met with the mayor, city administrator and all council members individually to discuss six action items that GGS wanted to see accomplished. We cannot take full credit for these action items as the GDBA (Gilroy Downtown Business Association) is responsible for many of these ideas. The City Council, at their annual strategic planning session this past February, addressed our concerns and set goals listed at the end of this document. We believe they listened to us since progress is being made.
Recently, we met with a few council members to identify current status on these action items. Here are the six action items we discussed in February and the CURRENT STATUS below.
1. Make it easier and quicker to start a business in Gilroy:
After speaking with local architects and local business people, it was indicated it is not easy getting through the permits and fee process to start a business in Gilroy compared with other cities. According to them, it can take from 1-3 years to start a business with additional fees that may not be known upfront. Many of these potential investors have gotten discouraged and moved on to our neighboring cities.
CURRENT STATUS: Based on our discussions with the City, the City is working on a land management and planning system which they hope to deploy in twelve to eighteen months which would make it quicker and easier to start a business in Gilroy. We concur with the 90 day turnaround time that the City presented to council at the Economic Development meeting.
2. Recommendations on a number of ways that the City could improve the ambiance and desirability of Gilroy:
- Power washing – The downtown sidewalks are cleaner due to more frequent power washing by the City.
- Maintaining improvements - The City is maintaining the Paseo and new tree lights.
- Marketing - The new visit gilroy.com website created by the Welcome Center pitches Gilroy as a destination one would want to visit.
- City parks - Parks are cleaner with the addition of more accessible garbage cans in high traffic areas, more doggie bag stations have been installed, Las Animas tennis courts are locked at night preventing defecation on the courts, and blatant drug dealing has diminished, however, it has not been eliminated and should still be a top priority for Gilroy PD.
- GGS would like to thank Zachary Hilton and the Bicycle Commission for the addition of those classy bicycle racks downtown.
3. Vacant and blighted buildings:
The blighted conditions of the buildings in downtown Gilroy discourages investment. If progress cannot be made with the current building owners, we asked the Council to enforce the Historical Vacant Building Ordinance (5D) to address some of the current buildings that are not in compliance. No longer should people see sheets, shower curtains, plywood covering the windows, cracked glass, missing tiles, mold through the paint and crumbling butcher paper, etc... Some examples are shown below.
CURRENT STATUS: The City has been working with the owner of a similar building a few doors south of picture #3 and that building is now in progress. We hope to see the blighted buildings disappear soon.
4. Economic Development downtown:
We asked the Council to discuss with the EDC (Economic Development Corporation) the possibility of finding an anchor tenant and targeted businesses for a successful downtown. “20 Ingredients of an Outstanding Downtown” recommends the following mix of businesses.
- Ten places that sell food: soda fountain, coffee shop, bistro, cafes, sit-down restaurants, wine store, outdoor dining and confectionary are a must.
- Ten specialty shops: such as galleries, antiques, (not second hand stores), collectibles, books, clothing, home accents, outfitters, brand specific businesses, a kitchen store, cigar store, etc.
CURRENT STATUS: We do not know of any definitive plan for the EDC to find the above mentioned types of businesses—although it could be a possibility.
5. Homeless issue:
Back in February, these pictures depicted what downtown businesses had to deal with on a fairly regular basis.
We asked the Council to get a handle on the number of homeless moving to Gilroy by sharing San Diego and Berkeley’s homeless strategies. Taking care of our own homeless citizens is one thing, but the numbers have grown due to outsiders coming to benefit from Gilroy’s services. Has the city considered telling other city’s referral agencies that we are full and can no longer take new clients from other cities? While homelessness is not a crime, loitering, trash, shopping carts left unattended, violence, urine and defecating in public places are.
CURRENT STATUS: Since then, we have seen less homeless in the downtown area and a quicker police response to homeless calls. The City has deployed a pilot program to address quality of life issues. The pilot program consists of additional hours by GPD to proactively deal with homeless concerns in commercial business areas to include downtown. In addition, Public Work Department, after proper noticing, remove debris and rubbish from illegal encampments. The program is being funded with City funds appropriated by the City Council.
6. Quality of Life:
We suggested that what the Council approves needs to enhance our local community. Every property/project whether it is commercial, low income, affordable, or high end housing should improve the ambiance of the community. Ask the question for every project:
Does this project make the community more “loveable/livable/beautiful”?
CURRENT STATUS: No new projects to report.
Here are the Council’s goals for 2018:
- Maintain a Financially Sustainable, High Performing City
- Grow the Economy through Business Development
- Develop a Vibrant Gilroy Downtown
- Upgrade City Infrastructure and Facilities
- Create a More Livable Gilroy Community for All
In conclusion, GGS hopes to continue to partner with our City Council to identify pressing needs in our community. However, we need everyone’s help to keep the momentum going. Let your council members know they are headed in the right direction and encourage them to continue to do the work needed to create a better community. We will keep you posted.