Proponents of Strada Verde Innovation Park say Measure R is part of plot to secretly acquire land around the project and eventually build thousands of homes. They claim Palo Alto-developer Philip R. Taylor is backing Measure R, while buying thousands of acres around Strada Verde.
Proponents of Strada Verde Innovation Park say Measure R is part of plot to secretly acquire land around the project and eventually build thousands of homes. They claim Palo Alto-developer Philip R. Taylor is backing Measure R, while buying thousands of acres around Strada Verde.

Editors note: This BL Special Report was originally published Aug. 18, 2022 but is being republished Aug. 22 to keep it in on the top of the home page for our readers. 

A curtain was pulled back during the Aug. 9 San Benito County Supervisors meeting when former supervisor Anthony Botelho announced that 27 parcels near the proposed Strada Verde Innovation Park (SVIP) project had transferred to a Delaware-based company in one day. The properties make up over 7,400 acres to the north and south of Hwy 25 near the Santa Clara County border.

The supervisors’ meeting shifted to a higher gear when Botelho, who is now paid as a spokesperson for SVIP, revealed the recent massive accumulation of land surrounding the proposed project. SVIP is a vehicle testing facility which would be built east of Hwy 101 and along the south side of Hwy 25. Strada Verde, which was previously voted down by San Benito residents, encompasses 2,777 acres.

The 7,400 acres referenced by Botelho have been quietly transferred from a variety of ownerships including Rancho San Benito, LLC to a Delaware-based LLC called Churchill Rain, LLC. Delaware does not require that limited liability corporations reveal its officers. Rancho San Benito LLC is registered to Palo Alto developer Philip R. Taylor. Taylor has been interested in developing housing in San Benito County since 1996. 

Botelho, along with Scott Fuller, another SVIP spokesperson, say Measure R on the Nov. 8 ballot, is not about safety but about blocking their project. Measure R, if approved by voters, will place a 3.5-mile safety buffer zone around the TriCal agricultural chemical facility at 8770 Bolsa Road off of Hwy 25. This would effectively stop Strada Verde. Opponents of Measure R argue that the facility has been next to Hwy 25 for over 40 years and has had no major safety issues in that time. 

At the supervisors meeting, Botelho accused Francisco “Frank” Barragan and Taylor of using Measure R to prevent Strada Verde from moving forward. Taylor, who still uses the name El Rancho San Benito LLC, was involved in a failed DMB project called Rancho San Benito on the acreage where SVIP would be built. The project was described in a Nov. 2005 article in the Hollister Freelance, “In the report, DMB proposes a planned, self-contained community that maintains the county’s rural character, protects surrounding agricultural lands and eschews the kind of sprawl seen in Santa Clara County. After the poorly planned, rapid development of the 1990s, which overburdened city and county infrastructure, well-planned development is a priority for locals, according to the report.”

Botelho went on to say he believes Taylor possibly bankrolled Barragan’s signature-gathering efforts while securing thousands of acres under the name Churchill Rain LLC. At this point, the relationship between Barragan, Taylor and Churchill Rain LLC is unclear. However, either way, their efforts could quash the Strada Verde project. BenitoLink is investigating the connection.

Signature campaign support from out of county

According to the San Benito County Elections Department, Barragan, as the principal officer, established the committee Residents for a Safe and Healthy Community, based in San Francisco, to gather funding for Measure R. A disclosure statement listing donations and expenses from the first half of 2022 appears to support Botelho’s assertion that substantial contributions from outside the county have been received by the campaign, indicating that Barragan’s efforts are not a local grassroots volunteer effort.

According to the disclosure filing, Residents for a Safe and Healthy Community incurred $241,800 in expenses, while contributions totaled $100,600. At the time of filing, it had $1,298 in the bank and owes $141,200. It’s unclear which of the group’s creditors have been paid. 

One of the primary supporters of the committee has been the committee itself, which donated $49,400. Individuals within the organization were not listed. An additional $49,000 was donated by Paul Allen, co-owner and CFO of McGuire Builders in Torrance. The company is a real estate financier and hotel builder. Expenses included $15,000 to Vanguard Field Strategies LLC of Austin, Texas, which hired petition signature gatherers. Another $14,500 was paid to San Diego-based Competitive Edge Research & Communication, which also hired signature gatherers. In addition, $15,940.46 was paid to Ross & Associates, a campaign consultant in Sacramento.

Botelho, along with Fuller and Supervisors Bea Gonzalez, Peter Hernandez and Bob Tiffany were critical of the intent behind Measure R, as well as the potential consequences if it were to go into effect. Hernandez predicted that if Strada Verde were to fail, the “void” might one day be filled with housing developments.

Old history erupts as new plan

In 1996, Philip Taylor formed Longwood San Benito LLC and filed an article of organization with the secretary of state. According to a May 2005 Phoenix Business Journal article, the company partnered with Arizona-based DMB Development in 2004 in El Rancho San Benito LLC, a joint real estate venture. Taylor registered the LLC with the secretary of state in March 2009 and renewed it in September 2020. The plan was to build nearly 10,000 homes on 4,500 acres in the Bolsa floodplains along Hwy 25 between Hwy 156 and Hwy 101. The community consisting of homes, schools, medical clinics and basic necessities was to include the Floriani Ranch, the location of the proposed Strada Verde project.  

As the housing market began to collapse in 2008, the relationship between DMB and Longwood LLC became strained and DMB sued Longwood and El Rancho San Benito LLC in June 2010 to dissolve the partnership. According to Dan Floriani, Taylor (using Longwood LLC) maintained El Rancho San Benito LCC and secured an option on the Floriani Ranch.

Floriani told BenitoLink that in late 2012 the family terminated Taylor’s option. In the months that followed, “Taylor continued to tell people he still had the option on the land and that he controlled the entire area,” and there appeared to be some truth to this, Floriani said.

“It seemed that Taylor had been using different entities to buy or control options on properties surrounding the Floriani Ranch,” he said.

In 2013 Taylor met with the family in an attempt to compel them to “get back into the contract with him,” Floriani said. The family decided not to “re-engage” with Taylor and made it clear they “would never sell him the property in their lifetime.”

That’s when Taylor, according to Floriani, said, “‘You have no choice. I control everything around you. You will have to sell to me,’ which the family took as a threat.”

“We don’t wish him any ill will,” Floriani continued. “We just had completely different personalities. Our family cherishes that property. We’ve owned it for 40 years and if something happens here, it needs to be done right.”

BenitoLink was unable to find a working phone number for Philip Taylor. Frank Barragan did not respond to BenitoLink’s request for comment. 


Related BenitoLink stories:

Strada Verde returns | BenitoLink

Strada Verde initiative going on November ballot | BenitoLink

Supervisors approve impact study for Strada Verde project | BenitoLink

Developer seeks voter approval for autonomous car facility | BenitoLink

Autonomous vehicle testing facility planned near San Benito County line | BenitoLink

Floriana Ranch Project could result in thousands of homes and jobs along Hwy 25 | BenitoLink



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John Chadwell worked as a feature, news and investigative reporter for BenitoLink on a freelance basis for seven years, leaving the role in Sept. 2023. Chadwell first entered the U.S. Navy right out of...