Children and Youth

City Council, Board of Supervisors approve Nash Road closure near high school

Periodic Nash Road closure, new bypass road and park on track after school district, city and county approve Interagency Cooperative Agreement

The final chapter of a 22-year saga took place at the San Benito County Supervisors’ meeting Oct. 8 with a unanimous vote to adopt the resolution authorizing the temporary closure of Nash Road between Monterey and West streets on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. In addition, the vote also approved an Interagency Cooperation Agreement with San Benito High School District and Hollister to move forward to establish a 31-acre regional park.

As some skeptics of the process believed and posted on Facebook, the final vote was pretty much a fait accompli because the three boards and their lawyers had been knocking out the last details for months. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that the county supervisors had approved the project only to have the city shoot it down, according to Supervisor Robert Rivas.

But at the Oct. 7 Hollister City Council meeting, the writing was on the wall. The agreement had already been approved and signed Nov. 1 by the San Benito High School District board, and then before a room packed to the walls with students, teachers and school officials, along with a smattering of unhappy residents who live near the high school, the city council did likewise, but not before numerous speakers had their say.

Because so many had submitted speaker cards, Mayor Ignacio Velazquez limited each speaker to one minute. The first to step up to the podium was SBHS District Superintendent John Perales, who was given much of the credit the previous night at the school district meeting for moving the agreement forward after so many years' delay.

“This has been a long and arduous task and there are several people who worked extremely hard on it,” he said. “From the city’s standpoint, Mr. (Councilman Karson) Klauer was at all our meetings, along with the support of Mr. (Supervisor Anthony) Botelho, Ms. (Supervisor Margie) Barrios. I just feel, given where we are today, we are at a nexis and a new point in time where we can really make a difference for the students at San Benito High School with this agreement to keep them safe and build a bypass road, which will lead to working together with joint projects.”

Supervisors Barrios and Botelho were at the meeting to give their support and, by their comments, it was apparent they would both be voting for the resolution the next day.

Most of the students who spoke were doing so out of concern for safety, not to mention for school credit, as council members and Police Chief David Westrick signed their paperwork before they left the building.

Paulette Cobb, director of special education for the high school district, had a group of students in mind when she appealed to the council to approve the resolution. She said she was responsible for the education and safety of 330 families of students with special needs.

“Approximately 54 who have severe handicaps cross that street every day,” she said. “It has always been a concern of mine because we have a students with a variety of disabilities, including autism and other cognitive issues that make it difficult for them to have good judgment. They often travel with assistance, but on occasion they will run when frightened or something over-stimulates them.”

Cobb said that when the special needs children are crossing Nash Road along with thousands of other students, they can move unexpectedly.

“I and other administrators have spent a number of hours keeping these kids safe and sometimes waiting quite some time while they sit on the sidewalk waiting for other kids to pass because they’re so overwhelmed,” she said.

Jerry Sepulveda and one other resident were the only two speakers who spoke against the closing of Nash Road at the council meeting.

“The overflow for traffic for me in that area, speed bumps or not, is going to be an issue,” he said. “If you spend any time with overflow traffic in adjacent intersections, with the exception of those two at Monterey and Nash, and West and Nash in the mornings and afternoons, that is a safety concern and it’s not going to get any better with the closing of Nash Road. It’s an inconvenience for me, personally, and having speed bumps on my street is another inconvenience.”

He added his disapproval of being limited to one minute to speak.

“Giving me a minute after working 30 years to buy a home and then trying to represent what I think is an issue is a slap in the face,” he said.

Vincent Ramirez said he knew that what was happening concerning the agreement was a unique situation.

“You guys have all cooperated and it’s a win-win-win situation,” he said. “All the parties involved are going to have some payoff and everyone had to give up something. But overall, we’re going to get a park, better parking, and have student safety.”

Dominic Garcia said he saw a complex situation with a simple solution.

“It really is a win-win situation for the city, for the school and, obviously, for the population,” he said. “I think we will see the benefits of the bypass and the closing of Nash Road for many years. This is the future for Hollister. It’s growing, developing, and we’re finally getting incorporated into the North Bay Area community.”

Everyone in the room was hyped about the pending vote, so when Councilwoman Mickie Luna tossed out an objection, it got very quiet. She gave a hint about what her objection would be as she thanked the students for being there and then told them that for government to move forward it needs to do so through “proper procedure.” She referred to a woman in the audience and said she agreed with her.

“It’s not that we don’t support the high school and the possibility of closing Nash Road,” said Luna, who lives within a few blocks of the high school. “I have a concern tonight that when your (school district) board is having a meeting at the high school and the residents in the area are not notified to come so they can speak out like you have spoken out tonight, they were not given that opportunity. When the vote was taken, there was no public comment. When we run for office, we represent the people of this community and we want their input.”

While she said she didn’t oppose the agreement, she asked that it might be best if more people would be allowed to make comments, and then bring it back to the council for a vote. She asked Velazquez to ask for the city attorney’s recommendations because she did not believe the people had a chance to speak at the school district’s meetings.

Brad Sullivan, city attorney, explained that there were announcements of the pending meetings and speaker cards were available, but no one showed up. He said he believed the board complied with the law and posted notices on campus. Luna wondered why she had not been notified about the meeting at the school because it is in her district. She asked if it is required to give residents notice of the meetings.

“It’s not that I’m sitting her opposing the plan; it’s just the process,” she reiterated.

Sullivan responded that the district "complied with the minimal level of the process. By putting it on their agenda they are providing the legal notice.”

When the mayor tried to caution taking action at the city council based on actions taken by another board, Luna interrupted, “This is my district and these are my constituents that I serve, and when they call upon me, I will answer.”

Sullivan interjected, “I don’t mean to imply that by doing the minimal level that’s not good enough, that they should have done more. There’s some responsibility on both parties to stay involved.”

Ray Rodriguez, president of the high school board of trustees, asked if he could comment.

“Just to clarify, this was a meeting that the neighbors had asked the district to hold, relative to parking,” he said. “The district held this meeting and shared our future road plans at that time. As far as posting notices, I celebrate that it is very easy for somebody to get our agenda list. The posting happened in all of our normal physical spots and went out to 41 constituents. The minimum requirement for posting is 72 hours and it went out over 96 hours before our meeting.”

Rodriguez said it would be great if they could send out notices to every meeting. He also said it would be great if people read the postings.

Councilman Victor Gomez commented that he graduated from the high school 20 years ago and Nash Road should have been closed then. Councilman Karson Klauer, another Baler alumnus, said that if Nash Road is not closed then the city is being negligent.

“We know there’s a safety issue and if we don’t do anything about it that’s on us,” he said. “It’s been over 10 years since I was at the high school every day. As a student I thought ‘is this the best we can come up with, having to wait five minutes to cross the street?’ Students aren’t always the smartest when they cross streets. And I’ve been the driver who doesn’t always pay attention and almost drives into the crosswalk when the crossing guard is already out in the street.”

Klauer added that the street closing would eventually lead to some park facilities, which will be good for that particular area of town, which he said is underserved.

“And just the fact that as three public entities we’ve been able to cooperate as we have, I’m excited and I think there are going to be some other opportunities.”

John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a freelance photojournalist with additional experience as a copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer, having worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John worked as a scriptwriting consultant, and his own script, "God's Club," was produced and released in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]