The Council of San Benito County Governments (COG) Board of Directors told staff on June 18 to allocate over $300,000 received through the Regional Early Action Planning (REAP) program. The disbursement would be based on populations of unincorporated San Benito County, Hollister and San Juan Bautista. A formal vote and adoption is expected to take place at its Aug. 20 meeting.
According to the meeting agenda packet, the California Department of Housing and Community Development program created a one-time fund of $315,813, with eligible uses including:
- Infrastructure planning such as sewers, water systems, transit, roads and other public facilities to support new housing developments.
- Technical assistance to improve housing permitting processes, tracking systems and planning tools.
- Feasibility studies to determine the most efficient locations for new developments.
- Costs of temporary staffing or consultant needs associated with housing activities.
- Technical assistance to local agencies, planning, temporary staffing or consultant needs associated with updating local planning and zoning documents, expediting application processing and other actions to accelerate additional housing production.
Hollister is expected to receive 60% of the available funds ($159,487.80), San Benito County 30% ($79,743.90) and San Juan Bautista 10% ($26,813.30). COG will retain $50,000 for the Regional Housing Needs Allocation update. Staff recommended allotting $88,604 to each jurisdiction.
While the staff report indicated that local governments did not support this and recommended distributing the funds equally, the majority of COG directors said this was the fairest formula, since Hollister has the most housing developments of the three agencies. San Juan Bautista Mayor Mary Edge, also a director with the region’s transportation agency, was the lone voice in support of distributing the funds equally. Hollister Mayor and COG Director Ignacio Velazquez said, “At the end of the day so much of the growth is centered around Hollister and that’s where the state is trying to demand more growth, and we have a lot of work to do.”
Though he did not directly support distributing the funds by population, County Supervisor and COG Director Jaime De La Cruz said he was staying quiet because he was benefiting from what staff was recommending.
“If I was a City Council member I would give you my piece of mind, but I’m a county supervisor,” De La Cruz said. “I’m benefitting, so I’m not going to say anything.”
Since 1969, California has required that local governments plan their housing needs, which includes the adoption of general plans and housing elements. These documents serve as guidelines for future growth. Hollister recently began updating its general plan with the General Plan Advisory Committee (GPAC) meeting on June 4 where it discussed the makeup of the committee and next steps.
San Juan Bautista adopted two different cycles of its housing elements in 2019, as it had been out of compliance since 2015.
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