This column was contributed by Valerie Egland, who is running for San Benito County Supervisor District 2. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.
Growth and development are perpetually challenging issues that often divide our communities. San Benito County is no exception. A great amount of misinformation surrounds these issues. Some politicians find running on an anti-growth platform to be expedient and advantageous for short-term electoral success. It’s always fun to have a scapegoat and running against nameless “developers” is an easy target. Yet, the truth is that very few individuals—including myself—support uncontrolled development that violates our General Plan, compromises our rural heritage, or just conflicts with good old common sense.
No growth may sound good as a political slogan, but is it either practical or realistic? Can we simply build a wall around our county to keep outsiders from coming here? Should we return to the situation 15 years ago when a growth moratorium was forced on Hollister? How did that work out? The local economy was devastated. Businesses closed or never opened in the first place and jobs were lost. Housing prices soared.
If we are to address these issues in a responsible manner, we must avoid fringe positions that lead nowhere. We have a General Plan that preserves our rural way of life. We can direct natural growth to areas that least impact our water, roads, and infrastructure. We can require developers to provide infrastructure as a condition of building. We can preserve private property rights while preventing urbanization and leapfrog development.
My campaign has called for bringing Silicon Valley jobs here. That means less commuting, less traffic, and less congestion on our roads. We should also be working with high-tech employers to create jobs that can be performed remotely. Creating jobs does not spur uncontrolled growth. Instead, it’s a way to avoid the worst consequences of growth.
A great deal of discussion currently revolves around the so-called development “nodes” on Highway 101. They are actually zones. They already have some form of development. By enacting the ordinance unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors, we are in a better position to control the kind of future development that occurs there to prevent damage to our environment and protect our existing quality of life.
Candidates attempting to use the “no growth” banner to polarize voters and divide people are doing a grave disservice to San Benito County. We should all be working together to find smart solutions to jobs, affordable housing, and roads. We can do this without either giving developers a blank check to build anywhere and everywhere or the other extreme of shutting down our economy altogether.
Valerie Egland is a San Benito County Planning Commissioner, past member of the county Parks and Recreation Commission, REACH San Benito Parks Foundation Founding Member and candidate for District 2 Supervisor in the March 3, 2020 primary.