COMMUNITY OPINION: Is Hollister destined to become a town filled with distribution centers?

Mia Casey writes that a massive new warehouse/distribution center should not be moved forward without proper due diligence and environmental review by the City of Hollister.

This community opinion was written by resident Mia Casey. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors. BenitoLink invites all community members to share their ideas and opinions. By registering as a BenitoLink user in the top right corner of our home page and agreeing to follow our Terms of Use, you can write counter opinions or share your insights on current issues.


If you know me, you know that I am a huge supporter of local businesses, as well as new projects that can help our community and provide good-paying jobs to residents and revenue for infrastructure. But this trend toward building warehouse/distribution centers in Hollister is troubling. The secretiveness around the Amazon Distribution Center (we were not allowed to know who it was until it was practically built!) and the quickness with which it arrived is what first caught my attention.

Now, another massive distribution center eight times the size of Amazon is being greenlighted. This project will put another 200 tractor trailer trucks and 80 vans on the roads daily. But the city has done no environmental review of the impacts from this kind of operation. Why?

Looking into it further, I discovered the city has been relying on a 22-year old CEQA/Environmental report done for the Clearist industrial park. What shocked me was watching a recent planning commission meeting and discovering that a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) had to be approved for this project, because the type of industrial zoning at that site does not allow for this type of business.

Which begs the question we should all be asking–should the city rely on a 22-year old CEQA report that does not cover this type of business? And why would they want to?

I attempted to use the planning department appeals process to have the Conditional Use Permit reviewed and possibly reversed. Imagine my surprise when I went to file the form and was told that the fee for filing an appeal (which had been $300) had been recently increased by the city to a staggering $3,700 (yes, I said $3,700). Not having money to burn, I approached the City Council directly to ask them to take the matter up and review it. I am not sure they will, but if more citizens voice concern, it may happen.

Distribution Centers can have huge negative impacts to a community. Here are a few of the most concerning:

  • Traffic Congestion: Hollister residents are already battling huge traffic snarls. These centers are not located next to a large freeway like 101, which means the trucks will travel in and out of Hollister via Highway 25 and 156. The Amazon center has already added a number of trucks and vans to our roads. This new proposed center will add 200 large trucks and an additional 80 vans to daily traffic.
  • Roadway Damage: We’ve seen the damage on Fairview Road from large garbage trucks traveling to the dump. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office “a five-axle, tractor-trailer loaded to the 80,000-pound Federal limit, has the same impact on an interstate highway as 9,600 automobiles.” Road repairs are extremely expensive and our county has had great difficulty keeping up road maintenance. This does not even consider collateral damage and cost to our own vehicles when we are forced to drive severely damaged roadways.
  • Air Pollution: A diesel truck often sits idling at the loading dock, spewing pollution into the air. Remember, we are talking about 200 trucks idling–this can cause a significant air quality impacts. According to the Los Angeles Times“The trucks, cars and cargo-handling equipment associated with warehouses release more smog-forming pollution than any other sector.

So with these kind of serious impacts, shouldn’t city leaders be asking the hard questions before moving this massive project forward? Why didn’t the planning department and the planning commission trigger an environmental review before allowing that conditional use permit? I am concerned there may be a lack of due diligence. A CEQA report is meant to review these kinds of impacts and outline ways to mitigate them. Why isn’t the city ensuring our community will be protected?

I realize there are arguments in favor of distribution centers, primarily new jobs and tax revenue–as I said I have been a proponent of new business. But do low-wage warehouse jobs provide a worker enough to support their family or afford a home? It is certainly not going to take people off the commute to the Bay Area for high paying jobs. One thing I keep reading is distribution centers frequently promise 40-hour work weeks, but are notorious for changing and only giving 15, 20, or 30-hour weeks depending on workload. Imagine one week your paycheck is full, the next you get half of that and are scrambling to feed your family. Are these the kinds of jobs we want?

And yes, more sales tax revenue can help our infrastructure. But if a new business costs us millions in roadway damage, shouldn’t we compare those costs against whatever revenue boost we might expect?

What about the air we breathe? Isn’t that worth pause and to be given consideration and mitigation from an environmental report?

These are the questions that roil around in my head and worry me. Is this the direction Hollister really wants to go in? It did not help when I read this article from KQED on distributions centers in farming communities, like the nearby town of Patterson which now has wall-to-wall distribution centers.

Please, if this is a concern for you as well, contact your council member now and share your thoughts. Ask them to reverse this special Conditional Use Permit until an updated CEQA report can be completed and we know the actual extent of the impacts so the city can make an informed decision on how to proceed. Otherwise, we may end up the next Patterson.

Mia Casey