Traffic heading toward Hollister on Highway 25 near the Highway 101 on-ramp. Photo by Noe Magaña.
Traffic heading toward Hollister on Highway 25 near the Highway 101 on-ramp. Photo by Noe Magaña.

San Benito County residents who commute to work or were former commuters expressed concern about the large number of residents that commute out of the county, the imbalance of residential and commercial development, the limited number and conditions of roads in and out of the county, and the lack of local entertainment.

The group gathered Sept. 6 as part of BenitoLink’s Community Vision San Benito County Listening Sessions and discussed the lack of transportation options to alleviate the single-vehicle commute congestion. 

Sean Fitzpatrick, a co-owner of Brewery Twenty Five who works in the tech industry in the Bay Area, said there should be some mass transportation such as a train from the county to Silicon Valley to help with the commute. 

Other participants said the problem with commuting is not the distance but the time it takes to travel.

“I actually don’t mind the commute I have to the Airport in Salinas that’s 39 miles from my house,” Lori Woodle said. “There are days you’ll spend an hour and 45 minutes.”

Participant Lynette Redman said she was more frustrated with congestion during the weekend than when she goes to work. 

Discussing the worst outcome if nothing were to change, the group said local government agencies could go bankrupt because they would not be able to keep up with the services they are required to provide, that there would be nothing to do in the community for families, local businesses would disappear and that the community would inherit problems from Santa Clara County.

“We would become a San Jose/Santa Clara with all the disadvantages of congestion, high prices but not getting the advantages in all the different restaurants, and foods and cultural activities that exist there,” Nik Dholakia said. “So we would have the worst of Santa Clara County and not any of the good things of that.”

Regarding the best possible outcomes, the group mentioned the county can become a destination with diversity in restaurants and vineyards, plus tourism destinations such as Hollister Hills and Pinnacles. Participants cited Napa, Sonoma and Visalia as examples. 

“There is a town called Visalia and there are a lot of different cultures,” Silvia Mendoza said. “Within six blocks you can find different types of food; Ethiopian, Chinese, Indian, Mexican. Pretty much anything.” 

She added Visalia still maintains its rural, small town feel. 

In regards to attracting tourism, the group said the community is not prepared to host large groups, because they choose not to stop and shop or eat in town. 

The group also said increasing the rate of public employee retention would create a strong local government. Several participants said they were “stolen” from San Benito County by another county because of higher wages.

Participants said the county and its cities lose institutional knowledge by not retaining employees.

To achieve the best possible outcome, participants said there needed to be more public outreach, including quarterly workshops on available resources for residents and transparency around decisions made by leaders. They also called for a support system or a point-of-contact for residents who are looking for services and for nonprofits and other organizations to work together toward the same goal and be held accountable.

“Without supporting infrastructure nothing is possible,” resident Tim Takeuchi said.  

BenitoLink’s listening sessions are a continuation of those done by the Community Foundation for San Benito County. Several notable results followed the foundation’s 2011-12 listening sessions. 

  • The founding of BenitoLink, a nonprofit news organization serving the residents of San Benito County with local and regional news and information
  • The REACH Parks Foundation, which has been central to the development of parks and walking trails in San Benito County
  • The Community Foundation Women’s Fund, which has helped women with financial support and educational programs
  • Local nonprofits such as the San Benito County Farm Bureau identified the need for leaders with a better understanding of agriculture, and worked to bring qualified team members into leadership positions

The 2023 Vision San Benito County Listening sessions are supported by the Calhoun/Christiano Family Fund and the Community Foundation for San Benito County. There are approximately 20 Listening Sessions scheduled throughout September to hear about issues and solutions from many small segments of the community. BenitoLink is reporting back the results in articles about each session. 

RSVPs to attend the listening sessions are required.

To RSVP, please fill out this form, or email

Community Vision San Benito County is a community-wide listening project hosted by BenitoLink and sponsored by the Community Foundation for San Benito County and the Calhoun/Christiano Family Fund.

Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. He is a San Benito High School graduate with a bachelor’s in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts...