Business / Economy

Developer disagrees with Flynn Road site for homeless center

Ken Lindsay argued to county supervisors that the proposed homeless center near an airport business center will discourage commercial development in the area

Industrial-commercial real estate developer Ken Lindsay this week expressed his disagreement with the Board of Supervisors' decision to locate the proposed Homeless Service Center at Flynn Road near the county jail and Hollister Airport, rather than on Southside Road as originally planned.

During the public comment session of the meeting, Lindsay read a letter he wrote to Hollister City Manager William Avera in which Lindsey said the supervisors’ decision to relocate the proposed homeless center site is “untimely and not only devastating to my marketing efforts, but also to the business council and the county itself.”

He also said that he would be withdrawing his AirPark Business Center from attending the National Business Aviation Association in November. The NBAA convention in Las Vegas is the largest gathering of aircraft owners in the world, providing opportunities and connections for business owners and sales prospects.

Lindsay read: “I must disclose the location of the proposed Homeless Service Center and I feel I have nothing to promote.”

In a phone interview with BenitoLink, he explained the plan for the 100-acre AirPark Business Center is for it to be a support for an industrial zone near the airport. “This is the unique thing about Hollister," he said. "Few U.S. cities can boast of access to airplanes and private properties at the same time. Most of the residential areas are clustered in the south, southwest. The wineries are spread out. But the airport is north. An industrial area up north won’t impact the residential areas. We can target big companies that own corporate jets and aircrafts.”

Lindsey’s vision is to get “100 Bay Area companies to lease from us. Now that manufacturing evolved into high-tech, manufacturers don’t have any place to go close to Silicon Valley where housing and living cost less. This is what’s unique about Hollister.”

He stressed that while he had developed projects for shopping centers, this isn’t one of them. In fact, he said, his work has mostly been in research and development businesses and industrial-oriented offices. He cited his lengthy experience with development projects in Silicon Valley and Hollister, including the Hollister Business Park and North Point Business Center near the airport.

He also said, “Look at Google. They’re running out of room in Mountain View. (If they were prospective customers for AirPark Business Center) they would not want to have a homeless center at their backyard.”

“As it is, businesses (at the airpark) are already impacted," he said, noting that his development was meant to be a high-end business park with superb landscaping and where offices like the county’s planning and building department would be located. “But drifters just enter to use the phones and restrooms," if a homeless center was nearby.

Both the county jail and juvenile hall are situated near the airpark. “When the county acquired (the property) from us, we were told there would be the jail, juvenile hall and the courthouse there. In fact, the site was first choice for the courthouse and it made sense when you are transporting prisoners. But the community didn’t want to move the courthouse from downtown.”

Lindsay said he has nothing against the homeless.

“I understand some of them could not help the situation they are in," he said. "And some of them are mentally ill. But there are also those who chose that lifestyle.”

District 1 Supervisor and Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Margie Barrios confirmed to BenitoLink that “Lindsay is a developer involved with a lot of projects near the airport. Since the 1980s, he has been an advocate of bringing new businesses to San Benito County. He thinks our airport is a jewel and it can attract bio-tech and other industrial companies.”

She also said, “I think there’s a misconception going around about the Homeless Service Center where the homeless will just be milling around. There will be a structured operation and services for the mentally ill, job training and connecting those who want to get their GED. The homeless will get full-blown services so that at the end of 90 days, they can go to the next level and eventually become productive members of the community.”

Barrios said the Board of Supervisors “will go through the process, study the sites (proposed for the Homeless Center), look into issues and compare. We’re going in the direction that Flynn Road is the preferred site. But this is not to say other locations may come up.”

For his part, Lindsay told BenitoLink, “the decision was made under duress. Other sites will become available. I would like to be part of the solution to this problem. I have always enjoyed the support of the community and I believe we can work this out as a team.”

Regarding some in the community who prefer to keep San Benito rustic, Lindsay said, “All communities must strive for balance. I’m not out to build a mecca for industrial (companies). For the city and the county to provide services (for its residents), you need a tax base. Houses require more services than property taxes can pay. You’ll need jobs for those residents to keep getting their paychecks.”

“When you develop a building, you start with an appraisal," he said. "If it’s low, you put more capital into it. If you sell the property at a low price – that’s going to be the base for taxes. If that will be the revenue stream, no job will come.”

Lindsay said he’s also looking out for businesses that because of the high cost of doing business have left Monterey, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties, such as public storage facilities and auto-wreckers. He said he has been working “for two years on a big manufacturing company that actually brought in their team here just before the board made that decision.”

“When I build something, I feel I become a part of it and the community," Lindsay said. "To build the taxiways (for access to aircraft) would require an additional investment of $1.5 million from me. I only want to build a better Hollister.”

Harvey Barkin

Harvey Barkin is a Freelance Journalist and Technical Writer. His stories have appeared in various media.