Some people have dreams that they know deep down will never come true. Others have dreams they know can happen if they don’t give up, though it may take decades. Developer Marty Miller, who’s active-adult community known as Twin Oaks has been more than 20 years in the making, falls into the second category.
Prior to being a home builder, Miller wrote software for IBM and marketed software products for Hewlett Packard.
“Silicon Valley takes a lot out of you,” he said, “and after a while, it’s not fun. It’s just stress.”
When a startup he worked for went under, Miller was in his mid-50s and unemployed for the first time. Opportunity came knocking when a contractor working on Miller’s house told him he would like to build homes, but did not have sufficient capital.
Miller’s career path took a sudden turn toward Hollister, where he and his new partner could afford to buy land. Over two decades later, the active-adult community of Twin Oaks is now under construction along Valley View Road between Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital and Hollister Fire Station #2.
Twin Oaks will feature approximately 168 homes for active adults 55 and older, ranging from 1,579 square feet to 2,011 square feet spaces beginning in the low $600,000s. There will be five models on 19 different elevations. There are plans for a community building, which will offer a fitness center, spaces for yoga and dance, a demonstration kitchen, and outdoor activities including a pool and sports courts.
“Our expectation is the first group of homes will be ready to close around April 1, 2020,” Miller said,“We’re shooting to have our sales office open by early November.”
He said the price range is similar to other new homes around Hollister, but Twin Oaks will offer more amenities.
As far as dreams go, it’s fortuitous to plan ahead—and live long enough to see them come to fruition. In this case, Miller’s project almost didn’t happen.
There were problems from the start when Miller purchased the land in 1996. Sixteen of the 24 acres of land remained in the county, which made it necessary to annex part of the property into Hollister. Two county supervisors who were also on the San Benito County Local Agency Formation Commission board blocked the project, Miller said.
“They wouldn’t allow me to build in the county and they wouldn’t allow me to annex it into the city,” he said. “Richard Scagliotti (supervisor 1988 to 2004) and Bob Cruz (supervisor 1996 to 2004) actively campaigned against senior housing. Until they were replaced on the Board of Supervisors we were stuck.”
Miller and his two newest partners, Marilyn and Richard Ferreira, were frustrated by the supervisors’ actions. In 2008, Richard Ferreira testified in civil court against Scagliotti and Cruz. He said Cruz told him in 2002 that he would support annexation for Twin Oaks in exchange for $1,000 per unit. He also said Scagliotti used his position as chairman of the LAFCO board to stop the housing project in order to gain financially as a local developer of a project along Fairview Road that was competing for housing allocations.
In a transcript obtained and published in the Gilroy Dispatch, Cruz denied the accusation and said he did not support the project because of concerns over sewage and water hookups.
Scagliotti had his own legal issues with lawsuits, and ultimately the county severed its support in paying his legal fees in connection with his defense regarding the project. He ended up having to pay $220,000, which he sought to have the county reimburse, but was denied.
Annexation was rejected and the Twin Oaks project withered on the vine—but it wasn’t quite dead.
In 2010, with the economy improved following the financial crisis, the property was finally annexed into the city. Miller was able to secure entitlements, but then he couldn’t find a bank to finance construction because, “they were saying Hollister was a tertiary market and it was too risky to invest in construction.”
As a senior community, he said, property taxes will benefit local schools, but there will be no children to impact them, and many of those in the community will be retired so it’s unlikely they will be on the roads during commute times.
Miller said he has spoken with hospital administration, which has committed to providing health and welfare lectures to the active-adult community (Hazel Hawkins did not respond to multiple requests for confirmation). He would also like to see the hospital provide web-enabled care services, and hopes to have registered nurses come to the community.
“We’ve talked about lifetime learning, health and wellness, and making new friends,” Miller said. “I hope to talk to Gavilan College about doing a lecture series. We’ve also negotiated with the city to have a bus stop at the entrance. Everything we do here is to provide an environment where it’s easy for folks to engage in doing those kinds of things.”
Not content to fulfill one dream, Miller is already contemplating his next: to find land and build lower-cost condos for seniors.
“The good news is the city is inclined to raise the densities, and when they do so, that’s when we can lower the prices,” he said.