The San Benito High School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously at its Nov. 1 meeting to approve the Interagency Cooperation Agreement for a regional park project and the closure of Nash Road during and after school hours. Discussion between the school district, the City of Hollister, and San Benito County concerning the agreement have been ongoing for 22 years. The Hollister City Council will consider the agreement during its Nov. 7 meeting, and the county will do the same at its Nov. 8 meeting.
The agreement, which was signed during the school district meeting, calls for four near-term outcomes:
- construction of an access road by the county on land the district owns;
- closure of Nash Road between Monterey and West streets from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday for up to 99 years;
- development of a 31-acre regional park by the county on a portion of the district’s land;
- development of a parking lot north of the new access road to support parking at the new regional park.
After various “traffic calming measures” are incorporated, the closure of Nash Road is anticipated to begin in August 2018. The three parties of the agreement will also develop a shared-use agreement to provide the district access to park improvements, such as athletic fields, on a priority basis, and to formalize terms of the lease of the park property in a separate lease agreement.
In addition, the three entities will meet three years after the closure of Nash Road to discuss the possibility of a permanent closure in an exchange for a transfer of fee title to the park land to the county. There is no exchange of monetary consideration in the agreement.
The estimated cost of closing Nash Road, constructing traffic calming measures and landscaping is $1.115 million. The county will be responsible for all costs and upkeep of the access road, regional park and parking lot. The district will pay its fair share of maintenance costs for upkeep of the regional park and parking lot. No costs to the city were included in the agreement.
John Perales, SBHS district superintendent, thanked the city council and county board of supervisors—Councilman Karson Klauer, Councilwoman Mickie Luna and Supervisor Margie Barrios were at the meeting—for their cooperation in working on the agreement.
“I’m happy to see the county, city and district come together to form what’s going to be a regional park and what’s going to help us with student safety with the temporary closure of Nash Road,” Perales said.
Janet Mueller, an attorney with San Diego-based Danis Woliver Kelley (DWK), which Perales said worked diligently on the agreement, presented the plan to the board. She said the main goal of the agreement was to have the city and county, both of which control portions of Nash Road, agree to the closure.
“In exchange for a piece of property that the county is leasing from us (district), at least initially, for the development of a regional park,” she said. “As part of this agreement, there will be a variety of certain property interests going back and forth with a goal is for the school district and its programs, particularly its sports programs, to get some use of fields that we anticipate will be built as part of the regional park.”
Trustee Juan Robledo, who taught at the high school for 38 years before retiring, said that over the years there had been discussions about an overpass and an underpass to help protect people crossing Nash Road.
“In my time here in 38 years, there was a lady who had some sort of seizure who ran over one of our benches and lucky for us there were not students there,” he said. “We also a few people hit while crossing in the evening events. It’s going to be a blessing and I wish it was by tomorrow, but it won’t. I’m happy that we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and overjoyed that my grandchildren will be attending a safer campus.”
Robledo thanked the county and city officials in the audience and commented, “I can’t tell you how happy I am to know that three governmental agencies got together and agreed on something. I want to applaud the county for wanting to do that regional park. The city I want to thank for going along with this because it’s not going to be the county that people brag about. It will be the City of Hollister.”
Ray Rodriguez, board of trustees president, said the closing of Nash Road has been a concern for many years and that advances have been made in mini-steps.
“Even though, legally, there are a lot of moving parts, money-wise this is relatively easy and I hope this bodes well for the future,” he said. “I have to point out that Superintendent Perales spearheaded this for us. He identified it a concern for us right off the bat. He will be remembered as the superintendent who was able to make it happen.”
On Nov. 2, Perales told BenitoLink that if the city council and board of supervisors sign on to the agreement, that means all three can work more collaboratively on projects, such as a community swimming pool, as well as the regional park.
When asked about a possible overpass being built, which Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez told BenitoLink by email was desirable; Perales said the cost and logistics prevented its consideration.
“Given ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) rules, that overpass would have to be so big, with a wheelchair-accessible grade it would be cost-prohibitive,” he said. “We looked at an underpass too, but there are so many utilities under Nash Road. Once you get into the math it becomes extremely costly.”
Perales described the proposed route of the bypass road as south of the football stadium off San Benito Road, then around all existing buildings to exit on Nash past the school.
“After all these pieces are in place, we will look at the impact and sentiment of the boards, and if all agree, we would deed the park land to the county in exchange for permanent closure of Nash Road,” he said. “The regional park would be located behind the existing building (south of Nash Road) and toward the river.”
Watch the full meeting below: