It would probably not surprise Hollister residents that earthquakes, floods and wildfires, which are common occurrences in the county, have also at times presented health and safety risks within the city as well. As such, they are required by the state of California to be considered in a city’s general plan.
The state also requires an assessment of airport hazards, noise, climate change and hazardous materials, as well as emergency preparedness and overall planning to mitigate the risks of unexpected events.
Overall hazard planning
The plan would permit development only in areas where dangers to health can be properly mitigated, which includes not building in areas where there is potential for flooding, existing geological problems, or dangers from the proximity of residential and commercial developments to the airport. It requires underground utility lines whenever possible. It also calls for updating local hazard maps and a new assessment of existing risks to future land use.
The plan identifies challenges that Hollister could face in the future as climate change accelerates, including a greater risk for fires, a decreased water supply, extreme heat and poor air quality. It calls for water agencies to implement extensive water conservation measures to encourage drought-tolerant landscaping. Besides creating plans to protect natural resources from climate-related hazards, simple actions like planting more trees to shade pedestrian walkways and bus stops would be encouraged. A plan would also be drafted to ensure homeless people would have access to food, housing, water and essential services during extreme heat events.
Seismic and geologic hazards
Central Hollister sits on top of two major earthquake faults, with three more located on the outskirts of town. To complicate matters further, the soil in the downtown area could lead to serious liquefaction, loosening and loss of strength in the soil, which can cause major damage during a large earthquake. The plan calls for existing and planned structures to be reviewed for compliance with the most recent zoning acts and the uniform building code, as well as requiring engineering tests that could identify issues with soil expansion and contraction that would jeopardize foundations, footings, utility lines and roadways. It also directs that no high occupancy or critical emergency structures be located in areas of “potential surface deformation” or ground motion that might occur during an earthquake. Inspection and reinforcement of masonry buildings should also continue.
The plan calls for a review of all development proposals to be sure that none are within the 100-year floodplain, which would be left as open space or as city parks. Areas of poor drainage would be remedied, as feasible, through new or upgraded infrastructure to accommodate drainage needs.
Wildland and urban fire hazards
The area around Hollister ranges from moderate to high fire risk because rangeland and foothills are covered in seasonally dry vegetation. While the city itself is not in a fire hazard severity zone, as defined by Cal Fire, it is still at risk of structural fires that, in the past, have had devastating impacts on businesses and residences. Wildfires have a direct impact on air quality within the city that can cause serious illnesses in vulnerable populations, such as seniors, children and outdoor workers including farm laborers. The plan recommends strict adherence to the city’s current fire and building codes, which are based on those set by the state of California.
Emergency preparedness and emergency operations
The plan calls for more flexible options in responding to emergencies, which would include more resilient power systems, including microgrids and portable batteries, increased public awareness of evacuation routes, periodic emergency preparedness exercises, and the creation of more emergency shelters and cooling centers. Funding would be sought for grants to install backup energy systems at facilities deemed critical.
Hazardous materials would be required to be stored and disposed of in a way that prevents leakage and new businesses that might involve or use hazardous materials would require a special evaluation before being approved. Any cleanup of hazardous sites would be required to include decontamination of soil and filtration of groundwater.
The plan calls for a review of airport standards, roadway design and traffic planning, as well as construction projects to better shield Hollister residents from noise pollution. Equipment to measure noise would be deployed to enforce local ordinances and the city would be required to compile data on the enforcement of noise complaints. Any future construction would be held to noise vibration limits set by the general plan, as would any roadways, which would be regulated by standards set by the Federal Transit Administration.
The plan recommends working closely with the San Benito County Airport Land Use Commission, among other agencies, to review land uses near airports and set limits on construction heights to ensure compliance with federal regulations.
According to the General Plan website, comments on the draft plan should be submitted by Aug. 7 so the Hollister City Council can consider community input when providing direction on the draft plans.
The City Council has a scheduled meeting on that date. The website adds that after the review of the draft plans, there will be a formal adoption process in the fall, and comments will also be accepted at that time.
The city will also be accepting written comments on the draft environmental impact report until 5 p.m. on June 30. Written comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Hollister GPU 2040, CAP, and ALPP EIR” as the subject line or mailed to:
City of Hollister Development Services Department – Planning Division
ATTN: Eva Kelly, Interim Planning Manager
339 Fifth Street, Hollister, CA 95023
Hollister also has a website dedicated to the General Plan update, which includes the draft documents and scheduled events. It’s located here.
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