Business / Economy

Hollister City Council not keen on downtown association plan for sound system

Lighting and music expected to be voted on separately at next meeting.

The Hollister City Council and several downtown businesses are not dancing to the tune of the Hollister Downtown Association (HDA).

While HDA asked the council to approve $71,658 to install tree lighting and a sound system in downtown to enhance the experience of those who frequent the local shops, some business owners argued that music may interfere with their foot traffic.

The council voted 4-0 on Nov. 19 to present the items separately at its next meeting because of the disagreement and perceived lack of communication between businesses and the downtown association. Mayor Ignacio Velazquez was absent.

“We would like to work more in conjunction with [HDA], but I can tell you that a group of us got together and nobody has come to us to ask us if we want sound downtown where our businesses are at and live,” said Jack Barbieri, owner of the Hollister House Bar & Grill on the corner of Fifth and San Benito streets. “My point is that if a mistake is made by people who are not the business owners downtown, or a select few of them, we’re the ones who pay for it. Not the HDA.”

Hollister Downtown Association Vice President Cheri Schmidt said the sound system would not be limited to entertainment, but could be used to broadcast messages in times of emergency such as lost children or earthquakes.

Putting a speaker system in downtown was not a board-only decision, Schmidt said.

“It is being decided by our community. We have a large 180 members to our community. They are knowing what’s going on. They have contributed to this.”

Peter Hernandez, San Benito County District 3 Supervisor-elect and owner of Ohana Shave Ice, voiced his concern about HDA’s power to change downtown without consent from local businesses, if they were granted the funds.

“All of a sudden you have a beautiful facade, but you have no businesses,” Hernandez said. “Without the businesses there is no economic benefit to the downtown. The business owners are the ones that produce that.”

Hernandez said the downtown association does serve a purpose but asked the City Council to think about who produces sales tax revenue.

According to the meeting agenda packet, downtown businesses generated about $370,000 in sales tax revenue in 2017.

Other businesses and property owners in downtown supported HDA’s efforts to attract more economic opportunities.

HDA member and former mayor Tony LoBue said he supported both a lighting and sound system because it is an investment in downtown that would generate sales tax revenue to cover the costs of maintenance. He added he has been to other towns where seasonal music is played downtown.

“I’m sure if we can shut it off earlier like 10 o’clock, I don’t think it would affect too many people if we had music and joyful entertainment throughout our downtown area,” LoBue said.

Hollister District 2 Councilmember-elect Rolan Resendiz urged the council to push the item back to allow the downtown association and businesses to come into an agreement. He also said that the City of Gilroy is facing a lawsuit because of noise pollution in downtown. Gilroy Deputy City Clerk Suzanne Guzzetta told BenitoLink that City Clerk Shawna Freels or city administration did not have information on a lawsuit relating to the sound system in downtown Gilroy.

Gilroy Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Turner told BenitoLink he was unaware of any lawsuit relating to a sound system. Turner added that the system in downtown Gilroy has not been used for about two years. Though he did not know the reason for the lack of use, he said that there were complaints from residents that the music was too loud.

Gilroy Downtown Association President Gary Walton did not respond to BenitoLink’s request for an interview.

At the Nov. 19 meeting, Hollister Councilman Karson Klauer said he wanted more options on how to fund the lights and sound system before he approved it.

Management Services Director Mike Chambless said the lights that are installed on the trees are only good for 90 days, after which they need to be removed.

Vice Mayor Mickie Luna’s concerns were the city’s liability if trees caught on fire and caused building damage, in addition to using city employees to take down lights.

Hollister Downtown Association Executive Director Jeana Arnold said the lighting would extend from along San Benito Street from Third Street to Hawkins street. She added that volunteers and sponsors have taken care of the lights for 25 years, but this is no longer an option.

BenitoLink reached out to Arnold about why volunteers and sponsors are longer available and has not yet received a response.

The council is expected to return to the topic at its Dec. 3 meeting.



Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is BenitoLink Co-Editor and Content Manager. He joined BenitoLink as reporter intern and was soon brought on staff as a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. He is a San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily. He is a USC Center for Health Journalism 2020 California Fellow.