After running a successful initiative to get Measure K on the March 3 primary election ballot, Preserve Our Rural Communities (PORC) submitted a Hollister initiative related to growth on March 2, one month after submitting a countywide initiative to eliminate areas designated as commercial nodes in the General Plan.
The Hollister Urban Growth Boundary and Democracy Initiative looks to amend the city’s General Plan to use the Sphere of Influence boundary as an urban growth boundary (UGB). While the sphere of influence—an area surrounding a jurisdiction marked for potential growth—is subject to change, the PORC initiative wants the UGB to remain in place until at least 2049. It will require 2,060 valid signatures to qualify to be placed on the November ballot.
According to the initiative, the only reasons for amending the UGB without an election would be if the Hollister City Council deems it to be “in the public interest” so long as it is “within or coextensive” with the limits set by the initiative; or else to comply with state or federal housing requirements.
The initiative also proposes to designate lands outside the UGB as open space. Any developments outside the UGB—except for public facilities such as parks, schools, wastewater, sewer, storm drain and water recycling plants—would require a vote by residents.
“We need to make sure that we have the voice of the people on smart growth, that’s the bottom line,” said Hollister resident Isidro Polo, one of three PORC members proposing the initiative. The other two proponents are Carol Johnson and Margaret Morales Rebecchi.
PORC President Andy Hsia-Coron said the initiative would force the city to focus on infill, or concentrated development. PORC Secretary Mary Hsia-Coron added that the initiative follows what cities in Sonoma, Napa and Ventura counties did in the 1990s.
“The proof is in the pudding when you look at those three counties,” Andy said. “They’re all liveable, desirable, strong economies, beautiful places and a lot of the counties around them that didn’t initiate these kinds of things have just turned into concrete sprawl.”
The city of Hollister has taken steps of its own to manage growth. After some delays, the Hollister City Council approved a Growth Management program in 2018 that limits new single-family units to 159 per year. Multi-family and senior housing are exempt from the program that sunsets with either the adoption of a new general plan, or by 2024, whichever comes first.
In 2002, Hollister voters approved Measure U, which limited housing units to 244 per year.
The growth management program sets rating criteria for development projects that include evaluation of conservation of resources, energy efficiency, balanced transportation network and inclusion of all income levels.
The city’s current housing element—a portion of the General Plan that serves as a guide for development procedures required by state law since 1969—calls for 1,316 units in Hollister, an average of 165 per year. The current housing element ends in 2023 and is broken down as follows:
- Extremely low income households: 156 units
- Very low income households: 156 units
- Low income households: 189 units
- Moderate income households: 258 units
- Moderate households: 557 units
PORC also submitted an initiative in February at the county level that would remove all designated commercial nodes in the county and requires elections to approve rezoning applications.
Andy Hsia-Coron said the intention of both initiatives is to keep development within cities. However, there are still possibilities for good projects to receive public support.
“If there is a reasonable plan and if most of the questions can be answered, then there is a pretty good odds that they vote for it.”
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