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Local businesswoman relocating over homeless issue, claims no support from city or county

Local garden business to close location near downtown as owner, Marci Huston, blames local officials for no support concerning homeless issues
Nick Huston told of his mother's efforts to convince city and county officials to help with homeless issue around her business.
Marci Huston complained to the city and county about homeless activity around her business.

After no fewer than four appearances at Hollister City Council and San Benito County Board of Supervisors meetings to detail her plight in dealing with the homeless around her GardenMart business, Marci Huston is throwing in the towel. Feeling that neither governing body was willing or able to help her, she and her family will be moving the plants, pots and other garden materials to their five-acre farm and business, M&M Plants Sales, Inc., on Spring Grove Road, east of Hollister.

When BenitoLink stopped at her business on San Benito Street, Huston was not there, but her son, Nick, agreed to speak on her behalf. As it turned out, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, as he expressed many of the same sentiments that his mother has at the council and board meetings.

Nick Huston described his mother and himself as co-partners in the business, but he said she is the owner. He said they have been in the retail business for five years and at the San Benito Street location for two years. Before that, they ran the business off and on near K-Mart on Tres Pinos Road. He said that at their current location at the foot of Park Hill, they have had to continually deal with the homeless taking drugs, defecating, leaving trash, shouting, playing loud music, and harassing customers.

“They’d tell our customers that our plants aren’t good enough and they shouldn’t buy them,” Huston said. “This is not something we should have to put up with, and when the City of Hollister doesn’t help us out, it kind of makes us just want to go away.”

Despite his mother’s repeated attempts to get help, Huston claimed, no one with the city or county, nor other businesses that claim to have issues with the homeless, are willing to stand alongside her in support.

“She seems to be the only one fighting to get something done,” he said. “When you’re the only person trying to get something done, most people are just going to push you off to the side and say, ‘it’s not that big a deal because there’s only one person complaining.’ Now, if we could have gotten all these people who are saying they’re having issues with the homeless to say, ‘let’s have a whole group of us go to the Board of Supervisors to say they all have this issue. Why aren’t we doing something?’”

Huston said he thought it was “disgusting” how local politicians have treated his mother.

“When you go in front of the Board of Supervisors and you tell a story of a lady coming and taking a crap on your property, you think that might turn some heads and make them want to do something about it, but they didn’t even bat an eye,” he said. “They see them (homeless) all over town and all they do is move them from one spot to another. They’ll hang out there awhile until somebody complains, and then they’ll move them again.”

Huston said he doesn’t pretend to have a solution for the homeless problem, but believes they “love their lifestyles and they don’t want to change it.”

“They (city and county officials) say they’re building a shelter, but 95 percent of these people don’t want them,” Huston said. “The city says it has 650 homeless people in Hollister and these shelters hold 40 people. You tell me how that’s a solution. That’s what the city keeps telling us, that they’ll have these shelters in three years. When it actually comes and holds 650 people, then they can say they’re doing something.”

If people aren’t punished for breaking the law, Huston said, they’ll just keeping doing so.

“When you have people selling drugs just on the other side of our fence and the police just keep driving on by and there are no consequences, why should they even worry about it?” he said. “So, they hang out here. They smoke their pot. They cut up their meth. They do it all right here on the sidewalk. The city claims they want businesses downtown, but won’t protect them or help them.”

The family has already begun to take inventory home, but they still have the fence around the property until March, Huston said, so they’re taking their time moving.

“It’ll be a process,” he said. “If we get everything taken down, we’ll probably just use the fence to advertise that we’ve moved out to Spring Grove. We want to get more into the landscaping business rather than just retail. So, people can come out there and shop, as well.”

Bonnie Voropaeff, owner of DLG Printing, just down the street from GardenMart, wondered if Marci Huston could use the help of local merchants in moving. Nick Huston said he appreciated the offer, but between friends, his father, brother-in-law and himself, they would be able to make the move.

“We have help,” he said. “It’s not just me and my mom.”

Mayor Ignacio Velazquez told BenitoLink that if Huston’s issue is homeless people around her business, he would remind her that there were homeless people there before she relocated her business there. In addition, he said the city made special allowances to let her open her business at that location.

“It’s not zoned for what she is doing, but we let her keep extending the permit to allow her to stay there,” he said. “Before she was there, there was a homeless issue at that location and everyone was aware of it. It’s not a new thing and we’ve done everything we can, but we can’t put people in jail for being homeless, nor do we want to.”

Velazquez said the city agrees with Huston that there needs to be a permanent solution for the homeless, part of which, he said, is to have housing in the form of a year-round shelter for them. He said there also needs to be employment opportunities for the homeless. He said the city would like her to continue doing business at the location, but she shouldn’t be blaming the homeless.

“I don’t know what more we could do there,” Velazquez said. “We’ve done everything we can to make this work. We can’t continue to ignore this problem and hope it goes away. That’s why we’ve been working toward building this permanent shelter. The city and county have been working as partners to get a permanent solution.”

About:
John Chadwell (John Chadwell)

Former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist. Award-winning photojournalist for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University. Graduate studies at USC Cinema School.

Comments

Geez, Ignacio, that was a politician's answer. The homeless "were there first." What a bunch of baloney. They are breaking the law, enforce it, Mr Mayor!  If you want to do nothing, why run for office??? Just stay home.

This was a great business, a great draw to downtown Hollister. I've been there many times and appreciate the quality and variety of plants. The people are friendly, helpful, and very knowledgeable. I will drive out to Spring Grove to support them. But for you Mr Mayor, how does Hollister benefit losing business?

--William McCarey

 

Submitted by (Tom King) on

The local government we currently have does not seem to really change anything. The downtown area could be such a nice place. Take a look at Morgan Hill.

Submitted by Dee Murphy (Team Driver) on

I for one will miss seeing her business there. That was the KFC that burned down years ago and was an eye sore on the community because of the homeless who loiter there unabated.  

Yes, we need a shelter but not right downtown on the main thoroughfare. Why not try out some tiny homes like other communities? Find somewhere that these homeless can work for what we all work for to have a place to call our own.

Mr. Mayor... It is not zoned for the homeless either and I prefer a business than what will end up taking over that area. So now what will happen to that property and who will keep it clean? We already know it will become a place the homeless continue to hangout, do drugs and throw trash and drug paraphernalia on the ground?  Are not the homeless trespassing? What does the Mayor do about that issue? Urinating, doing drugs (Oh yes that happens!) and drinking in public is not legal. The near by businesses (except the local liquor stores) around that area sure would prefer the plants and Marci Huston's business than a homeless encampment.

 

Good Luck Marci we enjoy your business.

Submitted by (Carol Feisthamel) on

This is a real travesty. The garden center is one of the few reasons why I even go to downtown Hollister anymore. It is a very attractive sight as you come in to Hollister, as opposed to the piles of trash that used
to be on the vacant lot next door. Shame on the City council and shame on the Board of Supervisors for not helping resolve these issues for Marci.

Submitted by (Brett Enzensperger ) on

"The homeless were there first"... Hmm I bet if they were defecting and doing drugs in front of The Vault you would have a different opinion Mr. Mayor.

Even I have to admit I am ashamed of my local government on this issue.  The adjacent property owners should have at least secured his lot that was allowing the homeless to encroach back in that corner.  My sister and I will miss Marci and her beautiful flowers downtown.  BTW:  she had a valid use permit that says she was properly located there; it was only temporary because the City was hoping for a building there in the future....now we will just have another empty lot!  I'm sorry Marci and Nick.

marci huston's picture
Submitted by The GardenMart Garden Center (marci huston) on

Ignacio, I am really sick and tired of your political rhetoric.  If you continue to make untrue statements about me and my business I will sue you for defamation of character.  Never once, have I blamed the homeless for my problem.  I am blaming you, the rest of the politicians and law enforcement for not protecting my private property rights and enforcing the illegal behavior..WHICH IS YOUR JOB!.  If it was a bunch of politicians defacating on my property I would complain, do not ever again say I am blaming the homeless.  Ignacio you should stop admitting that there were homeless people there before me, as that means that forever you and your "gang" have done nothing about trespassing, loitering, drunk in public, drugs, sex, defecation, etc. basically not protecting private property rights and not enforcing illegal behavior. Kinda humorous because they tell me the same thing, "Marci, we were here before you".  Wondering if Ignacio and my homeless neighbors have colluded on their conversation.  Ignacio, also, stop saying that you made special allowances for me.  If that property is not zoned commercial then what is it zoned?  Oh wait, maybe you have changed it to zoned residential, since you are more interested in protecting the rights of the "illegal residents" than the business..  So was KFC there illegally? I paid for a design by an architect, I paid for a planning department permit, and even went in front of the planning department, I paid for fire code and a building department inspection....so again, one more time and you will end up in court.  All you politicians are so out of touch with what is going on there...Remember, Mr. Friend you said you have driven by and have never seen anything.  Soo, what was my suggestion to all the politicians and law enforcement, come by and I will show you.. out of the 15 or so people who should have been by to actually, see and smell?  2 did.  Why is that?  How in the heck can you solve a problem if you won't come out of your little Eden to solve it?  There is no way in Hell my homeless neighbors will go to your shelters, they won't follow the rules...so you are basically saying we need to build houses for people who don't want to work, and then where is the accountability with that?  I have approached 4 with the job training idea who I thought I could actually work with and help.  #1 meth addict said no Marci, I'm committed to my addictions right now and this chick likes gardening #2 said no Marci, I have too many personal problems right now (I pulled her off the railroad tracks a few weeks ago and sent her off in an ambulance) #3 said, I'm not doing it unless you take everyone and really all we want is for you to build us a metal and wood structure so we can sit under it, and maybe give us a broom and we will sweep every once in a while (this guy is in jail right now) He also told me that if I paid them to pick up trash they would..Ugh, really, I'm paying you to pick up trash you put there on my property?? Homeless extortion.   #4 said no I'm leaving it all up to God...now I teach religion, and actually God helps those who help themselves and this chick likes gardening. (she is still roaming the streets).  The city wants more money for services.  Will someone at some point do an article about the money spent by police, fire, ambulance and Hazel Hawkins (millions annually) to take care of these folks when they OD and then return them to the street?  Everyone just wants money with no accountability.  How do I know all this, because I live in it, and unless you have lived in it you can't speak.  So all of you who pity the homeless and think we should just keep building and building so they have shelter with no accountability, come spend a day with me,

Marci Huston, small business owner 

Ms. Huston, while I sympathize with you completely, perhaps someone has to tell you the truth, some problems - and this is one in many cities - simply have no solutions except in the long, long term; even then they are iffy.

You have done a very good job of painting a picture of exactly what is going on which essentially defines the problem, but does not fix it.  Since we cannot force anyone into treatment, we can hold them for 72-hours for observation IF we have the facilities to do it (we don't), then what?  You HAVE to release them and they go back to where they started; you know that.

You may say that you have the problem and it is the City Council's job to find a solution and technically and politically you are correct, but what would you do that fits the budget and complies with all the state and federal laws?  Remember, it is not the only problem, running a city is a mass of problems involving public safety, infrastructure, services, etc.

I honestly wish I had a workable (effective, affordable and legal) idea in the short term to suggest, but I do not.

Marty Richman

marci huston's picture
Submitted by The GardenMart Garden Center (marci huston) on

I'm sorry Mr. Richman, I need to tell you the truth, it doesn't matter to me if you have a effective, affordable and legal solution.  You are not in charge.  You were at my meetings and not once did you express a solution, nor did you offer to help with meetings or encourage our politicians to get involved, so in my opinion you are also part of the problem, because right now you are speaking as if you were an expert.  If you are so knowledgeable about local politics and what can and can't be done, perhaps you should run for election...you seem to have a multitude of opinions.  It is easy to make 3 minute comments from the pea-nut gallery...when you have nothing at stake.  I was begging someone to help me with my problem and not one NO ONE stood with me, not you, not another business owner, not law enforcement not the politicians.  I too have rights, as a business owner, a property owner, a tax payer etc.  and at some point we will have people in elected office who no longer will tolerate the abuse we take because of certain populations, whoever they are, who don't want to follow the rules.

I interpret your answer as saying you do not have any workable solutions either.

Marty Ranchman

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