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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.”

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John Chadwell's picture
John Chadwell (John Chadwell)

John Chadwell is an investigative reporter for BenitoLink. He has many years experience as a freelance photojournalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer who has worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and underwent graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John has worked as a script doctor and his own script, God's Club, was released as a motion picture in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime that are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to:


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 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 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 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 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 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

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

Mr. Richmond, it does not matter to me how you or anyone else interprets my answers.  The policy makers aka/politicians aka people in charge are not interested in a solution.  They are No Shows!. I'm not sure what you are not understanding about the fact that I tried every which way, including contacting the State Health Department.  So far neither you, nor anyone else has piped in with something I have not tried.  It is illegal behavior that is not being enforced.  It should not matter the population committing the crimes.  Crimes are going unpunished, and everyone living here has to accept that, including me.  My BS bucket is full.  This article is not a place for debate of solutions. This article was merely defining a community situation and the corresponding conclusion, or outcome. That is all it is doing. I think it is a good outline of the current situation of the City/County.  The solutions should have happened over a year ago when I first brought up the problem...or when anyone first brought up the problem, not just me as it has been going on for a while.  I believe it is out of control and only going to get worse.  But it is not my problem anymore.  It is pitiful, and it is embarrassing.  It's pretty simple, they won, and now I am moving on.   Signing in now as if you cared, is fruitless, you were at all the meetings.  Again, you speak as an expert.  Run for office.  I will vote for you.

Submitted by (Andy) on

I for one will be sorry for yet another downtown business closing/relocating. Maybe it's time for some new politicians. It is so easy for the mayor and police chief to pass the buck. It will soon be more difficult to purchase high quality plants.

Submitted by (Brad Donati) on

The mayor is wrong on his assertion that the "homeless were here first. The area prior the homeless taking it over was a car dealership, Bishop Motors remember Mr. Mayor? A legitimate business that paid taxes to the city, unlike the drain on resources that homeless has become.

Submitted by Tod DuBois (John Galt) on

I think you better go after management rather the politicians - target Westrick and Avera rather than Ignacio though Ignacio did hire them. City Management makes the decisions on resources, Mr. Avera has decided that this business is not worth the police costs to help, it's that simple  Westrick is following orders from Avera - avoid spending money policing homeless. 

Ignacio has little sway I think, all the Council have equal power - so the unions are saying spend money on police and fire for the rich neighborhoods that pay lots of taxes and will vote for more taxes. The poor can suffer - that is the message of the Democrat Party most of us belong to. 

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

yes, I think you have it backwards.  The elected officials make the policy.  Staff follows it.  I know, because I was an elected official.  Westrick came by to offer suggestions.  No one from the City Council came by, even Mr. Friend, and it is his district.  Mr. Avera while doing nothing, has at least not defamed me and Ignacio continues to do so.  I believe the buck stops at the top, not only with Ignacio but with Mr. Rivas and the Board of Supervisors.  Judge Sanders was willing to attend a meeting to discuss options if I could set up a meeting, and I could get no one NO ONE to the table to discuss or even get back to me...we simply do not have problem solvers at the helm, and it is a shame...


Mufnzz's picture
Submitted by James M (Mufnzz) on

Target Westrick even though you say all Westrick is doing is following orders and enforcing laws and provisions that come from city government?  What could the chief of HPD do about this when his bosses won't even act on it?

You obviously have some personal issue with HPD because you show up on every article trying to convince everyone that they are the cause of all of our problems.

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

Mr. Martin, I'm trying the convince everyone that HPD is the cause of all of our problems?  First, I don't know who you are or what your problems are, I only have one problem.  I only speak about one problem when someone asks, so not sure about all the articles or all the problems you are talking about.  Second HPD can only move people along, nothing else, they are not the entity for a long term solution, that rests with the politicians.  I talk to Westrick daily, so please don't accuse me of blaming anyone other than the politicians, who are not problem solvers or you would be no better than Ignacio.

Submitted by (Sharon Taylor) on

Ignacio…Really? The Homeless were there first? What a ridiculous statement for a person in your position to make. Shame on you. I agree, if this particular group were in front of your business, the Vault, during an event or any other time, you would have ALOT to say and do about this. I would imagine the police would be moving this group out immediately. Them being there “first” wouldn’t apply.
I remember when the homeless group were hanging out at Park Hill Park and the Building, Engineering and Planning Department were worried for their safety and the mess that ensued from them living there, Hmmm, that was taken care of by the Police, Public Work and our officials in a timely manner.
My husband has approached several of these homeless asking if they’d like to earn some money. He’s been turned down by many but a few have taken him up on it…..each and every one of them flaked within hours. They like their life. A homeless shelter isn’t where they want to be. I’m not saying a shelter is not the answer for some but the majority like living just as they are.
Right next door a house was rented to one of the homeless and shortly there was a steady stream of homeless in and out of that house. Within a few months this clean, orderly residence and yard was filthy and disgusting with trash 2-3 feet deep. In spite of months of the neighbors calling on a daily and sometimes hourly basis it took almost a year for this issue to be resolved. Could it be because it wasn’t in front of City Hall or other city offices?
Remember the compound the Homeless had at the river? That was cleaned up and the homeless were moved out. They weren’t bothering anyone there. Maybe the landowner had more clout than Marci does.
Your statement you made special allowances to allow her business to locate there…. It appears she jumped through all the hoops you put in front of her making her business allowable so why would you make a statement like that?
She is clearly being harassed by a group known by everyone in local government and citizens to be a problem, how can all of you stand by and NOT DO SOMETHING to protect this business owner. You’d certainly protect the homeless living there if she put any obstacles in their way.
The lack of response to this issue is just one of many reasons citizens have little confidence in City or County offices.

Ms. Taylor, the river was public property and since it was a dangerous location the city could move the homeless and it was an attempt to get them to go to the shelter..

I'll issue you the same challenge I issue to everyone else, what would you do that is legal, affordable and effective?  I consider myself a pretty inventive thinker and I cannot find an good solution except in the long term which is to close or sell the public park where the homeless hang out.  As long as it's public they have a right to be there and then they move down to the road.

If you arrest them (for something) you have to pay to keep them in jail,  They have nothing to lose and besides they don;t care in many cases because they are mentally ill or under the influrnce.

Marty Richman

Submitted by (marci) on

so then it comes down to, you only get arrested/charged for a crime if you can afford to pay? What the heck? So, then if they are under the influence, and can't pay, we don't arrest them? so say, if I drink and drive, and I tell the cops I can't pay, I don't get arrested? Who are you to say there is a double standard? Sounds like a discrimination issue here. Like perhaps We need a t-shirt that says Tax payers lives matter???? damn, I already put a sign up on my fence that says Small Business matters....people who take responsibility for their lives matter? You are paying MILLIONS perpetuating their lifestyles, because there are no consequences...just think what that money could do if funneled into the schools..Choices-consequences... not sure why that is so hard to understand, except I was raised by a self employed small businessman who raised me with a unbelieveably storng work ethic, and I work my butt off, just for people like you to say, oh well these people are messed up so we have to pay for them too!

That is correct, it's called being judgment-proof and it's the same reason we are dumping criminals on the streets, no one wants to pay for the alternative.

To those who say the county is not involved, I point out that Behavioral Health is a county operation funded through the state they get the big money for mental health and abuse treatment, the jail where the cost and crowding will fall is a county operation, the Healthcare District is a public agency, a countywide district.

At some point you have to realize that there is no workable solution given the restraints, perhaps you should write the U.S. and California Supreme Courts?

Without Measure W things would just be worse, not every problem is as intractable as the homeless problem.. The shelter may help a little but it will not solve the problem, as I pointed out that has been threatened with a lawsuit.

Obviously, you now believe that insulting and attacking everyone who does not agree with your attitude 100% is the answer.  Righteous indignation, like everything else, has its limits. 

Marty Richman


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

Actually Marty, I believe nothing, about anyone agreeing or disagreeing with me.  It does not matter to me.  What does matter, is that I am the one who spent thousands of dollars to open up a business downtown with proper permitting and infrastructure.  I'm the one incurring thousands to tear it down and relocate it (and hope people still find me ) because the local politicians and law enforcement can not figure out what to do with the illegal behavior happening on MY property.   My property and my business are under duress.  I think the problem is big enough to go to a higher level, because no matter how many dollars you throw at it, it will never end, and will only get worse, until the populations who do follow the rules are protected.  At some point in our society, Atlas is going to Shrug, and then where are ya'll going to get the money? Any time there is not a consequence for bad behavior, you are enabling it.  How long are we going to continue enabling bad behavior?  Why isn't there any lawyer out there interested in that?  Why isn't there any politician out there interested in the folks paying the bills?  Why?  Why do we all just have to roll over?  I'm not a roll over kind of a gal.  And if you think that is righteous indignation, than yes you are 100% correct.  I'm very angry about this.   You can't cut this cake any other way.  There are people committing crimes that are going un punished.  Those unpunished crimes are causing stress, fear and business closures.  The people responsible for enforcing the law are not doing their job.  Why is it OK for me to tolerate filthy and unsafe working conditions?  No one else commenting on this article does.  Even the dude who puts a chained potty by his building.  His staff and himself use it?   Why isn't there a chained potty outside city hall, or the courthouse, or the BOS Chambers, and then when the politicians and the government staff and the lawyers have to take a tinkle they get to share the chained big blue box..  Oh I get it, only The GardenMart has to put chained potties outside their business so people don't amble onto their property and do a doodie in their shade plants section.  I get it now.  What is good for you is not good enough for me.  So righteous indignation, Hell yeah!

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

So basically the city moved them from the River, which was their private property, and are allowing them to locate on my private property, and you think that is OK. Got it.  So if little Nicholas steals a candy from you that he can not pay for, you steal candy from someone else and give it to him so he won't steal it. 

Submitted by (DISGUSTED) on

I really hope the good people of Hollister DO NOT vote to Re- Elect Ignacio Velazquez as Mayor. This is just one more example of his lack of concern for the residents and business owners. What would be done if someone sold drugs, used drugs and used his front yard as a restroom? I highly doubt it would just get brushed off. What kind of Mayor puts a zoning "favor" back on a business owner, when the original issue is people breaking the law??

DISGUSTED, I, for one, am ready for your solution (although I don't know who you are).

What would you do that is legal, affordable and effective?  If you suggest such a solution you will have by backing to do it,  As they say, talk is cheap., OK Mayor for a day - what's the (legal, affordable and effective) answer that also keeps services throughout the city?

Marty Richman 

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

I guess I just don't understand why this is supposed to be the forum for discucssion on a solution, and why you are the expert.  You can not effect change, you are not a politician. Unless the politicians are involved nothing will change, and they are not interested.  It is kinda funny, that for the last few articles no one jumped in.  And now I am tearing my business down, and all of a sudden you are getting involved. You are acting lik a pompous arrogant know it all.  If you are going to be helpful, then you convince the policy makers to come to the table.  Or better yet, become a policy maker yourself.

Mufnzz's picture
Submitted by James M (Mufnzz) on

Any Hollister residents wondering why new businesses continue to stay away from opening in our town need only to read the Freelance article "Supervisors skeptical of fencing solution at store" published on Thursday, September 29th.  Read along as our Board of Supervisors, and every single other person in power in that article, passes the buck and claims it's "not their jurisdiction," or "it's a civil issue," or plays the "liability," card and gets nothing accomplished.

I didn't think our town was big enough for this kind of government bureaucracy but that article has proved my wishful thinking wrong.  How absolutely embarrassing for our town that people come here to open their businesses and we can't keep the homeless from loitering, using the bathroom on, and vandalizing their property.  Then when business owners look to the city or county for help, a room full of elected leaders all shrug and point to one another like a cartoon.

How long has homelessness been an issue that has only continued to get worse? Now it is negatively affecting businesses in the area and both the city and county will not lift a finger to get something done.  It sounds like this woman has been going through this for 3 months and can't even get a straight answer, let alone action, from any of our "leaders."  The city has failed to act in any way to curb the homeless problem, and now is failing to act when the homeless problem is becoming a business owner's problem.

The city should be absolutely ashamed by this, adult men (and women) passing the buck and putting a business owner through the wringer wrapped in red tape, and over something like $488?  Then they go on to explain that the property is for sale.  Do these "leaders" not understand how property values or comparative pricing work?  By failing to act they are costing every business owner and property owner in our already withering downtown money.  When that property sells at a deep discount because of this, it will hurt every other property owner in that area.  

What a disgrace.  My heart goes out to the woman who owns that business, and to any other business owners who thought it would be a good idea to bring their money, products, or dreams to our town.

Fair enough, Mr. Martin, exactly what would you do (that is legal and affordable)?

I'm always open to a solution, but remember you cannot ban the homeless from the nearby public park and you cannot arrest them for being homeless or force them into treatment according to the Federal government.  There are lawyers who just sit around waiting for these cases, do you want to make the lawyers rich at the taxpayers' expense?

Marty Richman

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

I'm sorry Mr. Richman, but if there are no consequences for illegal behavior then don't make the laws.  You are putting a certain population above the law.  There are other consequences besides monetary and jail..the problem is the decision makers are not interested in actually solving the problem, because they are not problem solvers..or it is too hard.. No one is held accountable anymore, not the politicians, the sheriff, etc. I'm fine with that, it is not my problem to solve anymore.  I have made my decision.  And when my business comes down (because it basically hides all the stuff that happens behind the fence- the drugs, the shit, the trash)-you don't know because you have never been there although you have a multitude of opinions, it will be a reminder to everyone including you, who did not jump in to help come up with a solution, or force the politicians to come up with one.  It just proves that as a society we are apathetic to anything that does not directly involve us.  I am just another business leaving downtown, because my working conditions are intolerable, and there is nothing I personally can do to change that.   I was an army of one, and no one cares about armies of one.

Submitted by (Tod) on

Changing the politicians will not make a difference - only changing staff changes things - the politicians and staff are controlled by the Unions and so until you start hitting Union salaries vs. volunteers you won't get any direction change. Measure W will just create more homeless - you think the staff and unions did not make that happen using fear mongering tactics - Council just rubber stamped it.

[Edited] I have been duly chastised so I will apologize to anyone I offended and de-personalize my comment  

Everyone in California has the same problem, even the perfect city of San Luis Obispo with their perfect staff lost a lawsuit for more than $130,000 on how they treat the homeless because they were issuing citations to move them along.

I'm surprised their perfect staff still has a job (sarcasm alert) 

Marty Richman


First, this location is a primary entrance to downtown and is 1,000 times better with some business there than no business there.  This business may, or may not, have been successful in the long run, but it was attractive; now it will likely be another empty lot.  The point is that the city had some stake in this, one was to protect the private property rights of the leasee and the other to protect the city and individuals, but the truth no one wants to admit is that in many areas their hands are simply tied.

Talking about solutions to this is much easier than finding one.  Sorry to say, a  homeless shelter is NOT going to fix it; do not get your hopes up. Those homeless with serious substance abuse or mental problems are not going to want to be in a shelter because of the rules anda will only go there if the weather is so bad they just can't stay somewhere else.

For whatever it's worth every single city in California has the exact same problems and I honestly believe that the the local politicians (both those I support and those I oppose) are as frustrated as anyone although some are not as personally impacted as others.  Some are, one Supervisors said he chases tha homeless off his land, ok, but they just go somewhere else.

The federal and state governments and the courts have just BAILED on cities and counties  - they just say, too bad, it's YOUR problem and then tell them what they CAN'T do, which is an endless list.

You can't force a homeless person to do anything and even if you could you can't afford to institutionalize them.  I have written about failed attempts to clean things up all over the state, even in the perfect city of San Luis Obispo that was sued for their trouble and lost.  A psychotropic drug regime can cost a fortune and some mental patents need special facilities.  Some abusers are perfectly happy like that, it costs $60,000 a year or more to put them in prison.

Sure, it would be easy for me - as it is for everyone - to sit here and say do this or do that, but the only thing that would work in this case is a private security guard whenever the place is open and I doubt that makes economic sense. 

The long term solution for that lot and adjacent properties is to demand the owners (and the city if it is an owner) be responsible for getting rid of the public nuisance by guarding or restricting access of the homeless at the location, except you cannot ban them from a public park.  Maybe the park has to go too - and that is the stark reality of the situation.

I do not have a good solution and I do not hear one from anyone else.

Marty Richman


Submitted by (marci) on

I have the perfect idea, but since no one in power wanted to listen to me except actually Westrick who kinda liked it, my idea went no where. So all of you people spouting off about this problem and nothing can be done when NONE OF YOU have talked to me, is kinda like you all just want to hear yourself talk. Everyone is an expert. As a society we are enabling this behavior. My homeless neighbors have cell phones and most get being homeless in California, is like camping...why do any of us want to work? I frikken bust my butt to make a business look nice, and even the cops come and choke because of the smell of urine...the illegal behavior is condoned because there are no consequences. Is that how you raised your kids?...and even the smallest consequence is a consequence...but ya'all jump to going to jail..there are other things that can be consequences, and it is not even targeting the homeless population, but anyone including politicians, or other big mouths, who violate the law like loitering, drunk in public blah blah blah, should pay a price (even if it is small, and not all consequences are monetary). Why are you so afraid of that? Again, I had the judge (hello-the top guy) willing to sit in a meeting...and NO ONE responded. Until you have walked in my shoes, (which actually even the homeless people said were awful), you can't even speak intelligently on this topic. So who has the will to attend a meeting, held at say, the GardenMart to discuss this? Anyone? or are you all just wanting to spout off on this link and DO NOTHING? Marty, if you are saying that the only way we can protect our property is to put a fence around it, you may as well leave the country, Sir. I for one, think that I have property rights without a fence...Holy Moly we are not a third world country. Our problem with everything is we are so afraid of stepping on someone's toes, that the toes that actually pay for everything are getting crushed/annihilated. I have a second amendment right to protect my property...yet am told that if I use my hose (as in squirting) someone defecting on my property I could get sued...?

I will come Marci....if you will please let me know.  I would like to hear what you and others have to say.  I will bring our buddy LB.  You know I live at the other end and it can be hair raising at times to live downtown.

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

Honestly Carol, I think we should put the kids in charge, because the adults have failed us...Have LB run for City Council...

Submitted by Adam Breen on

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It's a funny thing, I don;t see ANYONE coming up with a legal, affordable and effective answer.

Marty Richman

Submitted by (marci) on

Marty why are you expecting anyone to come up with a solution on this Benitolink commentary? You have heard me at meetings and yet you HAVE NOT showed up at my GardenMart to discuss it, so I am not sure why you feel that you are an expert...organize a meeting, maybe you will have better luck than I.

Marci, now I have commented in support and especially when the county was sort of saying it was a prejudice issue - I certainly do not agree and I tell everyone I see that having the business there is a big plus, visually, in an otherwise miserable looking location.  I'm old enough to have seen a lot of terrible and disgusting things my seeing more will not help.

Look, there is no good answer that I can think of, I do not have to go there to know, I saw it before the business was there.  The problem is Park Hill and the surrounding area and you know that IT always rolls downhill.

As Mr. Moore pointed out, you are in the most vulnerable location and - for this problem - you have a vulnerable business set up.  Solutions - if Park Hill did not have a park and it was all privately owned the owner could have the homeless removed.  If there were an enormous fence that they had to walk around to get to you that might help too, but then everyone will demand something and the city cannot pay for it.

What else do you think the city could do?

Marty Richman 

Submitted by (Tod) on

Marty - is not that what the millions in sales taxes we pay extra tax for "professionals" to solve? What are we paying the extra Measure W tax for?

Submitted by Tod DuBois (John Galt) on

Marty - we just paid $30,000,000 in additional sales taxes over ten years and you want "US" to solve it - what about these highly paid "pros" in city hall? That is what we pay them to do - SOLVE PUBLIC PROBLEMS. If they can't do it then get rid of them. Now you want another $120,000,000 to fail to solve our problems? 

At least SLO did something since you keep bringing that up. Better to solve and get sued that do NOTHING and lose business, lose the confidence of investors and lose whole sections of a city downtown to the homeless mobs crated by Measure T and Measure E sales tax increases. 

What makes you think this is, primarily, a money problem?  That is only one factor among many, what percent of the annual budget do you believe the city residents want to spend on visits to a mental hospital for the homeless only to have them released in 72-hours?  The primary funding for homeless issues lies with the county and they are under the threat of a lawsuit for selecting a site for the shelter.  This is the typical no-win situation; at least keep up with local happenings if you are going to criticize them.

We cannot force people into treatment, if you do not understand that then you have not been following the issue.  I have posted, time after time, the newspaper articles showing that SLO has exactly the same issues including people who do not want to go to shelters.  Your claims do not match the facts.  Mistreating the homeless as they did in SLO is not the answer as you found out the hard way.

If Hollister did the same, was sued and paid more than $130,000 in damages I'm sure you'd be the first one demanding the staff be fired for that mistake.  Why not apply the same punishment to your own staff?

You have your own agenda.

Marty Richman



Ignacio…Really?  The Homeless were there first?  What a ridiculous statement for a person in your position to make.  Shame on you.  I agree, if this particular group were in front of your business, the Vault, during an event or any other time, you would have ALOT to say and do about this.  I would imagine the police would be moving this group out immediately.  Them being there “first” wouldn’t apply.

I remember when the homeless group were hanging out at Park Hill Park and the Building, Engineering and Planning Department were worried for their safety and the mess that ensued from them living there,  Hmmm, that was taken care of by the Police, Public Work and our officials in a timely manner.

My husband has approached several of these homeless asking if they’d like to earn some money.  He’s been turned down by many but a few have taken him up on it…..each and every one of them flaked within hours.  They like their life.  A homeless shelter isn’t where they want to be.  I’m not saying a shelter is not the answer for some but the majority like living just as they are.

The standard answer to the "Homeless Issue" is "we're building a homeless shelter that should be available for a small group in a few years."  Some how feeling you're off the hook to do anything NOW!

Right next door a house was rented to one of the homeless and shortly there was a steady stream of homeless in and out of that house.  Within a few months this clean, orderly residence and yard was filthy and disgusting with trash 2-3 feet deep.  In spite of months of the neighbors calling on a daily and sometimes hourly basis it took almost a year for this issue to be resolved.  Could it be because it wasn’t in front of City Hall or other city offices?

Remember the compound the Homeless had at the river?  That was cleaned up and the homeless were moved out.  They weren’t bothering anyone there.  Maybe the landowner had more clout than Marci does.

Your statement you made special allowances to allow her business to locate there….   It appears she jumped through all the hoops you put in front of her making her business allowable so why would you make a statement like that?  

She is clearly being harassed by a group known by everyone in local government and citizens to be a problem, how can all of you stand by and NOT DO SOMETHING to protect this business owner.  You’d certainly protect the homeless living there if she put any obstacles in their way.

The lack of response to this issue is just one of many reasons citizens have little confidence in City or County offices

No replies so far, but I'll kee trying. Ms Taylor what is your legal, affordable, effective solution to the problem?

You're all so upset, the answer must be really simple.

Marty Richman

It's pretty obvious there is a homeless issue at hand. Having a business less then a half mile away from Garden Mart we have been effected by this as well. I want to start out saying the following  comment  of mine is not toward The Garden Mart or its employees or family members this is a City Issue and human rights issues. I have a problem with County Supervisors taking the HEAT on this issue as its City jurisdiction. I was at the City Meeting when this issue was brought up by Mrs Huston. She addressed the Chief of Police and the City Council. Both parties responded that action would be taken. I drive by Garden Mart multiple times per day and I started to see Police presence at the adjacent lot parked on the cement.(Thumbs  up Hollister  PD for taking quick action)  I believe the City Councilman and Hollister PD did what they could within  the  legal power with out jeopardizing integrity or lawsuits  for humans and human rights and rights of passage. Its very hard for the Hollister PD to justify taking a officer out of route for a Civil matter when a serious crime could be taking place elsewhere,  as were limited on law enforcement as it is. The other problem is this location is treated the same way as a temporary Xmas tree lot or pumpkin patch where permits issued are only for a limited time ( Not the Mayors fault just a fact) It's my opinion if a permanent building was built on the empty lot this would resolve a big portion of the problems at hand. Where is the land owner/landlord through all this? I know from experience   In Commercial/Retail leasing this issue usually is handled and resolved by them as its your right as a Tennant to have a presentable and pleasant atmosphere for your customers. I believe it's going to take the community as a hole to make this issue better.  Not a panel of 8/9 people. Everyone is quick to blame and point fingers sometimes we need to walk in the other sides shoes.  

Submitted by (Marci) on

Mr. Moore, perhaps you should walk in my shoes. I don't have a temporary permit, I am not a pumpkin patch or a Christmas tree lot...I am a legitimate full service landscaping business. It doesn't matter what kind of structure is on the property, what matters is the blatant violation of private property rights, and illegal behavior. Not sure why anyone is having such a hard time with this. people are breaking the law and it seems like there are certain populations in this town that are apparently above the law...why?

Mrs Huston

 as I mentioned in my comment the statement isn't personal. This situation is unique as your store is not a traditional brick n mortar location (hence the special use)  similar to Xmas tree lots where the temporary  structures on site don't require standardize soil/compaction test , soil contamination test (wasn't there a gas satiation and under ground tanks where the  76 gas station was for many years  to the North of you) surveying  and building permits , and not to mention all the fees in excess of hundreds and thousands of dollars that are avoided by not having a brick n mortar building.  I'm not using the reference of x mas or like business on open lots as a insult it's a simple reference of opinion. It's not that any certain population is above the law. (We )all business are in this together and subject to the same problems you are having. We deal with it on daily basis as well. It doesn't matter if your getting food at the taco stand next to Progresso or making a deposit at Wells Fargo 5/6 blocks South. All business downtown and down San Felipe have the Homeless issue. Guess what. We have business/ retail stores in Salinas and  we have the same problem there as well. We can only help those who want to be helped. I would be more then happy to meet with your company privately and share some ideas. I hope all end well for you. 

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

My decision has been made.  I'm guessing that since you have only been to my legitimate business to sell me something, you are not interested in actually solving the problem, or you would have helped prior.  Again, no one seemed interested in this issue until I decided to move.  Why is that?  If you think that the illegal behavior is OK or tolerable on my property for whatever reason, I will certainly put up a sign for the groups that are causing the problem, to locate on yours and Ignacio's property.  I actually converse with my homeless neighbors.  When they are not loaded they are super smart and fun to talk to.  They would love a place to set up camp without me shooing them off of my property. It is not acceptable to me and my legitimately permitted business.  It seems like you are more concerned with the fact that I have a temporary structure, and am not following some sort of rules.  That is a lie and will get you into the same trouble that it will get Ignacio if he keeps spouting off.  My business was a perfect type of business for an empty lot that at this time, has no other use... just for the fact that it is a removable business.  Good thing too, because I can remove myself, with little cost (just work) while everyone else who has a brick and mortar business have to suck it up..If that is the problem, then you need to say that. 

Has your landlord provided security for your parking lot? If not,  why hasn't this method been tried? It worked extremely well for our tenants in Salinas.

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

Again, why do I as a business owner have to increase my expense because no one is willing to hold anyone accountable for illegal behavior?


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