More News

Floriana Ranch Project could result in thousands of homes and jobs along Highway 25

Supervisors approve reimbursement agreement to recoup staff costs in working on development that, if it continues to move forward, could result in thousands of homes along Highway 25.
Supervisor Mark Medina wanted the agreement to exclude everything other than the reimbursement of staff costs.
Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz wanted to head off irrate residents in the future complaining about the project.
John Guertin tried to reassure the board that the agreement could be amended at any time.

On the surface, an ambiguous looking resolution on the March 20 agenda of the board of supervisors’ meeting didn't look like much. It called for the reimbursement of costs to be paid by Bristol SB LLC related to preliminary work done by county staff and outside consultants related to the review of something called the Floriana Ranch Project LLC. In fact, it is only the first step in a process that could a have a monumental impact on the county.

A common statement often made at supervisor and city council meetings about the number of homes springing up in the city and around the county is that nothing can be done to stop them or at least slow them down—something Hollister Mayor Ignacio Velazquez has repeatedly tried to do for the past year or so—because some developments have been in the pipeline for decades.  

Floriana Ranch LLC is one of those developments that has been on the fringes of development for decades in one form or another, and it might linger even longer or die on the vine if some supervisors have their way.

However, if the Newport Pacific Land Company, a Southern California-based developer of master-planned communities, which manages Bristol SB LLC, a Nevada-registered company, as well as the local landowner, Dan Floriani, have their way, a community of many thousands of homes could eventually be built along Highway 25, on the Bolsa flood plain, near the border with Santa Clara County.

This is the same area that Arizona developer DMB Associates tried unsuccessfully to build a 4,500-acre community called El Rancho San Benito LLC. The nearby O'Connell Ranch was also involved in the project. Part of that project involved DMB having to build costly interchanges on Highway 25, or even possibly a new highway through the project, according to a 2005 Silicon Valley Business Journal article.

Originally, the community would have consisted of 6,800 units, but DMB pulled out of the project in 2009. At the time, there was discussion about the possible use of the railway parallel to Highway 25. Palo Alto-based San Benito Railroad LLC attempted to buy 12.5 miles of track from Union Pacific Railroad with the idea of using it partially to support the development, but the sale was denied by government authorities without prejudice, leaving the opportunity to purchase the line open at a future date. 

The track was vital to developers because it could provide passengers rail service between the new city planned for the Floriana Ranch, Hollister and through the development. Potentially, Gilroy-bound passengers could connect with the Caltrain regional commuter line. This gives more credence to Hollister City Council and COG’s renewed efforts to study the feasibility of building a depot and rail yard in the city.

Supervisor Mark Medina asked whether it would be wiser to look at the project before approving the agreement for reimbursement because he was concerned how much staff time it would take, stating the county is having a hard time taking care of its own business with a limited staff. John Guertin, director of the Resource Management Agency (RMA), said the reimbursement agreement is a new procedure for the county and it was precisely what Medina was asking of the county.

“We’re working with the applicants up front, before they submit a full application and identifying potential issues that are going to come up and whether or not it’s a viable project,” he said. “This is a mechanism to recoup our costs for doing that work. In the past, we would do that kind of work for applicants and then if they didn’t apply that was time wasted and no reimbursement.”

Medina had an issue with part of the agreement that seemed to put off reimbursement until after permits were issued, and he wanted to “segregate the beginning stages of the project” from the rest of it in order to better guarantee reimbursements. Guertin said the county would more than likely come back with a new reimbursement agreement if the developer begins to move forward with the project.

Barbara Thompson, county counsel, told Medina the county can terminate the agreement with 30 days’ notice should the developer start moving forward. Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz said he did not want to move forward with the agreement because he did not feel comfortable with it because of an issue involving the a nearby chemical plant (TriCal Inc., which makes fumigation products) and the need for a buffer zone. He suggested it go back to the Planning Commission.

“In the future, I don’t want 1,000 residents coming to the board of supervisors complaining about the potential danger from the chemical plant,” he said. “You need to go back and figure out how you’re going to address that buffer zone.”

Thompson suggested separating out the agreement from the application to make sure the board understands the merits of the project versus the reimbursement portion. Guertin reminded the board that the reimbursement agreement had nothing to do with the overall project.

“This is reimbursement of staff time to process the application,” he said. “This is an application from an applicant and we have to review it with them. We have to take it through the process and take it to a hearing. Everything you’re talking about is the process we have to go through to recoup our costs, which they want to do. If we don’t move forward with the reimbursement agreement, my staff and I still have to do that work. It’s through that process that we address the General Plan issues and we go to the Planning Commission about how it does or does not meet the General Plan requirements.”

De La Cruz said if the board moved forward with the reimbursement agreement the first item of discussion should be about how the buffer zone issue would be treated. Guertin told him there are a number of major hurdles with the project, including the buffer zone. Others include a viable water source and a waste water treatment plant.

“This is going to be a multi-year process that we go through on a project of this size,” he said.

Supervisor Jerry Muenzer commented that many people criticized Santana Ranch, and reminded everyone it went through a 30-year process.

“This is 10,000 units,” he said. “How long is this going to take? All we’re talking about is recouping the monies that the county has to spend in starting the process for this applicant. Whether we like or don’t like the project is irrelevant to this discussion. I’m ok with going forward with this today.”

Medina said he agreed with Muenzer, to a point. He said if someone were to read the entire agreement it includes permits and reiterated that he wanted the agreement to only cover reimbursements and nothing more. Guertin said the intent was to have a broader agreement that could be amended if needed, but said it could be changed to only cover the pre-application phase, if that was what the board wanted.

“Historically, when we go to these development agreements we opt into problems and that’s why I want to keep it sweet and short with no grey areas,” Medina said.

De La Cruz said he realized the project may take 20 years, but said the supervisors are facing negative feedback from the public because of prior board approvals in the past.

“We know this is just the starting process, but we know very well once you open the gates it’s hard to say no to a project when it comes before the supervisors,” he said. “That’s why I need to start questioning these things from the get-go.”

Supervisor Anthony Botelho brought up an early suggestion from Muenzer that the board needed to discuss growth management more thoroughly.

“I’ve never been enthused about residential growth out on the Bolsa,” he said. “I was not for that community study area then and I think it’s still premature to consider it anytime soon. But that doesn’t mean a person who owns property should not be able to submit an application for a project.”

He said one of the major complaints since he has been on the board is that the Planning Department does not receive enough monies for services rendered to applicants. He said the reimbursement agreement is more than fair if the focus was more on the pre-application process.

During the public comments portion of the meeting, Jennifer Hernandez, an attorney representing the Floriana Ranch family, said she wanted to make it clear that the reimbursement agreement was just to get the process started.

“An application has been filed and there’s a legal right to have an application processed,” she said. “That’s the process we’ve just barely begun. This agreement exclusively allows staff to charge us for their time or the time to retain experts to begin. There’s no EIR underway. There’s no full application that’s been submitted. And the right in the agreement will allow the county to come back and say it needs a lot more money to do the EIR or whatever. At that point, if we elect not to proceed, it stops there, but you are in charge every point in the process.”

John Patterson, one of the partners at Newport Pacific Land Company, told BenitoLink by phone that it was very early in the process as the company moved forward with technical reports and continued to study the market. He said the company is attempting to develop the project in line with the county’s updated General Plan.  

“We’re trying to look for opportunities on the property not just as a residential master-plan, but also job opportunities because San Benito County needs jobs,” Patterson said. “There’s a lot of research being done right now trying to understand the feasibility of a more job-based project. It will be a mix of residential and supporting services.”

Peterson said that the DMB project was slated to have as many as 10,000 units, but that was because it involved the O’Connell and Floriana ranches, plus an additional 600 acres adjacent to the project. The new project only involves the Floriana family, so there would be far fewer units on some 2,800 acres.

Patterson said a private waste water facility would have to be built to support the community. He also said the community would include some retail businesses designed to service the residents, such as restaurants, social gathering spots and daycare facilities.  He said the community would most likely take advantage of any rail services that might evolve.

“We could provide a smaller station, if that were required,” he said, adding that it was too early to project when or if the project would move forward.

Supervisor Medina made the motion to re-write the agreement to only include the pre-planning stage and bring it back to the board on April 3 for a vote. The motion passed unanimously.

 

Other related stories: Commuter Trains to Hollister. Really?

Hollister Officials call more affordable housing rentals 

San Benito County General Plan Update

 

About:
John Chadwell (John Chadwell)

John Chadwell is 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: johnchadwell@benitolink.com.

Comments

I guess the Board of Supervisors just can't help themselves; they are already taking political positions and starting to talk about project details.  Stop it!  Every project is entitled to submit an application and go to the various decision points, don;t say a thing until it gets there.

This is the same mistake we always make, stop talking, stop negotiating through the process with off-hand remarks, just approve the reimbursement agreement so we can get paid for the processing that is required.  If we have to hire more people to do it, so be it, charge the applicant.

I disagree that we actually negotiated the Santana Ranch project for 30-years, we gave away the farm early on and we only got hit with the tree 30-years later!  There is nothing that a large, controversial, development project wants more than to get you into a "discussion" about the details in this venue.

I've learned a lot about how this works just be observation, how come our leaders don't know any better and continue to be compromised one little step at a time.  Anything this big would be subject to a development agreement with the WHOLE county anyway, so as they say in New York, "Put a sock in it." and now.

Marty Richman

 

On the other hand, if it is unlikely that a huge residential project will ever be approved in that part of the county, it would be a service to speak up now and save the developer a lot of money.

Especially with this project. This is at least the third proposal to build a huge residential project on this same land. The first two attempts were killed after the developers spent millions of dollars. 

Submitted by Ken Dunn (kenneth) on

 

I'm told that the tax structure makes it cheaper to sell farmland than to farm it, but that can be easily changed. The fact is that SBC Farmland is Priceless, but it is being sold at a tiny fraction of its real value. I'm just glad that when our Grand Children look across SBC filled with Stucco-Mansions planted a few feet apart and say, "What Moron Allowed This Mess to Happen?" At least I can say that It Wasn't Me.

I agree with Marty. Applicants are entitled to due process regardless of backward-thinking statements made by Botelho, who doesn't have the wisdom to understand the potential future liability of idiotic opinions shared with the public today. 

It really is time for San Benito County to start grooming young future leaders who are better educated and more progressive than the blockheads who currently fail to see economic development and improved tax revenue on the horizon. 

Submitted by Ken Dunn (kenneth) on

Younger wiser folks are marrying later and having fewer children, because they sense the reality that eternal growth is clearly a myth that is already ruining their future. It's the unwise, backward thinking ones with 3 kids, still living with their parents and thinking that as the population grows they will one day be able to afford a $500,000  "Starter Home." The opposite is actually true.

We must run in different circles, Michael Smith. I don't hear anyone saying we should build a huge number of houses on land that is closer to Gilroy than Hollister and will put even more cars on Highway 25. I applaud Supervisor Botelho for saying early in the process that this proposal seems a lot like the two earlier proposals that didn't have support from the Board or the public.

You are right that the developer has every right to go through the approval process and spend as much money as it wants even though the likely result is a "no."

Indeed, we must run in different circles. I'm of the opinion that San Benito County is retarded in its capacity to collaborate with its municipal partners to share in a mutually beneficial vision for a successful economic future due to failed leadership. Botelho is a major part of that problem, though I'm sure you value his 'good old boy' stewardship of the economy as a beneficial no-growth solution to 'make San Benito County Great Again'. 

I don't mind calling out the stupidity of Botelho and Mayor Velazquez who are demonstrating small-minded and stubbornly retrospective solutions of growth management as major failures in public leadership. Hopefully, that will change one day in the near future. 

 

Wayne, my point is that we always seem to end up negotiating with ourselves.  The less we say about it the better, there is no benefit in our opening up these never-ending dialogs that, in my opinion, just water down every issue and reveal our weaknesses and thoughts

Is there really any chance at all that the owner/developer does not know the history of that area or does not see the current growth rates, etc.?  Let's give them a little credit, they surely know that there more than an Ivory Soap chance (99.44%) that this proposal is going nowhere, and there is also the same likelihood that we are going to change the General Plan, essentially none..

We did, however, make it a study area, so this will be a part of the study on the owner's dime.  Today's situation is what it is, but predicting tomorrow's - and even tomorrow's board membership - is always risky business. Perhaps this is a good project for the year 5050 (not a typo).

Considering our current growth rate and any future I can see I certainly oppose it, but when nothing was happening for a decade ago, I did want something out there.  Times have changed and ths I'm sure of, times WILL change again such as the state legislature's threat to take land use authority away from local government to get more housing or restricts driving. 

At this point the we do not have to do a thing or say a thing.  Seeing what they have to offer gives us ammunition with all the other projects we might like that constantly come before the board.

Eventually, SBC will need another city, but who knows when eventually will be?

Marty Richman

Submitted by Ken Dunn (kenneth) on

What a great idea, I cannot think of a better source of environmentally friendly money than to have all the OVER-FED developers pay millions for the approval process on their OVER-STUFFED MONSTER PROJECTS, then reject them on common-sense grounds that these badly bloated "projects" are beyond insane, and we need to keep in mind that there will always be some well dressed, smooth-talking, "Nut Case Developer" out there willing to destroy San Benito County if he can make a billion bucks on the deal. If I were on the Board, no application would be accepted without pre-payment of all processing costs, plus a deposit to cover over-runs. There are countries that do not allow projects above a certain size for the very good reason that they strongly encourage people to act like pigs at the trough. Anyone who's seen that knows it's not pretty. By the way, Ten Thousand Houses is not a project, it's a city.

 

Submitted by (Kelly Sepulveda) on

Good grief, when is this going to stop?!! We are crawling all over each other. You can’t get into town or out of town or through town. Why can’t we just be what we are supposed to and always have been, a nice, SMALL town?

Submitted by (Robert Gilchris...) on

We would be if agribusinesses would just stop selling off their land.

Submitted by Ken Dunn (kenneth) on

If Agricultural land is being sold for Sprawl, IT NEEDS TO STOP, NOW. My God, If that concept doesn't make you want to vomit, then nothing will. You cannot buy a Volkswagen and sell it as a Lexus, and if we are allowing priceless food producing land to be destroyed for McMansions, then we deserve all the bad things that will follow such stupidity. No more beautiful countryside, no more beautiful hills, no more clean healthy air, no more peace and quiet, no more crossing the street without worrying about if you are going to be the next dead victim of a triple car hit and run, where a lady walking recently was hit by three cars, and not one of them stopped. Amazing what sprawl and overcrowding do to the sanctity and value of life. I wonder if any of these murderers has been caught. Interesting that with all the new "Growth" we still cannot afford enough police to protect us from the massive deterioration of our once pleasant way of life. Sacramento says we need growth, it also says we need a Multi-Billion dollar "Bullet Train" to fire us from one Armpit to another because the overpacked multi-lane "freeways" have become all but useless. I believe that if we interact more with our local representatives, we can change Hollister from becoming just another Stinking Armpit to something better, but if we don't have time to send a 5 minute email, or if we think we can't make a difference, then we are very wrong and we fully deserve the garbage coming our way. By the way, very few will be able to afford the "Train to Nowhere" as it will be a very expensive ride, just check on the projected cost and you'll be shocked. It's dying on the vine but Sacto keeps pouring our money into this POS. This is what u get w/no input.

While I understand the traffic at rush hour, my question is what's with some of the traffic at other times at other times nothing?

If the schools were getting busier it should show up as increased enrollment, does it? I am told that many of the new residents take advantage of the state law that allows them to put their child in a district where they work, that should not increase the school-based traffic locally.

I certainly don't see folks lined up in the street waiting to get a table at all the restaurants downtown; in fact I still see many empty storefronts, "for lease" signs, and marginal businesses such as tobacco shops in prime real estate and empty lots in what should be reasonable commercial locations.

If they are not going to school, shopping, working or going to entertainment what's up?

We would have been much better off spending the $150,000 that was designated for the commercial train study to study the internal traffic issues so we know what is going on.

It looks from the data that we may becoming a work destination.  As our people are commuting to Santa Clara other people are commuting here to work and based in income percent increases of the groups  that is going up faster even though our commuters are making a lot more.

Since 2013 the income of our out-commuters has risen 31.1 percent from $852.3 million a year to $1.117 BILLION a year, at the same time the income of the in-commuters coming here to work then going home has risen 57.8% from $242.6 million to $382.8

 It's worth a study, a lot more than the commuter train.

Marty Richman

Submitted by (Robert Gilchris...) on

Marty,

We are seeing an uptick in local restaurants that are worth visiting. We particularly like Fisher's Deli downtown and Seabrisa's west of the new courthouse. There are a couple of new wine bars, if that appeals to you.

It's understandable that this discussion has turned away from a specific project to the development issue in general. But I would advise tracking this particular proposal. This is the proverbial canary in the coal mine. If it gets approved, it will open the floodgates for development on Highway 25 from the county line back to Hollister.

Marty is right that a city on the Bolsa might be appropriate someday. But not now and not in the foreseeable future.

Submitted by Ken Dunn (kenneth) on

Don't miss the point, we don't want to save the FID's (FAT INSANE DEVELOPER) Money for himself, We want to help him make SBC better (which is what he says he wants,) by letting him spend Millions of Bucks here on a Massive Disaster of a project that has no chance of ever being built. Guys like this are Dangerous when they have too much money, and it is only right that we remove the money from them and put it in more responsible hands, then send him away to another community, who will hopefully repeat our process of rejecting the lunatic FID's asinine ideas, taking more of his money till he is broke, and can do no more damage with his stupid, greedy, harmful, ideas. And no, in the Year 5050, this will still be an A-Hole of an idea. But everybody has one and it's our job to make sure that Junk like this is never built. Taking his Money is like removing a Weapon from a Psychopath, it's Our Responsibility. This kind of person is so stupid that they think that if they just keep plugging away, they will eventually get their deal, it's up to us to keep taking their money and never let them have their way. I repeat, What a Great Way for SBC to make Money. P.S. There is so much growing dissent against big projects that if SACTO tried to force it, it might well get ugly. The planet is both overbuilt and over populated, so growth is no longer considered a good thing, either on the Micro or the Macro level. Most of us realize that we are already overbuilt, and anyone who pictures another City between Hollister and Gilroy is truly a victim of old fashioned thought and should be re-educated to know that we can no longer Grow our way out of Overgrowth issues. Shouldn't be too hard, it's simple Math, and most of us already know it.

Old joke: "A woman in the United States gives birth every 8 seconds; we have to find that woman and stop her."

Actually,the present overall fertility rate (62 births or less per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44) puts the United States population birth rate slightly below replacement level.  Immigration accounts for the increase in population and even much of what fertility rate there is a carryover from country of origin in first generation immigrants with several studies showing a reduction in the second and following generations.

The poorest nations on the planet have the largest population problems, but which came first?  I wrote an article about it titled, "The Population Bomb turned out to be guided missiles."

Marty Richman

Submitted by Ken Dunn (kenneth) on

Clearly, the people came first. Then the stupid idea that more babies would make them richer, then it back-fired.

Submitted by Tod DuBois (John Galt) on

Study after study has found that people living in compact cities have a smaller carbon footprint than those in sprawling cities or suburban areas. This is partly because they often live in apartments that require less energy to heat and cool than large single-family homes, but also because they commute shorter distances and are more likely to walk or take public transit.

Residents of dense, transit-friendly San Francisco emit an average of just 6.7 tons of carbon dioxide per year, according to a 2015 report from the University of California, Los Angeles. By contrast, the average in the broader Bay Area is 14.6 tons, in part because people drive farther to work.

This is true nationwide, too: The Urban Land Institute concluded that policies to promote compact growth — such as building taller apartments around transit centers or adding more housing downtown — could help cut vehicle travel 20 to 40 percent.

Submitted by Ken Dunn (kenneth) on

Even more studies have shown that more people produce more pollution in the oceans, the landfill, the water supply, the food supply, more stress, less personal space, more Franken-foods, more road rage, more homelessness, and countless other nightmares, more stress on all systems. It would be nice if we could just store humans in cubby holes like bees in a hive. Even if that were a solution, it would be a temporary one, but it is no solution at all. The only solution for too many people is fewer people, by about 50%, some say that 30% of what we have now would be better, that would be a 70% reduction. Don't worry, there would still be billions, the main difference is that they would be living better, much better. Some would say that our population is actually shrinking, I'll believe that when I see it, and when those same people start recommending that new residential construction be seriously reduced, due to lack of need, then I'll take them seriously.

Add new comment

Add Facebook comment

Comment using your Facebook account. Facebook comments will be published on this page, and on Facebook. It will not be posted to the "Recent Comments" list on the BenitoLink front page.