The San Benito County Board of Supervisors during the Sept. 13 meeting. Photo by John Chadwell.
The San Benito County Board of Supervisors during the Sept. 13 meeting. Photo by John Chadwell.

The San Benito County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Sept. 13 to approve a resolution to initiate the process to amend the 2035 General Plan to eliminate four “New Community Study Areas” in the county. The areas were added to the 2035 General Plan as potential sites for developments, including commercial or residential.

The board also directed staff to bring back to the next meeting an urgency ordinance that would allow the supervisors to immediately prohibit housing in the study areas while the amendment process is underway.

The decision to put the resolution on the agenda to eliminate the four study areas, known as Bolsa, Fairview, San Juan, and Union, was made by Supervisor Bob Tiffany to stop “lies on social media” about the possibility of housing developments. The amendment aims to debunk assertions on social media that the county is in favor of building communities and cities in the unincorporated area.

According to county documents, during the Aug. 23 regular meeting, the supervisors directed the resolution be brought back, indicating the board does not support housing in the northwest area of the county identified as the Bolsa New Community Study Area, consisting of approximately 11,657 acres. 

The General Plan currently provides that within New Community Study Areas there can be a range of possibilities from new towns to mixed-use master-planned communities. The General Plan, however, specifies that any implementation of the policy would require a General Plan Amendment and Specific Plan application, together with compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), through public hearings before both the county Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.

There are currently no applications for General Plan Amendments and Specific Plans to develop any new towns or master-planned communities in any of the New Community Study Areas, according to the county documents.

“An amendment of the General Plan could take at least six months because of CEQA review, but the Board of Supervisors could, by a four-fifths vote, adopt an urgency ordinance that would take immediate effect to prohibit or restrict residential development in the Bolsa or other study areas while the General Plan amendment process is underway for consideration at a future board meeting,” said Abraham Prado, San Benito County’s assistant director of planning and building services.

Residents Jan Sexton and Julio Rodriguez, who ran for the Hollister City Council District 4 seat and later served as a San Benito County Planning Commissioner, claimed the move to eliminate the study areas was “political theater” and suggested the board not approve the resolution and allow Measures Q and R to run their course so voters would have a say in future developments.

Measure Q seeks to require voter approval for rezoning rural agriculture and rangeland areas to any other land designation. It would also eliminate 13 nodes, or commercial zones, from the General Plan. 

Measure R seeks to set a 3.5-mile buffer zone around the TriCal Inc. agricultural chemical facility, which is located at 8770 Bolsa Road off Hwy 25.

“Politically, the PORC [Preserve Our Rural Community] people were using these New Community Study Areas as an indication we were planning to have these new big communities built throughout the county, which is absolutely false,” Tiffany said.

Supervisor Bea Gonzales said she and Supervisor Kollin Kosmicki are “at opposite ends of the political spectrums but agreed that something had to be put in writing where building houses would never happen on the Bolsa Road.”

Kosmicki said the study areas are “reckless and completely out of touch with the desires of our residents” and they “underscore how flawed the process was for this General Plan.” He said even though he was uncomfortable with the timing because ballots were going out in a matter of weeks, and that “I don’t think we can deny this is at least motivated by the implications of R and Q,” he voted along with the other board members to approve the resolution that would come back to them Oct. 10. Measures Q and R will go before voters Nov. 8.


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John Chadwell worked as a feature, news and investigative reporter for BenitoLink on a freelance basis for seven years, leaving the role in Sept. 2023. Chadwell first entered the U.S. Navy right out of...