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Supervisors Greenlight Del Webb Project at San Juan Oaks

Project will build nearly 1,100 homes for people aged 55 and up; county, local schools promised millions in revenue
Residents came to the supervisors' meeting to hear about the new community at San Juan Oaks.
There was much interest in the new San Juan Oaks community.

The San Benito County Board of Supervisors on Nov. 3 unanimously passed six separate resolutions that added up to one potential big economic win for San Benito County: the more than 1,000-home Del Webb project at San Juan Oaks. The project is slated to include recreation facilities, parks and wildlife areas, and bring millions of dollars for local schools, Hollister and San Juan Bautista, as well as more than 500 jobs as construction gets under way in the third quarter of 2016.

The San Juan Oaks Specific Plan is forecast as “revenue neutral,” in that it will generate approximately $2 million in annual revenue when completed in five to six years compared to approximately $1.09 million in county expenditures, according to the presentation at the supervisors' meeting on Tuesday. Under the Development Agreement, Del Webb will pay a $5.5 million Community Benefit Fee that the county can use at its discretion to pay for street improvements, affordable housing, public safety, library services, and/or communications. Building, engineering, and impact fees will add up to $31 million to San Benito County, and $9 million to the City of Hollister.

Even though the buyers likely will not have school-age children, area schools will benefit: $2.84 million annually to Aromas-San Juan Unified; $160,000 to San Benito County schools; and $400,000 to Gavilan College.

The total estimated financial and economic impact for the county will be:

                                                               Annual Jobs       Annual Income      Annual Output

One-time impact of construction                    634                 $26.5 million           $79.5 million

Ongoing impact of retail and hotel                 322                  $10.5 million           $40.7 million

Ongoing impact of household spending          225                  $7.9 million            $21.3 million

When completed, the community will be comprised of 1,084 homes (1,017 senior and 67 market rate). There will be a 25,000-square-foot amenity center, a 200-room resort hotel, 65,000 square feet of commercial space, an assisted living facility, 23.4 acres of parks, 114 acres of open space, a 1,244-acre wild life preserve, five miles of bike trails, a 282-acre golf course (existing San Juan Oaks), and new roads throughout.

Del Webb consultant John Johnson told the supervisors and members of the public attending the meeting that after a long journey the many issues, from environmental to political, had been overcome, resulting in a viable project that promises to be a financial boon to the community.

He said the first thing he learned about the community was that the project had to be income neutral and he emphasized numerous times throughout his presentation that the county would not be paying for any of the improvements.

“The buildout is going to take four to five years,” Johnson said. “In the first phase you get sewer and water systems, traffic improvements, and our clubhouse that we will be building. The parks will come in phases two and three. The open space dedication and the fire station site happens at the beginning.”

Del Webb communities traditionally sell at a higher pace than regular market rate communities, Johnson noted, so the building cycle is shorter. He said after the homes are completed the resort and commercial developments will follow.

“Those won’t happen until, as we say in the industry, ‘we’ve got to have roots,’ he said. “In other words, we’ve got to have people living there and activity is taking place.”

According to Johnson, the typical buyers who will be attracted to the project are “lifestyle buyers,” who are 55 years old and up, and are looking for socialization and recreation activities.

“That’s why we offer walking, biking, tennis, athletic facilities, indoor and outdoor pools,” he said. “This group is very active in travel, education, the arts, and volunteer opportunities, which the schools will benefit from. Typically, they have a home already and approximately $1 million in assets.”

The new community will create additional housing in Hollister, Johnson said, because existing homeowners have had a positive reaction to the project, and when they come and buy a house from Del Webb they will sell their home in Hollister, thus creating market rate housing.

Johnson said those who will buy in the community will be looking to be no more than an hour’s drive from a major airport, medical services, and a college.

“Most importantly, they want a safe community,” he said. “I would not be here today if this whole community was not considered safe.”

Prospective buyers, Johnson said, are active spenders.

“These people don’t put their money under their mattresses,” he said. “They’re out there living their lives, spending their money at the retail stores, car dealerships, and restaurants.”

Homes will sell in the range of $300,000 to $450,000, which Johnson said, at the lower end, reaches down into the affordable house category in the county. While Del Webb doesn’t provide solar, it will build the houses solar-ready. He added that the wineries will see a big boost in business, and restaurants and tourism will follow close behind.

“And we do invite the grandchildren,” he said. “We actually put in playgrounds because we find that more and more grandparents want their grandchildren to come see them. And hotels will come because these homes aren’t built to house 20 relatives when they show up for the holidays, so a lot of hotels rooms get rented.”

From the beginning of planning the community, attention has been paid to traffic patterns. Johnson said early on there will be a new traffic light at the intersection of Union Road and San Juan Oaks Road. He said Caltrans has told him that 156 will be widened to four lanes in 2017, and Del Webb is coordinating improvements to the intersection of 156 and Union Road, all of which will hopefully help the traffic situation.

Water conservation and use are high priorities in the plan.

“There’s a water tank there now for the golf course and clubhouse,” Johnson noted. “We will be building a parallel system for the rest of the community. Golden State Water, which is the largest in the state, will be the owner and operator of the water and sewer systems. They will contract with the city. We have adequate ground water and the project will be using the existing waste water treatment facility.”

Even though Del Webb wasn’t asked to do so, the company decided to put aside nearly 200 acres of “permanent ag easements” and nothing will be built on the hills surrounding the project in order to keep them as a wildlife preserve, Johnson said at the meeting.

He concluded by saying it has been an interesting journey and he asked for the supervisors’ approval of the project. Before they did, though, there were a few questions.

“How are you going to include local companies that provide construction, supplies and materials as you build out?” Supervisor Margie Barrios asked.

“We use local vendors as much as possible,” Johnson assured. “It doesn’t make sense to hire a plumbing company that is a hundred miles away. We go to all the local vendors of all trades to see if they’re available. In some cases we actually help them because we can give them enough business for four or five years to grow their businesses. We don’t want to have commuting issues because once this starts it’s very intense. So, we buy from the community.”

Supervisor Jaime De La Cruz wanted assurance that people who buy homes because there is an 18-hole golf course won’t be coming back complaining to the board 20 years from now if someone wants to change it to a 9-hole course. He was told that under the plan, if someone wants to make changes to the golf course they will have to come back to the board for approval.

De La Cruz was also concerned about jobs.

“I want to go a step further and make sure there’s an ability to have a training program for 16- to 18-year-old kids to prime them for these jobs,” he said. “Thank you for all the money that this project is going to generate, but I’m greedy. I want jobs that our local people can benefit from.”

“I am hearing you,” Johnson said. “What we can do is work with the county, the community college and the high schools. There is such a labor shortage in our industry and it behooves us to do this. We are in big trouble in developing houses. We’ve had to stop selling in Sacramento because we can’t build them. We cannot get the trades. It’s a problem and we recognize that.”

Michael Smith, who moved to Hollister 20 years ago, said during the public comment portion of the meeting that he is one of those “typical people” and he wants to sell his home to move to the new community.

“I’m asking you to support and approve it,” he said to the supervisors. “These people like to invest in the community in terms of joining service clubs, donating to charities, and giving back to the community.”

Jerry Thome said he and his wife, Denise, are lifelong residents of the county and after 40 years working in construction and five years as a building inspector for Gilroy, he’s retiring.

“My wife and I have visited the Del Webb community in Manteca,” he said. “We saw a well-maintained community. This gives us the opportunity to retire in a nice community that’s safe and enjoy the quality of life it can give us.  I’m hoping you can pass this project on a personal basis. On a San Benito County basis, I see a lot of perks. I see money, growth and services. It’s a win all around.”

Everyone who spoke at the meeting was in favor of the project and all asked the supervisors to pass the resolutions, which they did—unanimously.

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About:
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: johnchadwell@benitolink.com.

Comments

Submitted by (Dr. M. Guzzi) on

Traffic is going to be horrific on Union road and the surrounding roads. This and the Fairview road sub-division , 101 , 156 and 25 are going to be absolutely gridlock . And please don't tell that retirement people don't drive during the commute. No matter how to slice it , it's going to add a heck of a lot more traffic. Retirement people do own cars and drive and have visitors and get ups packages .... What is the specific plan to improve Union Road? Is there a plan?

Dr. Guzzi,

You are welcome to review the traffic study that was submitted to the county planning staff, planning commission and board of supervisors. Several supervisors expressed concern about the impacts to traffic at Union Rd. but were satisfied that the developer provided a workable solution to the intersection at 156 and Union Rd. based on traffic study data. 

Please visit the county planning department to review the specific plan.

Best,

Michael Smith

Submitted by (Wayne Grow) on

Hollister is such a wonderful little town. its a real shame to see it all start to go away. this is just the beginning. I grew up in a part of san jose that was very much like Hollister is today and because it was nice, quiet and a great place to raise kids the real estate people used all of that in their selling points and it didn't take long before all the superficial , materialistic types moved in and now its ruined . Traffic grid lock , noise , sky high home prices etc. Allot of the new owners don't even put their kids in the neighborhood schools because its not the PC thing to do. say good bye Hollister locals . Soon you'll be sitting around the table saying remember when.

Hollister is a wonderful little town. As towns age, they require investments in infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer systems in order to attract new businesses and industries that will employ a growing population, provide jobs, improve public and social services. We have witnessed first-hand what impact that no-growth - due to the sewer treatment plant moratorium and then the worst recession since the depression - had on our community; a reduction in police/fire staffing, poor roads, less money for schools, etc.

You are always welcome to attend the public planning commission and board of supervisor meetings to learn about projects like this and offer your opinion. I attended both meetings because I support this project and find it to be a positive residential/commercial/medical facility development in our community that is badly needed to provide affordable housing to persons of my age group which - in turn - will provide a housing opportunity for a family with children to purchase my 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath home in Hollister as my wife and I are now 'empty-nesters'. 

Conversely: Say hello to the new Hollister locals! This project will provide new permanent and temporary construction jobs and improve the local economy when the new residents start patronizing local stores and restaurants. San Juan Oaks/Del Webb is an example of well planned land-use and residential development in San Benito County. 

Mr, Grow, we are not the masters of out own fate.  The cost of merely existing in California is driven by the state and Federal governments and by the competition around us.

The cost of even basic public services and mandated programs - water, wastewater, public safety, air pollution control, education, road maintenance, etc.- far outpace the inflation rate and incomes.  Therefore, we are faced with a grow or die choice, Hollister's downtown is a perfect example.  It is still not thriving after all these years.

Additionally, both state and Feds hate dealing with a million local jurisdictions and they use their substantial power to force regional solutions.  These also demand that everyone take their "fair share" of growth and transportation and every other problem.

Those are the facts of modern life in the USA and especially California with its hyper-expensive environmental programs whether we like it or not.  Since we are given all these lemons we have to make lemonade and do the best we can.  This project satisfies many of those needs.

Marty Richman

While I support this project enthusiastically there will, undoubtedly, be some downsides and increased traffic on Union Road will be one of them. However, the Hwy 156 widening project to four lanes is already approved and funded and is slated to start July 2017 and run 2 years. As with all Caltrans projects it could be delayed a year or two.  So traffic to SJB and 101 will eventually be about the same, busy, but much safer and less vulnerable to full closures when there is a fender-bender.

In this case the positives of the project far outweigh the negatives, although I can't say how they will impact any individual. The widening of Union Road has been on the list of things to do for transportation for a long time, this will probably speed it up. 

Retirement communities do generate a lot less traffic than working communities, but my experience is that it takes 5-7 years to really settle in as new working residents become confident in the cost factors and retire.  People move in (they only have to be 55) and they may have two cars and are still be working,  After a while they are established they retire, if they have not done so already.  This is inevitable with an aging population.

Then they no longer want or need two cars, or use both (average senior community density 1.6 persons per unit) - if they have two they sell or store one car and buy a golf cart for in-development trips just as my parents did in a similar community. 

Once they are retired they can go to the post office whenever they want - and they don't want to go anywhere at 7 a.m. or to the post office at noon or 4:30   We are retired and, although we live in town, we go to the post office, hospital, grocery shopping, etc. when they are quiet and uncrowded.  We use the major highways between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. when we make appointments or have business in San Jose, Morgan Hill or Monterey. We hate traffic and we have choices working people don't have - we even avoid the schools in the mornings and afternoons, our kids are all grown up and live elsewhere.  Our children fly in to the regional airports during off-peak hours too so we do not have to buck traffic if we pick them up.

If you want to see how the residents age and the changes it brings just check what happened at Ridgemark and the golf course memberships / use.

There are no guarantees, but a project of this sort is as good a bet as you can get.  I hope it lives up to its potential.

Marty Richman

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