The future of a Gavilan College campus should be focused on the Fairview Road land that the school already owns, officials said at the March 8 Board of Trustees meeting on the Gilroy campus. The topic was a discussion item — not an action item — so no formal decisions were made.
College President Steven Kinsella started the discussion saying he had previously met with board members from Hollister about the former Leatherback site on McCray Street, but noted that it would be better to build the college on the land the school already owns.
“We should invest the money in the land,” he said.
The college purchased 80 acres of land in 2008 at the Fairview Corners, located across Airline Highway from the Ridgemark Golf and Country Club. The district is awaiting habitat clearance, which would help clear the way to build there. Kinsella, who recently announced his retirement, said Gavilan is looking at about 25,000 square feet for the future campus.
He said they were taking a baby step approach, adding, “it takes a generation to build a campus.”
Walt Glines, a Gavilan trustee representing Gilroy, suggested the board not consider Leatherback as a possibility until they know how much it’s going to cost. The land that formerly housed a roofing materials manufacturer was purchased by Hollister's former Redevelopment Agency and is controlled by the city.
“We have competing options,” Glines said. “Until we know we can afford it, there shouldn't even be a discussion.”
Arturo Rosette, Gavilan College Academic Senate president, said efforts to build a permanent campus in Hollister have been restricted by space. The college has a satellite campus in the Briggs Building at the corner of Fourth and San Benito streets in downtown Hollister.
“We are always looking at other properties," Rosette said. "At one time we rented space at the high school.”
Kent Child, a Gavilan trustee representing San Benito County, agreed, saying Gavilan has rented space throughout the county. He said plans for the college educational center seem cursed because “something always happens to make it not work.”
Child cited an example of when Gavilan was San Benito Junior College but students didn't want to engage and keep the college centered in San Benito County. He said the population of the county has since grown, changing the dynamic and creating an environment that can sustain a bigger campus.
Child said the campus situation has been a political nightmare because nothing has happened except acquiring a site on which to build the campus.
“There is a small percentage of people who believe the campus should not be built on the land that has been acquired because it is out in the boonies,” Child said. However, he said, the area was beautiful and “it’s stupid to build a transient facility when we could build something that we own.”
Jonathan Brusco, a Gavilan board trustee representing Morgan Hill, said “the only solution is to build the site on that land.”
Adrian Lopez, a Gavilan student trustee, said he had sparked a conversation with students about the possibility of a campus in Hollister and said local students would love to not commute to Gilroy. He said the students didn’t care where the location was as long as they had somewhere to call home, where they don't have to travel so far.
Glines said it makes sense to build a campus at the Fairview Corners because houses will soon be built in the area.
Kinsella closed the conversation by saying the college was built in 1919 in Hollister “so I don’t know why we haven't built anything. In 40 years it will be San Benito Junior College again.”
The next Gavilan College Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for April 12 at 7 p.m. in the Gavilan Student Center, North/South Lounge, on the Gilroy Campus.