Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | July 25, 2003

Land-use head scratchers

A few recent South Valley land-use proposals have me scratching my head.

First there was the news that a downtown Gilroy store would become a medical clinic. The Garlic Festival Store, located in a prime, middle-of-downtown spot, apparently might reopen elsewhere in Gilroy – if the owners can find a buyer for the business. But the building that houses the store at 7526 Monterey St. has been sold, although escrow hasn’t yet closed, and it appears a Gardner Family Health medical clinic will be its new occupant.

This situation points out the importance of an overall vision for downtown, and how much the lack of one hampers efforts to revitalize Gilroy’s city center. If that vision were in place – and codified by a specific plan and/or zoning ordinances, Gilroy might have a legal leg to stand on when it comes to preventing businesses that don’t fall within that vision from locating downtown.

But that vision doesn’t exist, so how can anyone tell Gardner that they don’t belong downtown?’

Instinctively, it makes sense that a medical clinic doesn’t work well next door to retail and dining establishments. But who has decided that’s the vision for downtown Gilroy? No one has bothered to sell a vision to the community or to pass laws to make it known and enforceable.

The loophole-ridden ban City Council passed to keep out other “undesirable” shops – tattoo parlors, junk yards, etc. – failed to foresee the medical clinic. It would be funny, if it wasn’t so sad.

Gilroy needs a vision of what it wants its downtown to be, not a vague notion of the kinds of businesses it would rather not have downtown. Then, and only then, can it begin to work toward a vibrant downtown.

Then came the stunning news that Home Depot was opening a store in the now-shuttered Morgan Hill K-Mart building at Dunne Avenue and U.S. 101. I had heard rumors that a different hardware-type store might locate there, but had not heard a blip about Home Depot.

Who’d suspect it, with another Home Depot located just a few exits down the freeway? If South County can’t support one Outback Steakhouse or similar restaurant, does it really have enough business to support two Home Depots (and a Lowe’s Home Improvement, and an Ace Hardware, and an OSH, etc.)? Somehow, I doubt it.

Home Depot spokespeople say they’re not planning to close the Gilroy store. But I really don’t see how two Home Depot stores can survive so close together in this less-than-densely populated region.

My prediction? The Gilroy Home Depot will close or be transformed into one of the other Home Depot family of retail establishments – like an EXPO Design Center.

But, what do I know? I’m still confused about why Target needs two stores in South Valley, and as construction progresses on the Gilroy store at U.S. 101 and Highway 152, I’m wondering what Dayton Hudson Corp., parent of Target, has up its corporate sleeve for the Morgan Hill store.

I’m also befuddled about Safeway’s plans to open a second Morgan Hill store. Plans were announced years ago, but so far the only evidence of the impending additional Morgan Hill Safeway is a sign at the corner of Tennant and Monterey Road.

I’ll be surprised if Morgan Hill can support two Safeway grocery stores. The region can’t attract a Trader Joe’s or a Whole Foods to locate here, but somehow Morgan Hill needs two Safeway stores? Despite spending a few years working in a department store in high school and college, I’m no retailing genius. I’m just relying on common sense when I wonder how many Morgan Hill and San Martin Safeway shoppers the company thinks are unserved by its existing store.

It sure would be nice to see a more land use decisions that make me say “Of course!” instead of “What are they thinking?” But given the controversy over development proposals that strike me as no-brainers – the county courthouse on Butterfield and Diana, the Day Road high school and parochial school site, the Ford dealership at Dunne and 101 – I guess that’s wild dreaming.

Especially when it comes to land-use and development proposals, the only sure thing is that the old proverb, “You can’t please all the people all the time,” will always apply.



  1. […] please, powers that be, heed my usual plea: Don’t duplicate a retailer that’s already in South County. Please. Possibly […]

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