Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | April 11, 2006

Getting what you want and whining about it

“I can’t complain but sometimes I still do.” ~ Joe Walsh

This insightful line from Joe Walsh’s song “Life’s Been Good To Me” sprang to mind when I read reporter Serdar Tumgoren’s recent article about Gilroy City Council’s split decision agreeing to patrol a portion of the private streets of gated Eagle Ridge. The golf course community with roughly 2,000 residents is the site of many homes that eclipse the million-dollar mark. The recently approved patrols will be paid for by all the citizens of Gilroy, even though the streets in the tony, gated community are private.

In case you’re not familiar with the situation, the issue of public patrols of private Eagle Ridge streets has a long history. It seems that when Eagle Ridge was developed in the 1990s, the city of Gilroy agreed to allow developer Shapell Industries to build narrow streets that do not meet city codes. In exchange for saving lots of money by not meeting pesky codes, Shapell made the roads private and agreed that the city would not patrol the streets in the gated community. Instead, the city would only respond to emergencies that occur behind Eagle Ridge’s gates.

But, many people just can’t seem to keep their vehicles below the posted 25 miles per hour speed limit. For years, Eagle Ridge residents have been pestering the city to patrol the private streets of the gated community. Until now, the city has resolutely – and correctly – told them “No.”

However, after a recent City Council vote, Gilroy police will now patrol a quarter-mile stretch of Club Drive that was deemed “public” because non-Eagle Ridge residents regularly use it to access Eagle Ridge’s golf course.

Councilman Craig Gartman, who along with councilmen Dion Bracco and Russ Valiquette voted against the deal to patrol the private street behind the gates of Eagle Ridge, summed the situation well: “Eagle Ridge was created with a lot of exceptions to the rule because it was going to be a private, gated community. They want the benefits of privacy but they don’t want to take on the additional costs of taking care of their own traffic issues.”

So non-Eagle Ridge Gilroy residents, thanks to the yes votes of Mayor Al Pinheiro and councilmen Peter Arellano, Paul Correa and Roland Velasco, an unprecedented situation is now in effect in Gilroy: Your tax dollars now pay to patrol a street in a private, gated community.

Considering that Gilroy is already below the recommended level of per-capita police service, it’s hard to understand why Gilroy’s residents should be asked to subsidize the wealthy residents of this gated community.

But wait, it gets worse. The city said that if it is going to enforce speed limits, they must be raised from 25 miles per hour to 30 miles per hour. According to Gilroy transportation engineer Don Dey, a 25 mph speed limit won’t stand up to court challenges.

But even though they’re getting public traffic enforcement on their private main drag, some Eagle Ridge residents have the chutzpah to complain about the new speed limit.

“You guys want to increase the speed limit and make me vulnerable,” Eagle Ridge resident Mark Jury told Gilroy City Council members. “I’m asking you guys to not raise the speed limit.”

If Jury and any other Eagle Ridge residents are concerned about traffic safety, I have to wonder why they bought homes in a neighborhood with unpatrolled, private streets. No other private community in Gilroy has city traffic patrols; why should Eagle Ridge be any different?

If you think unpatrolled streets are a bad idea, don’t buy a house in Eagle Ridge. If you do buy a house in Eagle Ridge, don’t whine to the city about the lack of patrols. Sell your house or pay for private patrols. But if you’re going to whine until you wear down the resistance of a majority of council (you’ll note that two of the three “no” votes came from City Council newcomers), at least have the dignity and common sense not to complain about the terms of those patrols that are being subsidized by people who on average earn a lot less money and live in much-less valuable homes that are located on public streets.

I suspect Bracco is correct: This may well become an object lesson in the wisdom of the adage “be careful what you wish for.” When those tickets for speeding, running stop signs, not wearing seat belts or bicycle helmets and more start papering Eagle Ridge, the gated community’s residents might just find something new to complain about.

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