Gilroy State of the City paints an up and coming city – with some growing pains

Speaking before a crowd of local residents and regional dignitaries this week, Gilroy Mayor Marie Blankley made the case for a city that is growing, while touching on housing, homelessness, and the need for better infrastructure in her annual State of the City address.

After detailing her family’s century-long history in Gilroy, Blankley launched into how the city has grown over the previous year, optimistically describing the dozens of businesses that are opening or are on the way. Chief among these was the deal with the San Jose Sharks to bring a sports complex with two National Hockey League-sized ice rinks to Gilroy, with the design coming before the city council next month.

She also highlighted an upcoming pedestrian plaza in downtown Gourmet Alley, which is currently under construction, as a place to enjoy the burgeoning downtown businesses.

Despite the hope that coming developments might draw more to the city, she acknowledged the loss of one of the city’s greatest draws, the Gilroy Garlic festival, and the traumatic circumstances that surrounded it — 17 people were shot and three were killed at a mass shooting.

“Moving forward from the 2019 tragedy has been a painful process,” said Blankley, referencing the deep trauma of the community, especially those who lost loved ones. Though the Garlic Festival Association continues to host smaller events, the festival is unlikely to return in its previous form until several lawsuits that followed the shooting are resolved, she said, noting that the largest of the lawsuits had been dismissed last year.

Moving forward, Blankley addressed homelessness in the city – which has the second largest homeless population in Santa Clara County after San Jose – highlighting the work of the police officers dedicated to unhoused populations and a coming 75-unit affordable housing complex in helping alleviate those issues.

Even as housing supply grows, many jobs remain north of Gilroy, said Blankley, meaning that better transport will be essential to the growing city. She celebrated the expansion of bus and train service to the city and previewed road improvements, while admitting that far more is needed. “These are important wins for Gilroy,” she said. “Even though it seems that we’re inching forward, it’s progress. We’re moving in the right direction.”

Several who attended the address at Gilroy City Hall seemed pleased with its optimistic tone. “It was a very, very positive speech. She gave us a lot of good information,” said resident Ron Kirkisch. “We have some issues, but overall we’re looking good… I think our city’s in pretty good hands.”

Some, however, disagreed with the depiction of the issues facing Gilroy, arguing that the speech omitted context around issues of housing and homelessness. “I found that there were a lot of half-truths,” said resident Maria Aguilar.

Blankley acknowledged the disagreements within her city in her speech, but stressed the importance of unity. “Here in our own community of Gilroy, we are family — and not that family doesn’t get angry with each other and want to fight too,” said Blankley. “But if we can just recognize the good and the worth that is in each of us … then I think we can bring that down. We have lots more to do, but we’ve also accomplished a lot together.”

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