Published in the August 9 – August 22, 2017 issue of Gilroy Life

By Trina Hineser

Trina Hineser

San Martin residents filed into the Lions Club building July 20 for a town hall meeting held by the San Martin Neighborhood Alliance to receive an update regarding the California High-Speed Rail project. They heard from officials with Santa Clara County and the California High-Speed Rail Authority about the potential impact the multi-billion dollar project will have on their South Valley community.

Rob Eastwood, Santa Clara County’s planning manager, presented the county’s HSR findings. SMNA board member Victor Loesche summarized this portion of the meeting with these words: “… Rob was well prepared and did a good job of presenting the impacts to our community. The county appears to have a grasp on the impacts HSR will have on those of us who live in San Martin … and the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors is also aware of the impacts and they are now waiting for a report from the Housing, Land Use, Environment and Transportation (HLUET) board before they proceed further.”

The county’s presentation was helpful and it was good to hear the county’s view that HSR will create a severe impact on San Martin. Presently, each of the proposed routes will absolutely impact this rural community. Now the question is: Which route will have more of an impact? And which routes were eliminated that should still be on the table? With the HSR routes identified and the county’s findings presented to HLUET, the county is now in a holding pattern waiting to hear back from HSR as to why a particular route was eliminated and to provide the cost analysis that shows HSR’s claims that the route eliminated is unfeasible.

The High Speed Rail Authority representatives included Ben Tripousis, the Northern California regional director, Gary Kennerley and James Tung. They failed to focus their presentation on San Martin. The SMNA felt their involvement was the same propaganda we’ve heard and a real waste of our resident’s time. HSR dragged out their presentation and really didn’t answer the questions posed by the community.

Loesche said it best: “All I can say is they were a disappointment. HSR had received questions from the citizens of San Martin well in advance of the meeting and, despite this, came completely unprepared. The answers given to the community were vague and did not attempt to address any of our issues. The HSR representatives continued to lump San Martin into the Morgan Hill and Gilroy corridors even though we asked them to be specific about the 3.5 miles covering our community. The shocker of the night was the new map showing a potential re-routing of San Martin Avenue which would impact many homes and business. I never once felt HSR had any of our interests or concerns in mind and they unfortunately are going to do what they feel is in their best interest. The only good news they had was that the decisions needed to move forward were being postponed until spring of next year.”

HSR’s lack of focus and transparency only adds to the frustration of this project and resulted in only infuriated the public, many of who walked out.

San Martin resident and business owner Jeff Martin made the observation: “The High Speed Rail Authority … had an answer for every question. And as a careful observer I know some of those questions don’t yet have answers because at least the environmental studies have just started. And certainly the budget is just a wild guess. As a member of the public I hate being played by bureaucrats pretending to have all the answers when it’s just not possible to know things that aren’t yet known. San Martin may be rural, but not stupid. With all the money spent on studying the impacts, couldn’t we pay a survey company to mark some of the impacts on important existing road crossings? Constituents and fellow council members/supervisors need something more than a fuzzy high altitude photo from HSR to realize the impact. How else can you express an informed decision?”

At the July 20 SMNA meeting, we acknowledged the community service work of several men who have made a significant difference in San Martin.

SMNA Vice President Art Reidel presented a certificate of acknowledgment to Marc Rauser for 17 years, and Robert Cerruti and Drake Fenn for 19 years each for extended and dedicated service as board members to the San Martin Planning Advisory Committee. County Supervisor Mike Wasserman formally echoed the honorable service these gentlemen have given to San Martin.

Trina Hineser is the president of the San Martin Neighborhood Alliance board of directors. She wrote this column for Gilroy Life.