Published in the November 29 – December 12, 2017 issue of Gilroy Life
San Martin residents live in an exceptional rural community. We have the pleasure of being surrounded by nature at its finest. We enjoy the beautiful wineries, working farms, cherry orchards and the best weather California has to offer. We live close to excellent restaurants, shops, beaches and the city life.
We now have the San Martin Chamber of Commerce dedicated to building San Martin as the “Jewel of the South Bay” not only for the business community but also the residential community. The San Martin Neighborhood Alliance has been in existence for more than 20 years. This organization’s volunteers work hard to protect the rural lifestyle by keeping residents informed about projects, events and other updates.
We realize we cannot halt growth in our area. However, we need to manage the growth by protecting San Martin from being burdened with projects that can be hazardous to the rural lifestyle.
What I see happening around us makes me think of the Dr. Seuss story “The Lorax.” Consider the passage in the book: “But now,” says the Once-ler, “now that you’re here, the word of the Lorax seems perfectly clear. Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues.” Long before “going green” was mainstream, Dr. Seuss’s Lorax spoke for the trees and warned of the dangers of disrespecting the environment.
Proposed projects in San Martin are discussed individually, not cumulatively. That means there could be four projects on the same corner, but viewed independently by the Santa Clara Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. So instead of looking how traffic, environment, sewage, water, affects the surrounding neighbors for all four projects, it is one at a time. In San Martin we are still on wells. We are unique in that alone and should not be standing by and idly watching building going on without a firm plan in place.
Remember the perchlorate fiasco. Once the water is polluted, who is going to help us in the cleanup? Are you thinking about “The Lorax”? I do every time I go to a Santa Clara County planning meeting or Morgan Hill City Council meeting to hear about proposed projects in San Martin. It isn’t who is requesting a permit, but the size, scale, and intensity of some projects.
Just last winter the old sewer pipes going from Morgan Hill to the Gilroy sewage treatment plant burst. The pipes were at capacity. With no updates the consequence was 200,000 gallons of sewage spilled onto San Martin farmlands and homes near the Harding Avenue area. Few San Martin residents knew about the spillage until it was made aware in the local press.
To stop the “The Lorax” effect, San Martin residents need to be involved when projects come forth and are assured there is an infrastructure in place before building. Doing so will ensure that our wells are not compromised, the environment is protected, the traffic does not impede our safety and structures do not take over the rural life of San Martin.
I know we want what is best for our town. However, it takes a lot of people to discuss issues with elected officials. They need to hear from us. Our representative is Santa Clara County Supervisor Mike Wasserman. He has assisted SMNA with many issues and events. I urge you to attend SMPAC (San Martin Planning Advisory Committee), SMNA meetings and Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors meetings, and sign up for updates at www.sanmartinneighborhood.org. We need to stand up, say enough is enough and work together to make a difference for us and for generations to come.
Sharon Luna is the director of the San Martin Neighborhood Alliance.
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