Who are members of Morgan Hill Responsible Growth Coalition (MHRGC)?
We are a grass roots team of individuals who support responsible growth in Morgan Hill. We are your neighbors. We had very humble beginnings as residents who shared a common objective on Nextdoor.com to challenge City of Morgan Hill on their builder-centered decisions for land use in our city. Keep in mind we all work for the coalition as volunteers and have no paid positions within our organization.
How did MHRGC start?
It all started with a post on NextDoor.com alerting residents about the planned Morgan Hill Technology Park, which appeared more like a distribution center. This post had several hundred comments and along the way, many of those commenters began to communicate with one another. In a short time, a number of these residents decided to form a coalition to fight the development of the distribution center and ensure that Morgan Hill grows responsibly today and for years to come.
How will my donations be used?
- Community outreach and support extended through our website (which has a monthly hosting fee), flyers, signs, and other media. In the future, we might find it necessary to host informational booths at public events that require a participation fee such as The Taste of Morgan Hill. We continue to keep costs to a minimum by using free social media tools whenever possible.
How will MHRGC disclose how donations are spent?
Supporters can request a quarterly statement of expenditures.
How much money are you trying to raise?
We haven't yet determined the exact amount we need to cover legal fees. Research is currently in progress.
How could we be against a development called a Technology Park?
However, If you look at the plans submitted by the builder, you see that the proposed development includes single story 55-foot buildings with 192 truck bays and 303 trailer spaces. These are not the attributes of a typical tech campus, but the exact attributes of modern distribution centers. Depending on the tenant, this could also become a fulfillment center. A company that does research and/or development that is part of your typical technology park in Silicon Valley would not have any reason to occupy a single story building that is 55' high. It would be wasted space.
The city and developer say they are doing an EIR and voluntarily modeled a 'worst case' scenario for environmental impacts. Won't the 'worst case' EIR protect us and make sure whatever is built will be much better than what is modeled for the EIR?
Trammel Crow is requesting changes to both the General Plan and Zoning Code that would allow them to build a 1.1 million sq foot distribution center. Unfortunately, the EIR is not going to stop a Mega Distribution Center from being built. Past examples in Morgan Hill, and current observations with this project, show that our city allows biased and misleading inputs to be used, which almost guarantees giving the project a green light to proceed.
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of projects. While CEQA has many complex parts, the core requirement is an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) which the developer has paid $300,000 to do. A draft EIR is expected to be released for public review and comment in Fall 2019. To appease citizens’ concerns about a Mega Distribution Center, the city claims the EIR has been designed with a 'worst case' analysis of the development.
An analogy of 'worst case' might be helpful here. Suppose an entrepreneur wanted to build a new 7-Eleven on an empty parcel. They would also have to go through an EIR or equivalent process. ‘Worst case' would analyze how much traffic and related environmental impacts, like pollution, the project would create assuming a large Target store, for example, rather than a 7-Eleven that is being proposed. The city could then legitimately claim "look, the EIR showed no real problems even though we modeled a Target store. So of course, the 7-Eleven should be approved". And the citizens could indeed take comfort in knowing that it is unlikely that a 7-Eleven will ever create as much traffic as a Target store, no matter how popular they become.
But, don’t fall for the ‘worst-case’ story. Just like 'Technology Park' wasn't the real story, neither is the supposed 'worst-case' EIR. Only the city, the developer and the paid consultants have inputs into how the EIR gets defined. And based on the shocking amount of deceit exhibited on the very recent Shoe Palace project, which was exposed by experts in how EIRs are done, and the ‘scoping’ documents (i.e. preliminary ‘worst case’ definitions) available for this project, the supposed ‘worst case’ scenario isn’t a Target store or a 7-Eleven but more like a hot-dog stand. Of course, the city and developer need favorable results. The report is guaranteed to ‘prove’ that traffic generated by the project won’t cause any problem. But when the EIR model is really for a hot-dog stand and the 7-Eleven is what the developer really wants to build, the resulting traffic could easily be ten times higher than the supposed ‘worst case’.
While MHRGC will do everything possible to expose this sham of an EIR to the public and to force the city to reconsider the true environmental impacts of a 1.1 million sq foot distribution center, we do know that the EIR is paid for by the developer, overseen by the City and written by consultants who typically depend heavily on the developer and the city for future business. For that reason, we have little faith that our legitimate concerns will be raised in the EIR, no matter how many people try to raise objections to these biased results. The City wants you to believe the 'worst case' EIR will protect you. It won't .
Don't property owners have the right to develop their land how they wish?
We believe in the law stating that property ownership comes with many rights. These include the right to sell the property, to build on the property, to lease the property, to control access to the property, subdivide the property, grant easements on the property and to mine or farm the property. Property rights are protected by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
However, as early as 1926, Federal and State courts have recognized that an individual’s use of property can have a negative impact on the health, safety, and welfare of the whole community. And as in many areas of law, the rights of the individual have to bend for the good of the community. Zoning (and related) laws and regulations have been recognized by the courts as a proper means of ensuring land is developed in a manner that protects the rights of all members of a community. No property owner has a right to build anything they want to build and no property owner has any fundamental right to General Plan or Zoning Amendments which should only be approved when they provide significant public benefit to the overall community.
Who decides if the project will be approved? And when will that take place?
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of a project. While CEQA has many complex parts, the core requirement is the Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The developer paid $300,000 for the city to complete this process and the draft EIR is expected to be released for public review and comment sometime later this year. We are trying to do everything possible to make sure the true environmental impacts of a 1.1 million sq foot distribution center are considered. However, the reality is that the EIR is paid for by the developer, overseen by the city, and written by consultants who typically rely heavily on the developer and city for future business. Therefore, we don’t have much confidence that the EIR process is going to address our legitimate concerns regarding this project.
At the city level, the approval process is called a Planned Development (PD). Most cities have a PD process to allow projects to be approved that would not otherwise be allowed under their base zoning regulations. With this project, the developer wants to build a distribution center. This type of development is not permitted at all on the commercial-zoned part of the property and only allowed with special permission on the industrial-zoned part. In addition, the developer specified 55-foot-high rooflines, not allowed on either the commercial or the industrial parts of the property. In addition, the developer has specified 55-foot-high rooflines, not allowed on either the industrial or the commercial-zoned parts of the property. In exchange for waiving certain restrictions, the PD process defines mandatory procedures to provide oversight and restraint to protect the community and to prevent the PD process from being misused. Unfortunately, we see signs that the city is disregarding those mandatory procedures. There should have been a mandatory preliminary review of the developer’s plans by the Morgan Hill Planning Commission long before now. This is required by code. The preliminary review forces the builder to reveal a Master Plan for the project. The Master Plan gives many more details than we have seen so far. It is unclear to us why the city has allowed the developer to delay meeting this mandatory requirement.
What is a Technology Park?
If this land was used for a REAL Technology Park, does Morgan Hill actually have the infrastructure to support larger high tech firms?
Regarding infrastructure for internet/network, there is no correlation to the limited cable and internet services we have available as consumers in this city. New companies coming to Morgan Hill, just like existing companies here, will ensure they have adequate connectivity to satisfy the requirements of their business regardless of whether it is R&D, manufacturing, or data center. Working with an internet service provider and connectivity provider is part of the construction process.
If you want to stop the developer from building on this property, don't you need to find a law or regulation that is being violated or not met?
The right of initiative and referendum is embedded in the California Constitution as a result of the nationwide progressive political reform movement that began at the end of the 19th century. As a result of its constitutional foundation, the rights of initiative and referendum are closely guarded by the courts. Over time, CA courts have generally concluded that citizen voters are co-equal with locally adopted legislative bodies when acting upon legislative matters, including the field of legislative actions involving land use matters. [William Abbott, Sept 2018]. City Council could, of course, decide to vote against approving Trammell Crow’s request without finding a "law/regulation that is being violated". Voters can use the initiative or referendum process to put a Zoning Amendment before the voters of Morgan Hill and this right has no dependency on finding that some law or regulation is being violated.