Join us WEDNESDAY MARCH 3rd at 7:00PM to urge City Council to adopt the Responsible Growth for Morgan Hill (RG4MH) Initiative; Webinar links for the Virtual City Council meeting are listed below.
Time is running out! Critical decisions are being made to turn our family-friendly city into a highly-industrialized distribution hub for Santa Clara Valley. Two major projects got approved and another one is pending; in total, 1.4 million sq ft of tilt-up concrete buildings designed to optimize distribution and logistics, with 185+ dock doors for semi-trucks. These hubs are suited for cities with adequate buffer space between industrial and residential zones, not for Morgan Hill with its poorly-planned patchwork of residential, commercial, and industrial parcels intermingled throughout the city.
How could this happen? Simply stated, Morgan Hill zoning code is behind the times for eCommerce and did nothing to protect our interests when large land developers came in with projects disguised as “technology” solutions. City leaders were awestruck at the idea of Morgan Hill becoming a competitor for Silicon Valley jobs and failed to see what was happening behind the shiny marketing pitch. Developers are snatching up value-priced Morgan Hill parcels to jump on the bandwagon of the eCommerce boom.
What does it really mean for Morgan Hill? It means a lot of massive windowless concrete buildings, ever-increasing traffic and pollution, along with night-time noise and damaged roadways from 24/7 truck activity. If “last-mile delivery” parcel stations are added, count on thousands of extra delivery trucks, not just around town but going to and from the freeway. What you can’t count on are fiscal benefits to improve our city’s budget crisis or even sustainable jobs for our community because these are highly-automated facilities. Furthermore, we don’t need nearby fulfillment centers to get fast online deliveries. We will all benefit from expanding distribution hubs in South San Jose and East San Jose.
But there is GOOD NEWS too! We have a chance to change the direction our city is headed. Morgan Hill Responsible Growth Coalition (MHRGC) is confident that our Responsible Growth for Morgan Hill Initiative (RG4MH) can help get our city out of this mess.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, fires, and unsafe air quality, MHRGC and 60+ community volunteers collected more than 3,500 signatures on our Initiative Petition. Last week we were notified that we exceeded the required number of verified signatures and the RG4MHI is now QUALIFIED. And on March 3, the City Council will be asked to (1) Accept the Registrar of Voters verification of signatures, and (2) Decide whether to:
Adopt the Initiative, or
Request staff to prepare a report within 30-days that could look at the fiscal impact or just about anything the council requests be in the report , or
Call for the Initiative to be decided by voters in a future election
WE NEED YOUR HELP! Please join us to make sure our message is heard loud and clear.
1. Connect to the webinar meeting using one of the following methods:
By linking to Zoom meeting on computer, tablet or phone at: https://bit.ly/MHCityCouncilMeeting
By calling 669-900-9128, then entering meeting id: 873 3200 8380# No Zoom password is needed.
2. When the meeting is opened to public comments, “raise your hand” by clicking the virtual hand at the bottom of your Zoom screen. The City Clerk will let you know when it is your turn to speak. Depending on total number of speakers, allotted time for each speaker ranges from 1-3 minutes. We anticipate a large crowd which means we might only get one minute per speaker.
Talking Points - Ideas for sharing comments with City Council
Try to comment about something unique, using the following ideas as a starting point for your own personal thoughts and experiences. Keep in mind you might only have one minute to speak, depending on the total number of speakers attending.
City Council, I urge you to adopt the Responsible Growth for Morgan Hill Initiative to prevent the construction of more distribution centers…
Detrimental impacts of distribution centers on the environment and the health of the surrounding community are well documented. Let’s protect the safety of our residents and the environment from the air and noise pollution that would result.
They won't help our budget crisis and they won't generate sustainable jobs. Morgan Hill is better suited for other types of developments that would generate revenues for our General Fund, needed to recover from the impact of Covid-19 and other long term expenses. Industries like advanced manufacturing or research and development are known to provide significantly higher fiscal benefit to our city.
Morgan Hill is not Fremont, Newark or Tracy, nor does it have the wide open land and roadways to accommodate these logistical operations. Morgan Hill is an attractive lifestyle community built in a very narrow valley with only one major highway and 3 interchanges. City streets are becoming dangerous for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists. Let’s not cause massive traffic problems with even more big rig trucks and delivery trucks on our roadways.
Type of distribution center doesn’t matter. Last Mile Distribution is not what it sounds like. It usually means delivery to consumers in the “last” 30-45 mile radius. Just look at what happened to a small town like ours in Milford, MA that welcomed a “last mile” parcel center.
City Council, the Responsible Growth for Morgan Hill Initiative is the right answer for Morgan Hill. If you don't adopt this initiative...
What guarantees do you have that Trammell Crow and Shoe Palace owners don’t quickly seal the deal with all eCommerce/logistics companies anxious to get a foothold in this prime bay area location?
How will you ensure there is sufficient industrial land available for legacy companies like Paramit to expand? Allowing distribution centers in Morgan Hill will crowd out investment from industries that residents and City Council are seeking such as life sciences and advanced manufacturing.
FAQS - What has been happening over the past few months?
Q1: Most people were shocked to see the huge Shoe Palace distribution center suddenly appear on 101 last year. What other distribution center project was approved?
In December of 2020, during the height of the holiday season and the pandemic, the Planning Commission approved Trammell Crow’s Butterfield Technology Park consisting of 410,000 square feet of potential distribution space in 5 buildings with 32 foot high ceilings and 51 dock doors. The approval for this project was based on it being “consistent with the development projections analyzed in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project site” – which was completed over 40 years ago!
These buildings are clearly optimized for modern distribution and warehouse uses but Trammell Crow claims only 32% of the overall building area would be used for those purposes. The Planning Commission had to ‘find’ that the use would not be primarily warehouse & distribution to grant the requested permit.
One commissioner voted to approve the project if TC would consider adding more fake windows, but then later while discussing the Titan Gymnastics permit, said that it was unfortunate that there wasn’t many choices and lamented that the new developments are “just warehouse buildings not built with anything that would support and other kind of use”. Residents can only conclude that the city will look for ways to approve any industrial project and that, without modifications to the zoning code, more developments optimized to attract distribution uses will likely be allowed.
Q2: Recently Trammell Crow applied for another large project on Highway 101 at Cochrane Road. What are they proposing to build now?
The Redwood Tech Park proposal would give us another 501,314 square feet in 5 buildings containing 70 dock doors. They claim the buildings are designed for flexible industrial and commercial uses, including advanced manufacturing, warehouse, offices and similar industrial and commercial uses, yet are optimized for distribution centers just like their previous design. This project is half the size of their original project on roughly half the site. The next logical step for TC will be to request a Zoning Amendment to change the zoning on the northern 30 acres to another commercial designation that would permit parking for Last Mile distribution “Fleet Yards” similar to what are used for Amazon.
Q3: That is an incredible amount of distribution space; won’t that impact our city?
Very much so! If the “Redwood/101’ proposal is allowed, we will have more than 1.4 million square feet of distribution space with 185 truck docks generating traffic headed for highway 101. Surprisingly, no comprehensive Environmental Impact Report containing traffic and environmental studies are planned to quantify cumulative increase in traffic congestion and air pollution in Morgan Hill. This certainly does not seem to be responsible oversight on the part of the City.
Q4: Some people are saying that the MHRGC Initiative is too restrictive and will drive existing businesses out of the city and limit attracting new ones. Is that true?
No businesses will be forced to leave Morgan Hill because of the initiative. In the revisions to zoning code, the logic used to determine what types of buildings are prohibited is based on an "AND" operator, not the "OR" operator. ALL three of the following criteria must be met for a development to be prohibited under the initiative:
1. Building greater than 75,000 square feet - AND -
2. Clear ceiling height of 24 feet over more than 25% of the floor area - AND -
3. More than 1 dock-high door per 25,000 square feet (no restrictions on grade level doors) Zoning changes for RG4MHI were modeled after a city in Washington State that was overrun with distribution centers because of eCommerce demand. They wanted to encourage advanced manufacturing and R&D businesses and give them the flexibility to develop property that would meet their needs and allow them to grow. At the same time, zoning changes had to discourage more distribution uses that, from their first-hand experience, were not creating city or public benefit.
If we continue to allow our industrial lands to be consumed with distribution uses, it becomes more difficult to attract other types of companies to Morgan Hill. Once a city devotes much of its vacant industrial land to distribution centers or becomes known as a distribution hub, opportunities to attract advanced manufacturing and R&D companies become severely limited. It also becomes more difficult for existing companies to attract qualified employees because they neither want to work nor live in an industrial community choked with air pollution and heavy traffic. This is a reality that the Chief Financial Officer of Paramit Corporation, one of Morgan Hill’s largest employers, clearly understands and why he is a named proponent of the RG4MH.
The MHRGC Initiative ensures our industrial land is used for advanced manufacturing and R&D businesses that will: (1) create sustainable jobs, (2) generate significant net revenue which, over time will allow the City to recover from the severe budget crisis it faces, and (3) preserve public health and safety and Morgan Hill’s unique character.
Q5: Has MHRGC had any discussions with the City to try to negotiate a workable solution that satisfies everyone?
Yes. At the end of last year and as recently as Jan 21st, meetings were held to attempt to do just that. In those discussions the City made it clear they would not consider strictly limiting trucking activity, a reliable proxy for what the facility is being used, by restricting building characteristics like number of docks, clear height and floor. Instead, the City indicated that because they do agree that other trucking-intensive uses might fall outside the “heavy distribution” definition, they had considered other unspecified methods to limit truck activity and would share their proposal with the MHRGC. So far we have not received any new ideas from them. MHRGC continues to strive to find a workable compromise with the City of Morgan Hill.
Q6: Haven’t City leaders and staff stated they do not support allowing distribution centers in Morgan Hill and passed their own Zoning Amendment to ban distribution centers?
Yes, the City adopted an ordinance in December 2020 as a response to the MHRGC Initiative. It defines what the city calls “heavy distribution” and prohibits facilities which meet that definition, a welcome step in the right direction. However, there is no defined means in the ordinance to measure, monitor or enforce whether a facility’s ‘primary use’ is for storage and distribution of eCommerce products or not, leaving a gaping loophole for developers to easily step through.
Even worse, city leaders seem to believe that the myriad of other types of distribution that have proliferated, such as ‘last-mile’ which the City has decided to call ‘Parcel Hubs’ are not really about distribution at all (which they absolutely are) and thus only ‘heavy distribution’ should be banned. This is unsatisfactory to MHRGC and everyone who signed the Initiative.
Q7: Since there seems to be a big push for e-commerce distribution in Morgan Hill, there must be some compelling fiscal benefit or significant job growth impact to the City?
Surprisingly not. Experts/consultants that the City relies on have concluded that last-mile delivery has “no meaningful fiscal benefit to the city’s general fund”, creates a low number of jobs and generates a great amount of traffic. The experience of other cities confirms this. City leaders have apparently come to accept that distribution facilities, whether they’re large or small are built for automation not people. The realization that there are few jobs is beginning to resonate at City Hall, as evidenced by Mayor Constantine’s comment: “we’re not talking about lots of jobs” in a recent workshop on e-commerce. Then why are we talking about this at all?
Q8: But if we say NO to distribution facilities, does it affect our ability to get fast online deliveries?
Absolutely not! We already have an Amazon last-mile distribution facility in East San Jose that sends out delivery trucks to Morgan Hill every day. Our community will also benefit from new distribution hubs in South San Jose. We don’t need to use our prime job-generating land for these highly industrial facilities.
Also watch this video to learn how one small city was impacted when they allowed Amazon to build a distribution center in their own community. Many unexpected surprises!