Earthquake Preps: Gilroy Suing Owners For Failing to Retrofit Buildings

Drive through downtown Gilroy, and you’ll notice empty storefronts on both sides of the street. Walk up to those buildings, and you’ll begin to understand why.

Ten buildings have signs posted "Earthquake Warning" on their front doors. Some are boarded up. Others are completely empty. The city has deemed them unsafe and in need of earthquake retrofitting. Until that happens the stores must remain empty.

It’s been a problem in Gilroy since city leaders started requiring unreinforced masonry buildings to be retrofitted in 1989.

"I was here 1991 [to] 1997...then I came back to find the same problems that existed 22 years ago," Mayor Don Gage said.

The city has now filed criminal complaints against two of the ten property owners, who Gage claims have been unresponsive and unwilling to retrofit their properties.

One of those properties is the historic creamery on Railroad Street whose owner didn’t want to comment for our story.

The second property is the Water Store on Monterey Road. One of the owners says she plans to sell the property soon.

However, simply selling these buildings to new owners is difficult. City officials say financing is nearly impossible when buying a building deemed "unsafe." Another factor, Gage says, hurting business growth.

"We sunk over $10 million into downtown putting trees in and flags up and other things...the problem is there are buildings down there that are unoccupied and boarded up," Gage said.

City leaders are guiding other building owners through the retrofitting process. Some of those people are hitting roadblocks. William Singh says he can’t retrofit his building because his neighbor won’t agree to renovate the wall they both share.

"So since 2006, I haven't been able to rent it out, get a lease on it, so it's just been vacant," Singh said.

The mayor hopes to have all the buildings bustling instead of buckling by next year. The city has threatened fines to those who don't comply.

Some longtime Gilroy residents say while they appreciate the historical value of the unreinforced masonry buildings, they’d also like downtown to thrive again.

"We have all these great things to offer but unfortunately downtown Gilroy has just really fallen apart," Corey Young said.

Contact Us