Proposal to build housing on San Jose ranch property sparks controversy
A view of the contentious Hero Ranch property in South San Jose. Google Street View.

The owners of a large horse ranch property in south San Jose want to start building houses on their land—and neighbors are livid.

Hero Ranch owner Angelo Heropoulos asked county supervisors last week to change the land’s open space designation to residential, allowing up to eight homes to be built on the property. The ranch is located at 21670 Shillingsburg Avenue.

But county officials and supervisors aren’t interested in more homes on the ranch’s rural hillsides.

Supervisors approved designating the land as “hillside” property, which would allow the commercial stables to continue and expand. It would not allow any more homes.

The approximately 50-acre property had been used as a commercial horse facility for more than three decades. The county cited Heropoulos in 2019 because he didn’t maintain proper land use permits. Heropoulos, who took over in 2015, was allowed to keep some stables in use because of a “shortage” of horse stables in the region, according to a staff report.

Dividing up the land, building houses and selling them would be lucrative—a neighboring 2-acre parcel recently sold for nearly $1 million—with no buildings on it.

Some horse lovers favored reopening the stables to the public and expanding them. They lamented the loss of Lakeside Stable in 2019, one of the last remaining commercial stables.

Hero Ranch’s equestrian facilities are now closed to the public.

“Horses have always been a part of Santa Clara County living,” said resident Debra Goldeen. “I just care about allowing horses in a rural area, I think they belong there, they’re such an incredibly important part of our human experience for people like me.”

Many neighbors, however, complained that building homes would change the rural character of the property.

“Everyone who lives out here does so for the very reason that it is a quiet, untraveled neighborhood,” wrote resident Amy Barker to supervisors. “Our children walk and bike the roads. We walk our dogs and stroll with babies. Changing the zoning will alter the neighborhood forever.”

Barker said those who want more new horse stables or homes don’t live in the area and won’t have to live with the disruption.

A diagram of parcels surrounding the Hero Ranch property, along with their land use designations. County of Santa Clara.

According to the ranch’s website, the equestrian property has several private stables and four arenas. In January, the county’s planning department identified more unpermitted horse stables under construction.

“The (planning) department is currently working with the owner to address this violation,” a county report says.

Despite the violations, the property owners were pushing for a “rural residential” designation that would allow them to divide up the property and build at least six more houses.

“The owner is willing to enter into a development agreement to ensure this will continue to be a beautiful South County property,” said Melanie Griswold, a representative for the property owners.

County officials reported the area is known for landslide and seismic hazard areas, which makes it dangerous for residential homes.

“I know a lot of people don’t want anything changed,” said Board President Mike Wasserman, who represents the district containing the site of the controversy. “Anything that is going to be built will be built with permits. Everything going forward, if anything comes forward … will come through the county’s permitting process. I want to give that assurance to all the neighbors.”

Contact Madelyn Reese at [email protected] or follow @MadelynGReese on Twitter.

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