New Neighborhood Voice

Newsletter - Edition 10 - Section 1

October 5, 2003

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Click on a thumbnail to view larger photos
Lots more
are in
Section 2

U.S. Rep. Pombo
Strengthens Hand for Six-Lane Highway

Defensible Space
Too Late for This Year?

Judge Brian Walsh

Hillcresters Fandango Invitation A.J. and Charlene
Laymon's Hillcrest Home

Pool House With
Guests in Foreground

Flamenco! The Final Scene
Eager PACT Members
Wait for a Tour of the New
Alum Rock Youth Center
SJ CM Nora Campos & JLHS Prin. Bernardo Olmos Pact Leader
Lily Tenes with Dolores Montenegro,
SJ Redevelopment Agency
How Did This Kid
Get in Here Again?

Newsletter Headlines

Pombo Strengthens His Hand for Six-Lane Highway through Alum Rock
Isn't It Too Late to Worry About Fire Season This Year?
Should BART Skip Alum Rock and Berryessa for Now? by Alan Craig
On the Side of Angels: A Profile of Judge Brian Walsh by Meaghan Clawsie
Fandango Delightfully Takes Guests Back in Time and Off to Spain
An 1878 Trip to the Summit of Mount Hamilton from Marcella Sherman
Recollections of Old Alum Rock Park by Ed Allegretti
Curious Corvids or Those Darn Jays by Dorothy "D.J." Johnson, YSI
NNV Briefs
"Black Spots," Garbage and Litter at Alum Rock and White by Tanya Freudenberger
YSI 18th Annual Wildlife Festival in Alum Rock Park
Library or Coffee House? Art for New Alum Rock Branch Library Presented
Become a "Friend" of the New Alum Rock Branch Library by John A. Ramos
A Boo-tiful (and Fun) Halloween Event for You and Your Kids
East Hills Community Association Elections Cancelled
The New Alum Rock Youth Center; It will be a cool - and safe - place for teens 
Preservation vs. Property Rights in Santa Clara County by Ed Allegretti
Lifestyle Properties - And Ellen Rauh's Lifestyle
You Dig It?
October Hot Topics by UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Bracey Tiede
Attract and Protect Wildlife in Your Garden by Marci Hayden, WCSV
Our Local Supermarkets - Save Mart, Albertsons and Pak'n Save by Connie Allegretti
FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
What progress is being made getting Mark's Hot Dogs up and running?
What response did NNV receive about Mercury News vacation "stops"?
So, NNV didn't receive horror stories regarding crummy U.S. Postal "Service" either, huh?
Is there any way NNV readers can meet NNV writers - or the editorial staff?
How's come the East Highlands "Triangle" sign is still that homely shade of orange?
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That Six-Lane Highway Through Our Neighborhood? Pombo Strengthens His Hand!

Has he ever looked at a map of Alum Rock? Or does he just not care?

An August 16th Q. and A. in Gary Richards' roadshow column in the Mercury News asked for an update on U.S. Representative Richard Pombo's (R.-Stockton) proposal for a "new freeway link over the Mount Hamilton Range." The question was asked by a Central Valley-to-Milpitas commuter and Gary Richard's bland answer has troubled NNV ever since.

Mr. Richards reported that "the Tri-Valley Transportation Committee threw its support behind conducting a study" of the road. The column concluded, "Many motorists love the idea of a 23-mile highway linking Interstate 5 with Interstate 680, but as many hate the thought of pavement over Mount Hamilton." (NNV emphasis.)

As NNV readers can see, paving Mount Hamilton is deemed undesirable, but no mention is made of the destruction of our neighborhood which sits at the terminus of the proposed highway at the intersection of Mount Hamilton Road and Alum Rock Avenue. No mention is made of any resistance by the people who live or have businesses along the Alum Rock Avenue corridor to the 680 freeway. No mention is made that the residents of Miguelito Road and its tributaries might object. There's not a peep about the inhabitants of the East Highlands, Hillcrest or the Ridgeview neighborhood. There's no acknowledgement that people live on Crothers Road or Porter Lane.

Unfortunately, Gary Richards' lean answer is not the only indication of the disregard Mr. Pombo's Project would show for the thousands of people who would face the end of their quality of life. An April 4th editorial in the Pleasanton Weekly says "Pombo's plan is also facing resistance from environmental groups, the Lick Observatory and a small group of ranchers in the otherwise barren Diablo Range where the new roadway would go." Again, our neighborhood is dismissed as if we were off the edge of Mr. Pombo's planners' maps.

The Weekly's editorial went on to crow about Pombo's appointment as chairman of the "powerful House Resources Committee" and continues that he "is also a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He will have a major voice in shaping the federal government's new transportation bill."

For those NNV readers who think we have nothing to worry about because the expense of Pombo's road would make it out of the question, the Weekly's final paragraph may give you pause. "The last Transportation bill, in 1998, cost $218 billion with California's share roughly $20 billion. It might be easier to stuff a few billion dollars into the new bill for the Congressman's freeway than to find funds in our deficit-ridden state budget to add the additional funding needed for the quarter-billion-dollars for HOV lanes on I-580 or the $100 million to $200 million for a four-lane Highway 84 across Pigeon Pass. It's worth a try."

And try they will! Don't let the current economic climate lull you into complacency. In a July 11th Pleasanton Weekly article titled "Transportation committee backs new freeway to San Jose," editor Jeb Bing writes, "Pombo's proposal HR 619, has been referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. It calls for directing Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta to conduct a feasibility study for building the new freeway."

The economy will recover and Pombo's plans will be ready to be put in place and there will be no record that you object! Unless, of course, you do.

NNV Note: We had occasion to take the I-580 east from the 680 and return recently. If you think you want something like that junction in our neighborhood, just drive up and try to get off the 580 West and on to the 680 South during rush hour. Please be very careful when you do it - we don't want to lose any subscribers in this exercise! My knuckles are still so white I can hardly type.

Both Gary Richards and Jeb Bing were offered an opportunity to comment on this article. Neither replied by press time (no, we don't really have a "press," but sometimes we ARE pressed for time). 

Click here to see an illustration of Pombo's Radical Road. Click here to see what it would replace. Click here to read our original story on Pombo's Radical Road.

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Isn't It Too Late to Worry About Fire Season This Year?

Don't know what to do? Or where to start? 

It's never too late to prepare - for this year or next

Last month NNV broached that unpopular topic of "Fire Season" because it's upon us again. We mentioned that there are "do-able" ideas and techniques which ordinary people can do to prepare themselves and their properties to be as fire safe as possible.

Understandably, people often feel overwhelmed by what seem to be draconian and expensive fixes. NNV hopes to share some fairly simple, sometimes downright cheap, alternatives to tearing off your old shake roof or cutting your big beloved trees to the ground.

"Establishing Defensible Space" means planning and maintaining your landscape to reduce the amount of flammable vegetation near your home. Unless we move away, we can't change the fact that we live in a "wildland interface area" here near the foothills and/or Alum Rock Park, but we can make it much harder for a fire to consume our homes. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) "as many as 80% of the homes lost to wildfires in the past could have been saved if the owners had followed a few simple fire-safe practices"!

"Defensible space and a fire safe landscape don't mean a ring of bare dirt around your home," says the CDF "Fire Safe Landscaping" pamphlet. What they do mean is that the area 30 feet out from your home needs to be kept clear of highly flammable materials such as dry grass, leaves and brush. Thirty feet is actually a minimum - if you live on a hill, you should shoot for 150 feet.

If you're planting new trees, plant them on the fringe of your defensible space and space them at least ten feet apart. If you have old trees, be sure they don't have dead limbs and keep them pruned so that branches are at least ten feet from your roof. Eliminate "fire ladders" by limbing up large trees so their lowest branches are more than six feet off the ground. If you have eucalyptus or other highly flammable trees on your property consider removing them or having them pruned and thinned. Click here for a photo of a beautifully shaped and pruned old euk.

If you're planting new bedding plants or shrubbery, choose drought-tolerant, fire-resistant varieties which have high moisture content and do not accumulate flammable debris. If you're stuck with old landscaping which doesn't have these attributes, you can do the next best thing by keeping your plants pruned, thinned, well-irrigated and tidy. The CDF suggests that Myoporum parvifolium "Putah Creek" is a good choice for a no-traffic, evergreen, deer-resistant (!) fire-resistant ground cover and NNV is closely monitoring a large planting of it on the slopes behind the new Lunardi's Market at Evergreen Village. If it continues to look as good as it has all spring and summer, we may replace the NNV ivy (ick!) with this vigorous, foot-tall, vine-y shrub. See the accompanying photo of Myoporum-at-Lunardi's.

Now, back to that old dry roof. If it just happens that you're ready to replace it, be sure to choose fire-retardant materials like composition (which can be much cheaper than alternatives), tile or metal. If you're going to have to keep the old roof a while longer, have it treated with fire retardants regularly. According to SJFD Battalion Chief Joe Carrillo, those retardants should be reapplied at least every five years. In wind-driven fires, flammable roofs provide easy fuel for flying embers to kindle.

So what if you don't know which plants and trees are fire resistant and you don't know where to turn for information. CDF has good, free information pamphlets available and would be more than happy to make sure you and your neighbors are supplied with them. And, what if you can't get out and personally work in your yard because that sort of work is a thing of the past for you? If you have a gardener, ask him to include regular debris-cleanup and maintenance pruning as part of his work. If you don't have a gardener, lure your grown kids home with their favorite old recipe (tamale pie, was it?) and hand them the pruners and the rake. If all else fails, lean on your neighbors a little - after all, fire safety is a mutual concern in a neighborhood; we're all in this together.

Note: Want to read more before you start work? Click here for the brand-new Santa Clara County FireSafe Council Web site and here for the basic CDF and Santa Clara County guidelines - they're the first two items on the list. Representatives from the FireSafe Council, the CDF and the San Jose Fire Department plan to be at the YSI Wildlife Festival in Alum Rock Park on October 12 - come and visit their tables for more information (we've heard that the SJFD is also planning to have their Shark Fire Engine at the Wildlife Festival). Click here for more information on the YSI Wildlife Festival.

In the interest of full disclosure, we should point out that your editor is involved with the Santa Clara County FireSafe Council. Next month, we'll tell you more about the FireSafe Council and some of the things that have happened in Santa Clara County since the Croy Fire last year.

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Should BART Skip Alum Rock and Berryessa for Now?

I went to the meeting; here's my conclusion 

By Alan Craig

I attended the VTA's Public Meeting on the BART Extension held at San Jose High School last week. My interest in the meeting was the result of several articles in the San Jose Mercury News, which indicated two stations on the Eastside would not be built. Being a native San Josean and long time Eastsider, I was incensed. How could they short change the poor Eastside again?

So off I went to do battle and save the train stations at Alum Rock/101 and Berryessa. Before going to the meeting, I even sent an e-mail to San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales complaining about the situation.

The meeting was poorly attended. There were more representatives from special interests (like the Flea Market) media, VTA and BART, than community members. I listened to an excellent presentation by a VTA Representative and studied the charts that were displayed. What I learned was this public meeting was one of several being conducted by the VTA to solicit public comment before a cost reduction proposal for the BART Extension is approved and submitted to the Fed's.

As I understand it, the VTA is responding to a requirement to secure federal funding for the project. All applicants for Federal funding for transit projects have been told to develop a reduced cost proposal to continue being considered for future Federal funding.

Of the several proposals explored by VTA staff, the one being recommended to the Board for adoption does delay the Alum Rock and Berryessa stations. However, considering the key factors, including service, ridership, and cost, I think it is the best choice. The recommended proposal completes the extension all the way to the planned service yard, allows for the connection to San Jose Airport, maximizes ridership and accomplishes a significant cost reduction.

In no way does this proposal eliminate the two Eastside stations from the final BART Extension plan. In fact, I was told the basic infrastructure for both stations would be completed as part of the recommended proposal.

Bottom line, what is going on is simply an exercise forced on local transit authorities by the Fed's to slow down and reduce the Federal funding for all transit works. I suggested the VTA consider foregoing the Federal money, at least in terms of getting this project going, and get started with the money generated by the local tax and from the state. We'll be lucky in the end to get between $400-700M from the Fed's to cover the $3.6B total cost. The Fed's are really delaying the start of this project.

Another factor to be considered in the total picture is Light Rail. We will soon have Light Rail to take us to the Great Mall and that will probably be as practical a way to get on BART as driving down (or riding the bus) to a station near Alum Rock and 101, which will probably have inadequate parking.

Nobody really knows what the outcome of this VTA proposal will be, but I firmly believe this project has to get started now. Costs will only escalate with time and if we experience further delays I will be a very old man when it is done.

Click here for the VTA Web site for this Policy Advisory Board and select Silicon Valley Rapid Transit Corridor Project Information for more on this project.

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New Neighborhood Voice Founding Sponsors

Lifestyle Properties, Call Ellen Rauh at (408) 929-1925,

Caskey Country Club Properties, Call Larry and Barbara Caskey at (408) 926-5400

E.M.S. LLC, Environmental Management Systems, (408) 501-4200
A full service construction & demolition cleanup, hauling and recycling company

Eileen Parks, Windermere Silicon Valley Properties, (408) 251-5860
"When the follow through counts, call Eileen" - or e-mail 

Keith Bush, Artist/Sculptor, (408)-923-6666, 

MBA ARCHITECTS, Marvin Bamburg AIA, (408) 297-0288, 
Residential, commercial, industrial, historic preservation & mixed use projects; 

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On the Side of Angels: A Profile of Judge Brian Walsh

Eastside Notable Neighbor talks law with NNV

By Meaghan Clawsie (

It's bright and early on a balmy morning in mid-August, and already Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Brian Walsh is hard at work in his West Wing Hall of Justice chambers, poring over case files and making preparations for a jam-packed session in which he'll personally oversee around 50 separate criminal arraignments.

From misdemeanor crimes such as petty theft, and public drunkenness, to driving under the influence (DUI) and solicitation of prostitution, one by one each defendant will wait for their case number to be called so they can take their turn at the oak podium and stand before Judge Walsh to enter their plea.

Misdemeanor Direct

Walsh, who was appointed to the bench by Governor Gray Davis in November, 2000, is currently one of six lawyers serving out a Misdemeanor Direct assignment, meaning that all of the cases and trials he oversees are related to criminal misdemeanors. In Santa Clara County, judges rotate their bench assignments every year or two, so next year Walsh will likely move on to another specialty, such as domestic violence, juvenile delinquency, or civil cases.

"Misdemeanor Direct is a little daunting because each of us gets about 500 new cases a month," Walsh says. "We all follow our cases from arraignment until the matter is resolved, and each case has the potential to go to trial."

Fortunately for Walsh and the others, most cases don't go to trial. "The system assumes that many defendants will plead guilty, or that the District Attorney will reduce or dismiss the charges," he adds. "Obviously we can't have trials for all of them."

Although Walsh believes that his workload is challenging, he thinks that the practice of consistently following each case from beginning to end is advantageous to both the court and the defendants. "It's a good system. The court doesn't lose track of the people, and the defendants know that you're going to be there all the way through, so there's some real continuity," he says.

Participating in Misdemeanor Direct means that Walsh alternates trial calendar weeks with arraignment weeks. Since he is currently in the midst of an arraignment week, he spends each morning of the week presiding over several dozen arraignments, and each afternoon Monday through Thursday overseeing pre-trial conferences resulting from arraignments that took place two weeks earlier. (At their arraignments, defendants can either "plead out" by entering a plea of guilty or no contest, or they can choose to plead not guilty and return at a later date for a meeting known as a pre-trial conference to try to settle their case with the District Attorney. Cases that aren't resolved during the pre-trial conference phase go to trial).

Friday afternoons of arraignment weeks are spent doing a motions calendar. This is when lawyers appear before the judge to talk about specific legal issues related to their cases, such as illegal searches performed against their client, or difficulties getting the prosecution to hand over needed files.

During trial calendar weeks, Walsh presides over jury trials resulting from cases that were unable to be resolved earlier in the process. If a trial finishes a day or two early, he spends the rest of the week working on felony matters, such as felony preliminary examinations, bail reductions, or whatever else the equally overworked felony department sends over. If the felony department runs out of things for him to do, Walsh says that he always has lots of other things to work on.

"The job feels like it's never done," he says. "You're sort of dancing as fast as you can the whole time." Not that he's complaining. "But it's good work," he adds, "because you feel like you're on the side of angels the whole time. All I really do all day is be fair."

Hating the Crime, Not the Criminal

The first thing one notices about Judge Walsh is how passionate he is about what he does, and how well he is able to articulate that enthusiasm. One of the reasons why he is such an effective judge is that despite much of the negativity he is faced with, he is able to look past the bad behaviors to see the good in people, even if those people have been arrested for criminal activities such as stealing and sexual battery.

"My attitude is that I hate the crime, but not the criminal," Walsh says. "Most of the people I see are good people, honest people who've made a mistake, who are willing to accept responsibility for their mistakes if you treat them fairly and with dignity."

A Desire to Help Others

From an early age, Walsh has wanted to spend his life in public service. "I always wanted to help people, and being a lawyer seemed to be the best way to take your education and your intellect and do that," he says.

After growing up in the East Foothills area of San Jose, Walsh headed off to college at Notre Dame in Indiana before attending law school at UC-Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As soon as he graduated, he set to work on his life's mission by becoming a lawyer for Legal Aid - an organization that provides low-income citizens with free legal advice and representation - first in Berkeley, and then in Monterey.

A few years later, Walsh got an offer to run the San Jose office of a small San Francisco-based law firm, so he moved back to the area and settled once again in the East Foothills. He stayed with that firm for 25 years, and although he started off doing a little bit of everything, he eventually specialized in employment law, often representing labor unions and individuals who were unfairly separated from their employment.

After many years of practicing law, Walsh says he gradually began to get the itch to become a judge. "Although I always wanted to be a lawyer, I started to realize that while the fight is interesting, you really want to get to the heart of the matter, and you really want to be able to solve the problems. The better place to do that is by being a judge, because that's what judges do all day. Judges don't pick fights, they settle them," he explains.

Applying the Community's Conscience

Besides his fondness for being able to solve disputes, Walsh especially relishes the unique opportunity he has to uphold the community's standards.

"I like the fact that I get up every day, and all day long, all I do is be fair. I also like the fact that, in being fair, it's my job to apply the conscience of the community. I was born and raised in this community, and I think I have a sense of what offends this community, and what doesn't," Walsh says. "When picking my sentencing, I feel good about the fact that I can convey to people what this community is about."

"When people make mistakes, if they accept responsibility and move on, then we accept that. But if they do not take responsibility for their actions, then they need to be punished more heavily. Or if they're doing the kinds of crimes that really offend the sense of what this community is about, then they must be punished more heavily. I think it's important that when I'm here, that I not just process cases, but that I instead take the time to think through them, and make sure that I'm applying what the community wants me to do."

Another aspect of his work that Walsh finds rewarding is interacting with jurors. "I enjoy dealing with jurors a lot, because for many people that's their only exposure to the courts. Even though it's a public courtroom, and anyone can come in any day, most people don't. With jurors, it's a chance to show the community that we serve what it is that we do."

On-the-Job Surprises

While Walsh makes it clear that he loves his job, he admits that there are a few things about it that took him off guard. "In this particular Misdemeanor Direct assignment, I was surprised by how much hard work it is. I'm exhausted by the end of the week, and I didn't expect that."

"I knew that I'd work hard as a judge," he explains, "because I work hard at everything I do, but I didn't realize that with some of these assignments, it is physically draining work. For example, this morning, I have 50 or so arraignments, and this afternoon, I have about 40 cases to go over, all with attorneys."

Walsh isn't kidding. Just sitting in the courtroom watching him at work can be exhausting, especially when each case has its own defendant, its own crime, its own punishment, and its own plea. Despite the fact that in only two and a half years he's presided over roughly 25,000 cases, somehow he remains focused, cordial and positive throughout the stampede of defendants.

"Another thing I'm surprised about is how complex this system is. For instance, this morning I have to get all the defendants together in the right place, and get all the files in the right place. Then when I make an order, all sorts of different agencies have to follow it. The Department of Revenue is involved, the clerk's office is involved, and the Department of Corrections is involved. Everything I do, it affects so many different organizations, and yet by and large it's all done properly."

Walsh attributes the fact that everything runs so smoothly to his hardworking staff. "I came out of the private sector, in private practice, and I've been amazed by the quality of the work of the public employees, and the level of their dedication to their jobs. They all work very, very hard."

Looking Forward

As for the future, Walsh sees himself being a judge for about 20 years, which he says is the typical timeframe. The married father of two also plans to stay in the East Foothills indefinitely. "I like the people there. It's a good group of people who really make an effort to get along. Everyone is conscious of making it a great place to live, so, as a result, it is."

Click here to see a photo of Judge Walsh in his courtroom.

NNV Note: Meaghan Clawsie is a professional freelance writer who lives in our neighborhood. She writes frequently about lifestyle and workplace topics for publications such as Glamour, Cooking Light, and VIA Magazine. Keep an eye on your favorite magazine for her stories!

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Click here for Section 2 of the October 5, 2003 Newsletter

(This newsletter is in two sections to reduce the download time for this page)

--------------------------- Contact and Subscription Information ---------------------------------
Copyrightę 2003 by Judy Thompson, 16174 Highland Drive, San Jose, CA 95127 
Phone: (408) 272-7008, E-mail: Fax: (408) 272-4040 
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Opinions expressed by other writers and contributors are not necessarily shared by NNV.

Copyrightę 2003 by Judy Thompson.  All rights reserved.  Updated 10/3/03.

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