Newsletter - Edition 3
February 8, 2003
all, it was
just a dog.....
|Miguelito Bridge Improvements?||Hoofing
Alum Rock Park
Click on a thumbnail to view the larger photo
Also, in January we started updating the Letters to the Editor and the Community Bulletin Board as new material comes in so you won't have to wait a whole month to read the new letters and announcements.
And, in this edition, you will find answers to many questions from our readers (see below).
Miguelito Bridge Improvements Span Several Years by Meaghan Clawsie
Zoroastrian Temple on Crothers Road by Abaan Abu-Shumays
Filling the Vase by Anne Dunham
East Hills Land Ownership in Colonial Times by Edward Allegretti
East Hills Parks For Hikers and Runners by Brad Clawsie
Perhaps the driver of the red car was late for an appointment that late January day. Or, perhaps, the driver was fleeing an angry argument. Or, perhaps, this driver always drives with reckless abandon, raceway style, through the tight curves of East Alta Vista.
Perhaps the lady and her little girl were just alighting from their car near their friend's house adjacent to Park Way. Perhaps they were going to show the friend their new beagle puppy. Perhaps they didn't sense the red car's approach until they heard the piercing squeal of tires as the car took the bend on two wheels.
Perhaps if the lady and her little girl and their puppy hadn't scattered in the face of the screeching red car, the driver would be facing manslaughter charges. Perhaps the driver doesn't know that the puppy was run over. The driver did not stop.
Dead: One tiny beagle, age three months. Devastated: One little girl. Angry and Shaken: One young mother. Lucky: One impulsive, self-centered driver. After all it was just a dog.
See more on East Highlands speeding problems and the cross and teddy bear shrine in the FAQ section later in this newsletter. Click here to see the "shrine."
A home on Alta Vista Way in the East Highlands was broken into one day last week. It's not yet clear if anything of value was stolen, but a window was forced and the family's belongings were definitely rifled. The thieves may have been surprised and left precipitously. TAKE PRECAUTIONS: Make sure your house appears occupied at all times; install an alarm system; get a dog with a big voice; don't leave "tempting" items in view through your windows. Make it easy for your neighbor to keep an eye on your property (admittedly not easy to achieve here on our slopes, but worth a try). Be a "Nosey Parker" - watch what goes on around you! If you see anything suspicious, call 911.
Most of us hill-dwellers who drive up and down Alum Rock Avenue know that the Miguelito Bridge was recently renovated, and that a new pedestrian walkway was added to the site. What you may not know is that these improvements have been in the works in some form or another since 1997, and that what looked to be a fairly rudimentary construction project was actually the result of more than five years' worth of impassioned community meetings and behind-the-scenes civic wrangling.
As reported in last month's NNV, the decision to renovate the Miguelito Bridge was initially introduced when it was determined several years ago that the bridge's damaged railings did not meet CalTrans' existent safety standards, which mandate minimum safety thresholds.
Way back then, before engineers from the Santa Clara County Roads & Airports Department began the renovations, they decided to hold a meeting with local residents first to formally announce the project and solicit suggestions and feedback. At the time, no one expected that this meeting would lead to so many others, and ultimately spark a series of debates over issues as seemingly diverse as pedestrian safety, historic preservation, and wildlife protection.
But that's exactly what transpired, and when all was said and done, the ostensibly simple process of renovating the Miguelito Bridge turned out to be much more complicated and involved than anyone ever anticipated.
So what happened?
For starters, several residents at the community meeting expressed concerns over the width of the Miguelito Bridge, and asked officials if in addition to replacing the bridge's inadequate railings, they could also add some extra walking space to it to make it safer for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Meanwhile, other neighbors in attendance, although they agreed that the bridge was too narrow, voiced opposition to having the existing bridge widened on the grounds that it would encourage faster traffic and increased reckless driving (since there was already a problem with speeding in the area).
Yet another group of citizens was also against widening the vehicular bridge, but for entirely different reasons. These ecologically-minded residents worried that widening the bridge might necessitate cutting down some of the old, beautiful trees that bordered it, and weren't sure that the risks to the environment were worth it.
After hearing everyone's concerns, county officials acknowledged that despite the fact that there were disagreements over how best to solve the problem, there was indeed community consensus that the bridge was hazardously narrow. They decided to put the project temporarily on hold while they looked into the matter and researched some of their available options. A few of the alternatives they considered included widening the existing bridge, adding tall fence next to the bridge's railings, and building a completely separate pedestrian walkway.
Ultimately, because of the community's traffic and ecological concerns, and because it made the most safety sense, county officials and engineers decided that the best way to solve the bridge's width issue was to build an entirely separate pedestrian bridge next to the existing Miguelito Bridge.
This decision was easier made than carried out, however, because there was one main problem: while the costs of the repairs to the Miguelito Bridge's railings were being covered primarily by the federal Highway Bridge Rehabilitation Replacement (HBRR) Fund, those monies would not be made available for the new pedestrian walkway.
That meant that even though the decision to expand the initial scope of the bridge project was good news to concerned residents, it also meant that the entire bridge project would be indefinitely delayed while the county figured out how to raise the additional funds necessary.
In the end, County Supervisor Pete McHugh made funding this project one of his priorities. He knew how important it was to the community to completely rehabilitate the bridge, so he dedicated as many available resources to it as he could.
Once McHugh appropriated the additional money to pay for the pedestrian walkway, another series of neighborhood meetings were held to discuss specific aspects of the new bridge, such as which side of the street it should be built on, and what color it should be. Altogether, there were about 7 bridge-related meetings held with community members between 1997 and late 2002. While many of these meetings were open to all interested citizens, others were smaller in nature, and involved engineers talking informally with a core group of about 8 people who were nominated by the Alum Rock Neighborhood Coalition to provide input on behalf of the rest of the community.
After most local residents were given a chance to discuss and approve of the county's plans, there were still other hurdles that had to be overcome before the project could break ground. One of these obstacles involved getting the required authorizations from state agencies such as CalTrans and the California Fish & Game Commission in order to clear the surrounding space (and potentially disrupt nearby trees and wildlife) necessary to erect the new walkway.
In due time, all of the necessary permits were granted from these agencies, and a professional arborist was consulted who approved of all proposed tree cutting.
The coast was not entirely clear, however. Another development late in the history of the Miguelito Bridge renovation process involved the bridge's original orange railings, and the interest taken in them by the Historical Heritage Commission (HHC), a group responsible for protecting and preserving historic resources in Santa Clara County. The HHC, upon learning that many of the bridge's original 1920 railings would be removed and discarded during the rehabilitation, wanted to have the railings declared historic, and reused in another capacity.
After meetings between the county's engineers and members of the HHC were held to discuss the issue, and after many months passed in which various options for dealing with the railings were discussed, the engineers ultimately agreed to keep several of the historic railings around, and to feature them permanently at the entrance of the new pedestrian walkway.
Once these kinks were worked out, and once members of the community, the historical commission, and the various state agencies were satisfied, official plans were finally made to begin construction on the new pedestrian walkway in May, 2002, and on the existing vehicular bridge in November, 2002.
After many years, and many meetings, the new pedestrian walkway was completed and opened to foot and bicycle traffic at the end of October, 2002. The Miguelito Bridge renovations were completed (and the stoplights turned off) in February, 2003.
For those of you wondering about some of the ongoing issues that were raised during the planning phases of this project, here are a few recent updates:
A total of 2 big trees and 5 small trees were cut down during the various phases of this project. For each tree that was removed, approximately 3 to 5 new trees of differing varieties have been selected by arborists and will be planted nearby in its replacement. (This is in excess of the requirements set forth by the state Fish and Game Commission). Some of these plantings, which include Coast Live Oaks and Coyote Bush that come from native soil, have already taken place, while the rest will be planted in the coming weeks.
Regarding the bridge's historic original railings, they were recently cleaned, sandblasted, and repainted before being added adjacent to the entrance of the new pedestrian walkway. A plaque that describes their significance will soon be mounted at the site.
While these actions satisfy most of the objectives set forth by the HHC, there continues to be some controversy within the community and the HHC surrounding the aesthetic qualities of the repainted and relocated railings. Namely, some are wondering why the color of the railings doesn't match the rust color of the rest of the pedestrian walkway, and of the main bridge. They also don't know why the railings have been positioned off to the side of the pedestrian walkway, as opposed to being an actual part of it.
There is also some ongoing debate surrounding the ways in which certain bridge-related decisions were made, and whether or not enough community input was solicited beforehand. While county engineers maintain that restricting some of the meetings to a core group of interested citizens made the decision process more consistent, other residents feel that they should have been invited to each and every meeting, and that they should have had a chance to make their feelings known at every stage of the process.
It's clear that in many ways, although the bridge project is complete, there may never be a resolution to some of these issues. Regardless, it will soon be time to commemorate the completion of this long, often-complicated project, and to officially celebrate the grand opening of the Miguelito Bridge and its attendant pedestrian walkway. To that end, a bridge dedication/ribbon cutting ceremony will be held at 11:00 AM on March 3, 2003 at the project's site. Mr. Pete McHugh, County Supervisor from District 3, will perform the ribbon cutting, which is open to the public.
Next time you drive over the Miguelito Bridge to go down Alum Rock Avenue, or next time you stroll or bike across the new pedestrian walkway, you can do so knowing some of the history behind these recent renovations. For those of you interested in even more history of the bridge, including how and why it was built back in 1920, stay tuned: an article that describes the bridge's beginnings is forthcoming in this publication.
Click here to see the pedestrian bridge railings.
READERS: How do you feel about the orange-painted bridge railings? Would you prefer that they be repainted brown to match the other railings? Please let us know ASAP. E-mail JudyET@NNVESJ.org or call (408) 272-7008. The County has promised to act on the community's preference. Click here for related Letters to the Editor.
A recent article in the San Jose Mercury News mentioned that civic projects such as the Alum Rock Library Branch could be held up because Mayor Gonzales was going to tell City administrators to delay new libraries, parks and police and fire stations.
However, in its article on the Mayor's State of the City speech (February 6, 2003, Page 1B), the paper reported that the mayor said that he would "'strategically' expedite construction of new parks, libraries and police and fire stations to create construction jobs and boost the local economy." Our community will need District Five Councilmember Nora Campos to go to bat for the Alum Rock Branch Library so it will get that "strategic" go-ahead treatment. To let her know you are counting on her active support, e-mail her at District5@ci.sj.ca.us or see her other contact information on our Contacts page. Be sure to let her know just how important this project is to the Eastside.
There is no plan to delay the building of the new San Jose City Hall.
Note: No meetings are scheduled yet for Library Branch Planning.
Bay Area Barns and Trails Trust, the organization which is interested in preserving the Alum Rock Stables property, asked for - and received - assurance of a "letter of support" from the San Jose Parks and Recreation Commission at their meeting on January 22nd. The nonprofit group's general mission is to save equestrian lands and other open space from being lost to posterity. Specifically, it hopes to make Alum Rock Stables its first acquisition and to preserve the land in perpetuity with a conservation easement which would assure that it would be available for equestrian use forever.
BABTT's Barbara Weitz of Mill Valley outlined the project for the commission. Several other equestrians presented the case for preventing our neighborhood's last remaining barn from meeting the fate of many other Bay Area barns which have been torn down to make way for housing.
The 2+ acre stables land has been zoned for four homes and could be lost to the neighborhood as recreational space. BABTT hopes to buy the property from its owner, Don Hamilton, who is cooperating with the group as they work with City, County and Park staff to determine the feasibility of the purchase and to understand the geotechnical situation of this parcel which sits near the landslide that cuts across Alum Rock Avenue at Alum Rock Park's entry road. The group will need to invest in a technical study which will take about a year to complete.
Barbara Weitz explained that her organization is in the beginning phases of doing the public outreach necessary to gather support for the stables' preservation. Community meetings will be held in order to hear and address the concerns of the neighborhood. If the stables are rejuvenated, they will house a much smaller number of horses than in the past and be a better neighbor. The upper floor of the barn and the small house on the property would accommodate a small museum and meeting space for various groups.
Bay Area Barns' major tenets are based on land preservation with the least negative impact. They promise gentle use of the land and subscribe to the "leave no trace" philosophy of land stewardship.
Click here to see a late 1930s photo of equestrians in Alum Rock Park. Click here to learn more about BABTT. Let us know what you think about BABTT's plan for the stables - e-mail JudyET@NNVESJ.org or call (408) 272-7008.
New Neighborhood Voice is pleased to introduce our Founding Sponsors. We appreciate their donations and support. NNV will accept a few more Founding Sponsors, as well as advertisements for each issue. Please e-mail JudyET@NNVESJ.org or call (408) 272-7008 if you are interested. We hope you will support our sponsors and advertisers to help keep e-mail and fax subscriptions free.
Lifestyle Properties, Call Ellen Rauh at (408) 929-1925, www.lifestyleprop.com
Caskey Country Club Properties, Call Larry and Barbara Caskey at (408) 926-5400
E.M.S. LLC, Environmental
Management Systems, (408) 501-4200
Windermere Silicon Valley
Properties, (408) 251-5860
As this newsletter was getting off the ground last fall, a small bunch of neighbors responded to the invitation to donate some time and talent to help make a go of a new neighborhood voice. Among them was Dan Gentile, who offered to take photos for our fledgling effort or to lend some from his archives. Dan has been Danny-on-the-spot every time there has been a need for a specific photo to illustrate NNV stories. There are now five of Dan's photos on our Web site. Have you seen them all? (Hint - one is linked from this edition, two are linked from the January edition and two new ones are on the Letters page).
Since Villablanca's Foto-Video got a mention in the FAQs (frequently asked questions) this month, NNV decided that Dan's photography business, DG Productions, should have a mention as well.
Dan, too, will shoot weddings, but his real passion is photographing auto races and Concours Auto shows. He says he has switched from print film to digital photography and is a graduate of advanced Photoshop digital software. He specializes in composite pictures of events and people and is equipped to do photo restoration.
In May he will offer 360 Video which is used in the real estate industry to preview homes on the web. It can also be used to show other interiors such as in hotels and public places or a city's points of interest.
Dan lives in our neighborhood and has done photography for the past 23 years. He can be reached at (408) 251-1131.
An unobtrusive sign leaning against a wall at the corner of Mt. Hamilton Road and Alum Rock Avenue guides members of the Zoroastrian community to their temple on Crothers Road. Non-Zoroastrians are often curious about this little-known religion and its followers. Hopefully this article will prove to be enlightening to those who may be interested.
Recently KQED aired a documentary by BBC called "The Mystery of the Three Kings." This show alludes to the fact that the Biblical Three Wise Men, who followed the star of Bethlehem to the little manger where Jesus Christ was born, were Zoroastrians.
Zoroastrian or Zarathushti religion is considered to be the first monotheistic religion predating Christianity. Prophet Zoroaster or Zarathushtra lived approximately 3500 BC in ancient Persia. He proclaimed Ahura Mazda, the God of Light and wisdom, to be the one creator to be worshipped. The main tenets of the faith are "good thoughts, good words and good deeds." Following the path of Asha (Truth) is the key element. Reverence of Nature in all forms; sun, moon, water, earth, trees, etc. is promoted. Freedom of choice and responsibility for one's own actions are emphasized. Respect for all life including the animal kingdom is encouraged. Prophet Zoroaster preached equality of men and women almost 6000 years ago. Hard work and amassing of wealth is encouraged but so are charity and philanthropy. These are just a few simple guidelines, which every Zoroastrian strives to incorporate in his or her life.
The temple on Crothers Road is a joint institution of Persian Zoroastrian Organization (PZO) and Zoroastrian Association of Northern California (ZANC). The temple property was purchased from Comfort and David Olsson in 1985. Arbab and Morvarid Guiv, Iranian (modern name of ancient Persia) philanthropists, who were responsible for several Zoroastrian temples all over the world, also made the temple on Crothers Road a reality for the Zoroastrian community in the Bay Area.
The PZO community primarily represents Zoroastrians who migrated from Iran and other parts of the world, while the ZANC membership consists of Parsi Zoroastrians from India and all around the world. While both groups are followers of Prophet Zoroaster and have adopted the U.S. as their new country with English as their language, PZO members still communicate in Farsi while ZANC members use Gujarati as their mother tongue. Yet the Zoroastrian prayers are in ancient Avesta language and are taught to a Zoroastrian child at the tender age of 7 or 9 when he or she is indoctrinated into the faith. This ceremony is called Navajote.
In the 13th century, with the fall of the last Persian Zoroastrian Emperor Yazdegard, Zoroastrians migrated to India. When the Indian King Jadirana refused refuge to the newcomers in his kingdom, the Zoroastrian priest requested a big pot of milk to be fetched. He slowly emptied a sack of sugar into the pot without spilling a drop of milk, demonstrating that his people would blend smoothly into the existing Indian community in a similar fashion. The King was impressed and welcomed the refugees on conditions that they will not bear arms, will not proselytize their religion, will don the clothing which was prevalent in his kingdom and speak the language of their new home. To this day Parsis (people from the land of Pars in ancient Persia) follow these rules. Conversion is not allowed in Zoroastrianism. Parsis speak Gujarati and they have excelled in all areas of modern living. Their Indian brethren consider them to be one of the most peaceful communities in India.
Parsis in India have been leaders in politics, industry, medicine, science and art. A few of the well-known names, which have been woven into the rich tapestry of this miniscule community are Zubin Mehta, the world-acclaimed conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra; the late Dr. Homi Bhabha, the first chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission; the grand old man of India Dadabhoy Naoroji; the industrialists Tatas and Wadias of Bombay and the founder of Air India, J.R.D.Tata, the grandson of the original Tata, founder of the Tata Iron & Steel Works.
I would like to end this article with a daily prayer from my brother who was the chief priest of the temple on Crothers Road. He passed away on June 13, 2002.
Daily Prayer of Thanksgiving (Compliments of Ervad Jimmy Makujina, San Jose, CA)
I thank You, O Ahura Mazda, the almighty God, for your love, which flows to me every moment of each day to enrich and beautify my life.
Thank You for the growing consciousness of your Fravashi within me and its constant prompting and guidance. I bow to You in thanksgiving for the blessings You have bestowed upon me. I pray that I may not take these blessings for granted and I remain worthy of them, to further Your cause and purpose in life. I thank You O Ahura Mazda! for my home and the comforts it affords, for food to eat, for clothes to wear, for the love of kith and kin, and for the joy and company of friends.
Lord, I also thank You for the beauties of Your creations around me: the sun, the moon and the stars, the hills, mountains and the valleys, the sea and the sky, the sunshine and the rain, the trees and the birds, and for all the opportunities that come my way, day after day.
O Ahura Mazda, the bountiful giver, I shall always be ready to appreciate and be satisfied with Your gifts and be happy to give as much as to receive.
Help me O Lord to realize the joy in giving.
Click here to see the Zoroastrian Temple on Crothers Road.
The rains finally stopped just before New Year's. The time had come for me to search my mountain for the perfect candidate to fill The Vase. It came as a Christmas gift from my stepdaughter who was inspired by our garden renovation last summer. Flowers and vegetables had grown fat, sprawled and climbed beyond my wildest imagination. But garden flowers to fill a grand vase were lacking at this time of year. Toyon, which also calls my mountain its home, seemed to be the perfect answer.
My search for it taught me a thing or two about toyon. Every day I had passed through tunnels of it on my journeys up and down the winding road to the world below. It was at the peak of its glory. Bright red berries seemed to be dangling everywhere. And that was the problem. Toyon seems to have an affinity for growing to magnificent heights on slopes that define the word perpendicular. Armed with pruning shears, I cruised the mountain looking for some gorgeous, accessible toyon to judiciously prune. Gorgeous they were; accessible they were not.
My search was confined to the roadside where, in the spring, road crews cut back the brush that tries to reclaim the pavement that was once its own. I don't stray past it into territory that belongs only to the mountain.
I climbed the road to the top of the ridge, my prize still eluding me. I couldn't remember much toyon up there, but maybe I just hadn't been paying attention. There were indeed toyon, but I hadn't noticed them because on the wind swept ridge (gale swept this year) the toyon looked like Cinderella in ashes. Their leaves were tattered, their berries were sparse, and the whole attitude of each shrub told you survival, not beauty, took precedence.
Finally, by our mailbox, I came across one that had been guarded on the windward side by coyote brush and elderberry. A few low branches were dotted with berries, some red and some still green. My dream of an armful of foliage studded with brilliant berries merged into the reality of a single picturesque branch lying on the car seat beside me. I took it home to meet its vase.
The introduction of shaggy toyon and sensuously elegant vase became a match made in heaven. This exquisite couple needed an appropriate home.
I considered the mantle, but the diminutive size of our living room made me look elsewhere. What would be suitable? It became clear; the shelf with the window at the back of the sink was perfect. This had been home for last year's beautiful gift platter, sometimes loaded with fresh produce from the garden. But the platter would be elegant standing on edge at the back of a freshly painted kitchen shelf while it waited for next year's harvest.
About 4 o'clock that afternoon the rays of the setting sun through the window caught the curve of the vase. On New Year's Eve a dinner with friends in this room that serves as both kitchen and dining room, bathed the pair in the window with the soft glow of candlelight. I am sure they will look elegant by the light of the lantern hanging above the sink the next time the lights go out--which they will.
The vase has found its place.
Click here to see the vase.
Note: Anne Dunham is the Executive Director of the Youth Science Institute, which has facilities in Alum Rock Park, Vasona Park and Sanborn Park. She has been a teacher of creative writing and was one of the most appreciated writers for EAST - The Neighborhood Voice. NNV
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To run your ad in New Neighborhood Voice, E-mail JudyET@NNVESJ.org or call (408) 272-7008.
Long before our houses were built in the East Foothills and preceding even the orchards that were planted here, the land in our neighborhood belonged to the pueblo of San Jose or to large rancheros (ranchers). Of course, these were the times when the Spanish and later Mexican officials and people controlled California.
El Pueblo de San Jose was established as the first Spanish civic settlement in current day California on November 29, 1777. The purpose of this settlement was to secure California for Spain and to help Christianize the local Indians. The Spanish government claimed ownership of the land surrounding San Jose. Although small plots were granted to some citizens, occasionally a large tract of ranch land would be granted to former soldiers. Of course, the many missions held huge amounts of land where they cultivated orchards, gardens and livestock. The land around San Jose that was retained by the government was known as Pueblo Tracts.
Most of the Pueblo Tracts remained in the ownership of the government during the Spanish rule from 1777 to 1822. After 1822, Alta California, as our state was then known, was forced to become part of the newly formed Mexican Republic that had won its independence from Spain. After Mexican rule, many of the missions' lands and pueblo lands were given to private citizens. Those who had served the government well as a soldier or official, or who had close relations with the governors who had the authority to grant this property, were given large ranchos generally ranging from about 2,000 to over 50,000 acres. The need and desire to develop this much under-utilized property and to help the economy were the main reasons for establishing these ranches.
The East Hills actually contain parts of two very large ranchos while other sections were always kept as pueblo lands (or tracts) during Mexico's reign over California. Most of the area from about Suncrest to Quimby and roughly from Mt. Hamilton Road to the top of Crothers Road remained pueblo lands. If you have copies of your deeds they probably list this. Below Mt. Hamilton Road, approximately the area of the San Jose Country Club (yet extending much further into other parts of East San Jose since the rancho was 4,454 acres), was the Rancho Pala.
The Rancho Pala was granted to Jose Higuera by Governor Castro in 1835. It actually covered the area from about Penitencia Creek to Norwood Avenue and from about Capitol Avenue to the top of the country club. Jose Higuera, aside from being a large ranchero, was regidor (councilman) and alcalde (mayor) of San Jose, and also a local judge. By 1866 Jose Higuera no longer owned this rancho. It was patented (officially recognized by the U.S. government) to Charles White in 1866. Of course, White Road is named after this individual.
The second great rancho in the East Hills was the Rancho Canada de Pala. This rancho of 15,714 acres was granted by Governor Alvarado to Jose Jesus Bernal in 1839. It covers most of the area around Mt. Hamilton Road. The family's houses were located in Hall's Valley, near the current Grant Ranch house. Over the years much of the rancho was sold off, including portions to Joseph Grant. Yet, until recent times, members of the family retained ownership of parts of the original grant, including my Grandfather Eddie Bernal (my Grandmother Bernal, by the way, was a grand-niece of Judge Jose Higuera).
"Santa Clara County Ranchos" Arbuckle, 1968
"History of California" Bancroft, 1886
"Ranchos of California" Cowan, 1972
"Spanish-Mexican Families of Early California" Northrop, 1987
Note: Click here to see a map and photos related to this article and click here for a related story covering a later period in the development of one of our neighborhoods.
The Bay Area is blessed with a fantastic amount of public open space, with some of the best parks located right here in the East Hills. Since moving to the area, I have been making regular excursions to two local parks, Alum Rock Park and Joseph Grant Ranch, to pursue my hobby of trail running. Those who normally walk or run on paved surfaces should be mindful of the unique gear that hikers and runners employ for better performance on trails. Trail runners often wear shoes with thicker soles, stiffer support, and hardened toe caps to protect against rocks and debris. Many runners also carry snug, contour hugging water pouches adapted to running. Most major manufacturers of running equipment now market trail running gear as the sport has become more popular.
Alum Rock Park
General Information: California's oldest municipal park is also the City of San Jose's largest regional park. The park and adjacent open space consist of nearly one thousand acres of hilly terrain surrounding a deep canyon nestled into the park's furthest edge. Much of the lower trail segments are forested, while the higher trail segments cover rough and hilly grasslands typical of the higher elevations of the east hills. Most local residents can likely walk into the park for free at either the Penitencia Creek entrance or the (closed to vehicles) Alum Rock Avenue entrance. Vehicles are charged $5 at the Penitencia Creek entrance. The park is open from 8:00 AM to one-half hour after sunset and there is no overnight camping. There are washroom facilities in the park and water fountains. Bikes are allowed on some trails as are horses. You can expect to see numerous deer in the park. While signs warn visitors of mountain lions, sightings are very rare.
Suggested Routes: Experienced runners and hikers will likely consider Alum Rock Park too small to provide a serious challenge, although a decent ten mile excursion can be traversed by hiking all of the major trails in one circuit. The steep grades of most of the trails make up for the moderate distance. The best route is to cover first the South Rim Trail, joining it from one of the smaller trails that feed into it from the Alum Rock Avenue park entrance. Upon completion of this trail you will find yourself at the foot of the path the leads back towards the parking lot and the center of the park, providing a suitable exit if you are tired. If you wish to continue, take the North Rim Trail to its peak where you can join the stunning Boccardo Trail. This new section of trail, opened this year, offers hikers and runners a serious one and a half mile climb up to the top of the highest peak overlooking the park. After taking in the view, you can get back down using the same route back to the North Rim Trail which will take you to the parking area. The entire ten mile route I have described will take a runner approximately two hours. Hikers should estimate for twice that time.
Alum Rock Park:
Boccardo Trail (Open Space Authority): http://www.openspaceauthority.org/boccardo.html
Click here to read a related letter from Alum Rock Park Facility Supervisor Mike Will.
In a future edition, Brad writes about running in vast Joseph D. Grant County Park.
Q. Where can I find the Mail Theft and Neighborhood Watch information on the Sheriff's Web site?
A. It's actually there now (after a lot more prodding and pushing by NNV than should have been necessary). Here's the easiest way to access it:
Identity Theft: http://www.sccgov.org/channel/0,4770,chid%3D335571%26sid%3D12655,00.html
Neighborhood Watch: http://www.sccgov.org/channel/0,4770,chid%3D335579%26sid%3D12655,00.html
If you'd like to organize Neighborhood Watch for your area, call (408) 808-4575 for more information.
Q. What has happened to the house that was so badly damaged by the January 1998 landslide near the entrance to Alum Rock Park? Where has the young couple who lived there gone?
A. The charming, rustic style house stands forlorn waiting for a transfiguration and eventually a new family. Its utilities are all disconnected; for the time being it is deemed uninhabitable. The house's middle was essentially pulled apart by the movement of the earth beneath it. Its beautiful bones are intact, but it needs to be creatively stabilized or possibly moved to another part of its double lot.
The young Goode family patiently stayed with the house, patching and mending the ever-widening cracks in the floors and leveling and releveling the doors and doorframes until December of 2000 when their first little boy was turning one year old and their second was about to be born. The struggle had grown to be too much so they sold the property "as is" although, oddly enough, for more than they asked since many potential buyers were interested in this very special property. They moved far away from the landslide nightmare to the Sacramento area where they bought a house in a neighborhood of other young families.
A letter dated 1-7-03 from the County's Environmental Resources Agency and mailed to property owners in the area stated that a grading project on the property was scheduled for final action by the County's Land Development Coordinator on 1-24-03. The project information description says: "Building Site Approval and Grading Permit for single-family residence and on site driveways." Sounds like there may be activity on the property very soon - or perhaps not so soon - as the new property owner works his way through the permit process.
Q. Why is that newly painted yellow house at 4363 Alum Rock Avenue allowed to have all those business signs on it all of a sudden? Isn't there some zoning law that applies to this situation?
A. Turns out that this new business, Villablanca Foto-Video, has established itself in a house which is in unincorporated Santa Clara County where the rules about signage and zoning are not as strict as in the City of San Jose. NNV stopped by late in January to discover the nature of the business. The proprietor, Hector Villablanca, welcomed the inquiry and pointed out many examples of his specialties - wedding and "sweet sixteen" photography (and videography). He also does everyday stuff like passport photos. Hector pointed to a collection of documents on the wall which indicate that the business has cleared all the zoning hurdles. He moved his business from Santa Clara Street, near the 101, and he now lives on the premises.
Q. Why must the Albertsons and Pak 'n Save (Safeway) stores at Capitol and McKee be of a lower standard in regard to cleanliness than stores in other communities? Complaints have been made to them directly to no avail. How do other residents feel about their food shopping choices (in this area)?
A. Readers? E-mail us at JudyET@NNVESJ.org.
Q. What is the huge building being built behind La Esperanza Market on Alum Rock west of White Road? The one that filled the horizon and necessitated the large crane last summer.
A. Those are the new Rose Senior Housing apartments which feature affordable housing for people 55 and over. There are sixty-six units and the $500 to $860 monthly rent will be determined by income. Eligibility is based on annual incomes between $12,000 and $38,000. The same parameters apply at Gadberry Court, the interesting multi-storied mega-building being built across the street from the Shell station on Alum Rock Avenue near the 680. It has fifty-five units and is nearly ready for occupancy.
Q. Didn't NNV say in its December issue that there would be a January article by Captain Joe Carrillo, the Wildlands Urban Interface officer of the San Jose Fire Department? Did we miss it?
A. Nope, you didn't miss it. Turns out that Captain Carrillo's vast capabilities have been noted by the department and he has been rewarded with a second hat to wear! Actually, those miserable budget cuts have caused Joe to have to stretch himself to cover not only his original duties, but he has also been assigned to be the department's Public Information Officer (PIO). Joe is a great guy (and fireman) and he is really interested in protecting our neighborhood from fire, but his writing time is going to be quite limited.
Q. Whatever became of the people whose house burned down in the Alum Rock fire two (?) years ago? I don't see any rebuilding over that way.
A. NNV doesn't know the disposition of the family which lived there, but a quick drive-by late in January showed that a nice-looking home is being built on that burned-out corner of Dorel and Otto Drives. It's nearly to the point of being ready for a roof. Not wood shakes, NNV assumes. That wind-driven fire occurred in October 2000. To read more about this fire, see Reflections on the October 2000 Fire Near Alum Rock Park by Meaghan Clawsie in the December 2002 edition of NNV.
Q. What happened on East Alta Vista where there is a cross and teddy bear? I hope it wasn't fatal. (Click here to see "the shrine.")
A. See the beginning of this issue. Reckless, hell-for-leather driving has been a problem along the narrow streets of the East Highlands ever since the lower portion of Crothers Road was closed because of the 1998 landslide. (Before Crothers was closed, the yahoos drove the same stupid way on its sloping curves, but at least there are no houses on that stretch.)
Ralph Purdy who lives at the juncture of East Alta Vista and Park Way is one of the neighbors who installs home-made signs to try to slow the traffic. These have been destroyed or painted over by the scofflaws who also slop their paint onto the road when they halt their impetuous down-hill slaloms long enough to thumb their noses.
Ralph says that his neighborhood is unsafe for walkers and he hates, even, to go up his driveway to the road. Helga Hanczek who lives nearby says she doesn't dare try to walk in her neighborhood because of the dangerous traffic so she walks on the Highland Drive loop instead. The lane-and-a-half-wide portion of Miradero Road which connects the open portion of Crothers Road to East Alta Vista is navigated gingerly at best by mature drivers. Even there, in that heart-in-the-mouth driving situation, the speeders from above the East Highlands come barreling through. NNV thinks it's time for another traffic flow evaluation by the County Roads people.
Q. Wow! What hit Bill's Pony Ranch?
A. Now you see it - now you don't! "Bill's Pony ……. Ranch" as its erratically spaced sign used to say, has been moved to that great cowpony convention in the sky. During the week of January 27th a bulldozer blitzkrieg leveled the houses, outbuildings and huge old trees on all sides of Good Ole Bill's, denuding one of the few remaining rural pockets on Alum Rock Avenue. Only the windows of one of the old houses have been salvaged - everything else is kindling and shards being trucked away to the landfill. The demolition was so fast and so complete that it left the neighborhood breathless. Needless to say, there will be houses (about 18) built there. The children at the Jordan Preschool next door enjoyed watching all the big machines, but they've lost the little slice of old San Jose which was just across their fence.
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Copyright© 2003 by Judy Thompson, 16174 Highland Drive, San Jose, CA 95127
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Copyright© 2003, 2004 by Judy Thompson. All rights reserved. Updated 7/18/04.