New Neighborhood Voice

Newsletter- Edition 6 - Section 2

May 4, 2003

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Click on a thumbnail to view larger photos
Lazy 3 Ranch House
on Mt. Hamilton Road
Gordon House
(moved from McKee
Road, now in Kelley Park)
Halla House
on Mt. Hamilton Road
House on
Alta Vista
Sanatorium on
Crothers Road
St. John Vianney
House on Alum
Rock Avenue
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Demanding "Mt. Hamilton Challenge" Cycling Event Draws Hundreds

One of two April 26 events on "our hill"

Where were all of those cyclists from and where were they going?

By Tim Schacher

We've all seen the many cyclists in the area especially on Mt. Hamilton as well as other local popular hills such as Sierra and Quimby. Most of them are out for an enjoyable ride or are training for some cycling event.

So why were there so many cyclists on Saturday, April 26?

On that day there were two different cycling events going up or down Mt. Hamilton Road at some point during the day.

The first event in the morning was the 34th(!) annual Mt. Hamilton Challenge. This event started in Sunnyvale, came across the valley and up Mt. Hamilton, and down the back through San Antonio Valley to Livermore. Then the cyclists continued to Pleasanton and Sunol and from there up and over Calaveras Road to Milpitas and then back to Sunnyvale for a total of 128 miles and 8,300 feet of climbing. As much hill climbing as going up Mt. Hamilton twice! There probably were as many as 500 cyclists doing the event although some of them didn't do the whole loop. Instead, from the top of Mt. Hamilton, they returned directly back to Sunnyvale for "only" a 70 mile total. The cyclists were spread out from 6:30 AM until 10:30 AM or later going up Mt. Hamilton Road. See the Mt. Hamilton Challenge Web site for more info or if you want to enter the event next year.

The second event on the 26th of April was a lot tougher!

It was the eighth annual Devil Mountain Double Century. What's a Double Century? Try 200+ miles in a day on a bike.

This ride happens to be one of the, if not the, toughest 200+ mile bike rides in California. This event started in San Ramon and began with a climb up Mt. Diablo. After descending Mt. Diablo the cyclists then did a hilly road known as Morgan Territory. The cyclists then continued through Livermore Valley to and over Altamont Pass - the old road - and then re-entered Livermore Valley by way of Patterson Pass Road. Can you say windy? They then got to climb up Mines Road through San Antonio Valley and up the back side of Mt. Hamilton to the top, down the front to a nice rest stop (at my home) on Crothers Road. From there, they got to ride some more hills like Sierra Road, Calaveras Road to Sunol, Niles Canyon to Palomares Canyon, Crow Canyon and then Norris Canyon and back to the finish in San Ramon. The riders started between 5 and 6 AM and came down Mt. Hamilton starting around 3 PM until 8 PM or so. They had traveled 152 miles already by the time they arrived at Crothers Road. When they finished they had ridden about 206 miles with about 20,000 feet of hill climbing! Extremely difficult.

Finishers of this event took anywhere from 11.5 to 24 hours to ride the distance. Who are these crazy people? About 80 to 90 riders, mostly men (and some women) in their mid-30s to 50s. Some riders are as old as in their mid-60s. Very few youngsters in their 20s. Younger people don't seem to have the patience or stamina for such long events. :) Some of these riders are just using this as a training ride for more difficult events such as the Race Across America - 3000 miles in 9 days! Can you drive across the U.S. that fast?

These riders have in the past experienced all weather conditions in this event from extreme heat, cold, rain, wind, and even snow on Mt. Hamilton in 2001. Occasionally though, weather conditions are actually pleasant!

See the Devil Mountain DC Web site for more info or this year's results and if you want to consider entering the event next year.

How hard are these events? Difficult to compare to other different events but consider that a world class athlete can run a marathon in about 2 hours10 minutes. Or a professional level cyclist can race 100 miles in probably 3.5 hours. An Iron Man distance Triathlon takes a pro about 8.5 hours. A world class cyclist could do the Mt. Hamilton Challenge in 5 to 6 hours. Someone like Lance Armstrong could probably complete the Devil Mountain Double Century in 9 hours or so. The amateur riders here (and some almost pro caliber) are giving their all for 7 to 24 hours on these two Mt. Hamilton events.

And to ease the concerns about the cyclists on the roads, these types of cyclists are generally the most "professional" you will encounter on the road. These events are policed by the event organizers as well as the CHP and local law enforcement. Cyclists are sometimes cited, disqualified from the event and pulled from the course, and even prevented from entering future events. And keep in mind that the California Motor Vehicle Code considers bicycles as legal vehicles with all of the rights and responsibilities of motor vehicles.

The law states that cyclists must ride as far to the right of the lane as is "practicable" it doesn't say as close to the right as is "possible". The vehicle code also states conditions in which it is permissible for a cyclist to move into the lane. One of the most important conditions is when a cyclist is riding in a "substandard width lane." What is that? A "substandard width lane" is also defined in the California Vehicle Code as a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to SAFELY travel side by side. Guess who makes the determination as to what is safe?

So let's be safe out there and give all of those on our roads, the runners, walkers, horseback riders, and yes, even the cyclists, a couple of feet when passing them in your cars.

And give them a cheer or a quick beep for attempting such difficult adventures.

They're all just out to enjoy the day.

Tim Schacher - Crothers Road resident, UMCA (Ultra Marathon Cycling Association) member
fastest 200 miles in 11:45
fastest 300 miles in 20:40
SF City Hall to LA City Hall non-stop 405 mi. in about 31 hours

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NNV Briefs

bulletPACT Plans Major "Action" on Cuts to Key Programs and Needs Your Support
bulletHome Tour Enhances Our Neighborhood. Get Involved!
bulletNew Youth Center Needs a Name - Community resource not just for Pala kids!
bulletCyber Cop Alerts for NNV Subscribers?
bulletSlurry with a Fringe on Top?
bulletAlum Rock Avenue Garbage Mess Riles Residents
bulletCounty Helicopter Disburses Lowlifes with "Raid"

PACT Plans Major "Action" and Needs Your Support

People Acting in Community Together will strategize mitigation of budget cuts

On Sunday, June 8, PACT will host a large gathering (a PACT Action) at the American GI Forum, meeting with Federal, State and local representatives to explore ways to lessen the impact of the huge economic deficit and resulting budget cuts.

Because of the State deficit ($34 billion), County deficit ($120 million) and City deficit ($76 million) PACT foresees drastic negative effects such as:

bullet300,000 people could lose Medi-Cal coverage
bulletTeacher layoffs; classroom size increases
bulletPolice, Sheriff and Firefighter layoffs
bulletCutbacks of alcohol and drug rehab programs
bulletClosure of mental health facilities
bulletCutbacks to services for seniors, youth and at risk populations
bulletCurtailment of library hours
bulletReduction in affordable housing projects

PACT has been the catalyst in the creation of many of the programs which are now at risk and is determined that their hard-won accomplishments not be unceremoniously axed in order to balance the budget. They invite your attendance, input and involvement at this large, important meeting.

PACT is a multi-ethnic, interfaith organization which empowers people to create a more just community. They believe that change can happen when the community comes together to improve the quality of life for all people. Close to home, PACT has made dramatic improvements in the quality of life in the Alum Rock corridor, in our neighborhoods and in our schools.

PACT Action: 3:00 PM, Sunday, June 8, 2003, American GI forum, 765 Story Road, San Jose. For more information, call Alum Rock United Methodist Church at 258-7368.

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Home Tour Enhances Our Neighborhood. Get Involved!

As you have read, the Home Tour of 2003 date has been moved to September 27th. This seems to be a much better and less cluttered time of year for florists, decorators, and participants. We are still in need of more homes to feature, which need not be big, but have some interest. We are looking for good architecture, historical interest, or remodels, and particularly need a house with Spanish style architecture, which people love.

This is an important project to keep the Foothill Preschool running, but also a very important one for our local community. We have a well-oiled system for running this project, willing donors, and a loyal following, but I need help from homeowners. We need some volunteers to make this work. It's your community. Let's let the rest of San Jose know how unique we are. Please call Eileen Parks for many more details at 251-5860.

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New Youth Center Needs a Name

Community resource is not just for Pala kids!

We're invited to help name the new youth center which has been carved out of the grounds of Pala Middle School at 149 North White Road. Its temporary signage has implied that it is called the "Pala Youth Center," but, when it opens in October, it will serve students from many schools and its name will need to reflect a larger community.

Councilmember Nora Campos says that a name is needed which "reflects San Jose's rich ethnic and cultural diversity and at the same time recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to our community." NNV believes that the name will need to have some pizzazz in order to resonate with kids, so this is a real challenge. Put your thinking caps on and submit your great idea to District 5, San Jose City Hall, 801 North First Street, San Jose, 95110. You can download the "Nomination Form" provided by Councilmember Compos' office as a pdf file (Front, Back). Nominations need to be at City Hall by Friday, May 23rd.

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Cyber Cop Alerts for NNV Subscribers?

NNV has taken the first steps toward subscribing to "cyber cop" a program by which the San Jose Police Department is going to provide e-mail alerts to neighborhood groups whenever there are significant crimes in their area. According to the Mercury News (4-2-03 p.1B) "messages will be directed by ZIP code or neighborhood and will include the summary of a crime and a description of a suspect and a vehicle." Subscribing groups (NNV in this case) would then pass the alert along.

New Neighborhood Voice has begun receiving information and will make every effort to provide alerts to our subscribers in the event of criminal activity relevant to our area. Reader comments? E-mail

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Slurry with a Fringe on Top?

Alan Jones, County Roads and Fleet Operations manager, says that the East Highlands area will get some overdue road surface improvements this summer. They are planning to do a "cape seal" which is a chip seal with a slurry seal on top. (Not to be confused with anything like a surrey with a fringe on top, of course.)

The work had been scheduled for a couple of years ago but was postponed until after the Highland Drive retaining wall project and work on the water lines were completed. This seems to NNV to be good old horse-before-the-cart (not to be confused with the aforementioned surrey) logic.

It always seems so disheartening when we citizens painfully watch as new pavement is torn up in order to install some pipe or another, when, if the right hand just knew what the left hand was doing, the pipes would have gone in before the new asphalt! Thank you Alan and your County Roads people for spending taxpayers' money so wisely!

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Alum Rock Avenue Garbage Mess Riles Residents

The folks who live on Alum Rock Avenue below Fleming would like to know why they have to put up with garbage on the street practically every day of the week. Collection on the north side of the street takes place on a different day of the week than on the south side of the street. This means that cans and debris are lining one side or the other just about all the time. A subscriber in the 5000 block points out that this is not a very nice introduction to the would-be charms of the Alum Rock Village area as we go down the hill.

Well, this subscriber is certainly correct. "Garbage Day" always has its messy preamble (a bunch of disparate stuff sitting out for collection) and its even untidier aftermath (loose bits of flotsam and jetsam cartwheeling along the street with every wind gust). This is also compounded if greenwaste collection takes place separately from trash collection. Even worse is the problem caused by the intermingling of County and City residential pockets each of which is served by a different waste pickup company. NNV suggests that everyone who dislikes the mess get on the phone to their garbage collection company and whine annoyingly. The results may not come soon, but whoever it was that coined the expression about the squeaky wheel getting the grease probably is enjoying a successful and lucrative career as a lobbyist somewhere. County dwellers who have Green Valley can call (408) 354-2100. City folks can call Recycle Plus at (408) 277-2700.

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County Helicopter Disburses Lowlifes with "Raid"

A subscriber who lives way up on Crothers Road called NNV one day last month to report that Santa Clara County has a super new helicopter which can very effectively deter the rude night visitors who so often would block his driveway. Whilst sitting in their cars, tossing empty beer cans and other detritus onto the road, these inconsiderate lowlifes would ignore the residents' entreaties to take their noise and their garbage elsewhere.

Enter the copter! With super bright lights beaming down on them, the thoughtless miscreants quickly started their ignitions and raced away into the night - like cockroaches in the kitchen when the light switch is flipped on. NNV is not suggesting that there is a similarity between the disrespectful who defile other people's property and cockroaches, but the reader may wish to embellish the mental picture.

Our correspondent was so pleased with the outcome of the copter's first visit that he phoned up County Supervisor Pete McHugh's office and offered his hearty thanks. Chalk up one for the good guys.

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Lick High School's Vanessa Flores Honored

Eastside Kiwanis Club helps sponsor D.C. learning experience

Vanessa Flores, a student at James Lick High School, was honored on Tuesday, April 15th at a luncheon meeting of the Kiwanis Club of East San Jose. A student role model and junior class president, Vanessa was the JLHS representative to the Presidential Classroom Media & Democracy Program in Washington D.C. in March.

The theme of the weeklong program was exploring the work of the federal government and examining the relationship between it and the various media. How public policy is shaped by the media, media ethics and photo ethics were among the topics of the various workshops attended by Vanessa and about 300 of her peers from around the country.

The student representatives met some Washington luminaries (Vanessa was able to meet Senator Barbara Boxer and Representative Zoe Lofgren), visited museums and foreign embassies and explored Capitol Hill. Presidential Classroom is a nonprofit, nonpartisan civic education organization which offers six different programs each year in which students are immersed in various seminars ranging from "Law and Justice in a Democracy" to "National Security in a Democracy."

Vanessa and her mother, Margarita, were guests of East San Jose Kiwanians at one of their lunchtime meetings which are held every Tuesday at the San Jose Job Corps Culinary Institute on East Hills Drive. All meals are prepared and served by students under the tutelage of a professional chef.

Vanessa's focus at Lick is TV and Broadcasting and she hopes to attend either UCLA or USC in the future. The Kiwanis Club of East San Jose helped fund Vanessa's trip expenses as part of their youth outreach. NNV attended the luncheon as guests of Kiwanian Bud LoMonaco Jr.

Click here to see Vanessa and her mom at the Kiwanis Luncheon.

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Old Houses in Our Neighborhoods

Many old houses razed but their memory lingers on

By Ed Allegretti

The historian part of me was sad to see the two old houses and the water tower of Bill's Pony Ranch torn down this past February. For the East Foothills area, it was one of the last ranches with historic buildings. Fortunately, though, we still have the Lazy 3 Ranch on Mt. Hamilton Road.

Certainly the buildings at Bill's Pony Ranch weren't the only old farm houses to be torn down in our area. On the north side of McKee Road, between Capitol and White, behind the two palm trees at the sidewalk there was formerly an interesting old farm house. There were also some old farm houses on White Road near Penitencia and a lovely large one with a tank house on Noble Lane, just off of Piedmont, that were torn down over 30 years ago.

My recollection of the most historic farm house in our area is of the Gordon House that was on McKee Road, next to the Presbyterian Church and where the townhouses are now located. This beautiful old house remained in the ownership of the original family until it was sold and the property developed. I recall as a boy the entry gate and fence that was in front of the place. On one of the posts that stood next to the entry drive was a doorbell button that connected to the house. When walking by on our way home from the Ben Franklin store, we boys always had to ring the doorbell!

This reminds me that we also enjoyed ringing the doorbell at the D'Amico's former house on Alta Vista Way. With its large bushes and location on the curve, it was easy to hide quickly after ringing the bell. Poor Mrs. D'Amico must have grown tired of our obnoxiousness. One day we rang the bell. Maybe she was waiting for us because she quickly answered. She followed us as we ran but we hid in the bushes quickly enough not to be known. Several days after this event, by chance(?), my fellow culprit and I were at my house playing a game at the kitchen table. Our kitchen doorbell rang, my mother answered it and in came Mrs. D'Amico! We then knew she had recognized us and had come to tell my mama about our inconsiderate activities!

At first she directed her conversation to my mama without saying a word about the doorbell ringing. She then turned towards us, we very much were "eying" her, and greeted us politely. My mama said, "Do you know the boys?" Mrs. D'Amico replied, "Oh yes, they visit me often." She continued, "Actually I just came by to say I have baked some cookies and would very much like them to come over for a visit." We were dumbfounded. Of course we followed her to the house, ate some cookies and were given a tour of her husband's many stuffed trophy animals, where nothing was said about our doorbell ringing activities. We never rang her doorbell again nor would we allow any other child to do so!

Not far from the Gordon House on McKee Road was the lovely old house of Warren Holmes. This place, like the Gordon House, is gone. Yet, unlike the Gordon House which was moved to Kelley Park, the Holmes house was demolished. This good looking colonial house surrounded by an orchard grove was located at the curve on McKee Road just before Alum Rock Avenue, where the townhouses on Holmes Drive are now located. Although neither as old nor as historic as the Gordon House it was, in my boyhood opinion, grander. Maybe the beautiful landscaping that surrounded it made the house appear so? As a short cut, we boys often went through this property along the creek to make our way home up the hill. During one such expedition the gardener discovered us sneaking through the place. He stopped us and again we thought we were caught and in trouble. Instead, he kindly chatted with us for a while about his work in the garden. He then politely stated that probably we should not come this way again because we'd "have the devil to pay" if Old Man Holmes ever caught us! I don't recollect ever cutting through his place again. Dom Cortese confirmed to me recently that Mr. Holmes was cantankerous!

It is true that the Gordon and Holmes houses were lovely places. Yet, I think the Halla House, which still stands at 24 Mt. Hamilton Road, to be the "best" house in the East Hills. Yes, this is debatable, but this place has much to recommend it. It was built in the 1920's by the Halla family, who owned the old Halla Coffee Factory in San Jose. The last time I saw the place was about 20 years ago when it was owned by another family, not the Hallas nor the people who are there now. Maybe you've been in this place? With its large and imposing entry hall with the double staircases, beautifully hand made imported Italian tiles, lovely frescos in the dining room, the stained glass window at one of the staircases, and the wonderfully large rooms, it is very posh. I keep hoping that one day it will appear on the open house tour but already I've waited 20 years!

Although not a farm house, my parents' old house at 15815 Alta Vista Way, where I lived when a child, was one of the first to be built in the East Hills. When my parents were remodeling the house and removing the wall between the kitchen and the breakfast nook, newspapers which were serving as insulation were discovered and dated from about 1915. From Alta Vista Way this somewhat Tudor style house appears to be two stories. From the back side, as it is on the hillside, it is three stories and actually is four stories tall if the basement area is considered. When my parents moved into this old house, they thought it strange that such a large place would only have one bathroom. No doubt even one bathroom was very much a luxury in those times. My father added a bathroom on the main floor but I still recall the striking deep purple and black tiling in the main bathroom with its separate bathtub and shower.

Living in such a place had advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage was having to take the clean laundry up from the bottom floor to the top floor! The laundry chute was great but it only worked in the downward direction. One day, when I was about seven, my friend of eight decided he would slide down the chute. Since it went straight down and since it connected the third floor to the first floor, this certainly was adventuresome. Barely, he was able to squeeze in and hang by his arms down the chute. Despite the sheets and clothing that we put below to break his fall, he panicked. After considerable effort and almost falling down, he was able to crawl out. The cats that my brother pushed down the chute, because he thought it funny to hear them clawing the tin walls as they fell down, didn't fare so well. Unfortunately, not only the cats were scarred in that house. My brother was once told to clean the outside of some upper windows by carefully leaning out of the side panels that opened. After some time my mama discovered the open window but no son. As she looked down, she saw him lying motionless on the ground. Being an emotional person, she immediately became distraught and panicked, thinking her son was seriously hurt or even dead. It took some time for her to calm down after he picked himself up - no longer being able to hold his laughter!

Another old house that has frightening recollections for me was the sanatorium that once stood at the top of the hill on Crothers Road, where the Parks' house now is located. This building was originally built as a private home for some Yankee officer who fought in the War Between the States and moved out here for the benefit of the dry weather. Later it became a hospital for folks who had tuberculosis. At this time it was called a sanatorium. My Grandmother Bernal told me how her young brother-in-law was hospitalized and died there in the early 1930's. Some time later it became some sort of asylum for the mentally ill. After it was torn down in the late 1960's the neighborhood boys and I would go up there to look for old stethoscopes and other paraphernalia that was left behind. We never stayed long though because there always seemed to be a couple of the former patients lurking around the grounds! As they approached us in what we imagined to be a not so coherent state, we would run away quickly!

I do hope the Halla House and Lazy 3 Ranch, with their several acres each, are never torn down and developed. I also hope that the lovely old house on Alum Rock Avenue that is now used by the St. John Vianney priests is never torn down. Recently, Bud LoMonaco, Jr. told me this house was once a bordello. This may be true. When young, my Grandmother Bernal knew the family that built it and often rode horses with the only daughter of the man who lived there. She recalled these people had money but no one seemed to know exactly what the father did to earn it; like other locals she heard various tales of not so legal activities!

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May 17th - A major major day in the neighborhood!

Fishing, Ribbon-cutting, Head-spinning carnival rides

The third Saturday of this month is going to be a day you will wish you could clone yourself! You're going to have to choose among several wonderful activities or stretch yourself very thinly and give them all a go.

Early that morning, the State Department of Fish and Game will be hosting "Fishing in the City" for kids at Lake Cunningham. From 8 AM until about 11 AM, East San Jose kids ages 3-12 are invited to come and try their luck catching some of the multitude of fish stocked in the lake the day before by State Fish and Game. All the young fisherpersons will be helped to bait their hooks by trained volunteers and will be given a small tackle box provided by the Kiwanis Club to take home. Just as soon as you get those fish home and in your fridge, you can run on over to……….

The ribbon-cutting ceremony in the James Lick High School parking lot. The handsome improvements to the gateway corner will be finished, the new palms untrussed, the electronic marquee sign functioning and, the local merchants hope, lots of happy neighbors on hand to celebrate. The corner's new look, a project of the San Jose Redevelopment Agency, the Alum Rock Businessmen's Association and the school district, will complement the White Road/Alum Rock Avenue crossroads' recent facelift and the beautiful new library branch which will break ground on the southwest corner in October and be open in 2005. Our little town-square, the entrance to the evolving Alum Rock Village, will be a place of charm and beauty in which we can all take great pride. To celebrate, merchants will be welcoming visitors with giveaways and coupons. Starting around noon, be there on the square - or……………

Hustle on up the street to the Saint John Vianney Festival. The three day event actually will start on Friday, the 16th and will finish up on Sunday, the 18th, so you might be able to enjoy its thrills without missing a moment of fishing or the ribbon-cutting if you plan your weekend carefully. This is Saint John's BIG spring fun event and, starting around 4 PM on Friday, you and your kids can get woozy on the carnival rides, win neat stuff at the game booths, get woozy all over again, take part in the cake walk, eat lots of utterly delicious special-occasion food concoctions at the food booths and enjoy the entertainment.

Whew! NNV predicts that by Monday morning you might very well need some Pepto-Bismol and a rest in a darkened room in order to recover sufficiently by dinner time. Somebody's got to fry up all those Lake Cunningham fish in your fridge, you know.

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Santa Clara County Faces Huge Budget Balancing Challenges 

Comments requested by June 13 to guide voting on budget cuts

By Santa Clara County Supervisor Pete McHugh, District 3

Over the next fourteen months, Santa Clara County faces a major budget balancing challenge that is happening now and will happen again this fall and next spring. 

Right now, the County Executive is developing a recommended budget for the fiscal year starting in July that has to close a projected $155 million deficit. I have posted on my website,, information on the major reduction proposals departments submitted to the County Executive. 

I encourage you to review the proposals and submit to me by June 13 any comments for or against the County implementing specific reductions since the Board will adopt a budget on June 20.

Pete McHugh 

NNV Note: On his budget Web site above, Supervisor McHugh explains that the proposed spending reductions range from 12% cuts for some public health agencies to 14.5% cuts for other departments and the Board of Supervisors.  You can use the links at the bottom of that page to see the proposed cuts and effects for many specific functions.  

For example, on the Sheriff's page, you can see how they plan to "delete 25 Deputy Sheriffs" which "will impact sexual predator enforcement, domestic violence, restorative justice, drug enforcement, high tech crimes, serving warrants, community/school education and patrols in South County, Mt. Hamilton ..." and save another 17 positions by increasing "fees and charges for false alarm calls, applicant fingerprinting, vehicle correction, and booking fees assessed to convicted persons."  As NNV reported in a previous edition, this will affect our area because the deputies will not be available here while they are responding to calls far away on Mt. Hamilton.

Michael Murdter, Director of the County Roads & Airports Department, explained in last month's edition of NNV that maintenance and repair of the Santa Clara County road system is funded primarily through taxes on gasoline paid by motorists at the pump.  The Roads Department page of the budget information notes that the "department receives no funds from the County’s General Fund" and goes on to explain that they propose to cut a total of nine positions to "fund 19 highway and bridge projects on ... Capitol Expressway, McKee Road ..."

Obviously, now is the time to let Supervisor McHugh know how you want him to vote on specific budget proposals.  Just click on this link he provided,, to start your e-mail message.  If you copy us at, we will post as many letters as we can on our Letters to the Editor page.

One final note: While NNV is appalled at the scope of the proposed cuts facing our local and state government, we are encouraged by the way the County is approaching this situation.  They are proposing specific reductions, including a $666,510 reduction to the Board of Supervisors' "salary, benefits, supplies and services" (they're in the 14.5% reduction group), and asking for our input on their plans.  We hope they will implement their budget reductions effectively and maintain the County's high bond ratings (which reduces the interest that has to be paid).  And we hope to see equally responsible plans from the City of San Jose, Governor Davis and our state legislature. 

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"Illusions" at the Presentation High School Fashion Show

Magical event for seniors - and I didn't need a ticket!

By Eastsider Stephanie Stapleton, Class of 2003

Chevrons, waterfalls, clusters, and pick-ups. Not only are these the names of gas stations and natural phenomena, but, as I recently learned, they are also types of modeling formations. In my previous article, I wrote about my anticipation of participating in the 37th annual Presentation High School Fashion Show "Illusions." I modeled in the benefit show on March 28th.

As a graduating senior, I looked forward to the tradition of taking part in this annual event. Little did I know the work I would have to put in and the benefits I would get back. The other models and I spent many Monday nights in the gym walking down makeshift catwalks outlined with electrical tape.

Linda Lance, Sheila Barrett, and Elaine Sobuti taught us how to walk, turn, smile, and pose. Our preparation for the show culminated in a nine hour dress rehearsal that ended at midnight the night before our debut!

The next morning, I arrived at the McEnery Convention Center at 9:00 AM with bags under my eyes and blisters (from the four-inch heels I wore to training) on my toes. After a very heavy make-up application and a lot of hair spray, the rest of the models and I gathered backstage. I slipped into my first outfit (a cute black dress from Club Monaco) and waited for my cue. Backstage buzzed with anxious high-school models ready to go on-stage, doing quick changes, and practicing their segments. The music and lights turned up and the show began. Both the luncheon and dinner shows went by quickly and smoothly.

As the night show ended, the first thing I thought was, "Let's do it again!" The excitement of being on the runway with my friends and family cheering me on was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but more importantly, I had a chance to spend time, relax, and laugh with my classmates before graduation. And, despite getting a speeding ticket on the way to fittings (I was running late) and accidentally tripping during the luncheon show, the fashion show was one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences I have ever had. In short, participating in "Illusions" was a truly (pardon the pun) "magical" experience.

Click here to see Stephanie in the fashion show.  Click here to see the other Eastside participants (use the Back button on your Web Browser to return to this page).

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

bulletWhat happened to the bagpipe music we used to hear in early evening?
bulletWhat plants grow reliably on our hot, dry, windswept west-facing slopes?
bulletCan NNV shed any light on the shoot-out at the McKee Road Save Mart on April 10th?
bulletWhy is Alum Rock Park closed at night?
bulletAny other "hand weavers" here in the neighborhood?

Q. What happened to the bagpipe music we who live in San Jose Country Club area used to hear in early evening?

A. A lot of neighborhood folks miss the unmistakable piping tunes produced by our resident bagpiper and have asked if anyone knows why we don't hear him any more. NNV asked for information about him at YSI in the park recently.

It seems that when he wasn't piping, "Pete the Piper" was a volunteer at the YSI Nature Center - caring in particular for the late, great, barn owl, Casper. Pete often strolled the walks around YSI and the Visitors' Center playing his heart out on his melancholy pipes.

The YSI folks think he moved away to Oregon about a year ago and that he's working or volunteering at an animal rehab place there. And, no doubt, he's filling the air with his nostalgic musical delights. NNV would welcome further information about this special neighbor and his musical gift to the neighborhood.

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Q. What plants grow reliably in the neighborhood on our hot, dry, windswept west-facing slopes?

A. NNV has received several variations of this question and has become aware just how interested folks are in finding fail-proof landscaping for this challenging area. One could even say that people are desperate to get something attractive growing and thriving around here. NNV shares their pain and is soliciting input from knowledgeable gardeners to share their secrets on these pages. We're asking gardening professionals and aficionados to work with us writing articles and/or answering readers' specific questions. We also welcome recommendations from ordinary garden-variety (heh) gardeners who have had successes which they would like to tell us about - or horror stories which would save the rest of us from making their same expensive errors.

Ideally, if someone could recommend and vouch for plants that are easy-care, drought-tolerant, fire-resistant, deer-proof and attractive year 'round, NNV would award them a lifetime subscription to the newsletter. Since probably no one can fill that improbable order, all we can offer is that lots o' folks around here would be beholden to someone who can suggest plants which fill even part of the requirements and might even name their firstborn grandchild after him/her.

NNV does have one spectacular plant to recommend which is called echium fastuosum or "Pride of Madeira" which decorates our slope every April. If you happened by Highland Drive last month, you couldn't have missed it - it sits high on our front slope, ten feet tall with perhaps 100 electric blue flower spikes each looking like a twelve inch gas flame. As I'm writing this, the flowers are starting to fade, but it's still worth a look and probably will be until mid-May. It draws honeybees and its spikes grow scratchy as summer comes along, but it is worth any of its drawbacks. It is really easy to propagate new plants - as a matter of fact the ones you see on our slope were started from cuttings by your humble editor. Deer do not eat it.

Click here to see the Pride of Madeira.

You can share gardening answers or ask gardening questions by the usual routes. E mail at or call (408) 272-7008 or fax to (408) 272-4040.

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Q. Can NNV shed any light on the details of the shoot-out at the McKee Road Save Mart on April 10th?

A. Well, what sounded like an interminable police chase for those of us who simply heard it (but were lucky enough not to be any closer than we were) really was a protracted chase which started out with a carjacking at a Safeway store on Capitol Expressway at Silvercreek Road and ended up at the Save Mart store at the Country Club Villa on McKee Road.

A man armed with a handgun hijacked a car from a woman outside the Safeway on Capitol Expressway. He joined two other men and they drove the car to a nearby Bank of America branch. Two of the men went into the bank and, holding the tellers at gunpoint, stole the money from the cash drawers.

They abandoned the stolen car a short distance away and got into a blue Chevy Camaro (presumably their own car). San Jose police officers tried to stop the suspects near Quimby and Capitol and one officer fired a shotgun at the car when one of the passengers pointed a handgun at him. The suspects were able to drive out of the area but soon had several police cars close behind.

While speeding along Capitol Expressway, the suspect in the passenger seat fired a handgun repeatedly at the pursuing officers! This was happening right around 1 PM when large lunch-going throngs could be expected to be on their way back to work. It must have felt to other drivers as if they had been suddenly transported onto a movie set.

But it gets even hairier! The robber/hijacker suspect trio somehow found their way to Country Club Villa at Toyon and McKee and, with an entourage of law enforcement vehicles accompanying them, they jumped from their car and split up.

One suspect, Lawrence Franks, 36, of San Jose, tried to jump into the bed of a pick-up truck which was just leaving a parking stall. Unfortunately for him, he wasn't able to hang on and fell off onto the pavement. Then, carrying two handguns, he went into the Country Club liquor store and forced a clerk to open the back door.

Another suspect, Jermaine Williams, 19, also of San Jose, ran into the Save Mart store.

The third suspect, Eric Bernard, 19, of Sunnyvale, tried to carjack the 1998 Cadillac of a woman who had just driven into the lot. That plucky woman saw that the man had a gun so she made a speedy departure! That man then ran into Save Mart, too.

The police officers fired one round at Lawrence Franks to get him to surrender from behind a dumpster at the back of the liquor store. Fortunately they did not have to use their weapons when they captured the other two men inside the Save Mart store.

"Amazing" and "incredible" are two words used liberally by the involved police officers to emphasize the fact that, in this escapade of hijacking, bank robbery, and a highway shootout, no one was hurt!

NNV asked a Save Mart checkout clerk for his reaction the next day. "We didn't really have time to be scared - the police had us out of there so fast." He also pointed out that in some places, mayhem like this might be a frequent occurrence, but we are blessed to live here in our peaceful neighborhood where usually a "crime spree" consists of a kid running into the store to filch a six pack of beer.

Note: The San Jose Police press release documenting these events ended with a message that they would like to identify and interview the driver of the blue pickup truck into which the suspect tried to climb. NNV would love to interview that driver, too, as well as the woman who had the poise to drive away when a gun was pointed at her. These are "notable neighbors" indeed. Please E-mail us at or call (408) 272-7008 if you know who these folks are.

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Q. Why is Alum Rock Park closed at night?

A. As most of you know, Alum Rock Park is open from 8:00 AM to one-half hour after sunset. Ever wonder why it is closed at night? So did Eric Carlson - read about his quest as he ventures out of San Jose to find the Heinous Albino Twins in Alum Rock Park and see a few photos of the Park and its inhabitants that you won't find anywhere else.

Eric has also written many other interesting stories on shenanigans in San Jose - to read more, including the new plan for Quetzalcoatl in City Hall, start at his Home page.

We're always looking for good stories about San Jose and especially this area. Please share your favorite links and stories and we'll add them to our list - E-mail us at Remember, in San Jose, truth is often stranger than fiction!

Click here for our new Favorite Links page.  We hope this will help you find some important (and not so important but interesting) Web sites related to our area and San Jose.

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Q. Any other "hand weavers" here in the neighborhood?

An "NSFAQ" (Not So Frequently Asked Question) has found its way to NNV this month.  Longtime weaver, Pat Rackstraw, is curious to know whether there are fellow weavers here in the NNV neighborhood.

A. Readers, will you let us know? E-mail us at

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You can send comments or letters to the editor (Click Here to see the Letters)

E-mail us at or fax to (408) 272-4040. Please limit letters to a few hundred words (shorter items are more likely to be used in the newsletter and read) and include your name and phone number in case we have questions.  Contributions may be edited for content and space requirements.  Want to write articles or essays?  Please let us know!

Community Bulletin Board (Click Here)

E-mail to let us know about your events of interest to our readers.

--------------------------- Contact and Subscription Information ---------------------------------
Copyright© 2003 by Judy Thompson, 16174 Highland Drive, San Jose, CA 95127 
Phone: (408) 272-7008, E-mail: Fax: (408) 272-4040 
E-mail and fax subscriptions are free. Your ideas and comments are always welcome. 
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Privacy Policy: Your contact information will not be sold, distributed or visible to others. 
Opinions expressed by other writers and contributors are not necessarily shared by NNV.

Copyright© 2003, 2004 by Judy Thompson.  All rights reserved.  Updated 7/1/04.

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