New Neighborhood Voice

Newsletter - Edition 23 - Section 2

February 6, 2005

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Click on a thumbnail to view larger photos


Architect Marv

A view from one
of the balconies

Keith Bush's


Nella had
a little lamb

Alum Rock Avenue Blight

Angels on
McKee Road


ARUSD - Tanya


Joe Frausto
at NHU


Sally Holt
paints fawns


Rogelio Ruiz
of La Bodega

Near Alum
Rock Park

We're up on the hill
behind Eagle Rock

And down by frothing
Penitencia Creek

Where's this
old Log Cabin?


Mountain Lions
in Alum Rock Park

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Barber cum Librarian Takes Over James Lick Library

But just how long can Kathy Evans stay among the stacks?

Dire economic woes cause district to reduce librarians and counselors

Maybe a sister-brother team of librarians might not be exactly rare, but how about a sister-brother team of librarians-who-used-to-be-barbers? James Lick High School has the unusual distinction of having such a pair running the school library, back-to-back, this year and last.

Three months ago, Kathy Evans took over the library at Lick, replacing her brother, Chris, who had moved on to being the librarian at Mt. Pleasant High School’s library. Ex-barber Chris is also the ESUHSD’s new “Subject Area Coordinator” which means he coordinates all the librarians in the district – at least for the moment, but more about that later.

Kathy Evans barbered in the Santa Teresa area for thirty years until her shoulder gave out. She didn’t just cut hair during those years, however. She also read ferociously and prided herself on being able to hold an intelligent, informed conversation with her clients. And, at age 35, she started college. A graduate of San Jose’s Pioneer High School, she attended both San Jose City College (AA in Cosmetology) and SJSU earning a BS degree in English. She is almost finished earning her masters degree in Library Science. “Finally!” says she.

During the last seven years, Kathy taught English Language Development at Oak Grove High. She says Oak Grove is waaaay more diverse than Lick with students coming from all over the world. She loved her job, but when the librarian position at Lick opened, she jumped at the chance “to facilitate reading to a wider audience,” she explained. She points out that reading is “the key to everything.”

Kathy and her “Library Tech” Debbie Guzman, see most of Lick’s students at one time or another. The English teachers cycle their students through the library for research projects. Kids come on their own during breaks and lunch periods and the six computers are always swamped. Kathy is big on reference materials - traditional ones as well as a glossy new series called “Careers Without College.” She also mentioned a useful new tool for reluctant readers, called “graphic novels.” If we think back far enough, it’s not hard to remember that many of our first pleasurable reading experiences were with comic books. Graphic novels capitalize on the same hook.

The Lick library will be a beneficiary of the new Alum Rock library branch which will open this summer. Kathy has been conferring with the San Jose Library system’s children’s Collection Development specialist, Jeannie Nix, who promises that the new materials which will be purchased for the new library will be chosen to support the Lick curriculum. The big, new library will also provide interface programs in which Lick students can do work/study assignments as library aides and provide opportunities for earning community service hours. Kathy’s eighteen or so student aides may benefit by interfacing with the new library. “Library aides can earn as much as $17. per hour,” she says. Not too shabby, says NNV!

Inevitably NNV had to ask how the new regime is working at Lick. When school started last fall, we learned that many students would be compelled to take multiple periods of remedial English and Math, and little else. Is it working? According to Kathy, “It’s been very successful! Attention is being brought to the problems - and solutions are beginning to show results.” (This program) “is a lot of work for the teachers - especially English and Math teachers, but they’re seeing results and feel well-supported” by the administration.

However, storm clouds are gathering over the district (again). The ESUHSD parcel tax initiative unfortunately did not rack up the necessary two-thirds vote last November. The $50 tax per year, per parcel, would have brought about $6 million into district coffers. Kathy thanks our community for almost generating enough votes to pass the initiative and hopes fervently that when the next chance comes, we’ll make sure the initiative passes. She knows that we understand that kids learn “life skills” as well as all-important reading and computer skills in their school libraries.

NNV conducted this interview on Thursday, January 13th. The very next day, the Mercury News ran a brief article about the need for a possible reduction in the number of librarians and counselors in the Eastside district. By Saturday, the 15th, the Merc reported that “Six librarians (of the twelve district-wide) and 10 counseling positions will be reassigned and dozens of other employees will lose their jobs” after the district trustees voted “to cut the general fund budget by $2.2 million in the middle of this school year.”

When we met, Kathy Evans was aware that these “reassignments” were a real possibility, and she told NNV that only a miracle could keep a full-time librarian in each of the high schools. She said that brother Chris’ position as Subject Area Coordinator would probably be in jeopardy also. No miracle materialized.

All bets are off as to which high school will have which part-time librarian (except that huge Independence High’s 4,000 students will keep their full-time librarian), but Kathy was philosophical. Lucky for her, she is tenured, and will continue to have a job, but perhaps not as a librarian. “If librarians are reinstated,” she said, “I’m back! I have my foot in the door.”

What’s the message here? Let’s help make sure there’s a full-time librarian in each of our schools. Let’s get all of our community behind our schools! One really has to be hard-hearted (or perhaps hard-headed?) to turn down a $50 per year tax. NNV would be interested to hear from readers who voted “no” on the initiative. Tell us why!

Click here for a photo of Kathy in the library.

NNV Note: There was an extra-dismal little piece of news included in the 1-15 Merc article. Someone in the district needs to go back to remedial Math and relearn how decimals work. The unnamed employee accidentally turned expected $181K funding into $1.8 million. The “loss” of this non-existent $1.6 million was a crushing blow to an already depressed district. But, that’s another story for another day.

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Newsmakers: Cmdr. Matt Faletti and Councilmember Nora Campos

James Lick Graduate Involved in Tsunami Aid Missions

Cmdr. Matt Faletti’s e-mails home share insider views

From Peg Faletti

Neighbor Peg Faletti let us know that her son Matt, the Operations Officer of the USS Abraham Lincoln, was very involved in the recent Asian Tsunami rescue and aid activities.

Matt says (in an e-mail Peg passed on to us): “Below is an article which appeared in the Seattle papers yesterday. Not exactly what I said, but, close. Very little infrastructure left in certain parts of Sumatra. Hard to believe a wave - more than a wave - a wall of water could cause so much destruction. I have seen the damage from the ship - we are in quite close. Those flying and ashore have some heart wrenching stories. Not a nice thing to experience. Some of the younger crew are growing up fast. I am busy and tired. We often forget, but, life is very fragile and precious. Be grateful in the New Year for what we all have.”

Tsunami Survivors Mob U.S. Aid Copters
By DENIS D. GRAY, Associated Press Writer

ABOARD THE USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN - Desperate, homeless villagers on the tsunami-ravaged island of Sumatra mobbed American helicopters carrying aid Saturday as the U.S. military launched its largest operation in the region since the Vietnam War, ferrying food and other emergency relief to survivors across the disaster zone. From dawn until sunset on New Year's Day, 12 Seahawk helicopters shuttled supplies and advance teams from offshore naval vessels while reconnaissance aircraft brought back stark images of wave-wrecked coastal landscapes and their hungry, traumatized inhabitants. …

The mission involves thousands of sailors and Marines, along with some 1,000 land-based troops. … Although aid has been piling up in regional airports, officials have had trouble getting it out to the areas in need and the U.S. military was expected to ease the bottleneck.

The Lincoln's operations officer, Cmdr. Matthew J. Faletti, said the New Year's Day effort off Sumatra was focused on ferrying emergency relief, including biscuits, energy drinks and instant noodles, to communities along the 120-mile stretch of seacoast south of the city of Banda Aceh. Most of the 25,000 pounds of aid supplies delivered Saturday were picked up from Australian and other foreign shipments at Banda Aceh and then rushed by the helicopters to coastal town, where tens of thousands were killed by the giant wall of water.

U.S. military medical and damage assessment teams were also landed with helicopters flying in heavy winds, rain and low clouds. Supplies had to be dropped from craft hovering over some water-logged areas where landing proved impossible. … The town of Meuloboh, where some 50,000 people had once lived, was about 80 percent destroyed, Faletti estimated.

Peg says after Matt graduated from James Lick, he attended the University of Southern California and graduated with a BS in Petroleum Engineering. He received his commission through the NROTC program. (Just as an aside, Jay Wright of Greenside Drive was his commissioning officer and has been a mentor to Matt throughout his career.)

Matt was designated a Naval Flight Officer and originally flew the A6. He flew combat missions in Desert Storm from the USS Ranger, and from the USS Enterprise in Afghanistan. Between assignments he earned an MA in Education in San Diego. He served on the staff of the Commander of the Third Fleet and later as an A6 aviator on the USS Independence. He then was assigned to the Operations Directorate, the Joint Staff. He retrained in the EA-6B and was XO (Executive Officer) and CO (Commanding Officer) of VAQ 141 (a Navy Air Squadron).

He earned another Master's degree in Strategic Studies from the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. He currently is the Operations Officer on The USS Abraham Lincoln helping with disaster relief in Indonesia. He has been selected for Captain (equivalent to Colonel in the other services) and will go through the actual ceremony at a later date. He and his wife Patti live in Anacortes, Washington.

Many James Lick graduates have gone on to serve as officers in the Navy.

Click here for a photo of Cmdr. Faletti. Click here for a Tsunami satellite photo link he provided, then click on the button to see the same area after the tsunami. Click on "NEXT" for other Before/After photos.

Click here to read the whole story excerpted above.

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San Jose Councilmember Nora Campos Elected Leader of National Organization

Our District 5 City Councilmember Nora Campos was elected to lead the National League of Cities as a new member of the board of directors at the NLC annual Congress of Cities in Indianapolis in December. She is the first San Jose City Councilmember to serve on the NLC board in twenty years. Former Councilmember and Vice Mayor Iola Williams served on the board in 1983-84 and former San Jose Mayor and US Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta served in 1973-74.

The National League of Cities board includes forty elected members, half chosen each year to serve two-year terms. In the past, Nora has served on the NLC Equity and Opportunity panel and is a member of the NLC Hispanic Elected Local Officials constituency group.

NLC’s mission is to strengthen and promote cities as centers of opportunity, leadership and governance. As an advocate and forum for its 1600 member cities and forty-nine municipal leagues, it is the oldest and largest national organization representing municipal governments throughout the U.S. The City of San Jose has been a member of the league since 1955.

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Young Writer Pens Timely Poetry

By Spencer Olsson Nitkey

A Winter Poem (1-11-04)

Snow is on the ground
Now it’s snowing again
On this winter day
Will it last forever?

NNV Note: Spencer Nitkey lives in Glen Rock, New Jersey (where there really is snow on the ground), but has close ties to San Jose. His grandmother is Comfort Olsson of Country Club Heights. Spencer began writing notable poetry a year and a half ago at age seven. Says Grandmother Comfort, “Perhaps I’m just a doting grandmother, but through my years of friendship with (poet) John Leary, I believe I learned a lot about poetry and I think Spencer is darned good at it.” NNV agrees.

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“Even Start” - Mothers Learning English, Parenting Skills, and More – Kids Learn Too!

Alum Rock Educational Foundation hopes to expand project – needs community support

Three days each week about twenty-five young mothers (a total of fifty) arrive at San Antonio and Mildred Goss elementary schools pushing babies in strollers and guiding toddlers along the sidewalks. Their destination: English as a Second Language (ESL), parenting, math and literacy classes for the mommies; childcare for children under four and preschool for those over four.

As well as tackling our difficult language, via Parents Acting as Teachers (PACT) classes, these women are learning to communicate effectively with their children – skills they may never have learned as they grew up impoverished in Mexico. Not unusual in their country, most had spent only about six years in school before they came to our country and, unlike in our culture, mothers reading to children and helping them with homework may not be part of their heritage. Statistics show that in order to be successful, all children should be read to regularly. The Even Start program helps provide the skills needed by parents to help their children succeed. “The parent is the child’s first and most important teacher,” is their mantra.

NNV joined the Even Start participants and teachers at both schools for their annual holiday luncheons in December. Wearing their festive best, the mothers and children enthusiastically shared their progress (and delicious traditional Mexican Christmas delicacies!) with a handful of visitors including recently-elected ARUSD school board trustee, Tanya Freudenberger, and Alum Rock Educational Foundation leader, Kathy Chavez-Napoli who mustered up her best (but admittedly-imperfect Spanish) to address these industrious young women. Kathy says that it’s important for her to speak to these women in Spanish because “I can only improve by practicing and the mothers can only improve their English skills by practicing” speaking.

“Also, a key aspect of success is knowing that parents are their children’s first role model. If the children see their parents learning and doing homework, etc., they are positive role models for their children,” Kathy went on to say.

Guests were able to watch as ESL teacher Andrea de Wit energetically addressed her enthusiastic students - speaking almost entirely in English (and doing a fair amount of inspired gesturing to make her meaning known). As we watched, Andrea and her students took in the very topical movie, “The Santa Clause” stopping periodically to parse it for nouns and verbs. Learning a second language is a brain-numbing chore, but the Even Start participants do it with good cheer. The program is so popular (and limited) that its waiting list is long.

Several mothers at Mildred Goss School spoke out on the importance of the program: Speaking in English, Angelina said that she has been in the program for three years and has three children who have benefited from it. She said she has learned English, parenting and “wife skills” and that she hopes that the program continues for many years. Another mom, Berta, said that she learned how to communicate with her three children and how to help them with homework. She says that the learning activities are very important and she prays that the Even Start can continue to help other women. Patricia said that she is very happy with Even Start and that more mothers should have such a chance.

Kathy explained that the Alum Rock Educational Foundation shepherds the program along because they know how important it is. “We understand how difficult it is to speak English. We believe that this program is vital to the success of not just the child but the whole family to succeed. Also, we ask these mothers not to forget other parents who are coming along. We need these mothers’ support to come back later and help other mothers. We ask them to bring the skills and leadership they’ve learned through Even Start when their children start school.”

Kathy told NNV that Even Start is at risk. There is a rigorous and never-ending process necessary to keep it funded. “We know the program works,” she says, “and it’s worth it!” The Foundation is working hard to solicit more funding to expand the program throughout the Alum Rock district as well as to continue their support of homework centers, after school sports and music. A fundraising event is scheduled for March 4th – NNV hopes our readers will embrace the work of the Alum Rock Educational Foundation – these are our neighbors trying to help make the world a better place. Watch the NNV Community Bulletin Board for details.

Click here for some Even Start holiday luncheon photos.

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San Jose Delivers – 1942’s San Jose Was a “Can-Do” Place

How a small city with a big heart got into fighting trim by going all-out for men in uniform

Condensed from The American Magazine in The Reader’s Digest, August 1942

By William Robinson (From Carol Schultz, Neighborhood Historian)

I WAS VISITING the U.S.O. office in San Francisco one morning, when a young soldier came in. He and his mates, on guard duty in the suburbs, were living in a tent and wondered whether the U.S.O. would lend them a stove. Said the official in charge, "Sorry, bud, we don't have stoves."

"That's funny; they gave us one when we were at San Jose."

The official blinked. "They did? Well, then, we'll do it here!"

Afterward, he shook his head in mock annoyance. "That darn' town makes us more trouble," he told me.

Later I heard various soldiers exclaim, at the mention of San Jose, "Hot dog! San Jose! Mister, that's a town!"

I knew San Jose to be a pleasant community in a thriving agricultural district. But I didn't know why it should evoke such enthusiasm from soldiers. But when I went there I found a story to inspire every community in America.

Outwardly San Jose is an average small city; population 68,500. Twelve years ago its people raised some $400,000 to buy an airport site 11 miles from town, which they gave to the navy. In the autumn of 1939 it became a training base for about 100 flying cadets.

The story starts with Bill Wheeler, engineer for a gas and light company. He was a soldier in 1918 and knew what it meant to be a kid away from home. He called on Joe McKinnon, chairman of the Board of Supervisors. "We ought to do something for those boys at the field," he said, "with Christmas coming, and all."

McKinnon agreed; so a party was planned. They bulldozed 50 merchants into acting as a committee, soon called "the chiseling committee," because it got everything free - entertainers, food, cigarettes, pop and beer. The party went off like a breeze. "Not a man got out of line," McKinnon says. "It woke us up to the kind of fellows we had for neighbors out there."

That was the beginning of San Jose's renascence. The next summer, Russ Pettit, manager of the Chamber of Commerce, approached Reese Wheery, manager of the De Anza Hotel: "You have a ballroom that isn't used daytimes. Let's have an afternoon dance once a month." Wheery agreed to furnish the orchestra. "All you furnish," he told Pettit, "is the girls."

That sounded easy - until Pettit tried to recruit the town's debutantes. In those distant days, almost two years ago, nice girls didn't make blind dates with soldiers. But attractive Marjorie Baker, of San Jose State College, suggested, "Why don't you ask Mother?" So into the picture came Mrs. Morgan Dillon Baker. Pettit told her, "Some people don't think it safe to let their daughters dance with these flying boys."

"Fiddlesticks!" snapped Mrs. Baker. "You leave it to me."

Shortly a committee of 12 mothers commandeered not only their own daughters but others. The first party started icily but thawed in jig time. Before it ended even the mothers were dancing. Those cadet dances have become outstanding social events. There's a waiting list of 300 girls now.

The mothers have learned some things about such entertainments. There should be about 15 percent fewer girls than men; competition helps things along. A few mothers should always be on hand; homesick boys often would rather talk to them than to their daughters. Each guest's name should be typewritten on a badge, and there should be plenty of group dances to keep the couples changing partners.

As the army camps grew, more soldiers began coming into San Jose. One Saturday night, 70 loads of them checked in at the bus depot.

Some had traveled 200 miles. Hundreds were taken into homes, but other hundreds wandered aimlessly around town. A conviction grew among townspeople that the soldiers should have a clubhouse of their own. "Let's build a house," said Jay McCabe. He didn't really mean it. There wasn't enough money, nor any ground. But the notion caught on. The council donated a site in the town plaza. "Now," the councilmen said challengingly to McCabe, "you build the house!"

Somewhat dazed, McCabe hunted up Mike Blanchfield, business agent of the carpenters' union. "Mike," he said, "how about furnishing carpenters - free?" "Sure," said Mike. "When do we start?" The painters' union, the electricians, the bricklayers, the plumbers volunteered. Then McCabe hit a snag. He didn't know where to get materials. "I guess we'll have to raise a fund," he told Blanchfield despondently. Mike snorted, "To hell with that! We'll buy nothing!"

A few minutes later, into McCabe's office walked Dave Bunker, of the Builders' Exchange. "I hear you want some building materials," he said. Taking the architect's plans, he remarked, "I'll see you tomorrow."

Next day Bunker and Blanchfield toured the lumber yards, plumbing shops and hardware stores like a brace of affable pirates, commandeering what they needed. In no time the town was in a fever of cooperative effort.

On Friday afternoon, 77 huskies roared into town from a cement plant nearby. By dark, they had installed the foundation and laid the subflooring. At 7 o'clock Saturday morning, 208 union volunteers went to work. It became a race, the plumbers crowding the carpenters, the painters heckling the plumbers, the electricians all over everything. In midmorning the military band from the airfield blared in to serenade the workers. By noon the roof was mostly shingled, the plumbing practically done. Painters were spraying boards as the last nails were being driven.

Furniture vans began to arrive in midafternoon. As fast as a yard of floor was waxed, a rug or piece of furniture covered it. Citizens brought books, pianos, radios and a ping-pong table. At 5:30 the house was finished and furnished.

They call it Hospitality House. Sometimes, in one day, 300 soldiers use its facilities, all of which are free.

In the days immediately after Pearl Harbor, several thousand troops en route elsewhere pitched tents on the fair ground and ball park. It rained for days. Bivouacs were under water; blankets mud-soaked.

"And one noon," a hard-bitten major told me, "the general ordered me to get every man under shelter by dark. You know what these people did? They threw open their stores, theaters, schools and churches, even moved into the brewery and the fruit canneries. They stopped their business to take us in."

By dark every man was under cover. That night laundry wagons collected all the muddy blankets - thousands of them. The laundries worked all night, returned the blankets fresh and clean.

"Nobody asked them to do that," the major said. "Afterward I couldn't even learn what the bill would have been if we'd been asked to pay."

Later I talked with a San Jose merchant. "The army ought to give you fellows a medal," I said.

"Nuts to that stuff," he replied. "We ought to give the army a medal. All this business is supposed to be for the morale of the soldiers, isn't it?"

I said yes.

"Hell, brother," he said, "you ought to know what it has done for the morale of San Jose!"

Copyright 1942, The Crowell-Collier Pub. Co., 250 Park Ave., N.Y.C. (The American Magazine, June,’ 42)

Click here for the Radio Quiz of the Month from the same Reader's Digest.

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NNV Briefs

bulletHenninger Hill Farm Update - Teeny-Weeny Miss Tiny makes wintry debut
bulletAnother Strong Local Real Estate Year for 2005? Review and Trends by Eileen Parks
bulletBird counters flock to Alum Rock Park - Audubon Christmas Bird Count 2004 by Pat Congdon
bulletOn the Avenue (Alum Rock Avenue) - Church lot “BBC” (Before blight clean-up)
bulletOn the Road (McKee Road) - Angels stand guard at spruced up home
bulletYSI Volunteers find darnedest stuff in Thrift Shop donations – and return it! by Miki Gash
bulletMarv and Bonnie Bamburg, Keith Bush, Barry Swenson bring us Tierra Encantada
bulletAlum Rock Educational Foundation Fundraiser at National Hispanic University
bulletNew Optimism at Alum Rock School District - Trustees sworn in at December Ceremony
bulletChampion of Homeowners’ Rights Departs Historical Heritage Commission
bulletNational Hispanic University Entertains Friends at December Party
bulletFood for Thought Department - Keep the sun at your back
bulletHCA Gets Thumbs-Up for Regional Medical Expansion - Council grants grudging go-ahead

Henninger Hill Farm Update

Teeny-Weeny Miss Tiny makes wintry debut

Nella has a little lamb – in her bed, in her car, in her arms. Miss Tiny came into the world on one of those infamous “dark and stormy nights” which happened also to be about as cold a January night as we get around here. She took a terrible chill and needed immediate rescue and warming when Nella and Alan found her.

What does one do with a shivering sheeplet? Why, if you’re the huge-hearted Henningers, you give it a warm bath and tuck it (hooves and all) in bed between the two of you! And then, after a trip to the vet, you feed it goat’s milk via a tube in its throat because it’s too weak to suckle.

The tender ministrations are paying off. Little Miss Tee is growing and thriving - and even came to visit NNV when she was just eight days old. Her real mother is looking, well, a bit sheepish at not nurturing Miss Tiny properly, but then, what do we expect from a cold-stressed four-legged hairball anyway? Sheep may be prone to wooly-headed thinking but they’re not really baa-aad.

Click here for a photo of Miss Tiny in Nella's arms.

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Another Strong Local Real Estate Year for 2005?

Real estate veteran reviews 2004 and assesses the trends

By Eileen Parks, Broker Associate, Windermere, Silicon Valley Properties

2004 was a very strong year in the real estate market. All the forecasts were for a flat performance, but it turned out to be anything but flat. Prices continued to rise all year, with many areas seeing fast sales and multiple offers in all price ranges. Properties especially in the $450,000 - $550,000 price range sold as fast as they got on the market. Condos and town houses were also big winners this year. When a small home, with basic construction, costs half a million dollars, it’s no wonder that people have turned to condominium living.

By October of last year, it was clear that the valley’s inventory of homes for sale was taking a tremendous nose dive. In the beginning of January 2004, according to my office statistics, there were 815 single family homes and 327 condos for sale in San Jose. On January 4, 2005, there were 381 single family homes and 95 condos and townhouses on the market. It will no doubt take several months for inventory to rise to a reasonable level and this has got to put an upward pressure on prices.

So where is “the bubble” the media wants so badly? At this writing, low interest rates seem to be holding although a slight increase may come this year, 100% financing is readily available, the local job market seems to be improving and our appetite for bigger and better is still alive and well. In fact I just read an article in a real estate magazine which said that only 4% of sellers in California moved out of state last year. If we can trust all these trends and statistics, the market looks like it will be quite strong again into 2005.

And that’s my opinion-----

NNV Note: Eileen Parks is a stalwart supporter of our Eastside community and a Founding Sponsor of NNV.

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It’s “For the Birds”

Bird counters flock to Alum Rock Park

Audubon Christmas Bird Count 2004

By Pat Congdon, General Manager, Santa Clara County Open Space Authority

In past years, it was common for people to spend their time around the Christmas holiday shooting birds. This was done for sport, foodstuff or to provide positive identification of a bird in flight. Today, you’ll find folks around the world gathering to identify and count birds rather than shoot them.

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count has been in existence since 1900. Each year during the period from December 14 to January 5 (southern Canada and the United States) people from young to old and from all walks of life gather to watch and count birds. Last year’s count brought out 37,503 people in the United States, 7,741 in Canada and 1,354 in Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands. The count represents a 24-hour snapshot of birds in a given area.

To give you an idea of what happens on one of the count days, let me tell you about this year on the Alum Rock/San Jose Bird Count.

Before the sun comes up, several hardy souls are out looking and listening for owls. Permission is obtained from public and private landowners to enter properties typically closed during the wee hours of the morning. Using vocal recordings of owls and knowledge of owl sounds, birders identify and count owls like the great horned, western screech and northern saw-whet.

Sometime between seven and eight in the morning folks gather at a predetermined location, in our case Alum Rock Park. It’s a good opportunity to catch up on what birds have been seen over the past week, what has been observed in the count area in previous years and confirm the routes that people will be covering. Beginning birders are matched up with more experienced birders and after a few encouraging words by our count leader, off we go to find our feathered friends.

The San Jose count area is fairly large so it’s broken up into sub-regions. The Alum Rock sub-region encompasses Alum Rock Park, Cherry Flat reservoir and the Boccardo Trail managed by the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority.

Traveling along routes used in prior years, birders using binoculars, spotting scopes, bird vocalizations and field guides identify and count all birds seen. It’s not uncommon for birders to walk and drive several miles during the day. Some of the more hardcore birders travel from one sub-region to the next in search of that rare or uncommon sighting.

In late afternoon or early evening, everyone gathers again to pass on their recording sheets to the leader and converse about the not so common birds observed during the day. Any rare or unusual bird sightings must be recorded on a special form and typically sketches or photographs are required.

The information gathered during the count is put into a database that is made available to private citizens and public land managers. The Santa Clara County Open Space Authority uses this information to note presence and absence of birds and trends in populations as well as use patterns. The Christmas Bird Count provides good data on what birds have moved into the area for the winter and what habitats they prefer. This information, along with more formal bird surveys, allows land managers to make educated decisions on what is needed to provide a good home to the many birds that travel and live in our area.

For photographs of last year's Christmas Bird Counts, click here for the Boccardo Trail area and here for the Rancho Cañada del Oro area.

Click here for more information on the bird counts and here for the Boccardo Trail Web site. 

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On the Avenue (Alum Rock Avenue)

Church lot “BBC” (Before blight clean-up)

This month’s photo treat is of a scene on our main drag showing the deteriorating property east of the First Church of the Nazarene at Cragmont Avenue. The property is the focus of a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) in this month’s edition. NNV is very happy to report that the scene has already been improved. See the FAQ section for details. Click here for the "BBC" photo.

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On the Road (McKee Road)

Angels stand guard at spruced up home

On McKee at the corner of Ridge Vista (a little east of White Road on the north side of the street) a family has put a lot of TLC and creativity into making their home the most elaborate on the block. There are extensive stucco walls and wrought iron details defining the corner lot. The property is reminiscent of a European villa painted in a sunny, peachy, hue. The icing on the cake is a pair of graceful alabaster (?) angels perched atop the gate-posts. They make an interesting statement of contrast with the Buddhist temple further up the street.

Click here for a photo of one of the angels.

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Rare Books, Golf Shoe Money Stash, Found in Thrift Shop Donations

YSI Volunteers find the darnedest stuff – and return it!

By Miki Gash, YSI Thrift Shop Volunteer and Member of YSI Guild

“Oops!” can be used to describe several recent happenings at the Youth Science Institute Thrift & Gift Store on Alum Rock Avenue. The following are anecdotal accounts of these incidents that have captured store volunteers’ attention.

- While sorting through boxes and boxes of a deceased gentleman’s library, three volumes of old Mark Twain books were discovered. A single copyright date in each book was around 1903. Twain died in 1910. These books had been well-cared for and would have sold very well in the Thrift Store. Sometimes when family members are settling a relative’s estate of material goods, valuables can be unwittingly sent to the Thrift Store. When possible, contact is made with the donors, as in this book incident, and the items returned to the family.

- One of our regular donors came with wardrobe contributions. Included in this batch were her husband’s shoes, complete with shoe trees. Unbeknown to her, he had stashed several thousand dollars of golf winnings in one shoe for safekeeping because a trip to the bank could not be squeezed into a busy, tight schedule. Several days after the “generous donation” had been made, and the realization of just what had happened dawned on the couple, a frantic after-hours phone call to a guild member produced a hasty arrangement to be let in at the store. What followed could only be described as divine or dumb luck! After wondering how to find a certain pair of shoes amongst hundreds of pairs, he went to the shoe display in the store, saw his shoes high up on the display shelf, stuck his fingers into the toe end, and extracted his wad of bills! What a great buy a customer could have had for a three dollar investment!

- Obviously, we do not often find such big stashes of money. Routinely, however, small change (as in pennies, nickels, dimes) is discovered in purses, pockets, and other donated items. A check for $1,000.00 written in 1970, never cashed, found between the pages of a book, was returned to a member of the check writer’s family. Typically, a volunteer examines a purse’s compartments before pricing it. Once, though, a big “WOW” ensued when she discovered $15.00 tucked into a side pocket of a handbag about to be priced at four dollars.

- A customer recently handed a YSI cashier a find she had made in a jacket pocket. It was an elegant ladies watch, an Anne Klein Victorian link-style silver-tone watch with marcasite glitters. She didn’t buy the jacket, but bought a T-shirt instead. This story bought smiles all day to the volunteer staff.

The YSI Guild volunteer staff is made up of men and women of varied backgrounds and ages. Our oldest volunteer, a 91 year old, is a wonderful lady and an integral part of the work force. Her closest contemporary, an 87 year old lady, comes in a couple times a week and loyally goes about her duties. The store exists on donations from the community and the group of volunteers to run the store. All proceeds go to the Youth Science Institute, a nonprofit organization with centers at Alum Rock, Sanborn, and Vasona Parks.

Click here for the YSI Web site and here for the Alum Rock Park YSI page.

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Bright, New, Affordable Housing Village on Alum Rock Avenue

Marv and Bonnie Bamburg, Keith Bush, Barry Swenson bring us Tierra Encantada

Big Brass Zoe Lofgren, Phil Angelides come to SJ to “Cut the Ribbon”

Tierra Encantada, the handsome new apartment development on the south side of the 1900 block of Alum Rock Avenue, is a true Eastside endeavor. The large, colorful “mini-village” was designed by architect Marvin Bamburg’s MBA Associates and the project was guided by his wife, Bonnie, the Director of New Development for Community Housing Developers, Inc. Highland Drive artist and sculptor, Keith Bush, designed and fabricated the fine steel gates. Eastside legend, builder Barry Swenson, built the complex. All these creative folks live – or lived - within a half mile radius of the San Jose Country Club. James Lick High School grad, Barry Swenson, grew up in the East Highlands and has long-held ties to the neighborhood.

The January 20th ribbon-cutting ceremony for the mixed-use (commercial and residential) complex brought out some major movers and shakers to the courtyard podium. Not minding missing the presidential inauguration one bit, and happy to be in sunny San Jose after the daunting weather of D.C., U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, spoke briefly as did Mayor Ron Gonzales and District Five City Councilmember, Nora Campos. California State Treasurer, Phil Angelides, gave the keynote address. All stressed the importance of such new housing ventures which provide affordable housing sited directly on a main transit corridor such as Alum Rock Avenue. The 93 units are earmarked for families earning between $31,650 and $63,000 annually. “Any time we can give someone a ‘hand up,’ we improve the community for everyone,” Mayor Gonzales said.

Tierra Encantada (Enchanted Land) features 1-4 bedroom units plus retail space at ground level fronting on Alum Rock. Architect Marvin Bamburg said that the Spanish Colonial Revival style complex will really come alive when the retail shops are bustling with customers. He personally gave guided tours of several apartments. All have impressive kitchens, baths and creative built-in storage.

Up until about two years ago, Mark’s Hot Dogs, the old orange-domed drive-in restaurant, sat on the site where Tierra Encantada is today. At the January ribbon-cutting, Bonnie Bamburg was honored with special recognition – and a huge bouquet of golden roses - for the seamless relocation of the old landmark to its new spot on Capitol Avenue across the street from the new Light Rail station. She has been a shepherd of both projects – moving Mark’s orange and helping to bring Tierra Encantada to fruition.

Click here for photos of the “movers and shakers,” neighborhood artisans and vignettes from Tierra Encantada. Click here to read and see how Mark’s Hot Dogs was moved from this location.

NNV Note: We're happy to point out that Marvin Bamburg and Keith Bush are NNV Founding Sponsors.  The association makes us very proud.

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An Invitation to NNV Readers from the Alum Rock Educational Foundation

Please join AREF for a late afternoon reception at National Hispanic University’s new facility

The Alum Rock Educational Foundation will host a fundraiser reception at the National Hispanic University on Friday, March 4, from 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM. The last few years have been a challenge for Alum Rock and all of Silicon Valley. We’re pleased to report that the Foundation is still here and embarking on exciting new initiatives. Please join us as we celebrate thriving in challenging times and the dreams of tomorrow. For more details, please see the NNV Community Bulletin Board and see the related story on the “Even Start” program in this edition of the newsletter.

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New Optimism at Alum Rock School District

Trustees sworn in at December Ceremony

The newly elected trustees of the Alum Rock Union Elementary School District were sworn in on December 9th at the district offices. Tanya Freudenberger and Lalo Morales officially took their seats as four year trustees; Joe Frausto began a two-year term. Tanya chose her long-term mentor and friend, Maureen Cervelli, to administer the oath to “faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.” Dom Cortese, a past district trustee himself, swore in both Lalo and Joe. Dom said later that he felt very emotional during the ceremony – perhaps because he remembers the job as being one of the most difficult and challenging he ever tackled. (Dom has held some pretty hairy county and state positions so he’s not exactly been under-challenged!)

Tanya comes from a background of extensive community service and is an energetic dynamo at whatever she tackles. Lalo is beginning his second term as a trustee and both he and newcomer, Joe, have longtime backgrounds in teaching. While they have their work cut out for them in these difficult times, and the district has been known for its fractious nature, the new board feels it’s up to the task of choosing a new district Superintendent and meeting the challenge of making ARUSD a district of which to be proud.

Click here for photos of the December ceremony.

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Champion of Homeowners’ Rights Departs Historical Heritage Commission

You and your Santa Clara County property (and trees!) may be compromised

Commission vacancies need strong, thoughtful candidates

NNV Note: Below are Ed Allegretti’s report on the County Historical Heritage Commission’s scheduled meeting and his candid discussion of the ordinance which will allow government control to trump homeowners’ rights – unless other strong advocates step in.

The November workshop was cancelled and instead rescheduled to January 20th. Thus, the majority of the commissioners at the December meeting decided not to again discuss the proposed Ordinance until the February 17th meeting. No doubt this was frustrating to some commissioners and staff because this discussion has been constantly delayed and nothing is being resolved. Some wishing the delay expressed that the workshop will focus on the advantages of a strong ordinance and the need for the government to have the ability to designate landmarks and have some real control.

For those who favor owners having the ability to control what is done to their property, this caused much concern. There currently are two vacancies on the Historical Heritage Commission. If anybody is interested they can contact their county supervisor for further information.

The February 17th meeting of the Historical Heritage Commission will be held in the Board of Supervisors' Chambers at 6:30 PM, County Building on Hedding Street (corner of Hedding and First Street), enter by the center door on Hedding Street.

NNV Note: The workshop rescheduled for January 20 was cancelled again! Meanwhile, we asked Ed what the above meant and he replied:

Well, I fought the good fight. The two commissioners who favor government control are strong personalities and influential. Along with the county staff who support them completely, they'll probably be successful.

I made my plea that residential properties should have owner consent and commercial need not. Thus, the little old lady who wants any awning over her door can do it while the developer who buys Villa Montalvo can't tear it down and build condominiums. Any other option would either give the government or the owner ultimate control, not balance. I am pleased, with all due modesty, that my objection of almost two years ago prevented the Ordinance from being passed as originally submitted by staff with extensive controls, criminal punishment for violations, etc. These factors have at least been moderated if nothing else; and this is good.

In brief, the Board of Supervisors as a whole votes on commissioner appointments. However, individual supervisors are allotted various vacancies (you can go to the county Website, select elected officials, select the individual supervisors, click on commission vacancies) and they make the recommendation which the board rubber stamps. It is hard to know when appointments are made. Sometimes quickly, sometimes it takes months. Also, if there isn't a vacancy in a particular supervisory district for that commission a person can ask their supervisor to have them appointed through another district (this often happens and is how I was appointed to the Florence Commission by Supervisor Kniss). There currently are two open positions, mine was officially open 2/1/04, and will be the third vacancy. Yet, they know of my resignation so will take applications. Mine is the only vacancy for this commission through Supervisor McHugh. Official description (from Supervisor Beall’s Website) is:

Historical Heritage Commission Vacancies
Appointee shall have previously demonstrated participation and interest in matters relating to the historical and cultural heritage of Santa Clara County. Appointment is for an allocated 4 year term which commenced on July 1, 2001 and will expire on June 30, 2005 (Vacant position formerly held by Ellen Garboske.)

Click here for the Santa Clara County Planning Office Web site for the proposed ordinance and here for the meeting agendas and archived reports. Click here for our last article on this subject. Comments or questions can be e-mailed to the Historical Heritage Coordinator, Dana Peak, at Watch our Community Bulletin Board for the latest information on the HHC meetings.

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National Hispanic University Entertains Friends at December Party

Friend-fest celebrates stellar year

A cheerful group of Amigos of National Hispanic University met in NHU’s stunning library on December 7th to start the holiday season off by toasting the young university’s eventful year. Guests sipped wine and soft drinks (courtesy of NHU supporter Coca Cola Co.) and munched on hors d’oeuvres as the school’s enormous progress was documented in a short video narrated by local superstar, Rigo Chacon. Awards were given to several outstanding “amigos” for their untiring support. Members of the university staff circulated among the invited guests, schmoozing and sharing their pleasure at working in such a dynamic environment. Visitors from distant lands, local luminaries and illustrious alumni chatted and networked as students passed by in the halls of the handsome new facility.

NHU is located at 14271 Story Road (east of White Road) and heartily welcomes visitors to come and get acquainted. Call Jeff Villarreal at (408) 729-2005 or e-mail him at and make arrangements for an expertly guided tour.

Click here for photos from this event.  Click here for the NHU Web site.

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Food for Thought Department

Keep the sun at your back

During NNV’s interview with Judge Paul Teilh for the December edition, the august judge pointed out an advantage to Eastside living which had never occurred to us. Just think of this: when we leave home in the morning for downtown, the sun is at our backs – no need to squint into the glare. Then, when the workday is done and we return to our Eastside abodes, the sun is again at our backs as we comfortably drive home with no need to peer under our visors. It would not surprise NNV to learn that the good judge doesn’t even own a pair of shades!

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HCA Gets Thumbs-Up for Regional Medical Center Expansion

City Council grants grudging go-ahead

Realizing that withholding approval of plans for the proposed expansion of Regional Medical Center was counterproductive, the City Council unanimously gave the green light for the ambitious project at their January 25th meeting. It wasn’t easy for the council to forgive and forget the intransigence of Regional’s parent company, HCA, which broke its promise and abruptly closed down San Jose Medical Center in December. All the good will between the City and HCA (if there ever was any) went right out the window with that flagrantly insensitive decision.

However, with SJMC now shuttered behind forbidding cyclone fencing and all its services outsourced to other, overwhelmed, hospitals, the City Council found itself with little choice but to approve the plans expeditiously. No doubt the City will always have reservations about its dealings with HCA and Regional, but, for now anyway, they’re the only game in town.

Click here for our previous article detailing the features of the upcoming expansion.

NNV Note: While there is currently a conundrum regarding some services at Regional not being available to some Medi-Cal patients, it is hoped that the hospital can become a true community hospital for all the people of the neighborhoods served by Regional and the now closed San Jose Medical Center.

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Wild and Wooly Weather Marks New Years Walk in the Park

Black skies, frothing water, unctuous mud, and new born lambs

Rambunctious Mother Nature showing off; the old Lundy cabin beckoning

On New Years Eve, your NNV “staff” stayed up just long enough to watch the ball drop on Times Square (on TV, that is - at 9:00 PM local time), pig out on Mexican layered dip, sip a little red wine and get in bed under the electric blanket before ten. This not-very-exciting farewell to 2004 left us bright-eyed (but not bushy-tailed really) and ready for a foray into Alum Rock Park on the first day of 2005.

It’s not that the park was inviting. The day was beyond gray. The sky was sullen and leaden. Rain spat and sputtered. The air was cold and raw. The earth was sodden, soppy and slick. Yet, there was something alluring about picking our way along the edge of frothing, roaring nearly-out-of-its-banks Penitencia Creek. Never mind that our shoes and socks were immediately soggy and our feet beginning to complain of the cold.

For no good reason, lofty Eagle Rock beckoned. The trail was overlain with inches-deep sticky mud. It was obvious going up that coming down was going to be fraught with slips and slides, but we climbed anyway. Within a hundred feet, our shoes were caked with globs of heavy mud rendering every step a Brobdingnagian effort. We soon forgot that our feet were cold as we focused on not letting our shoes be sucked off by the mud. Trying to dispatch the mud from our soles, we tight-rope-walked along the narrow grassy trail edge – when there was one.

A visual treat awaited near the top of the hill. At the property we’ve come to call “the rabbit ranch” (because we’ve heard that’s what they raise there) a group of people was cavorting among a cluster of animals. There were sheep with new lambs, goats and even a horse. Children were taking turns hugging the lambs against the background of emerald green hills and enamel gray skies. They waved. We waved.

On top of Eagle Rock, the clouds were nearly in touching distance, scooting quickly past us toward the east. The view toward the Bay glowed under the churning black canopy. Skirting the utilitarian relay towers, we stopped to look at the old cabin on Claitor Way where Nadine Souza used to live. She rented there for many years before moving on to Benicia about a year and a half ago.

Before she left, she told us that the little cabin was situated on pioneer David Lundy’s 400 acre ranch adjacent to the park. Nadine once saw it in an 1860 painting of the hill. The artist apparently stood high on Crothers Road and looked northwest across the Alum Rock canyon. In the painting the old Crothers Road sanitarium is in the foreground and, in the distance near Eagle Rock, there appears a one-room building. While living there, Nadine determined that the little cabin had become the kitchen of her home, “judging from the looks of the floor and ceiling,” she said. It had an interesting past – according to previous owners, Joe and Rachel Alvernaz, who bought it in 1940. It had been vandalized and cattle walked in it occasionally! Now its shabby roof is covered with bright blue tarps and it sits forlornly waiting for its next incarnation. There’s no telling how many more New Years Days this old relic will be allowed to stand in this changing neighborhood among large new homes.

Going down was quicker than going up – every few steps became a glide in the oily mud. A man ascending the trail passed us with a grim face. He refused eye-contact and ignored our greeting. We noticed that he carried no umbrella.

The impending rainstorm was almost palpable as we lit out for the steep exit road out of the park and up onto Alum Rock Avenue. We scurried home as fast as we could and made it inside just in time to see the fierce cold rain sheeting across our bay window. We thought of the grim man who by then must have been atop Eagle Rock – or was he now hastily clambering down in a torrent of mud? Was he cursing himself for not taking along his umbrella as his wife had suggested? Happy New Year, Buddy, we thought as we settled down for a warm lunch by the window.

Click here for Walk in the Park photos. Click here for photos of the Log Cabin.

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You Dig It?

Area gardeners, both "Master" and casual, share their wisdom and experiences with Eastside gardening and related topics here.

February Hot Topics

By University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Bracey Tiede

Call the Master Gardener Hotline at (408) 282-3105 (our new telephone number) with your gardening questions or check out our website at

Pruning Fuchsias: The last part of February is the time to prune fuchsias. There may be some frost damage so prune that out. Also take off some of last summer's growth. Leave at least two or three healthy leaf buds. As the plant grows, it has a tendency to get leggy. Frequently pinch the tips of the branches during the spring and summer as this will force side growth, making the fuchsia bushier. Pick off flowers as they fade. Check out the American Fuchsia Society's website at for more information.

Planting Bare Root Roses, Berries and Trees: There are still bare root roses, berries and trees available in the nurseries. The bare roots of these plants need to soak from an hour to overnight (large plants) in a bucket of water before planting. Trim roots of broken, dead or spongy bits and carefully pull the roots apart. Dig a hole that is fairly shallow and wide. You want to spread the roots out sideways and have the crown of the plant several inches above the soil level. This is necessary as the plant will 'settle' down over time. Water in well but wait to fertilize until you see new shoots growing. Be sure to water regularly if the rains are sparse. An inexpensive water meter from the nursery is very handy to check soil moisture. Staking may not be necessary. More details can be found at

Pruning Hydrangeas: Remove old brittle canes on hydrangeas. Leave young canes with flower buds attached. Hydrangeas bloom on the new year's growth. Unlike hydrangeas, wait to prune camellias, forsythia, lilac, quince and other ornamental spring flowering shrubs until they finish blooming. More information about hydrangeas is on

Citrus Pruning and Care: Now is a good time to cut back those branches that touch the ground or fences or other structures. Thin the tree to let more air into the middle. Trim out crossing branches and anything that looks dead. All these steps will help control scale and aphid infestations. Using Tanglefoot sticky goo on the trunk will keep ants out of the tree. Be sure to apply the Tanglefoot on top of tape rather than directly on the trunk. The ants 'protect' the scale and aphids. If you see scale (bumps on bark), thoroughly spray with Volk oil to suffocate them. Yellowing of leaves is normal this time of year as the iron that keeps the leaves green is chemically unavailable because the soil is too cold. When the soil warms up (over 60F), check for yellowing. You may not need to apply a nitrogen fertilizer if the new leaves are green.

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The Garden in Winter

By Arvind Kumar (

Have you noticed that the Garden section of the daily paper has gotten a bit thin lately? Come winter, editors and garden writers retreat indoors, fuss over their houseplants, and dream of spring.

Well, I’ll let you in on a secret: the sun still shines, the ground’s still moist, and the plants grow like crazy in winter. Indeed, some gardeners spend as much time outside as the daylight and weather will allow. They know that winter is the best time to plant plants adapted to California’s winter-wet summer-dry climate. This is the time when the seeds germinate readily and when new plantings take root without fuss.

Ever since Ashok and I discovered this, our attitude towards winter has changed from one of dread and impatience to one of anticipation and wonder. We have been gardening with California native plants for nearly four years, and now we look forward to the onset of rains. Digging into the valley clay is effortless during winter, whether for weeding or for planting.

Winter is also the time when a variety of native plants start blooming. Let me take you on a short tour of the flowering plants in my garden before offering ideas on what you could do in yours.

Chaparral Currant (Ribes malvaceum) is one of the earliest plants to bloom. It’s been covered with pendulous inflorescences of pink-white blossoms for over a month. The native bees love to feed on these, as do hummingbirds. Supposedly deciduous, this shrub has been evergreen in our yard the past two years. It grows to 5’ and is suitable along a fence or as a hedge or divider.

When the rains came in late October, Sticky Monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus) was the first plant to bloom, and it has been covered with its tubular, snapdragon-like orange flowers ever since. The native bees can’t get their fat bodies through the narrow tube, so they cheat. They clamber over the flower to its base and pierce it directly to get at the nectar without ever pollinating the flower. The 2’x3’ plant has a south facing, sunny exposure. It needs occasional summer water to look its best. A workhorse in my garden.

Wavyleaf Ceanothus (Ceanothus foliosus medius) started blooming this month. This is a small shrub to 3’x3’ with brilliant blue inflorescences. It is so drought tolerant, a mature plant can go the entire summer without water. Younger plants benefit from a small amount of monthly water.

Although it comes into full bloom in spring, my Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea) has sent up a few flower stalks already. The 1’ tall spikes of shocking pink blossoms are a magnet for the hummers. In spring, this plant forms a fragrant green groundcover. In late summer, the leaves dry up, but the rootstock remains alive. We cut it to the ground each winter for a fresh new look in spring.

Our side yard, a long and narrow strip, has been converted to a home nursery. We have laid planks on top of inexpensive concrete blocks to create a substantial working surface at a comfortable height. On it we’ve placed gallon cans, 4” pots, and D-pots in which are growing grasses, wildflowers, perennials, and shrubs. Many are from seed (; others are from cuttings. The space below the planks serves as storage for empty gallon cans and miscellaneous gardening gear.

We love to grow native bunchgrasses in our garden. They are among the easiest to grow. They add interest and variety to the garden. Their flowering stalks sway in the slightest breeze, introducing motion into an otherwise still landscape. Their colors vary from a rich green to a golden brown. These are perennial grasses with deep roots that live for many years.

This year, we planted many pots of Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha), a 1’x1’ compact grass that is suitable for small beds and remarkably easy to grow.

Ashok is growing from seed the newly designated state grass, Purple Needlegrass (Nassella pulchra), a 2’x2’ bunchgrass that is at home in a meadow or as a specimen. He is also growing Pine Bluegrass (Poa secunda), a more compact grass, 1.5’x1’, better suited for small spaces.

Try native grasses on slopes for their unmatched erosion control value. The roots of tiny seedlings in 1” plugs can be as long as 1’. Deep roots are the reason why these grasses can survive California’s dry summers without a drink. They are also the reason why they bind our hillsides like no other imported grass does.

This season, we are also growing many wildflowers in our little nursery in 4” pots. We are growing Arroyo Lupine (Lupinus succulentus), collected by the side of Brokaw Road near 880, and will transplant them to beds when they are large enough to be able to withstand minor predation. We have also fallen in love with Wind Poppy (Stylomecon heterophylla), a shade loving, brilliantly colored wildflower. The 4” pots from Annie’s Annuals ( I planted last month have already begun to bloom. They include Five Spot (Nemophila maculata) and Cream Cups (Platystemon californicus).

So with all the propagating, planting, weeding, and mulching, you can understand why we haven’t had time to read the Garden section, let alone complain to the editor about the paucity of gardening articles. If you’ve had enough of being confined indoors, venture forth, grab a packet of wildflower seeds, and plant away. By the time spring comes around, all you’ll have left to do is watch the flowers bloom.

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Deer Resistant Plants, continued …

More good advice for folks who share their gardens with deer

No new advice for the moment because the deer have their minds on their annual mating game. Click here for neighbor Sally Holt’s watercolor of the probable outcome.

Sally, of Chula Vista Court, is a long-time artist who works in watercolor, oils and acrylics. She says she sees many baby animals on her acre and loves living here. She shows and sells her paintings and will inform NNV of a springtime art club show in which she will be participating.

Click here for our Deer, Fire and/or Drought Resistant Plants page.

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Wild Turkey Tales

Giant Gobblers nest and fly in Alum Rock Park

By Dorothy "D.J." Johnson - Youth Science Institute

Did you know that the Wild Turkey is North America’s largest upland game bird? (That doesn’t require a large stretch of the imagination!) Did you know that Wild Turkeys are extremely wary and are auditorily and visually gifted? Did you know that Wild Turkeys can run over 20 MPH and can fly over 50 MPH for short distances? Did you know that the Wild Turkey was one congressional vote away from becoming our national bird? All the more reason for discovering more about this ever-increasing avian phenomenon!

Back in the “old” days seeing Wild Turkeys in Alum Rock Park was a rare sight indeed. The only real hope of seeing one was to be lucky enough to do the Cherry Flat Reservoir portion of the San Jose Audubon Christmas Bird Count. And then, if the birding gods were with you, you might hear or see one or two, maybe.

How times have changed! It’s a rare late fall or winter day that I don’t see one. Actually I never see just one. It’s usually a small flock, at least. They can be seen strolling serenely down the centerline of the entrance road or foraging alongside. As often as not, there will be a flock of twenty plus grazing on the lawn in front of the ranger station, flowing slowly like a giant amoeba past YSI and up the side of the hill on their daily rounds. Last week I watched a very large flock, (for Alum Rock anyway), maybe fifty, moving up towards YSI. Instead of passing our building, they crossed the footbridge and moved into the parking lot staying close to the creek, constantly communicating in Turkey Speak. Something occurred in the parking lot which generated a large commotion (I know not what), and most of the Turkeys began flying back over the creek, onto the lawn, and up the side of the hill on their merry way. I knew Turkeys could fly but this was the first time I’ve actually seen them do it and how very strong and powerful they are!

The Wild Turkey is related to chickens, pheasants, Guinea Fowl and Grouse in the order Galliformes or Gallinacious birds. The historic range included eastern North America, all the way to the Rocky Mountains and south to Arizona and Texas. A separate species occurred in Mexico. Due to over-hunting, habitat loss and diseases contracted from domestic fowl, the five sub-species of Wild Turkey crashed early in the twentieth century. During the 1930’s, efforts were made to restore the populations in their historic range and introductions into California and the other Pacific Coast states occurred sometime afterward. Populations in some parts of California have increased dramatically. Populations nationwide now number in the millions.

Wild Turkeys have a colorful history. They were very abundant in pre-colonial days. Native Americans ate them, used their feathers in ceremonies and made whistles out of the long leg bones. It is thought that the Spaniards transported Wild Turkeys from Mexico back to Europe in the sixteenth century and domesticated them there. The domesticated form came back to the New World with the European settlers. The subsequent decline of the native Wild Turkey coincided with the movement of the settlers across the continent. In the late 1770’s Benjamin Franklin suggested that the Wild Turkey should become the national symbol for the fledgling United States. The Wild Turkey lost out to the Bald Eagle by one vote.

Turkeys started becoming a familiar sight in Alum Rock Park just a few short years ago. I now know why Turkeys like the park so much. They prefer a habitat mixture of clearings and woodland, open areas to feed, trees for their nocturnal roosts and thickets in which to place their nests. Turkeys also prefer habitat that includes Oaks, as acorns are an important fall food source. Alum Rock Park has it all.

Turkeys are considered omnivorous just like you and me. The young eat a lot of insects, spiders and snails to fuel their growing bodies. Adults are opportunistic and will indulge in an occasional frog, lizard or snake but the major portion of their diet is plant material. Favorite foods include seeds, leaves, grains, berries, buds, grasses, roots and bulbs. They have been known to climb trees and shrubs in their search for berries. Of course, Turkeys are “up with the birds,” their favorite foraging times being early morning and in the afternoon.

In early spring, small groups of males will cruise the park, displaying and gobbling. Males will gobble year around, however spring gobbling is louder and more protracted and can be heard up to a kilometer away. All the better to attract lots of females. Males will mate with as many females as they can entice. Females will retreat to heavy cover to lay their eggs. Nests are simple scrapes on the ground sparsely lined with available grasses. An average of 10-15 eggs are laid. Occasionally more than one female will share a nest. Incubation is from 25 to 31 days. The young are precocial, leaving the nest quickly and foraging right away. They will follow the female on her daily forays, learning the territory and where to find food and cover. The young take refuge under her tail, wings or chest when not moving around. Young Turkeys are able to fly short distances in one to two weeks and take several months to reach full size. Young males will leave the family unit when sexually mature, around one year, and will form groups with other males. Females will breed at one year.

How does one recognize a turkey? The largest males can grow close to four feet tall and weigh around sixteen pounds. Females can reach eight to twelve pounds and grow almost as tall. The naked heads of the males are decorated with colorful blue and red adornments used in their breeding displays. The naked head also acts as a radiator to cool the bird during times of stress. The male’s plumage is basically black with pale gray flight feathers. The long dark tail feathers are spread out like a fan during courtship. The males have long feathers, called “beards” growing from their chest. A small percentage of the buffy brown females will also grow a small beard.

If you have observed a group of Turkeys moving through the park you have probably noticed that they are constantly vocalizing. Turkeys have other vocal forms of communication besides the “gobble.” The most common keouk keouk keouk call is the contact call that keeps the group together. A cluck cluck call assembles a group that has become separated and the alarm call sounds like putt or pert.

The Wild Turkey offers a little something for everyone. Some folks like to watch and enjoy them. Some like to hunt them. They are a difficult prey. Their hearing is acute and their daytime vision is excellent. They can take off flying with a great burst of energy, enough to startle any predator. It’s difficult to sneak up on a turkey. Can you imagine what they would be like if they had a great sense of smell! Sooo, for those of you who want to observe and enjoy, come on out to Alum Rock Park and do some Turkey watching! Now is the time. They are seen pretty consistently in the main use area of the park, usually in the early morning.

Click here for photos of the turkeys as they wander out of the Park.

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

bulletA mountain lion has killed two goats near Alum Rock Park. Is the park a safe place now?
bulletWhat is the new little shop, “Replay,” behind Rafiki’s on White Road?
bulletWhy is the lot at the Nazarene Church corner still looking so junky?
bulletDid NNV goof when you said only 24,000 cars pass Alum Rock Avenue and White Road?
bulletWhat's going on with the empty buildings next to the YSI (thrift shop) on Alum Rock?

Q. Now that a mountain lion has killed two goats right near the edge of Alum Rock Park, is the park a safe place to walk and hike?

A. The late January story which filled the airways and prompted a major “Valley” section article in the Mercury News, made headline news because of something we all need to keep in mind: the extreme rarity of the event. There have always been mountain lions around the wildland edges of the park - but Crothers Road ranchers lose livestock to the big cats fairly infrequently. That this cat attacked goats rather than the most usual prey, the numerous deer in and around the park, is maybe not so newsworthy either. An NNV reader pointed out that one neighbor was considering getting goats some time ago, to keep his weeds under control. The advice at that time was that having goats is “like trolling for mountain lions”!

It’s a good thing to remember that we live in mountain lion territory. Despite earlier reports that this cougar was a male, necropsy showed this particular cougar to be a healthy three-year old "virgin" female. In general, they are afraid of people and keep their distance. There are a few rules to keep in mind when you are in or around the park: Don’t walk alone. If you are confronted by a mountain lion, make yourself appear as large as possible by raising your arms. If you have children with you, quickly pick them up. Do not try to run away. Most mountain lions will lose interest in a large stationary target. There have been only a tiny handful of human fatalities caused by California’s big cats; don’t let the headlines keep you from enjoying Alum Rock Park, our marvelous Eastside canyon.

Click here for a photo of the mountain lion sign in Alum Rock Park.

Q. What is the new little shop, “Replay,” behind Rafiki’s on White Road? We can never find it open.

A. Well, NNV has never found it open either, but we thought to ask Dr. Michael Torrano, the nearby New Horizons chiropractor, whether he knew anything about the shop. He’s a lovely, friendly guy and told us that the little shop resells very nice, clean clothing – mostly for just $2. He says that the owners are a nice couple and that he believes they have several small shops around town. He says that the best time to visit the shop is mid-afternoon.

Click here for a photo of Replay.

Q. Why is the lot to the east of the First Church of the Nazarene (on Alum Rock at Cragmont) still looking so junky? The yellow caution tape is all tattered and disheveled. Doesn’t anyone care?

A. Shortly after this question was asked, a major change happened. The caution tape mess was nicely cleared away and weeds were being mowed. NNV phoned Pastor Isaac Neil of Logos Christian Fellowship and got updated on the situation with the church. Last fall, readers will remember that NNV couldn’t reveal the details of the sale of the Nazarene Church because “all the i’s weren’t dotted and t’s crossed” yet.

Now, the deal is done and Pastor Neil is proud to reveal that his church which is currently located on McKee Road at the 101 has bought the Nazarene church and all its property (including the neglected-looking lot to the east). The Nazarenes are moving into their new church in Evergreen just as soon as it’s finished. They thought they would be moving before the end of 2004, but, as everyone knows, it’s never a good idea to predict when a new building will be completed. The Logos congregation thought, too, that they’d move to Alum Rock Avenue long before now, but they’ve leased the land back to the Nazarenes until their church is ready to move into. “Maybe in March or April,” Pastor Neil predicted as a move-in timeframe.

Meanwhile, he vowed that the messy lot with the old, worn-out house will be maintained from here on out. NNV will report on Logos Christian Fellowship after they make the big move into our neighborhood.

Click here for what we hope is the last photo of the messy vacant lot.

Q. Is it true that the intersection of Alum Rock Avenue and White Road has only 24,000 cars passing through each day as NNV reported in the “Mayor Makes Gonzalidated Effort to Visit Alum Rock Village Businesses” in the December NNV? That doesn’t sound like a very impressive number.

A. Ooops! The actual number, per Councilmember Nora Campos’ office, is 54,000 trips per day. NNV goofed. Mea culpa.

Q. Can you tell me what is going on with the empty buildings next to the YSI (thrift shop) on Alum Rock Avenue across from Mario’s Barber Shop? These buildings have been empty and look like something could be put there to make the neighborhood more eye-appealing. Why does it take so long for something to be done in the east side?

A. La Bodega Market will inhabit both sides of the homely pink building which used to house a dry cleaning establishment and a small produce shop. Rogelio Ruiz and his cousin Carlos Murillo have really big plans for a wonderful new Deli-Produce store which they hope will have the character of Race Street Fish Market – including fine quality seafood, produce, bread and wines. In a January 11th message, Rogelio wrote, “Our conditional use permit was approved on December 8. Construction documents are underway and we will shortly be bidding the façade improvement project. All in all, everything is moving forward.”

As to why these things take so long, this particular project poses some interesting permit challenges which take a while to get resolved – more about that next month. And, it probably isn’t true that things take longer here on the Eastside – maybe it just seems that way. What is true is that the more complex the project, the more hurdles there are to clear and La Bodega is very ambitious and complex!

Click here to see how the facade of La Bodega will look.

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Copyright© 2005 by Judy Thompson, 16174 Highland Drive, San Jose, CA 95127 
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Copyright© 2005 by Judy Thompson.  All rights reserved.  Updated 4/17/05.

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