New Neighborhood Voice

Newsletter - Edition 27 - Section 2

June 5, 2005 (June/July Edition)

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Will cars stop
for this?




New Retail Building
in The Village?




Just what
we need!



Spicy Mike waits
for the show

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New NNV Series Starts With This Edition

“Calvary Cemetery - 1882 to the 21st Century” Part I

Alum Rock Avenue’s “Sanctuary of Peace,” Monumental History Cache

A Lara Gularte, Patricia Loomis, Carol Schultz, NNV collaboration

NNV has long wanted to explore story possibilities at Calvary Cemetery, our Alum Rock Avenue “history mine.” Little did we know that we’d find it so very rich with fascinating (sometimes surprising, sometimes heartbreaking) stories and lore that it will take several chapters to do it any justice at all. We’re reminded of the series of articles we wrote beginning in 1999 about Alum Rock Park for East – The Neighborhood Voice – a wonderful neighborhood news resource now on the scrap heap of bygone newspapers. What began then as a “several-article-project” grew to thirteen separate stories – and, even then, barely covered the topic! As the history of the park did, we’ll let the cemetery’s own tapestry guide us and we’ll just have to wait and see how the story evolves.

Last year neighbor Carol Schultz introduced herself to NNV and offered her trove of clippings and photos from her years as a columnist for The Mayfair Times and The East San Jose Sun. We’ve been reprinting some of her stories and those of her colleague, Patricia Loomis, the author of a series of San Jose News articles called “Signposts” which chronicle the history of the naming of San Jose’s streets. NNV has reprinted Signposts stories on Alum Rock Avenue and McKee Road so far with several more Eastside street stories to share in the future.

Now we have a unique situation at hand because when Carol Schultz wasn’t penning newspaper columns, she was employed at Calvary Cemetery where she served as the office manager for more than twenty years. She faithfully gathered clippings and mementoes of her tenure there and has shared yet another treasure trove with NNV. The first most comprehensive clipping just happens to be an article called “The silent place where local history is written in stone” a story about Calvary’s first one hundred years from a 1982 San Jose News story by, you guessed it, Pat Loomis!

So, here, for you local history buffs and you casual seekers of a better understanding of the fiber of our neighborhood, is Part I of NNV’s “Calvary Cemetery – 1882 to the 21st Century.” As icing on this many-layered cake, award-winning locally-grown poet, Lara Gularte, shares her poem “Finding my Great Grandmother at Calvary Catholic Cemetery” for our readership in this edition of the newsletter.

Click here for Calvary Cemetery photos.

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The Silent Place Where Local History Is Written in Stone

By Patricia Loomis, Staff Writer, San Jose News, August 2, 1982

The green grass creeps up around the granite stone; almost hiding the century-old legend.

"Our little Frankie, the first buried in this cemetery," read the letters on the tiny stone in Calvary Cemetery in east San Jose.

Behind it, a larger stone marks the family plot of William Z. Williams, a Santa Clara area orchardist who came to the valley in the 1870s.

Calvary Cemetery was brand new when the family's youngest child was buried there. John Francis Williams was 3 years old when he died of diptheria Nov. 16, 1882, and the little casket was brought to the cemetery in a wagon and buried at night, because of fears generated by the disease.

Today "little Frankie" lies among more than 16,500 others who have found their final resting place in the old graveyard at Capitol and Alum Rock Avenues.

All of his family is there, parents, brother Edward, and a sister, Mary W. Williams who was born the year he died. She became a long-time San Jose businesswoman, manager of seed companies and later of the Catholic Women's Center at Fifth and San Fernando streets. She was the last of the family when she died in July, 1962.

While Frankie is in a family plot, many children lie in the area called the "Court of Angels." This is a corner of the cemetery in the old section known as the "poor ground" and many of the infants were buried there during the Great Depression of the 1930s when there was no money for funerals.

Now the old section is being tidied up and put under perpetual care. The bare ground will be covered with lawns to match the remainder of the cemetery.

Calvary Cemetery replaced the old Holy Cross Cemetery, known to oldtimers as the Kell cemetery because the hill land at the end of Canoas Avenue was a gift of pioneer ranchers Thomas and Margaret Kell to St. Patrick's parish in 1870.

A decade later the cemetery was deemed unsatisfactory and too far out of town, so in 1882, St. Patrick's purchased 20 acres of flat land on the east side of San Jose and named it Calvary. Most of those buried in the old Kell graveyard were moved to the new cemetery, but records were destroyed in a fire in the office of the San Francisco Archdiocese and some graves, including that of Louis Pellier, "father of the valley's prune industry” were never found.

Calvary Cemetery was operated by St. Patrick's parish until 1975 when it was purchased by the Archdiocese of San Francisco. At that time renovation of the cemetery began, and now in its 100th year, under direction of the Archdiocese of San Jose, it is continuing.

Besides removals from the old Kell burial ground, Calvary became home to several pioneers originally interred in the Laguna Cemetery, now long abandoned and incorporated into Ed Levin County Park east of Milpitas. Among these were members of the Frederick Brandt family who ranched what is now the park today.

The history of San Jose is written in the names on the old headstones and crypts at Calvary, names such as Auzerais, O'Brien, Kampfen, Schilling, Enright, Mirassou, Alameda, Tully, McLaughlin, Mieuli, Scorsur, Imwalle and Ryan.

A monument of stone from the Greystone quarry marks the grave of the quarry’s owner, Jacob Pfeiffer.

A headstone of Saragosa A. Sanchez Jr. bears a colored photograph of Sanchez in his football uniform when be was 20.

The legend on John Schilling's stone is written in German.

In the cemetery office, the old hand-written record of the first burials in Calvary Cemetery bears the signature of Archbishop Joseph Alemany, to whom the Kells deeded the first St. Patrick's Parish Cemetery.

There is also a notation of the burial of one Biatoniano on March 24, 1884. There is no first name given but the record shows he was a native of California who died of old age. He was 140.

Biatoniano was buried in the "poor ground" but his grave never has been located.

Pigeons have found a home in the old pines and palm trees that shade the graves in Calvary Cemetery, their cooing adding to the peace that persists inside the cemetery walls despite the sound of traffic just outside.

On the wall in the office, legend explains a cemetery is "a perpetual record of yesterday and a sanctuary of peace and quiet today ... existing because every life is worth loving and remembering.

Communities accord respect, families bestow reverence, historians seek information and our heritage is thereby enriched."

Click here for photos.

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Finding my Great Grandmother

at Calvary Catholic Cemetery

Augusta E. Pedro 1864 to 1948

A poem by Lara Gularte

In this place of wilting flowers,
I find you among wild grasses
and old leaves.
My hand touches your headstone.

Your fado cries out from the dirt.
I watch for you coming up through the grass.
Maybe you are among the seeds
waiting for another life.

I saw your picture once,
on a seat of hay in a horse drawn cart,
high necked black dress, stiff backed in stays and lace,
dark hair pulled into a tight chignon.

Too many layers into death,
you’ve been underground too long
among roots and stones.
Your great grandchildren have gray hair.

NNV Note: Lara Gularte, a third generation native of San Jose, has been published in a variety of publications including Downtown Magazine, the San Jose Mercury News, the Santa Clara Review and the Monserrat Review. In February of 2002, Poet's Corner Press of Stockton published a chapbook of her earlier work called "Days Between Dancing."

Lara is currently working on a poetry manuscript about her pioneer ancestors. Part of this work was translated into Portuguese by the University of the Azores and has been featured in Saber, a literary magazine in Portugal. Lara says Saber has asked for more of her poetry and she plans to send them "Finding my Great Grandmother at Calvary Catholic Cemetery."

Lara is a graduate student in the MFA Creative Writing program at San Jose State University where she was a poetry editor for the University’s literary journal, Reed Magazine. In addition, she is editor of, a poetry and art e-zine. She has left her day job as a Deputy Public Guardian for Santa Clara County Social Services and moved to Magalia, where she attends Chico State as a visiting student. And, by the way, she’s a James Lick High School grad - class of ‘65.

Recently, Lara wrote, “I was in San Jose last Friday to receive the Anne Lillis Award for Creative Writing and two Phelan Awards from San Jose State. I even get money! I was thrilled!

We love it here and it reminds me so much of San Jose before it grew. I love the natural setting and the slower pace of life. However, I manage to keep very busy. Still finishing my MFA degree and I work at an After School Program in the afternoons. I continue to work on my collection of poems about my Portuguese pioneer ancestors who lived in the Siskiyous. This will be my thesis.”

Lara describes the word “fado” as a sad, haunting Portuguese song – the music of sadness or fate.

Click here for a photo of Lara. Use the Back button on your Web browser to return to this edition.

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NNV Briefs

bulletRichard Brown’s Alum Rock Park Photo of the Month - Once-in-lifetime find?
bulletAppreciating First and Second Year Teachers in ARUSD - BTSA Colloquium
bulletCounty Names Plaza after East Hills Notable Neighbor Jim McEntee from Pete McHugh
bulletMothers Day Eve Draws Neighbors Out for Thai Food Experience
bulletEast Hills Preschool Event Draws Real Crowd by Peggy Susoeff
bulletHere and There: Stanford professor emeritus Googles NNV
bulletARUSD Technology Showcase at Alum Rock Youth Center
bulletSupport Our New Library With Your Gift by Eleanor Weber Dickman, SJPLF
bulletSanta Clara County Library passes Measure A, not Measure B by Melinda Cervantes
bulletAlum Rock Park Earth Day Report by Park Ranger Roger Abe
bulletHistory San Jose - Admission is Now Free!
bulletOn the Avenue – The Colorful Avenue: Bright togs on Alum Rock Avenue
bulletOn the Road – McKee Road: NNV Reader cites unkempt Quality Tune-Up business
bullet650 Ardent Parents and Kids Come Out for PACT “Action” on Small Autonomous Schools
bulletLooking for a Fun Date on Saturday? Try Alum Rock Park! by Park Ranger Roger Abe

Richard Brown’s Alum Rock Park Photo of the Month

Once-in-lifetime find?

Richard’s wife Sue and her wildflower-aficionado friend found a very rare gem of a blossom growing near Alum Rock Park’s South Rim trail. Here’s what he said about the find:

"Has anyone seen a Square Mariposa Tulip? This is the first we've seen, a rare find in the park, only two at the top of the South Rim. A rare elegant beauty from its Corinthian base to its exquisitely ornate petals reminiscent of Japanese art." Click here for photos.

"While out with her running group yesterday, Sue and her companions, Rox and Charmon were so delayed while admiring the flowers, the rest of the team were certain something had happened and came back to look for them. As it happens, Charmon used to teach wild flowers and at the very top of the South Rim, she walked back around behind the bench and folded back some weeds to reveal a single Mariposa tulip."

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Appreciating First and Second Year Teachers in ARUSD

NNV finds out what a “BTSA Colloquium” is

NNV received its first invitation to something called a “colloquium” last month and, of course, out of curiosity, had to attend just to find out the meaning of this five dollar word. The invitation actually said we were invited to attend the 2004-2005 “BTSA Colloquium.” Not knowing what the B, T, S and A stood for made the invitation all the more intriguing.

The event was held at the Alum Rock School District board room so it was apparent that it had something to do with our local schools. Indeed, the room on May 11th was packed with about seventy-five fresh faced, mostly young, first and second year district teachers. And, there to recognize these teachers’ dedication to and participation in the Silicon Valley New Teacher Program, were ARUSD Superintendent Dr. Tony Russo and their thirteen mentor/advisors. It was soon revealed that a colloquium is an informal meeting for an exchange of views and BTSA stands for Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment.

The BTSA System was begun in 1997 to provide support for beginning teachers with the intention of making a “difference in their performance, retention, and satisfaction.” That support comes in the form of guidance from seasoned retired teachers hired for the program due to their leadership qualities. NNV was happy to see several neighbors (and newsletter subscribers!) among the mentors and found out that half of the mentors in the program are themselves former ARUSD teachers. As one of the young teachers pointed out, “The best part of the BTSA program is having someone ‘there’ to listen.”

The colloquium aspect of the meeting took place as the group was divided into small clusters where the teachers were invited to share their successes and frustrations. For instance, each was asked what they wished they had known at the beginning of the school year. Some of the answers were amusing, but pointed. “I wish I had known that I’d have 39 students in my class!” said one. “I wish I had known that one half of my students are tough kids!” said another. “I wish I had known how far the drive here from San Francisco was,” two teachers agreed.

When asked to tell about a student who will never be forgotten – and why – the answers were positive and thrilling. “My student, Antonio, was my most difficult this year, but he was my best ‘turn-around’,” said one. “My student, Evelyn, who has the wisdom of a grandmother.” “I have an ADD/ADHD boy who is so excited about science!” And, from one of the mentors, a 36-year teacher, “I had a boy who didn’t like himself; his parents didn’t care about him. He came around with nurturing and even wanted to sit with me on a field trip!” And, said one young teacher, “Definitely Jennifer who just may be the first woman president of the United States!”

Human Resources consultant, Dale Weatherford, who as mentor Marge Siegfried says, is their “boss,” briefly spoke to the group, answering their questions, and extolling the advisors with the high compliment that they have “elevated the teaching craft to artisanship.” It was most obvious that the young teachers revered their mentors. Mentor Gay Ann Southwell’s protégés seemed all to have appreciative words for her loving, caring work with them. “She makes a point of getting acquainted with every child in every classroom of every teacher she mentors,” explained one of them with agreement from all.

Coincidentally, the meeting was held on Gay Ann’s sixty-fifth birthday. One or some of “her” teachers brought a birthday cake to augment the already generously full buffet table. It was clear that she was in her element and wouldn’t have preferred spending her birthday any other way!

Mr. Weatherford exhorted the young teachers to “Help the Rock keep on rolling!” The quality of these teachers is most impressive and NNV wishes more power to any program which makes their work go more smoothly and paves the way toward long, fulfilling teaching careers – hopefully in our challenging elementary district.

Click here for photos of Terribly Talented Teachers.

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County Names Plaza after Late Valley Human Rights Leader

East Hills Notable Neighbor Jim McEntee honored by Board of Supervisors

From Santa Clara County Supervisor Pete McHugh, District 3

On May 24th, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously named the County’s Civic Center Plaza after the late Jim McEntee, Sr. This decision came after the Jim McEntee Legacy Community Committee (JMLCC) held two public meetings where residents expressed their preferences on how best to honor Jim McEntee’s memory. Those who attended the meeting voted overwhelmingly to name the Civic Center Plaza in Jim McEntee’s honor. The Board will adopt a formal resolution naming the Plaza at its regular June 7 meeting. JMLCC will raise funds for appropriate plaques and/or signage for the Plaza.

“I believe the County should commemorate Jim McEntee’s legacy by naming our County Plaza after him,” said Supervisor Pete McHugh. “His work in conflict resolution helped many of the County’s diverse ethnic groups accept each other’s differences and enjoy the various cultural events that we celebrate on the Plaza.”

Jim McEntee dedicated his life to peace and social justice. He spent sixteen years as a Catholic priest including an assignment at Saint Catherine’s Church in Morgan Hill. After leaving the active priesthood, he joined the County as Director of the County’s Human Relations Department.

During his twenty-seven years as Director, he helped establish the Second Harvest Food Bank, the Emergency Housing Consortium, the Asian Law Alliance, and many other non-profits that have helped thousands in our community. He and his wife, Ann, were parents to nine children, and together modeled a partnership devoted to God, family, and community.

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Mothers Day Eve Draws Neighbors Out for Thai Food Experience

Thai White Rock Café in The Village serves down home Thai cooking

After the many glowing recommendations NNV has received complimenting the good food and pleasant atmosphere at our neighborhood’s most exotic restaurant, your editor and her escort (NNV’s one-man I.T. Department) dined in this small bistro on the eve of Mothers Day.

While not filled to capacity by a long way, the restaurant was decidedly busy with a good number of tables full of happy East side folks enjoying nicely-served Thai specialties. Because of all the positive comments on TWRC’s spring rolls, we NNV “staffers” ordered them and were not disappointed. They arrived hot and crisp, cut into serving size pieces. They were much better than the egg rolls served at downtown San Jose’s newest glitziest Asian (chain) restaurant!

Between us we ordered Chicken with Oyster Sauce and Pork with Garlic and Pepper. They arrived at the table looking quite similar with little fluted slices of carrot, similar garnishes and the same amount of amber broth surrounding the meats and vegetables. Although they looked alike, the flavors were quite distinct. Both were good and hot, not too spicy for our taste and were just the right amount for us to finish up with no leftovers to worry about. We vowed that next time we will choose items from other parts of the menu so as to taste dishes served in different styles. Our steamed rice came in an enormous aluminum tureen and was hot and sticky – the way we like it. We used the forks which were part of the place setting, but deemed this rice perfect for eating with chopsticks.

We brought our own bottle of wine as recommended by correspondents to NNV who have found that these restaurateurs will gladly open one’s wine gratis. One downtown restaurant recently charged friends $15 for the pleasure of drinking their own wine. At TWRC, no one sneers at the label or vintage you bring – as the proprietors admit, they know next-to-nothing about wine.

We are non-apologetic carnivores so probably won’t be tasting the restaurant’s vegetarian dishes. However, our discriminating friends who disdain food of animal origin, absolutely love TWRC’s carefully prepared veggie offerings.

Now for the best part. Our dinner - complete with plenty of spring rolls, two main course dishes, beaucoup rice and smoky tasting green tea - set us back less than $25 (tip included).

Click here for photos.

NNV Note: TWRC is located at 3116 Alum Rock Avenue – next to legendary Peter’s Bakery. They’re closed on Mondays. Tuesday through Saturday they’re open 11:00 AM to 9:30 PM. Sunday they’re open Noon to 9:30 PM. You can dine in or take out. They also make party platters. They serve Thai soft drinks, beer and a very limited selection of wine. Phone: (408) 729-4843.

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East Hills Preschool Event Draws Real Crowd

Two hundred folks out for butterflies and flowers!

By Peggy Susoeff

On May fourteenth, East Hills Preschool dedicated its new Butterfly Habitat at the Annual Spring Open House. The over 200 hundred in attendance included the students, their families, and several alumni families.

The children's chorus, accompanied on guitar by Chris Thomas, delighted the crowd with a performance of a few of their favorite songs. The butterflies, caterpillars, chrysalis', blooming wildflowers, and the weather all cooperated to make the day a wonderful success. The children were overheard explaining the life cycle of a butterfly to family members.

This event marked the completion of the first stage of the development of the EHPS Butterfly Habitat. For more information about East Hills Preschool and its new habitat go to

Vice Mayor Cindy Chavez attended as a result of an invitation of one of the school's families.

Click here for photos and here to read about how East Hills Preschool got a Butterfly Habitat.

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Here and There

Stanford professor emeritus Googles NNV

NNV had the pleasure of meeting via e-mail a Stanford professor emeritus who had Googled author Patricia Loomis’ name and wound up in the annals of New Neighborhood Voice. He’s Richard Cottle who was chairman of the Department of Operations Research at our nearby mecca of higher learning and he’s just written a book on the history of street names at Stanford which led him to search out Patricia, the writer of a series of articles on the naming of San Jose’s streets.

NNV has been reprinting some of Pat’s “Signposts” articles which tell the history of streets in our area – such as Alum Rock Avenue, McKee Road, etc. Now, of course, when someone Googles Dr. Cottle’s name, they’ll find him in the NNV annals!

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ARUSD Technology Showcase at Alum Rock Youth Center

Techy projects integrated into elementary and middle school curricula

On May 18th, at a Technology Showcase, teachers from around the Alum Rock Union Elementary District set up exhibits of student work demonstrating how they integrate technology into their curriculums. Tables ringing the gymnasium of the Alum Rock Youth Center held elaborate displays featuring a variety of “visuals” ranging from old fashioned paper posters and charts from the little kids to sophisticated laptop computer presentations from the middle school students.

At each table, a teacher/spokesperson greeted visitors and explained their students’ work. Topics ranged from sociological research such as the history of slavery in the United States and the country of origin of middle school students’ parents (13 different countries in one Pala Middle School class!) to scientific subjects such as the life cycle of frogs and the history of seismographs. Many of the displays showed great technological creativity and achievement.

It was pleasant to stroll among the exhibits while listening to the music of the Pala Middle School band performing on the stage. It was a wonderful opportunity to discuss the district’s strengths and shortcomings with the teachers who have the responsibility of educating our children. All the teachers were candid and friendly – as well as being great advocates of their students’ work. Interim district superintendent, Dr. Tony Russo, as well as school board trustees, were slated to address the attendees.

Refreshments catered by the ARUSD Child Nutrition Service were available in the entry hall just outside the gymnasium. The food tables were so mobbed by ravenous kids that getting close enough to see what was offered was impossible for a less-than-nimble adult. It must have been to their taste; the food disappeared almost immediately!

The ARYC donated its services and venue for the after school event. Click here for photos.

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Support Our New Library With Your Gift

Watch for our letter, please

By Eleanor Weber Dickman, SJPLF

Want to show your support for the new Alum Rock Branch Library? You can leave a lasting legacy to the community by making a donation to the San José Public Library Foundation.

You may have already received a letter signed by Bud LoMonaco and Bonnie Bamburg describing the Grand Opening of the library (scheduled for July 9, 2005). The letter also asks you to consider adding your name to the roster of donors to be displayed permanently in the new landmark building.

Individuals or groups that contribute $1,000 or more will be listed on the donor recognition wall in the lobby of the library. Gifts of $100 to $999 will be acknowledged on a smaller community plaque.

To help the Foundation prepare a representation of the donor wall for the opening, your gift or pledge must be received by June 15, 2005. A donation form is enclosed with the letter.

For more information, please contact the Foundation’s Executive Director, Marie Bernardy, at (408) 808-2174 or

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Santa Clara County Library passes Measure A, not Measure B

Library cutbacks and layoffs averted

By Melinda Cervantes, County Librarian

The May 3, 2005, election results are in and Measure A passed with a resounding 72%.

With the help of over 700 volunteers making phone calls, posting signs and generally spreading the word about the need to pass this important Library measure, the Santa Clara County Library would have had to cut hours and book purchases and lay off over 70 employees. The support of the Alum Rock and East Hills community was significant and, collectively with all the unincorporated areas of the county, passed Measure A with 68% of the vote.

Measure B received 64% of the vote, not enough to pass, but still a strong indication that residents want to see their libraries open and filled with books and other resources. The Santa Clara County Library will be doing just that. Libraries will be open at least five days a week and in some communities six or seven days a week with the help of the local community. Alum Rock and the East Hills residents strongly supported Measure A, a clear indication that the Alum Rock Library is needed and valued.

Measure A funds will help provide future support for the new City Alum Rock Branch Library and open the doors to all residents to use the Milpitas Library or any other Santa Clara County Library. Election results by precinct were not available at the time of this writing.

The County Alum Rock Library closed on Saturday, May 28th with a celebration of 60 years of service and a final farewell. The new City Alum Rock Branch Library will open on July 9, 2005.

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Alum Rock Park Earth Day Report

By Park Ranger Roger Abe, Alum Rock Park

Yes, the sky was dreary and wet, but that didn’t stop 189-plus environmentally activated volunteers from coming to Alum Rock Park on Saturday, April 23, 2005 to fix trails, remove weeds and plant native trees and plants.

If they weren’t quite awake when they arrived at the park at 8:30 a.m., Mother Nature supplied a cool mist and noisy Stellar Jays, radio station KRTY’s van pumped up the country music and Starbucks provided caffeinated and non-caffeinated drinks and snacks to start off the day. After opening remarks from Assemblyman Joe Coto and City Councilmembers Chuck Reed and Dave Cortese, the volunteers took up assignments and went to work.

Thirty-four plants and trees, six water bars, 144 bags of weeds, 91 bags of trash and recycling, miles of trails walked and quite a few bottles of water (provided by local Save Mart and Albertson’s supermarkets) later, 189-plus volunteers wound their way down the canyon on Penitencia Creek Road, many with free PG&E Energy Saver light bulbs and Starbucks gift cards. Most were a little dirty, a little tired, but feeling very good with a few hours spent improving on “their” neighborhood jewel of a park.

(Volunteer) trail crew leader, Ken Ford, and his group were the last ones to come down off the trails, but as usual, they had taken on the most ambitious project. The satisfaction on their faces displayed why they return every month (weather permitting) to tune up everyone’s favorite single-tracks. YSI manager, Mary Carlson, was impressed with the depth of knowledge in her group of volunteers. “I hardly had to tell them anything!” she reported. A teenage volunteer in Mary’s group so enjoyed their project with native plants, she decided to do more at home.

Yes, the sky was dreary and wet, but now that is changing. Better weather will bring back picnickers, hikers and nature lovers of all kinds.

Thank you again, Earth Day volunteers, Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup major sponsors — The California State Parks Foundation, PG&E, Starbucks, City of San Jose Department of Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services Adopt-A-Park Program and everyone else who pitched in. It was a great day.

But remember, Earth Day is Every Day!

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History San Jose - Admission is Now Free!

Made Possible by Grant from Cisco Systems, Inc.

Thanks to a $100,000 grant from Cisco Systems, Inc., admission to History San José at Kelley Park, and the Peralta Adobe and the Fallon House in downtown, is now free.

About History San José:
History San José is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and sharing the continuing history of the Santa Clara Valley. HSJ manages the largest regional collection of history in the State of California, from 1784 Spanish governmental records to twenty-first century Silicon Valley technology. 

History San José operates two sites. History Park at Kelley Park is an outdoor living museum located at 1650 Senter Road. It is a 14-acre park featuring paved streets, a historic running trolley, and 27 historic buildings. It is open Tuesday through Sunday, 12 noon - 5:00 PM.

The other location is the Peralta Adobe - Fallon House Historic Site at 175 West St. John Street in downtown San José. The Peralta Adobe was built in 1797 and is San José's oldest address. The Fallon House was home to one of San José's early mayors.

Peralta Adobe - Fallon House Historic Site is open Saturday and Sunday, 12 noon - 5:00 PM.

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On the Avenue – The Colorful Avenue

Bright togs on unlikely clothes racks on Alum Rock Avenue

Neighbors adjacent to The Village put on an unintentional impromptu art show on a bright May day when they hung little kids’ vividly colored garments on their wrought iron fence. One garment per space between the vertical bars seemed to work out just perfectly. Click here for a photo.

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On the Road – McKee Road

Reader cites unkempt Quality Tune-Up business

A new NNV reader, when asked her concerns about the community, pointed out the crummy looking mess which the corner of McKee and White Roads has become. Quality Tune-Up has allowed the weeds to overtake the landscaping plants and their signage to become dilapidated. Their indifferent approach to the looks of their business surely doesn’t add any “quality” to our neighborhood.

Click here for a low quality photo.

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650 Ardent Parents and Kids Come Out for Small Autonomous Schools

PACT “Action” draws over-capacity crowd to MHP

ARUSD Trustees Mesa and Freudenberger make nuanced commitments

Every seat was filled in the 500 seat theater at the Mexican Heritage Plaza at 6:45 PM on April 25th. Actually, the room was more than full. There was such an overflow crowd that the audience was asked to please double up by having the kids sit on their parents’ laps. The people filling this theater were parents and children from the Alum Rock Union School District supporting the Small Autonomous Schools program. That they were out on a Monday school-night demonstrated just how strongly these Eastside parents feel about their children’s education. Most of the children in those seats (or on those laps) attend the district’s three small schools, K-5 LUCHA (Learning in an Urban Community with High Achievement), K-2 Adalante, or Renaissance Academy, a middle school.

PACT (People Acting in Community Together) organized this “Action for School Choice in Alum Rock.” Two ARUSD trustees, Tanya Freudenberger and Kim Mesa represented the school board and fielded questions from seven PACT leaders. The major goals of the parents and PACT (which itself instigated the small schools program locally) were to assure that the three current small schools continue to be funded and thrive, that two more San Jose small schools be established, and that the board of education allow each small school to operate under a “Site Based Budget.” Such budgeting would allow each school to spend its funds as is deemed appropriate, rather than via district guidelines. As an April 27th Mercury News editorial put it, “The idea is to allow the per-student dollar application to follow the child and let the principal and teachers decide how to spend the money. By skimping on secretarial help or hiring a new teacher at a beginning salary, a school … may pool enough money, say, to pay teachers for an extended day. Under the standard method, the central office allocates everything by formula.”

Both Tanya and Kim are enthusiastic supporters of Small Schools and both are committed to nurturing them in the district. However, it was not within their purview to commit the entire board of education to PACT’s goals. PACT literally doesn’t “take no for an answer” but essentially could extract only the promise that these two trustees would go to bat for small schools and would do everything they personally could do to resolve lingering issues about autonomy, shared campus space and union relations.

The small schools parents and children were a force to behold. If the will of these fierce advocates of better educational opportunities for Alum Rock kids could be harnessed, the days of ARUSD’s decline would be over. PACT knows this, of course, and its Action for School Choice in Alum Rock declared open season on the district’s disappointing performance.

NNV Note: At the school board meeting following the PACT Action, the board considered the request for site-based funding for the small schools. However, according to Tanya Freudenberger, what came out of the board meeting is that it’s the State which determines how money is used in California schools – not individual school districts. There are champions of site-based funding (State Senator Joe Simitian among them) so it could just be a matter of time until such latitude is in the realm of possibility. The two new small schools which were mentioned at the Action will have to wait at least another school year. The organizers just don’t yet have their ducks in a row. The board will try to secure funding for 2006-07.

Click here for photos from this Action.

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Looking for a Fun Date on Saturday?

Try Alum Rock Park!

By Park Ranger Roger Abe, Alum Rock Park

Say it’s Saturday morning and you have a whole laundry list of things to do . . . no, scratch that, you have nothing to do, maybe you’ll just (yawn) sleep in . . .

WAKE UP! If it’s one of these Saturdays: June 18, July 16, August 20, September 17, October 15 or November 12, you can scoot out to the Alum Rock Park Visitor Center at 8:00 a.m. and join the Volunteer Trail Crew for a few hours of invigorating exercise in the fresh air and sunshine, canyon wrens singing, and you know, like that.

It’s fun. It’s beautiful. It’s healthy. It’s satisfying. What else can you do where once in a while your co-worker will yell, “Snake!” or “Bobcat!” or something adrenaline inducing, and you get a chance to see (whatever it is) too?

Maybe you’re just in the mood to whack something or to rid the park of evil invaders. Julie “The Thistle Queen” will be happy to hand you a tool and point out exactly what needs to be exterminated. You will come down the hill with an appetite whetted for lunch and stories that will turn the Park Rangers green with envy (they had to stay in the picnic area and tell people to behave.)

For further information, please call Alum Rock Park at (408) 259-5477 or e-mail Volunteer Trail Crew Leader, Ken Ford, at It’s free. You meet nice people. There is no obligation for you to come every month, just come when you want. Of course, you will also be making the trails more enjoyable and safer for other park users. How generous of you!

So come out, have fun, get exercise and pat yourself on the back. What a date!

And you’re always welcome to come again.

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Joe Leonard, a True Local Legend of Motor Sports

Alum Rock Avenue’s auto and motorcycle racing champion

By Dan Gentile

After interviewing Joe Leonard for five hours at his home I hiked back up the hill to my house, turned on the TV to the Letterman show. His guest was the pretty little Danica Patrick. She is the only female driver (fourth female ever to race at Indy) who was entered in the 2005 Indy 500 this year (driving for the Rahal/Letterman’s IRL team). She started last Sunday’s race on the inside second row and had already received an award for being the fastest rookie this year. Watching Danica was when I realized how much open wheel racing has changed since the days when Joe Leonard was driving at Indy.

Joe has been inducted into many Sports Halls of Fame throughout the United States, in some cases for both motorcycle and auto racing. He was also inducted into San Jose’s Sports Hall of Fame at the HP Pavilion recently.

There is no disputing the achievements of Joe Leonard in racing. There are only two people in the entire world who have done what Joe has done - win consecutive titles in motorcycle and auto racing. Joe is the only American racer to have done it. The other person was Englishman, John Surtees. Joe was Grand National Champion of motorcycles in 1954, ’55 and ’56 both on dirt tracks and road courses. He has a career total of 27 wins, two which came in the Daytona 200, motorcycling’s Indy 500. His auto racing career brought home two USAC championships in ’71 and ’72. When racing for STP man Andy Granatelli in a controversial Pratt and Whitney turbine-powered Lotus car, a failed fuel pump dashed his hopes of winning the 1968 Indy 500 in which he was ahead by 11 seconds. That was to be Joe Leonard’s greatest opportunity to have taken that drink from the traditional bottle of milk in the winners’ circle at the famed Brickyard that day.

The road to the Indy 500 was a long one. Joe was born in San Diego, where his love for racing began. Joe decided that life and racing opportunities would be better in Northern California. In 1951 at age 16 ½ with 21 bucks in his pocket, he headed for San Jose. Those 21 dollars would have to last him five days until he could enter his first race and win some money. His groceries (cereal and milk) would have to last him until he entered his first race. He took a second place win in that race and collected the much needed $99 prize money. He won that race on a Triumph 500. His sponsor was not all that convinced he was as good as people had said he was, so they gave him a used motorcycle. The next week he got a brand new, out of the crate, Triumph and took first place, beating local San Jose rider Larry Hendricks. While British bikes were competitive in those days, Joe would go on to ride the big, powerful Harley Davidsons. Tom Shifton was the 1st local Harley dealer in San Jose and sponsored Joe for many years. Tom sold his business to Sam Arena. As a young motorcycle-crazed lad, I remember the Sam Arena Harley dealership on Monterey Road.

Off the track, Joe was fast as well. In no less than seven months after arriving in San Jose and winning motorcycle races around the Bay Area, Joe met the love of his life. They were married after meeting and knowing each other for just those few months. She was the San Jose “Bone Queen,” Diana Gilbert, a young girl of 16 who had a French-Canadian background. Those of you who have been around here long enough will know that Diana was the queen of the famous football game, called the Bone Game, that occurs every Thanksgiving between Lincoln High School and San Jose High. Joe and Diana had two children, Joe Jr. and Debbie Leonard, who both reside in the San Jose area today. Diana wanted to maintain a quiet home life so while Joe’s racing career took him to many places across the US, she and the kids remained at their Alum Rock residence much of the time when Joe was out on the road. Joe lost his wife to cancer some five years ago. He continues to reside today on Alum Rock Avenue with his granddaughter Emily and Diana’s Yorkshire terrier. A cat is a recent addition to the household. I am happy to report the cat and dog get along just fine.

During most of his motorcycle racing career, Joe had to constantly diet and fight his weight. He had to stay a slim 160 lbs during the race season. He would get up to 180 or 190 in the off season. Most riders were much smaller and shorter than Joe. The 6’1”, big boned Joe would complain to the officials about the disadvantage he had against other riders. He insisted that the others riders should have to carry weights on their motorcycles in order to level the playing field, in the name of fair competition. Most of the officials just laughed at Joe and told him that he won plenty of races, even with his weight disadvantage. It was hard for the officials to see Joe’s point of view especially when he was beating the pants off the entire field!

Riding a motorcycle at 120 to 150 mph around a track is no easy feat. When you compare the motorcycles and driving equipment of today, you begin to understand that Joe was a daredevil of sorts in his time. Today modern aerodynamics, wind tunnel testing, on-board computers, Computer Aided Design equipment and extensive testing give riders every possible advantage before they even head a motorcycle or racing car down the track. In his day, Joe was “the computer” that had to figure out how to make that motorcycle go faster down the track. For Joe, the design and testing were done as he rode in every race. You did things like tape your pant legs to your boots, wire your throttle wide open, grab the front forks with both hands, tuck your arms in as far as you can and tuck that chin down on top of the gas tank so hard that your chin remains lopsided for the next three days after the race. Joe maintains that you always have to be smooth when you ride a motorcycle or drive a race car; small changes are the key to control and maintaining maximum speed. You don’t just lift a hand out of a high speed tuck to grab the throttle; you do it in a very calculated and deliberate manner. Trial and error separate the men from the boys out on track. Joe always knew how to get more out of any machine - two wheels or four.

When Joe got to the big leagues of auto racing, he had to work with engineers that were hired to design the race cars he drove. Joe had few kind words for those folks. In racing, he lamented, you have to know your equipment and that of your competition. If Joe saw something that other teams had, motorcycle or auto racing, and knew it was better than what he had, he would insist his team have the same thing. Some of the car builders like Smokey Yunick liked motorcycle racers. Smokey understood their language and knew they knew what they were talking about when it came to sorting out the issues of a race car.

Joe watches a fair amount of all kinds of auto racing these days when he’s not shuttling his granddaughter around town. He’s not all that impressed with what he sees and refers to NASCAR racing as “Taxi Racing.” I could not have said that better myself! He’s excited about the Grand Prix race coming to the streets of San Jose next month. I am sure we will see him at the track in some capacity for the promotion of the race.

Joe had much more to say about his racing career and life in East San Jose and about the people he met and associated with. I will continue his story in a future edition of NNV.

A word of warning to the residents of the Alum Rock area, if you see two former Indy car race drivers who happen to live in the Eastside foothills of San Jose driving side by side in a hail of dust, stay out of their way. They’re not trying to say, “Hi, how you doing?,” they’re racing … a true story!

Click here for photos of Joe Leonard. Click here for Dan’s earlier story on the San Jose Grand Prix and here for his story on Willy T Ribbs.  Click here for the San Jose Grand Prix Web site.

Want to read more about Joe Leonard? Start here. "Some men achieve greatness. A few become legends. One of the few is Joe Leonard."

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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.

June Hot Topics

By University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Bracey Tiede

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

Fruit and Chilling: We will get calls on why fruit trees are producing so little or in some cases no fruit. The combination of lack of cold evening temperatures and warm days at the right time during winter is the reason. Chilling hours are calculated by adding up the hours of below 45F. Chilling hours influence bud break, fruit set and fruit development. Insufficient chilling is probably the most limiting factor for sweet cherry, peach, apricot, nectarine and apple fruit yield here in the Santa Clara Valley. Chilling hour requirements range from four days (<100 hours) for persimmons to six to eight weeks for sweet cherries. For more information, visit

What's Eating My Fruit? Is there a hole that has teeth marks? Then it's probably roof rats or squirrels. Is there a hole that looks like the fruit has been stabbed? It's likely birds. There are several ways to keep the fruit for your family. Summer prune so the tree stays small enough to be covered with bird netting. Erecting a PVC pipe frame first eases net installation. Weigh down the net at ground level. If the tree is large, try pruning the branches so nothing touches any structure or other plant. This reduces rat and squirrel access. Purchase some bird scare tape that is a shiny Mylar tape. Tie an 18" length to a bamboo pole that's long enough to emerge out the top of the tree. Use several on each tree. Put out right before the fruit is ripe and remove it as soon as you are finished harvesting.

Fire Blight: Fire blight bacteria symptoms are seen as blackened dead branches and twigs that have a torched look. It hits ornamentals like pyracantha, cotoneaster, flowering pear and crabapple, mountain ash, hawthorn and fruit trees such as apple, pear, loquat and quince. It overwinters in cankers or wounds and resumes bacterial growth in the spring. There may or may not be oozing from the canker. It is spread by insects, rain, or pruning. The infection can extend into the trunk or root system and may kill the tree. Prune the infected branch about eight inches below the dead area. Spraying during bloom is the preventative method of control. See the pest note is at

Certified Arborists: The Master Gardeners get calls asking about how to trim trees or identify problems with trees. Sometimes we can help over the phone and send specific tree information such as how to take care of avocado trees or citrus trees, but when the caller is unable to bring in a sample or send photos or adequately describe the problem, we send a list of ISA Certified Arborists. You can go to the following website and find arborists through your home's zip code at

Fruit Tree Overload: If you have a fruit tree that is ready to pick and you just don't have the time or energy or motivation to pick the fruit before it falls and rots, please contact Village Harvest. This terrific organization has volunteers who will come to your garden and remove the fruit. The fruit is then donated to food bank organizations such as Second Harvest. You can reach them at Because of the demand for their services, they are focusing on senior or disabled homeowners, orchards or gardens with several trees. Their website gives hints on how to manage your fruit production reasonably and has many links to fruit tree information. Their telephone number is (650) 740-7725.

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Curtis Horticulture,, (408) 259-9974, CA Lic #826409

Ecological landscaping services: design/consulting, renovation, maintenance

Specializing in native and drought-tolerant landscapes. We live and work in the neighborhood.


How to Succeed With Native Plants

A plant is not a couch

By Arvind Kumar

“I've sort of given up on natives. A bunch die (& they are expensive) & the ones that live sometimes don't flower. Then I have those that take over. Just can't win.”

I recently received this message from a colleague who had stopped by my place the other day to drop off some plants. She liked my garden, but her experience with natives had been less than satisfactory.

Why was her experience so radically different from mine? I don’t know the details, but it illustrates a general rule: when working with living things like plants, there are no guarantees. Every plant is different, every garden is different, every gardener is different.

Consider how most of us garden. Gardening is a hobby, a pastime, not our livelihoods. We love wandering the aisles of our favorite nursery, picking up this plant or that, on a whim. We like nothing better than to bring newly bought plants to the garden and plant one here, one there, as the spirit moves us. We aren’t always aware if this “spirit” is our own inner voice, or just the voice of commerce, of advertisements that have seeped into our consciousness, exhorting us to buy this, buy that. Impulse gardening, like impulse shopping, gives instant gratification, rarely lasting joy.

A Plant Is Not a Couch
Author and native gardening champion Judith Lowry likes to remind people that a plant is not a couch. What she means is that a plant is not static, inert, or unchanging, like some piece of furniture. Plants are living things that grow and change with the seasons, and over the years. Success in gardening requires understanding each plant’s unique characteristics, the rhythms of its lifecycle, and planning accordingly.

Gardening is all about working with living things, and I don’t mean just plants. A plant’s purpose in life is to propagate, to produce flowers, pollen, nectar, seeds, and fruit. It needs the help of other living creatures like insects and birds. Over millennia, they have developed mutually beneficial relationships with each other. Insects and birds feed on pollen and nectar, and pollinate the plants in return. Birds and animals consume the fruit; in turn, they spread the seeds far and wide. Nature is made up of a web of interdependencies. The more integrated we are into nature’s fabric, the more successful our gardening efforts will be.

Of course, in this age of dominant commerce and shrinking cranial capacity, corporations want you to believe that nature can be controlled forever at no cost. This commercial is on the air these days: “This insecticide is guaranteed to kill all insects in your lawn for up to 3 months!” As if all insects are bad. They don’t tell you what that poison does to the beneficial insects, butterflies, birds, even little children. A recent study reported that Roundup, when used exactly as directed, is lethal to lizards and other creatures. Farm workers in California are developing severe health problems from being around methyl bromide used widely in strawberry fields.

More and more people are reevaluating the so-called benefits of these “convenience chemicals” against their true cost to humans, to animals, to the environment, and concluding that it is simply not worth the risk. They are realizing the value of gardening with nature, not against her, and discovering the many benefits of growing plants native to one’s area.

How can you succeed with native plants in the home garden? It can be summed up in two simple rules.

  1. Know your site.
  2. Know your plants.

1. Know your site
In this era of extreme mobility, we sometimes forget that towns, cities, and countries are not interchangeable. San Jose is not Los Angeles, California is not the East Coast, and the U.S. is not Europe. Each part of the world is unique and different and special in its own way. As a gardener, your first task is to learn what’s unique and different about your site.

SOIL: California’s geology is unique, and so are its various soils. Some are characterized as lean, or low in nutrients, yet support an amazing diversity of plant life without added fertilizers. Serpentine soils contain large amounts of metals like magnesium, toxic to most plants, yet contain some of our loveliest native plants. Woodland and forest soil is usually rich loam, made from years and years of decomposing leaf duff. Where I live, on the valley floor, there is dense clay, nutrient-rich and water-retaining, not necessarily a bad thing for a land where there is not a drop of rain for six months of the year.

CLIMATE: From the cool coastline to interior valleys to hot deserts to alpine meadows, California’s weather is as varied as its topography. What’s it like where you live? Temperature? Humidity? Rainfall? The more you understand what nature sends your way each year, the better you can plan the garden and its maintenance.

What you really want to know is what plant communities are suitable for your site. The notion of gardening by plant communities – plants which grow together in nature, from annuals and forbs to shrubs and trees – is finding growing acceptance among landscape designers and homeowners who want to create environmentally friendly, sustainable gardens. Gardening by plant communities provides you with a palette – nature’s palette – of plants to choose from. Caring for plants in the same plant community is easier because their needs will be similar.

In the past you would have had to consult books on California botany to find out what plant communities are local to your site. Today, you go to Las Pilitas Nursery website and navigate to the Zip Codes of California webpage: Click on the link in the left margin that is the closest to your zip code. E.g., my zip code is 95148, so I click on 95000 in the left margin. Then find your specific zip code in the listing on the right. Click here for a screen shot of an example listing.

According to this, my zip code 95148 contains two plant communities:

• Central Oak Woodland

• Coastal Sage Scrub

Central Oak Woodland, for example, is characterized by trees such as valley oak, blue oak, coast live oak, interior live oak, and gray pine; shrubs such as bigberry manzanita, coffeeberry, redberry, currant, gooseberry, and toyon; and annuals like goldfields, poppies, and lupines.

At the bottom of each plant community page, click on the link titled: “To open the list of the plants that are in the trade and live in …”. This will give you a list of all plants found growing in that plant community. For the Central Oak Woodland plant community, 195 plant species are available in the trade.

2. Know your plants
Having done the hard work of identifying the plant communities appropriate to your site, you are ready to play. Choosing plants for your garden is the fun part because of the large selection. The time spent in this task is an investment in your garden. The more you know, the better your choices.

Once again, the Las Pilitas site can be of great benefit. Its “Picture and Description” link takes you to a web page for that plant, with information such as height, width, tolerance for sand, clay, flooding, and deer, foliage color, and flower color. As you research these plants, you will find that some fit your garden better than others. In the end, you will end up with a short list of, say, 10 or 20 plants, each of which you will know to a surprising level of detail.

Las Pilitas has also created another helpful tool at which allows you to search their database by:

Zip code
Watering regime
Soil type

It then produces a short list of suitable plants which can be further filtered by:

Plant Community
Flower color
Foliage type
Foliage color

While the program is not entirely glitch free, it is tremendously helpful to beginners who don’t know where to begin. Click here for a screen shot of a plant description.

There are other sites with horticultural information on California natives. Here are a few that I use:

California Native Plant Society chapters have incredibly useful articles on native plant gardening. Try: 

Tree of Life Nursery carries informative one-page plant profiles of over 100 commonly used native plants at

Gardening with California natives is such a vast and developing field that not everything that ought to be known is known. Learn the rules and guidelines, but don’t be afraid to experiment or buck conventional wisdom. My elegant clarkia does fine in bright shade; it just blooms later. I can’t get meadowfoam to survive in sun, even though as a meadow plant, it is supposed to want sun. After you have been growing your chosen native plants for a few years, living with them through the seasons, observing them from close quarters, you will become your own expert.

As demand for natives goes up, prices are expected to fall, but at this time, expect to pay $7 and up for gallon size plants. Annie’s 4” pots are usually $4 each. Many small nurseries get their plants from large growers; even if they don’t have the native plant you want, they can special order it and have it for you in a few days. They want your continued business, so be sure to let them know what you are looking for.

So do some research into the plants before you buy. You’ll be more likely to find plants that will do well at your site, and you’ll be able to answer questions from admiring neighbors.

NNV Note: Arvind Kumar has been growing native plants in his Evergreen garden for the last four years. He cut his native plant teeth at meetings of Gardening With Natives (

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More Plant-Resistant Deer Needed

The fawns’ll eat ivy too, wouldn’t you?

NNV’s enormous frontyard ivy patch was recently chopped to bare ground in order to remove more than fifteen years’ worth of flammable undergrowth. It took several weeks for the ivy to recover enough to send out its tender new leaves, but now that the slope is greening up again, it has become Ground Central for flocks of browsing deer. They come in their usual family groups of two or three or four. They are so unafraid that they munch their way from one end of the yard to the other almost within our arm’s-reach.

A recent bold bunch was composed of two young bucks with little velvety antlers and their young friend Janie Doe. Janie took no nonsense from the boys when they tried to butt her out of the way. She just shouldered them off the slope onto the driveway! We hope they will continue their grazing all summer and perhaps eliminate the need for future fuel reduction projects!

By the way, the deer don’t seem to be eating our “Love-in-a-mist” (Nigella damascena) but they’re doing a real number on our geranium blossoms (actually the big woody plants which grow so lushly in this climate are really called Pelargonium domesticum if you want to be technically correct.)

Click here for photos of the deer. Click here for our Deer Resistant Plant page.

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To run your ad in New Neighborhood Voice, E-mail or call (408) 272-7008

Want to write or take photos for New Neighborhood Voice? NNV welcomes reporters, essayists, poets
and camera bugs. More “Voices” = a richer NNV. E-mail or call (408) 272-7008.


Penitencia Creek Flood Flow Bypass Channel for Toe of ARP Landslide

New dog park planned near Penitencia Creek Drive

Alum Rock Park Update from City Councilmember Chuck Reed

Below are excerpts from a community update from City of San Jose Councilmember Chuck Reed in a recent edition of the Berryessa Sun.

Capital Projects Funded: One-time money allocated but not yet spent

• Acquisition of land for the Penitencia Creek Trail connection into Alum Rock Park

• Alum Rock Park - protect the toe of the landslide from the creek

Alum Rock Park Update
Alum Rock is the oldest city park in the state and it certainly is one of the best. However, it needs a lot of care and improvements just to recover from the damages suffered in the floods of 1998. Those damages include the landslide that forced the closure of Crothers Road and Alum Rock Ave. Part of my job is to make sure that we follow through on the commitments made by the city to improve Alum Rock Park.

To date we have replaced the Quail Hollow Bridge, rebuilt the parking lot, and made improvements to the creek trail. We have also completed a study to help protect against the landslides that caused the closure of Crothers Road and Alum Rock Ave. We now must work with the different environmental and permitting agencies regarding a project scope and schedule for building a new flood flow bypass channel at the toe of the slide.

Creek Trail Completion
The Open Space Authority has appropriated funds that are needed to connect Penitencia Creek Trail to Alum Rock Park. The City will begin construction at the perc ponds on Noble Ave. The project includes bridges over the spillways, picnic areas, landscaping and trails. The trail between King Rd. and Jackson Ave. has been designed and partially funded. The Bay Trail Master Plan is complete and a grant application has been submitted for a bike/ped crossing parallel over the Guadalupe River. Other trail projects are now underway along Coyote Creek from Montague to 237 and Guadalupe River from 101 to Alviso.

Park Development
We have identified a site near Penitencia Creek Dr. and Capitol Ave. for a dog park and we are working with the County to design it.

If you want to hear about community meetings, important items on the council agenda, and other things happening in District 4, sign up for the District 4 email update list. Just send an email message to to let us know you want to be included. You may also visit the District 4 Website at

You may also reach District 4 at 801 N. First St., Sixth Floor, San Jose, CA 95110, Phone: (408) 277-5320,  Fax: (408) 297-7069.

Chuck Reed
San Jose District 4

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Wildfire Awareness Week 2005

Maintaining the Crothers Road Firebreak

It just doesn’t seem like it should be fire season yet!

Wildfire Awareness Week came and went this year in early May without all the usual fanfare – probably because it just doesn’t look like our wildfire season should have started since we’ve had so much rain.

Wildfire Awareness Week is sponsored annually by the California Fire Safe Council, the California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection (CDF) and, locally, by the Santa Clara County FireSafe Council and the fire protection agencies in Santa Clara County including the San Jose Fire Department.

Yes, the San Jose Fire Department did have their Wildfire Awareness Week banners up on all the fire stations again this year and the City Council declared May 9-16, 2005 as their official Wildfire Awareness Week during their City Council meeting on May 10, 2005. And the CDF did set up “traffic stops” at four fire prone locations in the southern part of the County to remind residents that it’s time to clear the Defensible Space around their homes again.

Meanwhile, when it wasn’t raining, Santa Clara County road crews were hard at work cutting the weeds and grass on their side of the firebreak on Crothers Road (from Alum Rock Avenue to Peacock Gap Drive) that helps protect us all from wildfires in Alum Rock Park. It was an even bigger job than usual this year due to the wet spring – the hazardous vegetation is much higher and thicker than last year. The fire season may be starting late this year but there will be more fuel when it dries out. Before it starts, the Alum Rock Park crews will work on the fire breaks and trail maintenance in the Park – first on the north side, which will dry out first, and then on the south side as they remove vegetation from the City side of the Crothers Road firebreak.

Now it’s time to think about your own home. Click here for an article on fire prevention measures you can take to protect your family and property by Fire Captain Juan Diaz, San Jose Fire Department Wildland Officer.

The Santa Clara County FireSafe Council has a 20-page, step-by-step guide for homeowners and residents available on-line. Click here for the guide, Living With Fire in Santa Clara County. This guide is appropriate for the Wildland Urban Interface areas, such as the East foothills, and includes information on creating defensible space, fire resistant plants and roofing materials.

Meanwhile, the CDF has started to open the fire stations to the east of us (including their Smith Creek Station on Mt. Hamilton Road) and will probably announce the start of the 2005 fire season this week. Maybe we’ll see more fanfare and newspaper articles then. The annual Live Fire Training in Joseph D. Grant County Park is planned for June 21-22 this year. You’ll see fire engines and trucks and other vehicles from all over the County going up and down Alum Rock Avenue and Mt. Hamilton Road as they come and go for the training. If you’d like to be able to tell your kids which is a fire engine and which is a fire truck as they go by, click here to read about the fire engines and trucks at Station 2 on Alum Rock Avenue.

The Santa Clara FireSafe Council meets at 10:00 AM on the second Wednesday of each month. Homeowners, residents and representatives of all interested organizations are welcome! Click here for the location and directions to the next meeting on June 8, 2005.

Click here for a few photos of the Crothers Road Firebreak. Click here for the Lick Observatory Web cam (the best way to see wildfires in this area - they have two cameras now).

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

bulletIs it true that several new “McMansions” might be built on the Alum Rock Stables property?
bulletDo any of the slimy mail thieves who rob us of our mail (and peace of mind) ever get caught?
bulletHave the new Yield to Pedestrian signs in Alum Rock Village had any effect?
bulletOn May 2nd, I saw a strange white circular object. Was it a flying saucer by any chance?
bulletWhen will the new businesses in the dilapidated lot on White Road be developed?
bulletWill the Mexican Heritage Plaza host a Farmers’ Market this summer like they did last year?
bulletWhy does the religious statuary tableau at Calvary Cemetery keep moving around?
bulletIs the old Alum Rock Library going to sit there closed? Will my card work at the new library?
bulletWill Rafiki’s Coffee Hut have the coffee concession in the new Alum Rock library branch?
bulletCan we pick up printed versions of New Neighborhood Voice anywhere?
bulletHow do I enroll my child at Renaissance Academy? He’s going into sixth grade this fall.
bulletHow do parents find out about enrolling their children at Renaissance Academy?
bulletWho is eligible to enroll? Do kids who would attend George get preference?

Q. Is it true that several new “McMansions” might be built on the Alum Rock Stables property near the old entrance to Alum Rock Park? Aren’t there some people in our area who care about the old stable and want to see it preserved? Can’t something be done?

A. The old barn and ring are sitting idle and have been closed for several years now. The owner could sell it and it could be developed for several houses at any time.

There is an organization called Bay Area Barns and Trails Trust which has as its mission, the preservation of old barns and equestrian properties in the Bay Area. However, BABTT hasn’t yet caught the attention of people in our neighborhood who would like to see the stable restored and brought back to life as a viable equestrian resource.

BABTT has been trying to negotiate with the City of San Jose to clear up a sticky (but not insurmountable) right-of-way situation, but the lack of interest from “Us the People” around here has left BABTT dangling. For more information, contact Barbara Weitz at 415-383-6283 or e-mail

Q. Does NNV know whether any of the slimy mail thieves who rob us of our mail (and peace of mind) ever get caught?

A. NNV recently received news from a reader which decidedly warmed the cockles of our collective hearts. The Sunnyvale police phoned Karen DeLong to tell her that an alleged thief, Darrel Barnes, had been arrested with one of Karen’s stolen bank statements in his possession. The officer who phoned the DeLongs called them at 1:30 AM, but such heartwarming news was worth the interrupted sleep, says Karen. Bravo, Sunnyvale PD!

Q. There are new Yield to Pedestrian signs at the ends of the islands near the crosswalks in Alum Rock Village. Have they had any effect on making the area safer for walkers?

A. Your NNV photographer decided to snap a photo of one of the signs for this edition of the newsletter. Getting out to the island was a feat in itself. Not only would traffic not stop for a little old lady in the crosswalk, it seemed as though drivers gunned their engines and sped up. It was necessary to wait until there wasn’t a car in sight coming down the hill before venturing into the bright white, newly painted crosswalks.

Once at the island, camera aimed at the sign, cars and buses began whizzing by your photographer. It was several minutes before the coast was clear enough for a quick (for a lady of a certain age) lope back across the street to the safety of the sidewalk.

Conclusion: Don’t take any chances. Although the signs are represented in “international symbols,” folks don’t seem to be able to understand what they mean.

Click here for the photo.

Q. On Monday morning, May 2nd, there was a strange white circular object on the north side of Alum Rock Avenue at the west end of the Miguelito bridge. It appeared from a distance to have a metal rudder of some sort and a wedge-shaped brown mass on top of it. Was it a flying saucer by any chance?

A. Your editor happened to walk along Alum Rock that morning and came upon a strange sight. Sitting on the gravel was a gold-rimmed white china plate. On the plate was a nearly complete slice of chocolate marble cake. A silver fork was positioned as though someone was about ready to enjoy a second bite of said cake. The cake was totally unmolested. There wasn’t an ant or critter of any kind anywhere near the plate. Your editor did not taste the cake although it looked to be an excellent example of a dessert chef’s art.

On the way down the hill, various scenarios came to mind. Did someone at a Sunday Country Club function steal the cake and suffer thief's remorse after running across the bridge? Did someone drive away from the Country Club dessert-in-hand due to a hastily truncated dinner – and then decide he was just too full? Did someone at a reception drink too much fizzy stuff, lose his inhibitions and decide that Country Club desserts were meant to be “dine here or carry-out?”

We shall never know. However, it was not a flying saucer - it was a dessert plate. Click here for a photo.

Q. When will the new businesses in the dilapidated lot on White Road across from the James Lick parking lot be developed? It seems like a long time since the developer said he’d start.

A. NNV spoke with Anthony Caruso about two weeks ago and he said that he now has “planning approval” from the City for 7,700 square feet of retail space - one story tall. It’s a little less than the 8,000 square feet he was hoping for, but he said that the City was “working with him.” If everything has gone as planned, you may already have seen demolition begun on the tacky old building on the property which in its most recent incarnation, was a bar-be-que restaurant.

Anthony said they are waiting for “building comments” from the City and, at this point, he is pretty sure he has one tenant lined up, but it’s too early in the negotiations to get specific. He had mentioned in the past that he hoped to bring in a nice fast food chain and maybe a juice place - generally businesses which would be appropriate for the high school and middle school crowds which frequent the area.

Click here for a photo.

Q. Will the Mexican Heritage Plaza host a Farmers’ Market this summer like they did last year?

A. Nope, afraid not. NNV spoke with Executive Director Marcela Davison Aviles and she said that the focus of the center will be on multi-cultural “artistic and cultural” programs rather than the diverse offerings which the center had hosted. She thinks that markets featuring the arts and artists will be more appropriate in the future. Do you agree? E-mail Click here to read more about the Mexican Heritage Plaza and here for the MHP Web site.

Q. Why does the religious statuary tableau keep moving around on the southwest corner of Calvary Cemetery? It seems that it changes from day to day – will they never decide what they really want?

A. NNV learned that the City wasn’t satisfied with the installation of the three religious figures on the original small mound of soil and ordered that certain criteria be met. Since then, the City has moved the figures to one side and built a much larger, taller mound as well as various concrete fixtures. The figures will be placed on the new mound and a sign identifying the cemetery will be part of the construction.

Incidentally, if you’ve ever wondered, these figures came from Gate of Heaven Cemetery and are marginally “life size.” The figure of Mary on the right is just five feet tall.  Click here for some photos.

Q. Is the old Alum Rock Library really going to sit there closed this month? What are we going to do for library services until the new branch opens on July 9th? Will our County library cards work at the new City branch?

A. You’ll have to get creative and expand your library horizons. You can use the other new City branches which have opened this spring or you could try the Milpitas (County) branch. If you haven’t already gotten yourself a card for the City libraries, you’ll need one for our new branch when it opens. Your County library card will not work at the City branches and vice versa. You can apply for a new card at any City branch and have it all ready to go on July 9th.

Click here for photos of the old and new libraries.

Q. Will Rafiki’s Coffee Hut have the coffee concession in the new Alum Rock library branch? It seems a shame to make it compete with coffee machines in the new branch.

A. Well, precedent has been set according to an article in the Mercury News which said that City Library Director Jane Light was giving a “test run” to a coffee purveyor in one or two new branches. Rafiki’s owners, Luke and Liesl Violante aren’t exactly sure how they want to develop their business in the future, but if you want to lean on them a little, maybe you can help them decide whether they want to put in their bid with the City. Now’s the time.

Q. A real estate newsletter we received in the mail mentioned that we could pick up printed versions of New Neighborhood Voice at several neighborhood sites and at the Alum Rock library. We found one paper copy to read at Rafiki’s, one at Mario’s Barber shop, one at the Coffee Cup, but no one had a stack of them available for people to take.

A. Wonderful area real estate broker Mary Faria kindly gives NNV a boost from time to time in her newsletter. In her April 2005 issue she listed among her “Notable Web Sites.” A communications error caused a tiny distortion of the information in her column! What it should have said is that one can read a paper copy at each of those places.

Unfortunately, the paper copies of NNV cost an arm and a leg to produce and it would be prohibitive to put stacks of them anywhere! However, you can order a subscription to the paper version, if you like, by sending a small annual donation ($10 -$15 is good) to help toward the cost of production and mailing costs. But, it is really, really much better if you can look at NNV on-line because there are many more photos in the on-line edition and it costs next to nothing to distribute it that way. See NNV Contact and Subscription Information below.

Q. How do I enroll my child at Renaissance Academy? He’s going into sixth grade this fall.

A. Unfortunately, it’s too late for this coming school year. You would have needed to apply by April 22nd. Lead teacher Nancy Gutierrez says, “We are already full and have about 40 students on our waiting list.”

Q. How do parents find out about the opportunity to enroll their children in a Small Autonomous School such as Renaissance? When is the next time that enrollment will be open?

A. According to Ms. Gutierrez, flyers are sent to elementary schools and a letter is sent home to all ARUSD families. She adds, “We will not begin accepting applications until February 1st of 2006 for 2006-07 school year.”

Q. Who is eligible to enroll? Do kids who would attend Joseph George Middle School (where the Renaissance campus is located) get preference? How are students chosen?

A. All ARUSD students going into middle school are eligible to apply – they don’t have to live in the George attendance area. Students are selected by lottery. For more information you can contact Renaissance Academy at 277 Mahoney Drive #A-4, San Jose, CA 95127. Phone (408) 928-1950.

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--------------------------- Contact and Subscription Information ---------------------------------
Copyright© 2005 by Judy Thompson, 16174 Highland Drive, San Jose, CA 95127 
Phone: (408) 272-7008, E-mail: Fax: (408) 272-4040 
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Copyright© 2005 by Judy Thompson.  All rights reserved.  Updated 8/5/05.

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