New Neighborhood Voice

Final Newsletter - Section 2

November 5, 2006

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Click on a thumbnail to view larger photos

Ritch Waldron's


YSI Wildlife
Festival in ARP

JLHS singer
with snake


Nora Conte
says goodbye


At Mathson
Middle School


Brown's ...

Alum Rock
Park favorites



Joan Balcom


wildfire area


LCP native plant plan


Wildlife Center
Silicon Valley




The Village
will be colorful!

Who painted the
East Highlands sign?


New building for St. John
Vianney on Hyland Avenue


Ann Precilla

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“Operation: Sharper Image”

By JLHS Music Teacher Tomoko Nakajima

You’ve seen it. We’ve completed major construction at James Lick High School. Thanks to community support, our campus is beautiful and welcoming.

What you may not notice is that our students have facelifts as well, but not in the form of liposuction, botox or steroids. Drive by our school and you’ll see their incessant smiles and hear laughter. Visit the campus and feel their pride as they cheerfully “chill” between classes in the new corridors and lawn area. We love our school.

As the James Lick music teacher, it saddened me when my performers arrived to concerts in sweatshirts and jeans, claiming they didn’t own any nicer clothes. So I did something about it and plan to continue for years to come. This fall, I purchased new tuxedos and concert gowns for all my performers. I knew they would have trouble paying for them but our Lick band and choir members work too hard to face criticism for how they dress.

The Comet commitment is to always do our best. Now these teenagers feel fabulous and dignified. The new attire will be standard for us at all concert, festival and competition appearances. It’s amazing; the students automatically sound better and act more professional when wearing their concert dress!

Please help us dress for success. We have several fundraisers to choose from:

  1. Safety Fundraiser - Purchase a fire extinguisher ($14) or first aid kit ($12) from us for your car or home. Contribute to JLHS and be prepared for emergencies.

  2. eScrip - Sign up with to donate a portion of your grocery or credit card purchases to us. You don’t pay a cent! The “James Lick Music Department” is Group # 500005092.

  3. Recycling - Donate your old cell phones and empty ink cartridges to us and we’ll dispose of them safely for you. We also have a redemption program for aluminum cans and plastic bottles. Please call to arrange a drop-off time.

I refuse to sell you magazines, cookie dough or lollipops. My music students are conscientious, they conserve natural resources and save their energy for learning. We don’t want to fatten our sponsors; we want you to be healthy and continue supporting JLHS! Please contact me if you can contribute: or 408-347-4447. Thank you,

Click here for "before" and "after" photos.

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Calvary’s Carlos Rascon Rescues 78

Abandoned remains find sanctuary – at last

The mortal remains of nearly eighty people were belatedly put to rest at Calvary Cemetery late in September. To be exact, seventy-eight boxes and canisters bearing cremated remains were entombed in an unused burial crypt after years of sitting, unclaimed, on funeral parlor shelves.

The vessels varied in size and represented many bygone eras. Each was carefully labeled with the names of the deceased and their final data, but even so, the vestiges of these once vital individuals found neither kith nor kin to rescue them from the ignominy of a storage room shelf.

The smallest of the boxes hold the cremated remains of children whose parents perhaps could not afford to bury them – or perhaps could not bear the sorrow of finding a final resting place for a small departed loved one. The larger copper urns and boxes hold the ashes of adults. It seemed surprising to see that more than half of the forgotten containers were labeled with the names of women – somehow it illogically felt unseemly that a woman might die with no one at all to care about her after her death.

The oldest remains are from the year 1903. Imagine them sitting unclaimed for more than a hundred years! Some of the old containers are copper cylinders with wax seals which still protect their contents. Later styles are rendered in sturdy cardboard of utilitarian hues. The handwritten information on many of them reflects a time when fine penmanship was the expectation.

Monsignor Milani of the local diocese presided at a Committal Service at which the seventy-eight received final recognition of their worldly existence. “Their place is with God,” he told a small assemblage. “We have prepared a place for the bodily remains here with us,” he said. “We give them a final resting place for their mortal bodies.”

Monsignor praised cemetery General Manager, Carlos Rascon, for conceiving of a project which gives dignity to a group of diverse individuals who had little in common - except that none of them had a loved one who would or could remove that box from the shelf.

Click here for photos.

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------ Community Resource Notice -------

Need to find a physician? Call Regional HealthSource

for Physician Referral & Information at 1-888.RMC.8881

(English and Spanish) or 1-888.RMC.8811 (Vietnamese).
Regional Medical Center of San Jose, 225 North Jackson Avenue.


NNV Briefs

bulletVote for Kim Mesa, Gustavo Gonzales, Patricia Potter for ARUESD Board
bulletLighting of the Village - “Let there be light - in Alum Rock!”
bulletPlease Re-elect Trustee Kim Mesa to Alum Rock School District Board by Edie Pricolo
bulletClareview Avenue ARUESD Candidates’ Night by Edie Pricolo
bulletThe Real Estate Market in Perspective - Don’t panic! by Eileen Parks
bulletScrumptious One-of-a-Kind Fine Jewelry Designed Just for You
bulletKudos to Alum Rock Neighborhood Coalition and Veronica and Richard Wildanger
bulletRauhs Celebrate Grape Harvest With Flair - East Valley Art Leaguers enhance vineyard
bulletTeresa Faz - New San Jose Redevelopment Agency, Business Manager for ARVBA
bulletDavid Cohen for Berryessa School Board from David Cohen
bulletLinda Vista and Ryan Elementary Schools Earn Awards
bulletNeighbor Illustrates Professionally and For Fun - Ritch Waldron welcomes assignments
bulletRobust YSI Wildlife Festival Dampened by Fall’s First Rainfall - Dorothy Johnson honored
bulletNew  Preservation Ordinance - County Cannot Impose “Landmark Status” On Your Home
bulletFarewell Party for Nora Conte - Retiring Alum Rock librarian by Tanya Freudenberger
bulletCalifornia’s First Lady Declares Mathson’s Arbor Society a Model of Volunteerism
bulletRichard Brown’s Alum Rock Park - Vivaldi's Choice
bulletCounty Parks and Recreation Celebrates 50 Years from Supervisor Pete McHugh
bulletNeighborhood Health Pro Takes On Eastside Real Estate - Gaby Figueroa wants to help!
bulletAlum Rock Park Railroads to be Commemorated - Get on board by Bonnie Bamburg

Vote for Kim Mesa, Gustavo Gonzales, Patricia Potter for ARUESD Board

This is our opportunity to choose trustees we can trust!

Three Trustee seats on the Alum Rock Union Elementary School District are up for grabs on this Election Day – Tuesday, November 7th. NNV is supporting one incumbent and two newcomers.

Incumbent trustee, Kim Mesa, the current board president, has earned reelection to the board. She is smart, strong and focused. Even when faced with strong opposition, Kim confidently maintains her cool and works hard to keep the wellbeing of the children of Alum Rock foremost on the agenda.

Newcomer Gustavo Gonzales should be elected to the board. He will bring fresh points of view and new energy to the board. He is resourceful and will be able to resist the old boy cabal.

Patricia Palmer is a newly retired Alum Rock teacher who has watched the workings of the board and district for many years. She is devoted to the children of Alum Rock and is considered “fearless” as a fighter for their best interests. She’ll be a good addition to the board.

We need Kim, Gustavo and Patricia on the ARUESD School Board. The teachers and parents – and most of all, the children – deserve a school board where the trustees can work together effectively and make good, ethical decisions.

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Lighting of the Village

“Let there be light - in Alum Rock!”

Historic Alum Rock Village will twinkle and glisten on the evening of Friday, December 1st (this date may change – watch the NNV Community Bulletin Board) as it welcomes the community to a very special first-of-a-kind winter holiday event. The village shop windows will come alive with thousands of white lights in the first (Annual?) Lighting of the Village event!

The hours will be 5:00 to 7:00 PM. The member businesses of the Alum Rock Village Business Association will stay open past their normal closing hours and invite community members to become better acquainted.

Tables of free refreshments (Hot cider and cookies? Perhaps goodies from Village restaurants?) will be stationed on both sides of Alum Rock Avenue.

A central stage will be erected in the area in front of the former Brasil Auto Repair shop. Music will fill the air. Strolling vocalists are expected. Fine prizes will be raffled. There will be a piñata for the children. Perhaps even the Story Lady at the Roberto Cruz-Alum Rock Library will be on hand to read to little tykes.

In case of rain, the Community Room at the library will be a backup site for the merrymakers who it’s hoped will throng the sidewalks of our charming little Village.

Click here and here for photos of The Village and our banners.

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Please Re-elect Trustee Kim Mesa to Alum Rock School District Board
“Commitment, communication skills, professionalism” among her strengths

By Edie Pricolo, 45 year Alum Rock Resident

For as long as I've known Kim Mesa, she's been a constant source of encouragement for me to believe that the Alum Rock School District can once again become a highly regarded district. All of my kids attended Alum Rock schools at a time when our reputation was top notch. However, I was very worried that when my grandson became school age I would have to insist that he go to a private school. Knowing that board members like Kim are taking the lead in protecting my vested interest, I feel much more comfortable with my grandchildren attending schools in this district. Not only has Kim entrusted Alum Rock to educate her three children, she herself attended 1st grade through 8th grade in Alum Rock and graduated from W. C. Overfelt High School.

Although Kim is a single parent and works full time at San Juan Bautista Child Development Center as Development Director, I know how many hours beyond the regular board meeting she commits to her board position. She works hard to ensure that she stays on top of issues affecting Alum Rock students, and she communicates regularly to the other board trustees, the superintendent and community members. I know this district has benefited from her professionalism as well as the fact that she has taken the time to get board training to become a better trustee.

Kim's commitment to taking responsibility for the well being of Alum Rock students goes way back, starting with taking office in PTA when her oldest son was in kindergarten. From there, she held offices on the School Site Council, the District Advisory Council, G.A.T.E., the Alum Rock Educational Foundation, and the Neighborhood Advisory Council.

She is currently the President of the Alum Rock School Board, and I couldn't be more proud to know her. Her message and actions are consistent. In a letter she wrote to me, she said: "By establishing bonds between the school district and the community, we are making progress toward excellence in our schools. There is more to be done, and with thoughtful governance and a well-trained Board, Alum Rock can, and will, become a high achieving school district."

Click here for a photo of Kim.

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Clareview Avenue ARUESD Candidates’ Night

Kim Mesa and Gustavo Gonzales impress attendees

By Edie Pricolo

On Tuesday evening, October 17th, ARUESD Board candidates Kim Mesa, current board president up for re-election, and Gustavo Gonzalez, first-time candidate, met with a group of interested neighbors at my home. The people who came to ask their questions were knowledgeable about the board functions and concerned about the path they might take in the future conduct of school business here in the district. To quote one of the attendees: "… the dialogue was invigorating and intelligent. That was the best Q&A session with politicians that I've ever been at because of the seeking spirit in that room … even though I promised myself to sit and be quiet, the discussion was so lively I just couldn't resist getting involved."

Kim and Gustavo were both clear on their vision of how the board can become more vital. More parent involvement was felt by both to be key to the success of our children here in the community. I was impressed with their ability to answer thoughtfully and concisely on any subject broached and I think everyone went away satisfied that their questions had been addressed fully.

I was very pleased with the information gathered and the warm, decidedly courteous way everyone interacted with each other. They represented in the very best way that part of the old East Side that I love and the reason why I continue to live here in the neighborhood.

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The Real Estate Market in Perspective

Don’t panic!

By Eileen Parks

Don’t panic! We certainly have seen changes in our real estate market in the past several months, but the “bubble” (a term I have learned to hate) the media sensationalizes is just that, sensationalism. True, things have slowed down. It is taking longer to sell a home right now than it did six months ago. If someone has to sell, they may choose to re-price their home to appeal to a larger pool of buyers. Inventory is ticking up a little, but not a lot. Interest rates are up a little, but not a lot. Folks, it’s just not a catastrophe, a bust or a panic. Our market has needed a correction for a long time and I see this as a very normal business cycle. We could not continue with multiple offers and overbidding forever. Predictions are that we will see a 5% increase over the next year. It’s not a lot, but real estate is still a good place to keep your investment safe.

Many newspaper articles I have seen paint a dire picture. I would encourage you to keep the negative news in perspective. Dig through the whole article, not just the headline. The real truth is often buried ¾ of the way through an article. Either the numbers are a nationwide average, or are based on sales in the Chicago area, or are based on other numbers which skew the results.

We live in an incredibly desirable area where, despite a lot of building, the housing demand still doesn’t meet the need, where land is running out and where the job market is still good. Our housing market may continue to do some adjusting, but I believe it will be quite healthy for the foreseeable future.

NNV Note: Eileen Parks is an NNV Founding Sponsor and a Broker Associate with Windermere Properties.

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Scrumptious One-of-a-Kind Fine Jewelry Designed Just for You

Jewelry Designs by Marco right here in Alum Rock Village

While it may be true that the cobbler’s children have no shoes, it is not necessarily true that the jewelry designer’s wife has no jewelry. At least not if you’re the wife of Alum Rock Village’s outstanding designer, Marco Rodriguez!

Marco designs and creates the most beautiful and unusual pieces of jewelry you could ever want. And, because it was his and his wife Genevieve’s 25th wedding anniversary early last month, Marco made her an absolutely one-of-a-kind pendant featuring an Australian boulder opal and brown and white diamonds set in yellow and white gold. It is definitely an example of what every woman dreams – to have real jewelry and something that no one else has!

Marco has had his shop next door to Mario’s Barber Shop for the past fifteen years. He consolidated his business there from three smaller locations around town. The Rodriguez children all attended St. John Vianney School, so when a spot for a shop became available down Alum Rock Avenue in the Village, it seemed a natural.

NNV asked Marco how he happened to become a jeweler. He says he was always an artistic kid with a bent for drawing and designing. His uncle was a jeweler who let young Marco learn the trade from the ground up (read: sweeping up the shop, for instance, and learning to polish metals). He’s come a long way since those teen years and now does every phase of jewelry design and fabrication except one type of inlay.

We have known Marco for several years, but, not until recently when we saw a wonderful bangle style medical emergency I.D. bracelet which he created for a neighbor, did we have any idea of the very special sorts of things he can fashion. This particular bracelet is eons ahead of the standard link-style identification bracelet with the flat engraved panel. This one is a real piece of gold jewelry designed by the neighbor’s husband to convey his profound feelings during his wife’s fight against leukemia. Marco lovingly took the design and made it into a work of art which still, of course, proclaims the message an I.D. bracelet is meant to do.

Marco’s life revolves around his small shop and his family. All of his grown children attended St. John Vianney School and have gone on to college. His smallest child, a ten year old daughter bringing up the rear, is now a fifth grader at SJV School. Her daddy has long been a major volunteer for St. John’s scrip program. Marco also serves on the board of the Alum Rock Village Business Association (ARVBA).

So what does Marco Rodriguez want you to know about himself and his business? He takes pride in his novel designs and will create jewelry to your order. He will make a rendering of your selection. He will clean, polish and check the mountings of the jewelry he makes for you – quarterly, gratis. He also does jewelry repairs and is happy to melt down your old outmoded pieces and make something new and up-to-date reusing the materials. If you have old watches, he enjoys embellishing them for a new look. And, he does mundane things like put new batteries in your watch.

So, next time you’re next door at Mario’s for a haircut (or waiting outside while your husband, boyfriend or son gets some tonsorial attention) feel free to pop into Marco’s unpretentious little shop and let him show you some of his designs. You will not be disappointed!

Click here for photos of Marco and his jewelry designs.

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Last Minute Kudos Department

Alum Rock Neighborhood Coalition – Veronica and Richard Wildanger

Alum Rock Neighborhood Coalition – Serving Alum Rock since 1993

The members of the Alum Rock Neighborhood Coalition (ARNC) have been our community’s unsung knights (and ladies) in shining armor since 1993. They have been graffiti vandals’ worst foes. They have painted out miles of territorial “tags” left behind by gangbangers and wanna-be “muralists.”

They have beautified the Alum Rock neighborhood with landscape plants and fresh paint where needed. They have held clean-up days where they swept up the litter dropped by others. For many years, they took it upon themselves to paint and maintain the big concrete East Highlands sign at Alum Rock and Brundage. Take a close look - that is one big sign and giving it a couple coats of paint is an effort not to be sneezed at!

The organization started as the brain child of a group of local real estate people who hoped to improve the neighborhood. Some of the early founders’ names are lost in the haze of time, but longtime standout volunteers include Richard Calhoun, Steve Pollock, Primo Ramos, Karen DeLong and Officer Jim Roach. Also involved along the way have been Ellen and Gary Rauh, Rene Morgan and Eileen Parks. James Lick science teacher, Nella Henninger and her Project Earth students pitched in as well.

Now it comes to our attention that the volunteers of ARNC have decided to fold their tent and disband. They deserve their rest. And, they deserve a million thanks from our community. It is rare to find a group of selfless volunteers who are willing to do the most thankless tasks to improve a community – and all with no horn-tooting or egos showing.

Thank you, thank you, Alum Rock Neighborhood Coalition. The community is in your debt.

Richard and Veronica Wildanger – Hillcrest Neighborhood Watch Founders

Sometimes it takes new blood in a neighborhood to get things stirring. This is the case with Richard and Veronica Wildanger who moved into the Hillcrest neighborhood in recent years. When the neighborhood began suffering mail thefts and pilferage from vehicles, it occurred to the Wildangers that a Neighborhood Watch group was in order. Working with the County Sheriff’s Department, they very effectively organized a community meeting at Foothill Presbyterian Church to mobilize the Hillcrest Neighborhood Watch. Their community on the western edge of the San Jose Country Club now has fantastic coverage of Neighborhood Watch signs – most houses sport a sign in a window!

Via e-mail, Veronica has sent out countless alerts and warnings to their membership when suspicious people or activities threatened their serene streets. She has even posted lost pet information! Recently, the Wildangers helped organize an information session to acquaint the neighborhood with a group home which was proposed for a single-family residence in the neighborhood. Richard acquitted himself admirably when he found himself the unofficial “go-to” person in a very tense situation.

The Wildangers have organized picnics and parades in Hillcrest - things that no one had seen in the neighborhood for years. They’re the kind of folks who, when they see the need for something to be done, they don’t look around to see who else might take care of it. They just do it!

Richard and Veronica are also active at Saint John Vianney where they lead a married couples group. Don’t even ask about their “spare” time!

Veronica comes from an East San Jose family very proud of its Mexican heritage. One of her brothers is Captain Jose Guerrero, the San Jose Fire Department’s Wildland Officer. Richard’s Los Altos family is equally proud of its European traditions and heritage. They have a true blending of cultures at their home. Richard and Veronica are both Market Research Analysts, but Veronica is a stay-at-home mommy for their little girl for the present.

Click here for photos of Richard and Veronica.

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Rauhs Celebrate 6th Grape Harvest – With Flair

Works by East Valley Art Leaguers enhance vineyard

Ellen and Gary Rauh treated scores of neighborhood friends to another of their fantastic annual “Veraison” parties – this one on the last Saturday in September commemorating their sixth harvest. The weather that day was “broody” at best, but the generous flow of wine and steady stream of hors d’oeuvres kept everyone warmed and content to the point that the threatening skies were scarcely noticed.

A special treat was waiting in the vineyard below the Rauhs’ beautiful multilevel home. There, several canopies had been erected as shelters for a full-fledged art show featuring the work of the fifty+ members of the East Valley Art League. Ellen and Gary’s neighbor, Sally Holt, who is president of the group this year, arranged to present this show of framed art to the harvest party guests.

The theme of many of the paintings was - no surprise - vineyards, grapes and wine. Sally had challenged the artists to create around this theme. Many members were inspired to paint glorious vineyard landscapes or still-lifes of the dusky fruit. They voted among themselves to choose the most outstanding representation of the Rauhs’ winemaking hobby – and then they presented it to Gary and Ellen as a thank you for the opportunity to share their work with the community.

Although Mother Nature did not provide the “perfect Indian Summer day” which Ellen and Gary optimistically predicted in their invitation, the rain thankfully held off until the following day – when it arrived in a flurry and cut short by an hour the YSI Wildlife Festival in Alum Rock Park. Perhaps this timing is indicative of Gary and Ellen’s close association with Mother N. Why not – they’re folks who’ve “never met a stranger” and who generously burnish friendships. It wouldn’t be surprising if the old gal was in their debt, too!

Click here for photos.

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Teresa Faz - New San Jose Redevelopment Agency, Business Manager for ARVBA

Loves to work with neighborhood groups, she says

What restaurants do you patronize?

Teresa Faz was recently hired as a Development Officer by the San Jose Redevelopment Agency. Among her assignments is to serve as Business Manager for ARBVA and mentor the fledgling Alum Rock Village Business Association.

Teresa has been working in city government for 15 years (all in the Community Development and Police Departments), consulting with small businesses for five years - and possesses two degrees – a B.S. in Organizational Behavior and a Masters in Public Administration, both from the University of San Francisco. She is bilingual in Spanish (speaks, reads, and writes fluently) and has used this skill to reach the Hispanic community in order to educate them as to city policies and procedures and for the purpose of improving their businesses.

Teresa has a high level of technical, professional, and hands-on expertise in the following areas - forming partnerships in the community, government/community relations, economic development, redevelopment, neighborhood preservation, code enforcement, planning, building safety, and housing. She has also served as president of a statewide 35 member non-profit board on several occasions, so she is well versed on working with non-profit boards and associations.

She began meeting with the members of the association at their October meeting - just in time to help with plans for ARVBA's first big community marketing event, the Lighting of the Village, on December 1st. Teresa is originally from Mexico, lived in Texas, and has resided in California since the early 70's. She grew up in the Campbell area where she still resides. Click here for a photo.

What restaurants do you patronize?
The San Jose Redevelopment Agency knows our NNVESJ readers have been asking for more restaurants and retail stores. Click here to take a brief survey to let the Agency staff know more about your restaurant preferences. When you complete the survey, click the Back Button on your Web browser twice to return to New Neighborhood Voice. Questions about the survey may be addressed to Anne Stedler at (408) 795-1817 or

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David Cohen for Berryessa School Board

Long history of public service, super credentials

From David Cohen

I am a product of public education and hold a PhD from UC Berkeley. As the father of a 3-year old daughter and a new baby boy, I have observed how much kids love learning new things, and our system needs to harness that enthusiasm.

My priorities are:

- Make sure that testing requirements do not excuse us from finding creative ways to guarantee the success of each child in our diverse student body.

- Teachers must be properly rewarded and compensated for their crucial work.

- Schools must have courses in art, industrial arts, and music, so that every student will have an opportunity to excel.

- Strong counseling programs are needed so that children at all capability levels will be properly supported.

It is important that our school board works well together and also serves as a strong, independent body, asking tough questions and demanding accountability from school administration.

- Our schools should be accountable to parents, teachers, and of course our children.

- As chair of the San Jose Library Commission, I helped lead the fight to fully fund our community libraries and also worked to pass the latest voter-approved measure providing supplementary funding for our branches.

- I have reviewed budgets and worked directly with members of the community.

I am endorsed by all five of the current Berryessa school board members and the California Teachers Association of Berryessa. I have strong support from members of school boards across Santa Clara County and am proud that many community activists and elected officials, including Congressman Mike Honda, Senators Elaine Alquist and Liz Figueroa, Supervisors Jim Beall and Pete McHugh, and San Jose Councilmembers Madison Nguyen, Cindy Chavez, Judy Chirco, Nancy Pyle, and Ken Yeager, also support me.

I have lived in the Berryessa area for over eight years. There are four candidates running for three spots on the board, including just one incumbent. Of the non-incumbents, I am the only one with governmental experience, having served on the library commission for five years. I believe that it is important to encourage young people to develop leadership skills and a desire to serve the community. For over a decade, I worked with a national college service organization called Alpha Phi Omega. As an advisor to the UC Berkeley chapter, I helped strengthen their program of service. As chair of the section covering Northern California and Nevada, I worked with students on a dozen campuses. I facilitated workshops on effective communication, leadership development, creativity, and conflict resolution.

More about my campaign is available at my website,

"David Cohen will bring creative ideas to the Berryessa School District. His strong leadership skills will ensure that our children achieve to the best of their ability. The Berryessa School District will have a valuable asset in David Cohen."
- Congressman Mike Honda

"I know how important it is to have strong leadership for our schools. David Cohen has been an active member of the San Jose community and will be a smart, fair, and hard working school board member."
- Councilmember Madison Nguyen

Click here for a photo.

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Linda Vista and Ryan Elementary Schools Earn Awards

Both recognized as Honor Roll Star Schools by business community


Alum Rock Union Elementary School District announced that Linda Vista and Ryan Elementary Schools have been selected by the California Business for Education Excellence (CBEE) Foundation and Just for the Kids-California (JFTK-CA) as two of 304 public schools in California to receive the title of 2006 Honor Roll school.

Schools receiving this distinction from California’s business community have demonstrated consistent high student academic achievement and have made significant progress toward closing achievement gaps among all their students. The CBEE Foundation/JFTK-CA Honor Roll is made up of two different awards, the Star School Awards (100 schools) and Scholar Schools Award (204 schools). Honor Roll schools are being recognized because they are on track to meet the goal of 100% grade-level proficiency by the 2013-2014 school year as required by federal law. In addition, CBEE Star Schools are those with significant populations of socio-economically disadvantaged students that have shown a significant increase in grade-level proficiency over four years for all subgroups. Linda Vista and Ryan will receive recognition as Honor Roll Star Schools! A full list of Honor Roll schools, sorted alphabetically by county, can be found at

Norma Martinez, Superintendent, commented, “We are honored to have two of our outstanding elementary schools selected as Honor Roll schools and recognized by California’s business community. Our teachers and administrators continually demonstrate commitment and tireless efforts to ensure the focus is on student academic achievement and ultimately reaching grade-level proficiency for all students. Linda Vista and Ryan stand well above the rest of the schools in the state in getting all students to grade-level proficiency. We are extremely proud of their accomplishments over the last five years.”

To recognize the success of Linda Vista and Ryan, the CBEE Foundation will honor the schools at an awards dinner on November 14th in San Francisco. The Superintendent and Board President will accompany the principals and staff from each school.

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Illustrious Neighbor Illustrates Professionally and For Fun

Ritch Waldron welcomes your assignment

A couple of years ago neighbor Sandra Dixon, then a Linda Vista Elementary “PTA Mom,” came to visit us at NNV. She was interested in sharing her Marketing expertise with our fledgling publication. She brought with her a portfolio of programs and artifacts from jobs she had done. She freely shared ideas with us and, perhaps most intriguingly, showed us examples of graphic art done by another neighbor, Ritch Waldron.

We were fascinated by his sweet water color paintings of flowers and birds and his pen-and-ink sketches which Sandra had used in her work. We vowed to get in touch with Ritch at the first opportunity, but we became swept up in producing the newsletter and lost track of his contact information. Every so often, a little morsel of paper bearing an e-mail address for “Waldron Graphics” would surface - only to disappear again into the morass that is the NNV office. Last month it worked its way to the top again and we e-mailed Ritch before it submerged again.

We asked him if he had an illustration which would personify November for the final edition of NNV. Indeed he did and he immediately sent us his “Maples” from 2004. It’s a water color for which he used a “fairly dry brush for most of the details,” he says, (because we asked about his technique), and he added, it’s “on heavy weight cold press watercolor paper.” We think it’s perfect and we’re so glad we asked!

Ritch is in his late 50’s and lives near Penitencia Creek Road just below Alum Rock Park. He’s a free lance graphic artist by trade. He does a lot of work for restaurants in the area. He illustrates menus, posters, newspaper and magazine ads. He’s done work for the State Parks for use in their signage and recently did a series of floral drawings which were carved in granite blocks for donors to the park at Pigeon Point Lighthouse. In the past, he’s done illustrations for a book of photos of Muir Woods – you can still buy the book at the park.

Ritch says that his favorite subject is nature – animals and plants. He keeps busy doing graphic art for a living and paints “fine art” (mainly for friends) when he has time. He tells us that he always welcomes more work. You can contact him at

Click here for photos of Ritch's work.

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Robust YSI Wildlife Festival Dampened by Fall’s First Rainfall

Dorothy Johnson honored

Fun day Sunday truncated by chilly showers

The area around the Youth Science Institute Nature Center in Alum Rock Park was chockablock with displays, programs, demonstrations, animals and even fire trucks on the first day of October. The community came out to learn about nature in the most painless fashion – from scores of experts and volunteers. As usual there were snakes to touch and raptors to watch and crafts to do. Smokey Bear was even on hand to remind everyone of fire, one of nature’s most dangerous and dramatic elements.

For the first time that anyone could remember, the Lick High School Choir and Band students had a table at the festival. They were promoting their fundraiser – selling fire extinguishers and first aid kits – to earn funds for performance garb. The choir members performed an impromptu serenade to the delight of everyone in hearing distance.

The food tent had a different appearance this year. Peggy Sue’s did the catering for a pleasant change. The fare was hamburgers, hot dogs and veggie burgers - same as usual – but everything seemed to taste better with Peggy’s imprimatur.

The San Jose Fire Department brought out their stunningly painted Shark Engine for all to see. And, there were firefighters of all stripes on hand to reinforce the message that San Jose is surrounded by hazardous Wildland Urban Interface neighborhoods which pose the threat of wildfire. The neighborhoods surrounding Alum Rock Park are perfect examples of WUI’s.

As always, there was a parade of amusing and entertaining educational programs unfolding in the stage area. This year, the program was interrupted by YSI’s Executive Director Susanne Mulcahy honoring Animal Curator Dorothy (“D.J.”) Johnson’s 25 years of service to YSI with a small plaque and a big hug. Then, just at the moment when the Reptiles and More folks were preparing to regale the audience with their scaly pals, big fat cold raindrops began pelting everyone who wasn’t under cover.

You have never seen a group of folks decamp so fast! Tables were cleared and boxes trundled to cars in the blink of an eye. Within minutes there was hardly a sign of wildlife or festival. But, even though rain was running down many backs, smiles were nearly ubiquitous. Everyone knew that the rain signaled the beginning of the end of the 2006 fire season. No one begrudged Mother Nature her adverse weather demonstration even if she literally stole the show.

Click here for photos.

NNV Note: Several late October neighborhood grass fires had WUI dwellers and fire fighters anxious for Mother Nature to get on with the rainy season. "You go, Girl! and bring on that wet stuff!" was the consensus.

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County Cannot Impose “Landmark Status” On Your Home

New preservation ordinance says they’d need your consent!

Over the past three years, nine community meetings were held to forge a historic preservation ordinance which would prevent historic homes in unincorporated Santa Clara County areas from being razed or altered significantly.

The draft ordinance was approved early last month. The idea was to give the members of the County’s Historical Heritage Commission a tool that would give them effective means of enforcement to do “real preservation.”

However, a last minute near-afterthought provoked by the concerns of owners of historic homes at Stanford prompted the Board of Supervisors to vote 3-2 that landmark status could not be imposed without the consent of the property owner. Supervisors Blanca Alvarado and Jim Beall cast the nays stating their concerns that this new condition takes the teeth out of the ordinance.

Supervisors Don Gage, Liz Kniss and Pete McHugh wanted assurance that homeowners have a say in whether the rules (which the Stanford homeowners consider overly broad and restrictive) could be applied to their homes. Pete McHugh successfully added a proposal that makes a one-year pilot program of the voluntary ordinance.

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October 6 Farewell Party for Nora Conte

Retiring librarian of the Roberto Cruz/Alum Rock Library

By Tanya Freudenberger

After enjoying a terrific spread, surrounded by some of the most beautiful bouquets of flowers I've ever seen, the crowd settled down to listen to Nora's staff and community members praise her caring dedication to other people's growth. The staff told story after story about her encouraging them to not give up -- to take this class or accept that challenge. They all said that because of Nora, they are successful at what they do and are looking forward to accomplishing more in their lives.

Community leaders expressed their gratitude for Nora's ability to take the library and love for reading books right into the neighborhoods and schools without reservation. For anyone in that room who did not have any previous interaction with Nora, they knew her strength of character and determination before the evening was over.

Click here for a photo.

NNV Note: Before she left, Nora told us that she hated to leave our wonderful library, but she was looking forward to a new position at the San Benito County Library which is just ten minutes away from her San Juan Bautista home.

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California’s First Lady Declares Mathson’s Arbor Society a Model of Volunteerism


California’s First Lady, Maria Shriver, visited Alum Rock’s Lee Mathson Middle School to launch the program and to recognize the school’s Arbor Society. The First Lady lauded the contributions of Mathson students for their tireless efforts. Speaking to various media outlets from Northern California, the First Lady held up the work of Mathson students and their relationship with the Our City Forest foundation as a “shining example of volunteerism.”

Mathson Principal Glenn VanderZee and staff hosted the special event honoring this outstanding program. Mathson’s Arbor Society is coordinated by the school’s counselor, Adelina Whitecrow. The Arbor Society is a model for students to volunteer in a program and learn about the program. Students water and prune trees around the campus and work with Our City Forest to learn the benefits of trees in the community. Students also receive applications for tree planting from the neighborhood and assist in the planting of trees. Our City Forest and the Mathson Arbor Society have planted and maintained over seventy trees on the site.

The First Lady also learned how to plant a tree from young volunteers and encouraged other young people and adults to follow the lead of Mathson students and give back to their communities in this service-oriented manner. In her comments to the press, The First Lady stated, “In my family, we were expected to serve others, it was not an option and I expect my children to do the same.” Finally, The First Lady thanked the students for their commitment to volunteerism and for their contributions to Mathson’s Arbor Society.

Click here for photos of Maria Shriver at Mathson.

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Richard Brown’s Alum Rock Park

Vivaldi’s Choice

We asked Richard Brown, our stellar neighborhood photographer, to choose four of his favorite photos for publication in this, the final edition of NNV. Richard has generously sent us his beautifully composed and photographed scenes of Alum Rock Park during the last couple of years. We should have known it would not be easy for him to choose just four, but as you will see, he ruminated for a while and devised a plan of attack for this assignment. He titled the e-mail accompanying his photos “Vivaldi’s Choice” referring to Antonio Vivaldi’s 18th century Four Seasons violin concerti.

Here’s what Richard wrote:

At first, I had no idea how I could pare my selection down to a swan song of just four pictures for this issue. It became somewhat less daunting when I decided to limit it to a depiction of some general aspect of the park. This eliminated all the close-ups, the flowers, critters, etc., thereby reducing the choice to my ongoing feeble efforts at capturing the park's many faces, perhaps a mere few dozen so far. And finally, a theme. Four pictures, four seasons, what a novel concept.

Winter: I had a lot of choices here but what I think of most is the clean fragrant air after a rain and the damp mossy greenness. Spring: Say it with flowers, a field of sorrel. And a stream...ok, it includes a critter who's made himself part of the landscape. He's having a Huck Finn moment, asking what could be better than a warm rock on a balmy spring day. Summer: weekend holiday, barbecues and sounds of play in the central area where this is a familiar sight to everyone. Fall: The lighting was perfect for this one and what can I say, I'm a hopeless romantic.

Click here for Richard's favorite photos of the Four Seasons of Alum Rock Park.

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Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department Celebrates 50 Years

Fun factoids about local parks

From Santa Clara County Supervisor Pete McHugh, District 3

In September, the Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department celebrated the 50th anniversary of its inception. This golden legacy has resulted in one of the largest regional park systems in California, with 28 county parks covering nearly 45,000 acres. Over the years, the Department has made great strides to achieve its mission to provide, protect and preserve regional parklands for the enjoyment and education of all generations. To celebrate the Department’s 50th anniversary, park staff wishes to highlight some best-kept secrets of various county parks. These facts showcase the unique features of our county parks and include fun facts about the Department’s operations.

The Board of Supervisors officially established the Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation Department in 1956. Soon after its establishment the Department began to acquire and develop key land locations such as Ed Levin Park and the Alviso Marina. The Department later focused on the expansion of several existing popular parks and purchased additional land, such as at Coyote Lake-Harvey Bear Ranch in San Martin. Most recently, the County and the State received a donation of almost 300 acres in the middle of San Jose for a new park. The County will name this area the Martial Cottle Park.

As a result of these acquisition efforts and coupled with the parks’ unique features, the department provides outstanding recreational opportunities to all County residents. The unique features listed below highlight some of Santa Clara County’s history and exemplify opportunities available to park visitors.

 Ed Levin County Park contains a rock wall made by ancient human inhabitants that lines the summit of Ed Levin County Park. It snakes its way to the hills of Berkeley, constructed by unknown people for unknown reasons.

 Coyote Hellyer County Park contains the Velodrome, a paved and banked oval bicycle track circling 1/5 mile around and is one of only four in the Western United States.

 Mount Madonna County Park was named by the recluse poet, Hiram Wentworth, since its 1,897 foot peak reminded him of “Madonna”, Italy’s designation of the Virgin Mary.

 Anderson Lake County Park contains remnants of a historic stone winery built in 1869.

 Calero County Park is visited annually in the winter months by a bald eagle who stays at the Calero Reservoir. It is also home to 1,000 bats that live in the backcountry of the park, called “Calero Bat Inn”

 Vasona Lake County Park has a variety of rare and interesting trees, including a species of redwood tree once thought to be extinct and the Roosevelt redwood tree originally planted in Campbell by President Teddy Roosevelt.

In addition, the following information includes fun facts about the operations and services of the parks:

• The department equips its parks with so much toilet paper that one weekend of toilet paper meets the needs of two families of four for one year.

• Turf mowing at parks amounts to a mow strip with a distance that can reach Chicago and back each year.

• The total of boating miles at county parks equal to a cruise around the world.

Since 1972, the Department receives funding from a Parks Charter Fund. The Parks Charter Fund sets aside 1.425 cents per $100 of assessed valuation in property taxes. The Department must devote these funds to the expansion, development and stewardship of the Santa Clara County park system. This past June the voters overwhelming supported continuing the Parks Charter fund until June 30, 2021. This support will allow the Department to continue the great work it has accomplished over the years. Santa Clara County is fortunate to have a vast Parks and Recreation system that provides many learning and recreational opportunities. I congratulate the Department on its 50 years of success and urge all residents to visit a park near you.

Pete McHugh
Supervisor, District Three
Santa Clara County

Click here for the County Parks Web site.

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Neighborhood Health Pro Takes On Eastside Real Estate

Gaby Figueroa wants to help you become a homeowner!

An eleven year veteran of Eastside Planned Parenthood Clinic in Alum Rock Village, Gabriela Figueroa is adding a whole new arena to her resume. Gaby is marrying the world of real estate to the medical world which was her first love.

Gaby has never been one to take the line of least resistance. She graduated two years ago from San Jose State with a Bachelors degree in Public Health, but not before a ten year odyssey through academia where she undertook all sorts of disparate courses simply because they looked interesting. And, she excelled in them!

Nowadays she continues to do a small amount of part-time work at Planned Parenthood following several years as the Prenatal Coordinator there. Her “day job” is as a Clinical Health Educator at Kaiser Santa Teresa.

As if those jobs weren’t enough, Gaby has embarked on a career in Real Estate, too! She has joined Century 21 Golden Hills (owned by Francisco Gonzalez and Bob Fernandez) where she is looking forward to putting her bilingual English/Spanish skills to good use. She knows the challenges faced by Latino would-be-homeowners and wants to help them clear the hurdles.

NNV can speak to Gabriela Figueroa’s hard work ethic because she’s been a neighborhood asset for so many years. If you’re looking for an agent who will absolutely tirelessly go the extra mile for you (or your friend or family member who has homeownership as their lifelong dream), you can’t go wrong with dear Gaby.

You can call her at (408) 238-1200. Century 21 Golden Hills is located at 2680 S. White Road, Suite 159, San Jose, 95148.

Click here for a photo.

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Alum Rock Park Railroads to be Commemorated

Get on board to help tell the story of this Eastside historical treasure

By Bonnie Bamburg

Have you wondered about the history behind the large concrete structures at the entrance to Alum Rock Park? They are the remains of railroad service into the park. With leadership from San Jose Park Ranger Roger Abe, a group is forming to assist in interpreting those remains and telling the story of rail service into the park. Some research has been done, but there's more to be done as well as designing plaques and adding other enhancements so the story can be told and preserved.

Funding will need to be secured to create and maintain the interpretation plaques. This is a very worthwhile endeavor to preserve yet another of the wonderful aspects of East Side history as we learn from the past.

To obtain information about meetings, to join or contribute to this project you may contact Ranger Roger Abe at Alum Rock Park Ranger’s Station, or call Bonnie Bamburg (408-254-7171). The group expects to get back to work in November.

Click here to read more about the trains in Alum Rock Park. Click here for old postcards illustrating the trains.

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Joan Elenore Petersen Balcom

3/29/25 – 10/22/06

By Karen (Balcom) Hokanson

Every community has some people who are special, mostly because of their dedication to serving others. My mother, Joan Balcom, was one of those people. She moved to the East Side of San Jose in 1957 to help her husband (my dad), Donald, care for his mother by working in the apricot orchard which had been in the family since Donald was 10 years old. Forty-nine years later, she was still passionately concerned about her East Foothill community, checking on elderly friends and keeping up on political issues affecting our hillside community.

Born in San Francisco on March 29, 1925, she was adopted at about one year of age by Victor and Nina Zanette Petersen of San Francisco. Joan was raised in a diverse ethnic and cultural neighborhood in San Francisco and went to school first at West Portal School and then, because it was closer, to Sunnyside School.

It was when she was at Aptos Jr. High that she walked across the Golden Gate Bridge on its opening day. She even went to the World's Fair on Treasure Island. For high school she attended Lux High School, the women's portion of the Lick-Wilmerding-Lux School.

World War II began while she was a senior in high school and she joined the Ambulance Corps while still in school. She helped man the First Aid stations on the San Francisco waterfront as each pier had a station. She experienced her first taste of real racial hatred when friends from school were sent to relocation camps because they were of Japanese descent. She knew that this was wrong, very wrong.

Following graduation she joined the Army as part of the Women's Army Corps. She was sent to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia for Basic Training. There, she was exposed to a segregated society for the first time. It was hard for this California daughter of immigrants to experience such abuse of people. Her worldview expanded further as she followed her Army assignments to Staten Island, New Jersey, Auburn, CA, and Battle Creek, MI.

After her enlistment, Joan went on to college, beginning at San Francisco City College and then to San Jose State College. While in the Army, her work as an Occupational Therapy Aide gave her the desire to become an Occupational Therapist. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from San Jose State in Occupational Therapy in 1952.

Joan met her future husband, Donald, on a San Jose State field trip to Death Valley. That fall he was her chemistry lab instructor at State. The result was 44 years of marriage, one son and three daughters. When first married, they lived in San Francisco in the house where Joan grew up on Monterey Blvd. The family moved back to San Jose two weeks after the birth of their second child. Don was needed to manage the apricot orchard for his mother and that fit well with his return to teaching at San Jose State.

Two of Joan's daughters now have their own homes on the East Foothill ranch where they grew up. Karen works at Dove Hill Elementary as a Library Tech and Kristen is a Lieutenant in the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department. Son Robert’s family lives here part-time. A heavy equipment operator, his home is in Anderson, CA, but he and his wife work here in the Santa Clara Valley. Joan's middle daughter, Sharon, is an RN and lives with her family in Suffolk, VA. Joan had a total of six grandchildren, two step-grandchildren and one step-great grandchild. She cared for six elderly relatives, her husband, four children, three grandchildren and still found time and energy to be involved in the following activities and organizations throughout the years:

PTA - Linda Vista Elementary School (1961-75 and 89-99),
William Sheppard and Joseph George Middle Schools (1967-77),
James Lick High School (1969-81),
Pala Rancho Council, District level, State level in a variety of offices, committees and task forces.

4-H - parent/leader

Santa Clara County Fair Association and Ag.-Hort. Committee

League of Women Voters

Berryessa Grange

American Association of University Women

Business & Professional Womens’ Association

Women in Careers

Occupational Therapy Association

Literacy Volunteers of America - San Jose Chapter

South Bay Literacy Alliance

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church
Committee and Board member of many church activities
Literacy Tudor, Sunday School Teacher, Women's Group

Literacy Consultant for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Sierra Pacific Synod ELCA Literacy Coordinator

Mt. Cross Women's Retreat Board

Save the Alum Rock Library Committee

American Legion, Willow Glen Post 318,

Women’s Army Corps Veterans Association, Nor-Cal chapter #111

and on, and on, and on!

Some of the recognitions and awards she received over the years included the 1988 National PTA Honorary Life Membership, Business & Professional Women’s Association’s Woman of the Year award and a Trail Blazer Volunteer Recognition Award from the Alum Rock School District for her years of promoting literacy even before it was a popular issue to support. Working since the age of 11, (stocking shelves in a nearby grocery store) Joan worked almost all her life, including at the following places: DeWitt General Hospital, CA, Halloren General Hospital, NJ, Percy Jones General Hospital, MI, San Francisco Post Office, Oakland Post Office, Army Base Post Office, San Jose Main Post Office, The Army Signal Corp, US Army (rank of Sergeant), Morrison Rehab. Center - San Francisco, Goodwill Rehab. Center - San Jose, Hope Adult Development Center - San Jose, Alum Rock School District (Community School Director) - San Jose, PEO Home (OT) - San Jose, and of course … apricot cutting every summer on the Balcom Ranch.

In Joan's retirement years, she could be found living part-time in Northern California, next door to the house once owned by her grandparents. Located in the little railroad townlet of Delta on the Upper Sacramento river, just north of Lake Shasta, you could find her happily volunteering, busy visiting friends, volunteering at the local elementary school, Seniors group, singing in her church choir and even learning to line dance with friends from her Weight Watchers group. She was part of the founding of the Women’s Army Corps Veterans Association, Nor-Cal chapter #111.

Some of my favorite memories of my mom include going to all kinds of museums and to the Audubon movies being shown at San Jose State. Every vacation trip included stopping at wildlife refuges, bird sanctuaries and fish hatcheries. A strong passion for rock hounding has now been passed along to her children. The grandchildren will probably catch that urge too!

Mom was an outspoken person regarding issues she championed. Many friends have shared that "Joan was always known for telling it like it is!” Issues involving Education, PTA and literacy, found her to be a tireless advocate. She always made sure she knew who was representing her and her interests, and she made sure they knew who she was! I still remember her talking to local or state legislators as if they were long time friends and finding they responded to her the same way. As a child, I often wondered how they knew my mom. As an adult, I realized that she was one of those folks who wrote to, talked to, and regularly met with “Those Sacramento People.” She knew where their local offices were located and she knew where their legislative offices could be found. I’ve decided that she was a good role model.

Through it all, Joan has been a loyal friend, cheerful helper, willing volunteer, dedicated advocate, passionate speaker, optimistic community worker, dedicated wife and daughter-in-law, loving caregiver, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. Her passions and her dedicated presence will be missed by more folks than she would ever have imagined.

Click here for a photo of Joan Balcom.

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Maria Pando, or (408) 691-1593
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East Foothills Community Wildfire Protection Plan Update – Part 2

What are the results? What happens next? Where can I find more information?

Judy (as usual) wants to know

Judy: I want to hear more about the East Foothills Community Wildfire Protection Plan. I’m a lot more interested now after the recent fires in our area, particularly the September 24th wildfire below Suncrest. I had hoped that we’d get though this fire season without a major fire nearby.

Allan: Remember that the 2000 fire in the same area happened in late October. All it takes is some dry hazardous fuel, some wind and something to start the fire.

J: You’ve been up to that area since the recent fire with CDF Battalion Chief Mike Stonum. How did it look?

A: It’s a large area that burned – even larger than it looks in Richard Brown’s photo because it wraps around the hills. Obviously, the home at the top of the hill came through this fire OK because it has so much good Defensible Space. However, the fire came much too close to some other homes with less Defensible Space – and it burned some fences and decks before the San Jose Fire Department and the CDF got it stopped.

J: Yes, we were fortunate that the fire started during the day when the CDF planes could drop fire retardant and the wind wasn’t bad like it was during the October 2000 fire. Did you know that another big fire could occur there?

A: Yes, the San Jose Fire Department had identified that area as a high fire danger area – and I’m sure most of the nearby residents recognize the danger. Obviously, some of them, like the people at the top of the hill, have done a lot to protect their homes.

J: How will this Community Wildfire Protection Plan help us? Does it identify these high fire danger areas?

A: Yes, let’s look at the Field Hazard Overlay Map for this part of the East Foothills. The consultants made a map like this that covers the entire East Foothills CWPP area.

J: The who, what map? And who are these consultants?

A: The consultants are fire behavior consultants from Dudek, a company in Southern California that does this kind of work. They’ve worked with a lot of fire departments and other organizations in that area.

J: Why did the FireSafe Council choose a company from Southern California rather than someone in this area?

A: Dudek responded to a competitive RFP. Two other companies also responded but they were not local either. The council chose Dudek based on their competitive price, “can do” attitude and excellent references.

J: OK, tell me more about this map. What does it show?

A: Dudek modeled slope, aspect, and vegetation/fuel types to generate a map of the high fire danger areas.

J: I can guess that slope means how steep the hills are. What’s aspect?

A: Aspect is the direction the hills face. West and south facing slopes get more sun and the grass and other vegetation is dryer and more fire prone. And consultants and scientists who work on this have studied the types of vegetation and how they burn in wildfires. Dudek used five fuel models for this area ranging from tall grass to various kinds of trees.

J: How do they make a map from this?

A: Satellite photos and other existing data are used to generate the map. And the field surveys we talked about last time were used to validate the computer models.

J: OK, how does the map look around the Suncrest fire area?

A: Let’s look at this piece of the map from Suncrest and Boulder down into Alum Rock Park. The redder areas are the high fire danger areas.

J: Is this the highest fire danger area on the map?

A: No, the eastern part of Alum Rock Park looks like this going east from the intersection of Penitencia Creek Road and Alum Rock Avenue in the park. Fortunately, there aren’t very many homes there.

J: That doesn’t look good at all. Where are some of the other problem areas?

A: There are many problem areas further south along Clayton and Quimby Roads as they go up to Mt. Hamilton Road. And, in general, there are areas to be concerned about wherever there are grassy fields or other fire prone vegetation.

J: What can property owners and residents do to protect their homes?

A: Create Defensible Space around their homes. Replace old wood shake roofs with fire resistant roofs. And all the other things we’ve talked about. The Santa Clara County FireSafe Council has a new edition of Living With Fire in Santa Clara County available now which has been updated with the latest inputs from fire departments and the new recommendation for 100 feet of Defensible Space around your home.

J: Is that 100 feet in diameter or 100 feet from your home? Many lots like ours are only 100 feet wide!

A: It’s 100 feet in all directions from your home or to your property line. More Defensible Space is recommended on steeper slopes.

J: I know they don’t want us to get rid of all the plants and trees on our property and just have bare dirt around our homes. What do we need to do?

A: The idea is to plant lower, fire resistant plants closer to your home and to limb up the trees and clear out hazardous fuels out to 100 feet around your home. There are several ways to do that. Here’s the CDF graphic from the back cover of Living With Fire which shows two ways to meet the recommendation (PDF File).

J: Where can I find this new version of Living With Fire?

A: Click here. And the other CWPP references are at the end of our previous article. If you’d prefer a paper copy of Living With Fire, you can call the FireSafe Council’s Executive Coordinator, Jan Cokely, at (408) 975-9591 or e-mail

J: When will you be finished with this CWPP? How will these maps and other things be used?

A: We still have some more parts of the Community Wildfire Protection Plan to write and the fire departments and others who are involved will need time to review it. I expect the first public version to be available early next year. If anyone would like to see the first public version and help review it, they can e-mail me at or call (408) 272-7008.

The CWPP will be used to organize projects to reduce hazardous fuels and to apply for more grants for these projects. It will also help the FireSafe Council do more targeted Community Outreach and Education. Our mission is mobilizing the people of Santa Clara County to protect their homes, communities and environment from wildfires.

Click here for the Fire Hazard Overlay map pieces discussed above.

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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.

November 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

Poisonous Plants: As we approach the holidays, there are a lot of questions on poisonous plants. Fortunately, many of these plants have a very bitter taste that limits the amount of the plant eaten. Poinsettia and mistletoe should be kept away from curious children, and be careful with other flowers and plants such as azaleas, calla lily, carnation, daffodil, foxglove, hydrangeas, iris, lantana, narcissus, poppy, sweet pea and tulips. Different parts of the plant may be toxic. To learn more, see or call 1-800-222-1222 for emergency information.

Citrus Bud Mite: Have you ever seen weirdly shaped lemons or oranges that appear to have 'fingers'? The Citrus Bud Mite attacks newly forming flowers and fruits. The mite is only visible with a magnifying glass and has a elongated yellow body with four legs that appear to come out of its head. The mites feed inside the buds, killing them or causing a rosette-like growth of the subsequent foliage and distortion of flowers and fruit. The problem is usually limited to just a few fruit on the tree. This is one of those pests that is best left alone. The oddly-shaped fruit is edible.

Sooty Mold: Aphids, scale, mealybug and whitefly all excrete sticky honeydew that is colonized by sooty mold fungi. By itself, the fungi cannot kill the plant but it can coat the leaves to the extent that sunlight is prevented from reaching the leaf surface. Ants protect the sucking insects from their predators in order to eat the honeydew produced by the sucking insects. Keep ants out of trees and away from sucking insects by applying a sticky compound such as Tanglefoot (tm) on a tape wrapped around the trunk. Trim back tree limbs touching buildings, fences or other access points as well. Baits such as ant stakes placed under trees and shrubs may help reduce ant foraging. A strong stream of water will wash the mold off leaves. The mold can be washed off fruit with mild soap and water. For ant information, see

Fall Planting: Now is the best time to pull up worn out plants and shrubs and replace them with fresh, healthy specimens. Larger plants such as perennials and shrubs need time to put down roots and settle in before they will bloom well. Here in the Santa Clara Valley, most plants do their growing in the winter with our mild temperatures and regular rainfall. This gives them a head start on surviving our hot, dry summers. Newly planted shrubs will need summer water the first few years, decreasing in amount over time.

With this article, I bid farewell to New Neighborhood Voice. It's been a lot of fun pulling together this information to help you garden better and safer. Remember to call the Master Gardener Hotline with any gardening question you may have. We are staffed on Monday through Friday from 9:30am to 12:30pm, except county holidays. Good Gardening!

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


Native Streetscaping

Neighborhood volunteers want to give Lake Cunningham’s Tully Road frontage a facelift

By Arvind Kumar

If you drive or walk along Tully Road from White Road towards Capitol Expressway, you go past Lake Cunningham Park, one of the largest parks in San Jose. What you see on the right is the park’s chain link fence, behind which lies a tree-lined berm (actually a flood-control levee).

Between the sidewalk and the fence is a long, narrow strip of bare soil. With the winter rains, weedy annuals like oats (Avena sp.) and perennials like pepperweed and curly dock come up here. Park staff must resort to herbicide spraying to keep the area looking neat, and the chemicals must be reapplied year after year. This toxic solution to weed control can’t possibly be good for the environment.

Well, things are changing. This July, park supervisor Bill Guraro tried something different. With free woodchips from a local tree service company and labor from the San Jose Conservation Corps, the entire ½-mile long bed was mulched. The golden brown woodchips immediately improved the appearance of the bed. Park supervisor Guraro liked it so much, he also mulched the frontage along White Road. Now the park’s appearance along both Tully and White Roads is much improved.

Inspired by this, neighborhood volunteers are getting ready to landscape portions of the frontage along Tully Road with flowering native shrubs. The following native shrubs and grasses have been selected because they are:

• sun loving

• clay tolerant

• drought tolerant (when mature)

• flower during different seasons

• slow growing

• low maintenance

Even though some plants are from the chaparral community (fast draining soil), they do well in dry and sunny San Jose gardens. The planting plan shown covers a 100’ long section of the bed, and is meant to be repeated throughout the ½-mile long bed. It is designed to provide flower and berry color throughout the year.

In March, the magenta-pink blossoms of the taller redbud will create a pleasing contrast with the blue thyrses of the somewhat shorter Wheeler Canyon ceanothus. A month later, the flannel bush will explode with large, mustard yellow flowers, again playing off the blue of the ceanothus.

In May, the spectacular flowers of the Matilija poppy will command attention. This is the largest poppy flower in the world.

In summer, St. Catherine’s Lace will be covered with cream flowers. Its gray foliage will contrast nicely with the dark green of the coffeeberry, a shrub that looks neat and tidy throughout the year. Nearby, the deergrass will be resplendent with its flower wands swaying in the slightest breeze. This bold and architectural plant brings dynamism to the dullest landscapes.

In winter and in time for Christmas, the toyon will be covered with red berries, reminding us why early settlers called this shrub California holly.

The plants will need to be watered the first 3 seasons until they are established. After that, they will survive and thrive just on what Mother Nature provides. In about five years, the drive along Tully Road should become a long more, dare I say, scenic route.

Neighborhood volunteers are initiating and implementing this project. Given the length of this area, the project will be implemented in phases over several planting seasons. Volunteers will plant the shrubs, and water them through summer and fall. If you drive by, give them a honk to show your support. And if you have the time, come and help out with the planting and watering. Join the Lake Cunningham Volunteers yahoogroup to learn more:

Arvind Kumar bids adieu to NNV, Judy and Allan, and all readers of NNV, and encourages all to continue exploring California’s remarkable native plants.

Click here for the planting plan.

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Co-Existing With Wildlife in a Shared Habitat:

The Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley at work in our community

By Jamie Evans, WCSV volunteer

How many times in your life has Fluffy the cat brought a bird into your house that escapes from her clutches and flutters away into your window curtains? You beat Fluffy to the drapes (although you really want to beat Fluffy) and grab this tiny, feathered creature. You feel its racing heart beating furiously against the palm of your hand. You are relieved to have won the race against Fluffy, but now what are you going to do with this injured bird that your very own Fluffy has maimed?

Or what about the branch in your front yard that the wind blew down last night onto the hood of your new car? As you carefully remove it so as not to further injure the paint job, you simultaneously see a small dent in the hood and 5 tiny baby squirrels nestled deep inside a small enclave. Despite the fall, they remain peaceful and sleeping within. You are really happy about this and congratulate yourself for not immediately smashing the branch to the ground as punishment for the dent in your new car. However, what are you going to do with these babies?

Both situations can be handled by contacting the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley (WCSV), located at 3027 Penitencia Creek Road, San Jose (408 929-9453) and speaking with Frances Ruiz, the Operations Assistant, Ashley Kinney, the Animal Care Assistant, or with any other staff or volunteer member who is available at the Center. You may also go online to, where you will learn how to deal with common wildlife issues and where you can find links to additional help.

You find out that the injured bird needs treatment, but WCSV is closed or you are unable to drive the bird to their location. You may take the bird to the Humane Society of Silicon Valley (HSSV) at 2530 Lafayette St., Santa Clara (408 727-3383), where WCSV transport volunteers arrive twice daily to transport wildlife to the WCSV. Another resource is San Jose Animal Control (408 578-7297). Their officers provide wild animal rescue services to the public and bring these animals to the WCSV for care.

The Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley is a non-profit organization dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of injured, sick and orphaned wild animals. It is the brain child of Janet Alexander, the current Director of Operations. Previously, Janet worked for HSSV when it also received and cared for wildlife. When the HSSV decided it would no longer support the caretaking of wildlife, Janet rounded up volunteers and started WCSV, as we know it today.

Each year WCSV treats over 5,000 birds and mammals from almost 150 different species that populate Santa Clara County neighborhoods and rural areas. The patients are diverse: hummingbirds, hawks, owls, pocket gophers, deer, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, squirrels, raccoons, opossums, waterfowl, ad infinitum. The volunteers are as diverse as the patients they serve, as are their reasons for serving.

Volunteers range from the minimum age of 16 to 70 plus. They are trained in animal handling and restraint, nutrition, feeding, cleaning, wound management, suturing, zoonotic diseases and laboratory techniques. Youthful volunteers, like UC Santa Cruz pre-veterinary college student Zoe, are the promise of a future for the preservation and caretaking of wildlife. When asked why she returns each year to supervise a shift at WCSV while attending college fulltime, she replies that she “likes it.” I would reply that it’s dedication.

The age 60-plus group of volunteers seems to have found its way to WCSV via some unique pathways and most unusual biddings. Billie Zwolinski has volunteered a minimum of 3 out of 7 days per week with WCSV since February 2001. Billie was rocking and singing lullabies to crack babies at Stanford Hospital in the volunteer capacity of “cuddler” when she found a baby squirrel and brought it to WCSV.

Billie recalls that Carmel de Bertaut, the Animal Care Coordinator, “snatched” the baby squirrel from her and “ran with it” when she learned that Billie had fed it bread prior to bringing it to the Center. Billie sensed a life change coming on, and decided to volunteer at the Center so that she could continue “cuddling” in a different venue. She soon found out that to cuddle was to kill and that to tame wildlife was to kill it, so Billie found a new challenge: to tame Carmel and cause her to be a people person.

Fortunately, that never happened and even Billie is glad that it did not. Carmel de Bertaut remains dedicated first to the wildlife she serves and second to everything else. She is wildlife protection personified.

Darlene Ristrim also began her volunteer work with WCSV in 2001. Darlene says, “I always wanted to work with animals and give back to wildlife the enjoyment it has given me.” She said she fears that with the rapid development of urban life, wildlife has suffered, and she is here to make a difference. You ought to see the difference she makes when she cuts bamboo from her yard and makes it into magnificent perches for the many enclosures at the Center. (Warning: Get out of the way when she’s wheelbarrowing gravel, unless you’re wildlife!)

The next 60-plus volunteer is a retired pediatrician who will not allow me to use her name. She still has not overcome the shameful event that brought her as a volunteer to WCSV. It was a lovely spring morning, balmy warm breezes stirring the grass, birds chirping, and…yes, that was the problem - birds chirping. Her dog Trixie, a Boston bull terrier mix, was paying way too much attention to the birds chirping and decided enough was enough. Right in front of this retired pediatrician, Trixie swallowed a female house finch. The pediatrician knew it was a female house finch, because for the next week the male finch sat on her fence looking for his lost love while the retired pediatrician developed an overwhelming guilt complex.

While enduring the Trixie-finch episode, the retired pediatrician saw an article in the newspaper describing the work of WCSV and an invitation to the public to volunteer. Driven by guilt and a need to atone for Trixie’s misdeeds, she came to WCSV as a volunteer. With her incredible medical background, she soon became a shift supervisor and still serves as a very dedicated and guilt-ridden volunteer!

WCSV has benefited from its age 60+ male volunteers as well. There’s Dale Kochenburg, affectionately called “The Squirrel Catcher,” because of his ability to round them up from their enclosures for release. Dale became aware of WCSV when he took an injured hawk to HSSV in 2001 and learned that it would be transported to WCSV. Out of curiosity, Dale checked out the WCSV for himself and became a volunteer at the Center as well as doing home care for the squirrels. It’s fun watching this big guy morph into Mr. Nanny when bottle feeding the babies.

Dale was mortified by the recent decision by Mountain View officials to trap and kill the squirrels in Cuesta Park because they were biting people while trying to get treats from them. This is an example of how people harm wildlife by feeding and taming it. As Dale said, the answer to this problem is to educate the public in how to interact with the wildlife around them and let the wildlife remain wild.

Then there’s Bill Paker. In March 2000, he was a member of a community action program sponsored by his workplace at Sun Microsystems when he was assigned to a painting and cleanup project at WCSV at its former location on Senter Road. He was retiring that coming May and decided that his building and maintenance interests could be well utilized at WCSV. Bill also volunteered for Habitat for Humanity, so he brought with him a wealth of talent and know-how to the Center, along with an incredible sense of humor and “telling it like it is.” He spends several days a week at the Center on many diverse projects. He is a gourmet cook, whom other volunteers have described as “very colorful.”

The Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley is always seeking dedicated volunteers, both young and not as young, as well as financial support. Trudi Burney, the Education Coordinator, is available to give informative talks on wildlife and species specific topics such as raptors or hummingbirds. She may be reached by calling the Center or directly e-mailing her at

Everyone is invited to come on down and check out the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley Sunday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Enjoy the displays, interacting with wildlife staff and volunteers, and learning about our volunteer and wildlife internship programs. Find out how you too can make a difference.

Click here for photos.

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FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

bulletWill Starbucks move into the Rafiki’s Coffee Shop space?
bulletWhen will the ultra-colorful new retail building on White Road open?
bulletWho bought the old Alum Rock Stables and what do they intend to do with it?
bulletWhat’s going to go into the old PEO Home cum Marguerite Terrace site?
bulletDid the Porter Lane and Piazza Way neighborhood group make any headway?
bulletWho on earth painted the lettering of the big East Highlands sign black recently?
bulletWhatever happened to Saint John Vianney’s plan to build a new structure?
bulletWill the Farmers’ Market in the Lick parking lot become an annual event? Year-around?
bulletWhat was accomplished at the Comcast Cares Day at James Lick?

Q. Is the Redevelopment Agency trying to get Starbucks to move into the Rafiki’s Coffee Shop space?

A. Boy, this is one of those closely-guarded secrets which nobody at the City wants to talk about. It’s sort of like being accused of being a disloyal American if you question the War in Iraq. If you ask the City about new retail businesses before details are set in stone (or leases signed), they say that any premature discussion could result in a breakdown in negotiations. (Now we loyal Alum Rockers would not want to have our loyalty questioned simply because we’re asking whether we’re getting a Starbucks in the Village, would we?)

What we can tell you for sure is that a Starbucks shop either is or is not going into Rafiki’s space. Neighborhood consensus suggests that it is.

Click here for a photo of the future Starbucks?

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Q. When will the ultra-colorful new retail building on White Road around the corner from Rafiki’s open? What businesses will go in there?

A. Owner Anthony Caruso says that the project should be complete “by the end of the year.” Some of the businesses could open in December. The businesses so far are Subway Sandwiches, Juice Zone and New York Pizza.

Click here for a colorful photo.

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Q. Does anyone know who bought the old Alum Rock Stables and what they intend to do with the property?

A. Yes, we can tell you now that a man named Bruce Fitts has purchased the property and that he plans to live there and keep horses himself. He currently lives in our neighborhood just a couple of miles from the stables property. Bruce is hopeful that the neighborhood will continue to welcome an equestrian-oriented neighbor. We at NNV think horses are very desirable and are happy to think that we’ll be enjoying their presence again.

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Q. What’s going to go into the old PEO Home cum Marguerite Terrace site on the corner of Alum Rock and Kirk Avenues? We’re hearing rumors that the place has been sold and that “it’s a done deal.”

A. We asked Senior Policy Aide Daniel Murillo from Supervisor Pete McHugh’s office whether there is a definitive answer at this point. Here’s what he wrote:

A number of months ago I was contacted by a realtor about potential uses of the PEO site. He had stated that he had some clients (I do not know who they are) who were interested in purchasing the site. If I remember correctly I believe the potential owner wanted to see about the possibility of building homes on the site. The realtor called our Office to see what potential concerns may arise. I believe the concern I mentioned to him was the potential traffic impacts on Alum Rock Avenue. Since that time I have not heard anything else nor have I been contacted by the realtor. I cannot even recall the name of the realtor. I am sorry I cannot provide more information.

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Q. Did the Porter Lane and Piazza Way neighborhood group make any headway in getting Chad Viso to reduce the number of homes (20) he wants to have built on his four-acre Cherry’s Vineyard property on Porter?

A. Once again we prevailed upon Dan Murillo to clue us in. Here’s what he tells us:

The Viso development was passed by a unanimous 5-0 vote. The approval included the 20 lots requested by Mr. Viso and the only addition was the requirement that the project undergo Design Review.

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Q. Who on earth painted the lettering of the big East Highlands sign black recently? Why do people take it upon themselves to redo the paint job without getting a consensus of color preferences from the community?

A. Dunno! But an unidentified family of four (two adults, two youngsters) were seen doing the painting in broad daylight recently. As with the previous Cream-sicle orange and avocado green paint on the raised portions of the sign, this new color scheme was someone’s idea of an improvement over the one which went before. It is always a wonderful mystery to contemplate – just who feels their taste in color schemes should dictate what all passersby must view as they drive past Brundage Way on Alum Rock Avenue? Presumably the black paint wielders are not the same folks who imposed the Cream-sicle orange on us – so we can suppose we have at least two anonymous painter groups. Try as we might, NNV has never been able to get the painters to come forward and take the credit or blame for their work.

Previous to the orange and avocado trim, the sign was one big Navajo White monolith (no highlighting of the letters or diamond shapes). It was painted that way by the volunteers of the Alum Rock Neighborhood Coalition to stop the carping about their earlier paint job which featured terra cotta orange with turquoise trim(!). Before that, if memory serves, the sign was battleship gray with white lettering. Even earlier, was it terra cotta and beige? ARNC tried to do a good turn for our community by keeping the sign maintained, but since the Navaho White coat went on, the embellishment has been at the hands of others doing their own thing. NNV knows everyone is grateful that the graffiti on the middle panel has been painted out and we’ll probably all get used to the harsh black in time. It’s actually fun to contemplate the next color scheme, don’t you think? As far as getting a consensus on anything around here, we say good luck!

Click here for photos.

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Q. Whatever happened to Saint John Vianney’s plan to build a new structure on their property? Wasn’t this supposed to happen a couple of years ago?

A. Plans for a grand new facility at St. John’s had to be scaled back when the dotcom bust took the wind out of the sails of the fundraising effort. However ground will be broken for a smaller, less ambitious building early next year. It will be a gymnasium/auditorium with a stage area at one end. It will be constructed in a piece of what is now the parking lot alongside the existing office building on Hyland Avenue across the street from the school. An old outdated hall near the south end of the parking lot will be razed.

Click here for the plan.

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Q. Will the Farmers’ Market in the Lick High parking lot become an annual event? Could it even go year-around?

A. The market has been a marvelous success – well beyond anyone’s prediction – so, yes, it will be an annual fixture in our neighborhood. And, yes, it was announced on October 29th that the market will not stop on November 19th after all. It is now a year-around market like Santana Row's!

If you haven’t visited the Sunday morning market yet, you’re missing the greatest innovation in Alum Rock since the Roberto Cruz Alum Rock Library opened last year. It is The Bomb! The variety and quality of the produce has been phenomenal and the prices are excellent.

Students from Lick High which partners with Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association and the Alum Rock Village Business Association have used the Market’s information table to get the word out about events and programs at the school. A group of music students accompanied by teacher, Tomoko Nakajima, creatively traded Lick Music themed t-shirts for donations to their performance clothing fund and took orders for fire extinguishers and first aid kits at the market. It’s really a wonderful opportunity for community-school-business interaction.

Click here for photos.

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Q. What was accomplished at the Comcast Cares Day at James Lick?

A. Like the Farmers’ Market, the Comcast Cares Day at our high school was a surprise outstanding success. About a hundred volunteers from Comcast, City Year, the school and the community spent a Saturday morning whipping through a list of wants and needs developed earlier. Principal Bill Rice was tickled pink at getting projects done which he had been trying for three years to get accomplished. The improvements to the green fencing around the swimming pool make the whole area look tidy and clean. Fresh landscaping bark installed over weed barrier cloth took care of some long-term weedy eyesores. Even the roses were expertly pruned and the old cast-off furniture of the teachers’ lounge replaced. Thank you, Comcast, City Year and local volunteers!

Click here for the newly-painted green fence and landscape bark photo if you didn't see it with the Farmers' Market photos above.

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This is the final edition of New Neighborhood Voice. All earlier editions are archived for your continuing use. Click here for the archives.

--------------------------- Contact and Subscription Information ---------------------------------
Copyright© 2006 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© 2006 by Judy Thompson.  All rights reserved.  Updated 11/7/06.

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