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Silicon Valley News Notes

Tesla Drive

If all goes well, San Jose could be the headquarters of the world's coolest car company. The maker of high performance electric cars is interested in a piece of land near San Jose's Water Pollution Control Plant for its central manufacturing and R&D facility. On Aug. 19, the City Council is slated to vote to direct the city manager to pursue a deal with Tesla Motors. The facility, according to insiders, would directly employ more than 1,000 workers and create an ecosystem of more than 10,000 jobs. Tesla CEO Zeev Drori upstaged Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger at Monday night's annual Silicon Valley Leadership Group barbecue by parking a silver Tesla roadster outside the former Los Altos Hills residence of H-P founder David Packard. The governor is working with Mayor Chuck Reed's office and city economic development officials to land the Tesla prize. Although other cities are competing, San Jose is in a strong position, city officials believe. Since we were headed the same way, Fly hitched a ride with Drori, who claims to be a Formula One driver. Compact and low to the ground, the two seater was so quiet we wondered if the engine was even running as the wheels rolled down the hill. "A motor," Drori corrected. "It doesn't have an engine." The car has no clutch or transmission, and will go from zero to more than 120 mph in a single gear. To prove it, Drori accelerated briskly on a few straight stretches of the hillside road, providing a pulse-quickening thrill. As we reached the Foothill College parking lot, a police siren screamed. Luckily for Drori, who pulled to the side, Sheriff's deputies were on the way to an unrelated emergency call.

Greens Strike Back

South Bay environmental groups have taken a vote of no confidence in the Local Agency Formation Commission —the group charged with refereeing growth to balance development with environmental concerns. But this has been a long time coming—the Committee for Green Foothills and the Loma Prieta Sierra Club have struggled with the power shift on the board ever since the right-leaning San Jose Councilman Pete Constant took his seat as the chairman 19 months ago. Before that, the makeup of the board was such that environmentalists got used to having the votes go their way. But after a series of 3-2 split votes that tended to favor property rights over an environment agenda, environmentalists said enough was enough. They decided a vote of no confidence in the commission would point out how it has consistently ignored its own staff recommendations and environmental policies that are supposed to protect the South Bay from unbridled growth. Constant replaced former San Jose Councilwoman Linda LeZotte, who was much more sympathetic to the environmentalists. Things got really bad for the greenies after the commission (again 3-2) agreed to let San Martin folks incorporate their community. Environmentalists don't have a problem with incorporation, but they think the commission is letting them build out too far, without leaving enough buffers between cities, said Brian Schmidt, legislative advocate for the Committee for Green Foothills. The Pete Constant factor is bothering them enough that the Committee for Green Foothills recently had a heart-to-heart with the staffers in Mayor Chuck Reed's office, expressing their concerns. Their vote of no confidence is a wake-up call to the agencies who appoint their elected officials to LAFCO, Schmidt said. "We didn't say, 'Remove your people causing problems and replace them,'" Schmidt said. "We did stop short of that." Constant says he's not about to back down from his positions. "They are mad we are not interpreting things their way," Constant said. "To be blunt, their position on the issue doesn't sway me."


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