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August 15-21, 2007

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Silicon Alleys - Gary Singh

Silicon Alleys

San Jose's Issues: Solved!

By Gary Singh

TWO PRESSING issues have recently emerged and are worth further consideration: the status of the Santa Clara County Fair and the status of the San Jose Flea Market on Berryessa Road. Both are San Jose institutions whose futures are in jeopardy. Everybody has already voiced his or her opinion, but there is another angle worth pursuing, which involves a third issue that is separate, yet related.

You see, much hysteria has surrounded the empty retail space in the new San Jose City Hall. The Flames Restaurant was originally supposed to have moved in, and it's been a few years in the making. I can't even keep up with all the pitfalls, but the most recent bone of contention seems to revolve around who will pay for the necessary renovations in order for a restaurant to move in. Renovations? Wait a minute. Is it just me, or does this sound freaking absurd to you? I mean, how many hundreds of millions of public money did they spend on building that structure? And now they need "renovations?"

It's typical San Jose in the sense that they just can't do anything right the first time. Like most downtown retail, it'll probably sit there empty for years to come. If that building is supposed to be San Jose's primo representative centerpiece, well, then I guess maybe they did get it right, as there's nothing but empty retail on the ground level. Still.

So here's the answer: move the Flea Market and the County Fair into the empty retail space in City Hall. It makes all the sense in the world. The place needs a flea market. I'm sure the city employees would occasionally like to go downstairs and purchase some used tires, bootleg stuffed animals, fifth generation socket sets, a few cowboy hats and a bag of zucchini. Wouldn't you?

And the county fair. Hell, there are enough sheep, cows, pigs and turkeys in City Hall anyway, so why not? Take the downtown Christmas carnival and move it from Paseo de San Antonio to City Hall instead. That way, the Fairmont won't complain anymore. Think about it: Trying to navigate through the bureaucracy at City Hall is like riding a freaking Ferris wheel already. On second thought, maybe it's more like a Gravitron or a Tilt-a-Whirl, but you get the idea.

The first job I ever had was at the county fairgrounds and we used to watch folks race Super Mods at the speedway. You could legally bring in your own alcohol. It was the quintessential suburban San Jose experience: watching your friends' parents get smashed at the races. They had concerts out there and everything. We could probably bring all that stuff back and have 'em race around City Hall all day.

If San Jose is the "Capital of Silicon Valley" and also the county seat, then that building should be the focal point of the county fair. Who needs a Flames Restaurant or a Starbucks with "labor peace" when you can have dog training seminars, RV shows and a cattleman's banquet?

So I say save the Santa Clara County Fair and the San Jose Flea Market, and just downsize them enough to where they'll fit into the empty retail space of the new San Jose City Hall. Imagine being able to go pet some sheep, buy some cheap sunglasses, get your caricature drawn, go to the dime-toss booth and attend a City Council meeting all in the same building. I'm in.

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