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Tables Turned at Del Monte

The battle over Del Monte Plant No. 3, with five historically valuable warehouses, might turn out to be no battle at all. The Preservation Action Council of San Jose has proposed that developer KB Home build 40 fewer single family houses on the 11-acre site and more condominiums in the old warehouses, which date to the early 20th century. KB Home's original proposal was to keep only the old Del Monte water tower, demolishing all the buildings, and construct 150 homes and 215 condos at the site, which is just south of West San Carlos Street at Los Gatos Creek. The Preservation Council's proposal would permit KB Home to retain its overall goal of 365 units while also saving the buildings. The review period of the environmental impact report closes this week, meaning city planners will now have to respond to and hopefully incorporate comments from the Action Council and other members of the public. The Willow Glen Neighborhood Association, for example, wants to insure the project is compatible with the neighborhood. For aesthetic reasons, Willow Glen residents would prefer not to see condos built over parking garages and want the Los Gatos Creek trail extended past the Del Monte project. Of course, the residential project will never be built if the San Jose City Council continues to try to lure Major League Baseball by building a stadium on the Del Monte site. The council voted last month to try to acquire the property, possibly by asking KB Home to swap real estate.

The Not Diaz Vote

Count AUTUMN GUTIERREZ among those interested in the '06 District 3 race, arguably the city's most visible and important council seat. (SUSAN HAMMER and TOMMY McENERY won the mayor's race after holding the D3 seat and CINDY CHAVEZ hopes to follow in their footsteps.) Gutierrez is essentially a nobody, politically speaking. She's a volunteer coordinator at homeless provider InnVision and takes classes at SJCC. But she does have two things going for her. Unlike the downwardly mobile MANNY DIAZ, the former assemblyman looking for a new roost, she's seen as neighborhood friendly, one of a handful of activists to whom current D3 Councilwoman CINDY CHAVEZ has been giving leadership lessons. Also unlike Diaz, Gutierrez is an Evergreen Community College trustee, following in the footsteps of Councilmembers KEN YEAGER and NANCY PYLE.

Secrets 'R' Us

BRIAN SCHMIDT has a problem with the county. And the city. And, well, most other municipalities in California. Schmidt, a staff attorney for the Committee for Green Foothills, a local environmental organization, tells Fly that Santa Clara County isn't playing fair. His concern involves environmental impact reports (EIRs) that local governments draft prior to large-scale developments. Normally, after the EIR is written, the public and developers are permitted a specific amount of time (usually 45 days) to review the report. Then, the local government publishes a revised EIR, which answers questions and makes necessary changes. The two reports—the draft and the revised EIR—are finally submitted together as the final report. The problem, says Schmidt, is the county shares "administrative" drafts with developers before the first draft is published for comment. Schmidt has no quarrel with sharing working drafts, but he draws the line at not permitting other interested parties access to the working drafts as well. That, Schmidt believes, is illegal; and, if not illegal, it's certainly unfair. LIZANNE REYNOLDS, a land-use attorney in the county counsel's office, responds that developers possess "unique" information that aids county staff during the EIR process. Opening the working draft process to everybody would create "inefficiency," forcing the county to handle a barrage of comments about a report in the working draft phase. Further, she claims, cooperating with developers during the environmental report process is common in municipalities across California. Nonsense, responds Schmidt. What if environmental groups are more qualified to give the county advice during the draft process? Also, says Schmidt, when he officially requested to see the working draft EIR for a Stanford University expansion plan the county had shared with university officials, he was given the decidedly fishy explanation that the working drafts were destroyed during routine house-cleaning. Meanwhile, unlike San Jose and Oakland, the city of Palo Alto has a policy of never showing anyone working drafts of the EIR (except for the project description). But don't they suffer from the lack of "unique" information that developers provide the county? "The developer always cooperates," explains DAN SODERGREN, a Palo Alto special counsel. "If the city or the city's consultant needs information, we just ask the developer for it. That's usually never a problem."

Foreign Lesions

South Asian human rights activists were alarmed this week when the local daily suggested the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF) as a charity to donate relief funds to. Hell no, screams the Indo-American charity-watch group Stop Funding Hate. IDRF, warns the watchdog group, is affiliated with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a sectarian Indian organization blamed for fanning communal flames during anti-Muslim and anti-Christian violence in India. Prohibited by India from raising funds overseas, the group instead raises funds through overseas fronts. Two years ago, Stop Funding Hate published "The Foreign Exchange of Hate," a report that attempted to link (with criticism by IDRF defenders) the IDRF's record of raising money in the United States with sectarian groups in the homeland. Despite the criticism, the IDRF still operates in the United States—as the Merc plug indicates—with apparent impunity; a little bad press, it seems, rarely hurts too much.


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From the January 5-11, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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