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[whitespace] Marcelino Castillo
An Awful Detainer: The San Jose Redevelopment Agency is evicting Casa Castillo, owned by downtown survivor Marcelino Castillo, to make room for new restaurants.

Public Eye

Casa We Wonnit

THE CURTAIN MAY FALL SOON on Casa Castillo, the homegrown restaurant that has been stuffing bellies at 200 S. First St. since 1983. Just days before Christmas, Grinch-like officials from the San Jose Redevelopment Agency-- Casa Castillo's landlord--notified owner Marcelino Castillo that he, and the rest of the occupants in the historic Twohy Building, had until June to clear out and make way for snazzy lofts and two new restaurants. "They came and told us that they had plans to 'fix up' the building," huffs Castillo. "And they made it clear that they didn't want us to be here after they did." ... Indeed, Brooke Hempell, the cheery spokesperson for CMI, the Los Angeles-based developer picked for the redo job, says her firm will fill Castillo's space with--just what downtown needs most--another Italian diner and--just what the world needs most--another sports bar. "I'm not sure what's going on with them [Casa Castillo], but they're not part of the plan," Hempell says. ... Since Castillo still has a dozen years on his lease, the agency will have to relocate his business or cash him out. Scott Knies, director of the Downtown Association, notes that the burrito bank weathered the onslaught of redevelopment when construction of the Fairmont Hotel , the Pavilion and light rail served-up a triple whammy. "Talk about paying your dues," Knies says. "Casa Castillo has been there for some of our darkest days." ... Castillo couldn't agree more. "It's frustrating for us because we've had to deal with all this construction for 17 years and now, they come to us and say, 'You're not qualified. Get out'," Castillo says. "It's discouraging to look and see that there's hardly any family-owned, minority businesses in downtown. I look around and I see chains taking over. What I don't see is the pie getting cut evenly."

Picket Fences

For months, local union bosses have sent foot soldiers to picket developer Barry Swenson's projects in San Jose and Santa Cruz. Since Labor Day, for instance, listless picketers stationed in front of Barry Swenson Builder's offices on Front Street in downtown Santa Cruz have been holding signs accusing Swenson of failing to pay the "economic benefits established by carpenters in this area." Picketers have also been spotted near Swenson's condo project across the street from the Saddle Rack. The funny thing is that labor heavies are occasionally hiring nonunion workers to walk the picket lines. ... Paul Cohen, spokesman for the Carpenter's Union Local 405, says the picketers are being paid by the union "way above minimum wage" to stand and hold informative signs. See, they can't actually answer any questions a passerby might have, which seems kind of odd since they are engaging in an "informational" picket. Cohen justified the gag order by saying, "Labor laws are very complicated in terms of how we can do picketing. The use of picket signs in this fashion is recognized by the courts as a valid way for the unions to communicate a message. The picketers are not trained in the details of what it means to say, 'We're on strike' vs. 'This is an area standards picket.'" ... As for folks at Barry Swenson Builder, vice president Jesse Nickells, who claims great sympathy with those who "work with their hands," says he's "frustrated" by the off-and-on presence of the picket line. "We don't understand why the union is doing this. It's no fun," he says, adding that Swenson pays comparable wages, though he won't say what those wages are. "We offer full benefits, including dental, and have 401k and a pension program. Cohen says that the union plans to make its presence felt until Swenson "sees the error of his ways."

The Big Payback

Supervisor Jim Beall is getting a little payback, that's all. Eye-watchers may recall that when Supervisor Pete McHugh became board chairman a couple of years ago, he yanked Beall off the powerful Valley Tranportation Authority board and put himself on instead. The Yeti-sized supe threw a tantrum and McHugh named Beall a nonvoting "ex officio" member of the VTA board. ... Now, it's Beall's turn to be board chairman and guess what--he's yanking the bumbling Bostonian off the VTA board. Beall refrained, however, from putting himself on the board. But he did tap like-minded colleagues Blanca Alvarado and Don Gage who, like him, opposed Measure A, the transit tax plan to bring BART to San Jose. Coincidentally, McHugh, whose Milpitas district would benefit from a BART station, was one of Measure A's biggest cheerleaders.

Feature Creature

Our good friends at San Jose magazine should be congratulated for their hard-hitting profile of Knight Ridder CEO Tony Ridder in this month's issue. Readers now know that Darth Ridder likes to roller blade around Stanford Shopping Center without knee, elbow or wrist guards. And he runs marathons. Oh, yes, and he likes to ski so fast that he's broken his ribs many times. "But I've never broken my legs," he told the mag. If that weren't all fascinating enough, readers also get to hear Uncle Tony's views on the challenges of running a newspaper company in the Internet era. Too bad the writer didn't pester Ridder about the challenges of running an Internet company in the Internet era. According to the SF Chronicle, KnightRidder.com laid off 68 employees (about 16 percent of its reported work force) in a restructuring move last month before Christmas. "I absolutely love what I do," Ridder is quoted as saying in San Jose. "I have so much fun I really ought to pay the company to let me do this work."

Curbside Pickup

After having her life trashed in the local press, mayoral galpal Guissell Nunez may have thought, well, why not go with it? That's right, San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales' famed 26-year-old girlfriend has landed a job with Browning Ferris Industries, the garbage collecting giant. BFI, by the by, has that portion of the city's garbage contract for yard waste collection. But the contract expires on June 30, 2002, and city officials are leaning toward ceasing their relationship with BFI afterward. ... BFI media handler Stephen Coskery confirms Nunez's employment, but won't divulge her job title, her start date or even her astrological sign. In October, a month after yours truly broke news of the extramarital office affair between Nunez and San Jose's top dog, Nunez quit her job as the mayor's community relations specialist. The city's revolving-door policy prohibits Nunez from lobbying City Hall or sleeping with the mayor on behalf of BFI for one year.

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From the January 18-24, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.




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