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Schoennauer And Son

San Jose's policy of protecting its tax base by resisting developers' pleas to snatch industrial land for housing owes a lot to GARY SCHOENNAUER. Gary the Good spent 18 of his 30 years on the city payroll as San Jose's top planning wonk. The smart land use policy he championed has brought tax-producing industry to San Jose, beefed up its tax base and contributed to alleviating the jobs-housing imbalance that has clogged valley freeways and left San Jose more impoverished than its tonier neighbors to the north. The reason San Jose has more broken curbs and fewer trees in its median strips than, say, Mountain View or Cupertino is that high-tech companies fatten city coffers while consuming few municipal services. The same patch of dirt filled with housing sucks money out of the city treasury for police and fire services and schools ... Bizarrely, Gary-the-not-quite-as-good is now using his detailed knowledge of city government to undermine the balanced growth policies closely identified with his tenure as a public servant. Since entering the private sector in 1997, he has billed handsome fees as a land-use consultant and now operates a father-son business with his kid ERIK, who also worked the halls of government for 12 years at Redevelopment and as an aide to termed-out Councilmember PAT DANDO. The two are now leveraging their shared DNA and political clout to grease the skids for a scheme to plunk 230 homes on 19 acres of prime Alviso industrial land. No, says Erik Schoennauer, who spoke on his father's behalf because his old man is traveling abroad. The 19-acre site is better suited to residential development, Erik argues, because it sits across First Street from a school, a library, a community center and other homes. The project will reserve about three acres for a retail center, which might be helpful to Alviso residents, Schoennauer suggests, with another 11 acres set aside for two four-story office buildings. One of the perks Alviso residents might like, Schoennauer says, is access to the Guadalupe River, which runs south of the proposed development, and to a jogging and biking trail the city is supposed to extend to the bay. Besides, this isn't the first industrial property the former planning director has helped reinvent itself as residential. Another was the North Park Apartments, 2,300 units on North First just south of Tasman Drive. While the city strives to preserve industrial land, it's also true, Schoennauer says, that the city rewrites the ground rules when necessary. "The city has very thoughtfully and strategically found appropriate locations for housing with industrial areas," he says. Will that be enough to get his project through? Hardly. Alviso residents are extremely territorial—they call their enclave a village and have been vocal in opposing overdevelopment. Councilmember CHUCK REED, whose district includes Alviso, says he'll tell the Schoennauers the same thing he tells every developer: get residents to agree to change the Alviso Master Plan and he'll agree to the development. Others have tried, even with the property the Schoennauers are trying to rezone, with little success. Will that stop the Schoennauers and their clients? Not according to Reed. "Developers are eternal optimists," he says.

Don't Believe The Hype

It arrived with a bang—a South Bay lawsuit that was supposed to be one of the most important free speech cases in the country. In the end, though, the case Varian Medical Systems filed against MICHELANGELO DELFINO and MARY DAY ended in a whimper when the California Supreme Court sided with Delfino and Day on what amounts to a technicality. Delfino was a 10-year employee of Varian when he was fired after a dispute with a colleague, SUSAN FELCH. Day quit two months later in sympathy. The two then began to post offensive messages on the web about Felch and Delfino's boss, GEORGE ZDASIUK, accusing them of adultery, being incompetent and lying. Varian filed suit to stop them, which free speech types generally oppose. In fact, the Assembly and Congress have passed laws protecting whistle-blowers against strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPP. Delfino and Day filed for protection, claiming anti-SLAPP legislation protected them. In essence, Delfino and Day claimed flamed messages on the Internet were not libelous or slanderous because Internet users don't take such messages seriously. This would be quite a departure from current law, because messages posted on the Internet are generally susceptible to the same libel laws as information published through traditional media. A jury found the two had slandered Felch and Zdasiuk, but two weeks ago, the California Supreme Court reversed the decision, saying the lower court should have delayed hearing the case until SLAPP appeals were exhausted. The Supreme Court did not rule on other issues of the case, like whether flamed messages can be libelous. Delfino and Day were ecstatic they'd won their case. But the California Newspaper Publisher's Association, which filed Supreme Court motions in support of the two, said the case is hardly a watershed legal moment. It merely makes lower courts wait to try libel or slander cases until after SLAPP motions have been exhausted.

Saturday Night Review

Last week, Fly broke the news that PETE ESCOVEDO's Latin Jazz Club had kicked the bucket. Apparently a little sensitive to the fact that we got the story first, the Merc did what is known in the newsroom as "Saturdaying the story"—when they get embarrassed about being scooped, they sometimes bury a rewrite of the story in their least-read edition the following Saturday. In fact, they did the exact same thing the Saturday before, after Biter had scooped them in our March 9 edition about LEONARD McKAY's historical collection of Santa Clara Valley paintings. The Merc published a rewrite on Saturday, March 12, that included identical details about the show. Poor MARK DE LA VIÑA, by the way, got stuck cleaning up after us both times. Except this time, he botched one key fact. Regarding Pete's place, De La Viña wrote, "The SHEILA E concert, a pair of shows by singer KIM NALLEY and an impromptu, late-night performance by PRINCE and his entourage were sell-outs." The Prince show never happened. Fly knows because we hung around and played pool until 4am waiting for him to hop on stage. Hey, folks, we're flattered in the sincerest way, but next time make sure you read all of the news we broke before you re-report it.

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From the March 23-29, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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

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