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[whitespace] Alano Club exits with no new home

Sunnyvale--An early victim of the redevelopment cyclone about to hit downtown Sunnyvale has fallen. Members of the Alano Club, located on the corner of Taaffe and Olive Streets, reluctantly walked out the door for the last time on Friday. The 60-day period specified on the eviction notice the city handed them at the beginning of May had expired.

The Alano Club, a shortened combination of the two words Alcoholics Anonymous, was a place where recovering addicts could go for several different types of support. Besides the 40 weekly meetings conducted there, members said the club served as a central location where they could just hang out and talk with each other.

The club, they said, offered more than just the official kind of support that AA meetings could provide once or twice a week for a couple of hours. It served as a familiar place they could go 15 hours a day, seven days a week, where there would always be a friendly face and a sympathetic ear.

The eviction has loomed for years. The city rented the 7,100 square-foot space at 155 S. Taaffe to the club in 1996 at a reduced rate in exchange for the club making upgrades.

Since the one-year lease expired in 1997, the club has been renting month-to-month, knowing eventually the time would come to leave. The city's April 11 approval of construction of 460,000 square feet of office space means that time is now.

The Mid-Peninsula Alano Club has had to move before. The challenge to find new space, however, has obviously never been greater. A nonprofit that charges nominal fees to its members cannot compete in this market, organizers say.

Tom Lasch, a Sunnyvale resident and the club's vice president, says that they are now looking for a new home. So far, they have had a couple of possibilities, but nothing has materialized.

Club organizers have concentrated most of their efforts on obtaining a lease on an open space at 964 W. El Camino, less than a mile from their current location. However, because of Sunnyvale's zoning policy, the club must obtain a special uses permit from the city in order to be allowed to rent the space.

But Fred Hill, the owner of the space who Lasch says has been very receptive to the club, has denied Alano a lease. In order for the city to grant the special use permit needed for the club, he must upgrade his building--something that he is not in the position to do at this time.

Lasch is not holding his breath on finding a new location. Up until now, he has not been getting very positive responses to the club's search for a new home. "It's hard for an organization like ours to keep its head above water with the pressures generated by a highly inflationary economy like the one we have in this area today," he said.

In the meantime, members of the club are packing up everything and putting it in storage, hopeful that they will soon have a new meeting place.

Only a handful of the weekly meetings that called Alano their home has been able to find new locations to gather. According to Lasch, of the 70 AA and other such meetings that are held in Sunnyvale every week, 40 were held at the Alano Club. Of those 40, only five have been able to locate other venues where their members can meet.

"We aren't looking for any handouts," Lasch said. "We have a fair amount of money in the bank, and we are ready and willing to pay the standard amount of rent to lease 2,000 to 3,000 square feet of space in this area."
Daniel Hindin

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