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One City, Two Downtowns

Anyone who's seen a photo of one of the proposed developments under consideration for Coyote Valley knows downtown San Jose's in trouble again. The model we saw had tall buildings squared off around an elliptical lake. The lake was as picturesque as a fake body of water can be. But the high-rise buildings were something else altogether. They represent a fractured vision: one downtown that's been in place for 160 years, since downtown SJ first began to form; and another downtown that will be 15 miles south. The distance means that San Jose will become one of the few American cities with two downtowns inside its borders. Think L.A. and Westwood or L.A. and the San Fernando Valley. Advocates will naturally say, So what? Let builders build where the market dictates. But for those of you who've noticed that downtown San Jose can't support the storefronts it already has, you might worry that the new, sleeker confines of Coyote Valley will likely facilitate brain drain from the center city. Councilman Forrest Williams, whose district includes Coyote Valley, says not to worry. The development won't be rolled out for 20 more years, and 3,500 acres of new development won't be anything more than "a self-sustaining type of city." "It will still complement downtown," he says. "We're trying to minimize the drain on resources and all that." Scott Knies of San Jose Downtown Association is equally nonplussed. "As the depth of the downtown market is established, and we increase density with high-rise residential, all the advantages of downtown—transportation, arts, jobs—will prove superior to the suburban 'downtowns' that can only attempt to imitate the real thing," he says. But how can city leaders, in endorsing high-rise development in Coyote, claim legal or moral superiority with projects that supposedly interfere with downtown? Downtowners are battling with the county over a 7,000-seat music hall, culminating (so far) with the threat of a lawsuit. City officials should ask themselves what's worse: A small music venue two miles outside of downtown or an entire downtown so far away from the urban core it's almost in the next county.

Housed Out

The Housing Authority of Santa Clara County seems to be going through its worst days. Fly has learned that not only did the Housing Authority not manage to approve its budget (because of a lack of a quorum) before the beginning of the fiscal year but also that Sherril Nathan, a board commissioner, abruptly resigned from her post. All this during some nasty labor negotiations. Meanwhile, Carl Guardino, another commissioner for the Housing Authority and also CEO of the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group, apparently has no need to attend board meetings. Indeed, according to the Housing Authority numbers, since September 2001, Guardino has missed 21 meetings, or 62 percent of the board meetings. While Guardino wouldn't return calls or email, board chairwoman Sherry Simmons defended Guardino's absences. "He gets all the information, as we do—both the minutes as well as the board meeting information, so he's well informed," Simmons assured Fly. But perhaps Nathan's comments about the Housing Authority best reflect internal dysfunction. Fly did not manage to catch up to Nathan before presstime, but was privy to her stated reasons for leaving the board. "I'm just very disgusted right now with things that are happening, and the budget we're supposed to approve without information, and just the way that things are handled," Nathan said in a voicemail message forwarded to Fly. "I can't support the things that they want me to, and there's too much pressure just to go along and agree with things."

All Praise to Us

It's not like we found Osama Bin Laden or Mayor Gonzales' heartbeat, but we are pleased to announce that Metro won second place in two categories in this year's California Newspaper Publishers Association Better Newspapers Contest. Metro was awarded prizes in Lifestyle Coverage (that's culture, smart-asses, not sexual orientation), including a humorous cover story last year on new urbanism. And a Freedom of Information award for our five-month battle with county officials to obtain the salaries of top-level managers, who were given pay increases even as county workers were being laid off.

Vote Counting

It may be summer vacation, but the folks at Alum Rock Union School District haven't seen much vacation yet. The district's superintendent, Alfonso Anaya, lauded by the city's daily just weeks ago, seems to be captaining a ship with more than a few holes in the hull. Indeed, a week after Metro published a story ("Class Clowns," July 7) commenting on the dubious residency of now-departed school board trustee Adriana Garza, Violet Gonzalez, the secretary of Concerned Parents and Community, filed a complaint regarding Graza's role in two crucial 3-2 votes that extended Anaya's contract and laid off a few dozen Alum Rock employees. In a letter distributed to Alum Rock's board, county Superintendent of Schools Colleen Wilcox, District Attorney George Kennedy and the county's Office of the Civil Grand Jury, Gonzalez contends that Garza—because she moved out of her home in the Alum Rock district some months before her term ended—was ineligible to cast votes for district decisions. Gonzalez, who Fly has learned is supported by a number of Alum Rock's parents, community and faculty, also alleges that Anaya, realizing he would lose a friendly vote through Garza's official June 30 departure, colluded with Garza and two other supe-friendly trustees, Esau Herrara and Jason Rodriguez, to expedite his contract-extending vote. However, while the letter provides ample evidence of Garza nondistrict residency during the votes, the allegations of collusion are not supported by evidence. "As most people know, Alum Rock has done some funky things," Gonzalez told Fly. "By doing this, the community is saying it would like to see these shenanigans ended."

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From the July 21-27, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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