[Best of the Santa Clara Valley 1997]

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Best of West San Jose

Cambrian Park Plaza
The Sign Remains the Same: The sign police haven't gotten everywhere--yet. Vestiges of the whimsical past stand tall in places like Cambrian Park Plaza.

Best Argument Against Sign Ordinances
While the shopping center itself has had its ups and downs during its 30-odd-year history amid tract neighborhoods and commercial buildout, the funky carousel sign at Cambrian Park Plaza has kept spinning even during times when vacancy rates were high and building maintenance was a low priority. Now that the center has abandoned its "playland" theme and the storefronts are 100 percent occupied, the carousel lives on. "They may not know the name of the shopping center," says property manager Wanda Henry, "but mention the carousel sign, and people know exactly what you're talking about." So hey, if it ain't broken don't fix it. How many living remnants of those free-wheeling, fun-filled development days are left around here, anyway?
Camden and Union avenues, San Jose

Best Place to Go Bump in the Night
What with staircases that lead directly into walls and doors that swing out seemingly from nowhere, it's hard enough during regular daylight hours for Winchester Mystery House guests to keep from barking their shins or banging their elbows as they navigate through Sarah Winchester's 160-room Victorian maze. So imagine scoping out Sarah's pad with only the aid of a flashlight--and on Halloween, no less. The whole idea seems like a ploy by the same meddlesome spirits who purportedly guided Mrs. Winchester in building her mansion in the first place. And who knows, watching from the great beyond as visitors walk into walls might provide some solace for their having been shot to death by one of her husband's rifles.
525 S. Winchester Blvd., San Jose (247-2101)

Best Argument for Suburbia
Some people complain that the suburbs are too uniform, that all the houses look alike. For the residents of Mossbrook Circle, this uniformity helped sell them on their neighborhood, which is made up entirely of classic, '60s-era Eichler homes. All around the block, the low-pitched gable roofs are in perfect alignment with one another, giving the impression that residents have permanently circled their wagons. Actually, though, the Eichler owners are a friendly bunch: They throw a block party every Fourth of July, and since everyone knows what the inside of his neighbor's house looks like, no one is shy about asking for a peek at remodeling efforts or checking out the plants in the atrium next door. Apparently, good architecture makes good neighbors.
Mossbrook Circle, San Jose

Best Reason to Doubt the Census
According to 1990 U.S. Census figures, about 70 percent of west San Jose residents speak nothing but English at home. If that's true, the other 30 percent are really vocal in public. A walk through Calabazas Park is like a visit to an international marketplace without the merchandise: Tennis players curse their double-faults in Chinese, mothers call their children away from the swing sets in Vietnamese, coaches yell instructions in Russian to the kids on the soccer field and fathers hunker over the barbecue pits, arguing in Spanish about whether the steaks are done.
Blaney and Rainbow avenues, San Jose


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From the Sept. 18-24, 1997 issue of Metro.

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