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[whitespace] English for the Planners

Alviso--A loose coalition of Alviso residents and South Bay environmentalists, formed to oppose plans to develop Alviso, say the San José Planning Department is frustrating their efforts.

If approved by the Planning Department and City Council, the Alviso Master Plan would drastically alter the face of the bayside community, paving the way for widespread industrial and commercial development of Alviso's large open spaces, and perhaps even removing many of its current residents.

Late last month, a group of Alviso residents hand-delivered a two-page Spanish-only letter to the Planning Department, protesting upcoming hearings on the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The residents hardly expected City Planners to read their letter--that was their point--most Alvisans don't read English. The inch-thick EIR is an English-only document, and residents want hearings postponed until it can be translated.

The letter was signed by Luis Tapia and Ruben Orozco, two longtime leaders of Alviso's Spanish-speaking community. It was later translated into English. "We already have a big problem with asthma, allergies and cancer here," Tapia and Orozco charge. "We already have asbestos contamination, mercury at the bottom of the marina, two dumps that contain the entire valley's garbage, and the sewage treatment plant for all of San Jose's sewage. We have enough poison here. It is not fair or responsible to put more industrial chemicals and more traffic so close to our children and homes."

Hearings on the Draft EIR were originally scheduled for Oct. 21. But Craig Breon of the Audubon Society says that, although he has received no official word from the Planning Department, he understands that the hearings have been rescheduled for October 28 or beyond. Breon also says he was told by residents that the Planning Department verbally turned down the request to translate the EIR into Spanish because there was nobody in the office to do the translation.

Just before press-time, a Planning Department spokesperson told Metro that Director James R. Derryberry has instructed staffers that all Alviso queries had to go through his office. Derryberry did not return several telephone calls. Breon speculates that the Planning Department might be cracking down on information coming out of its office because some Planning Department staff members have been friendly to environmental concerns about Alviso development.
J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

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