New Neighborhood Voice

Newsletter - Edition 40 - Section 2

October 8, 2006

Return to Home Page
Return to Section 1
Click on a thumbnail to view larger photos

Schuster on
guard duty


Steve Von Till,


Arvind Kumar
tells us  ...

about the native
garden at ...

Lake Cunningham


New Building
McKee Vista


At the landslide-
damaged home


"Sheri B." at
new JL Bldg.

City of San Jose Annexation Answer Book: Read About It  Your Copy (Big PDF File)

Return to Headlines and Section 1

Commemorating Community Volunteers:

A tribute to Bradley and Billiana Bening at Tierra Encantada

By Bill Zavlaris

It was a beautiful day in all respects on Friday August 25, 2006 when Community Housing Developers (CHD) formally dedicated the central courtyard and children’s play area of their 93-unit 100% affordable mixed-use development “Tierra Encantada” (1918 Alum Rock Avenue) to the Bradley Bening family. The handsome award-winning complex was designed as a Mediterranean village by Maia Gendreau of MBA Architects whose principal, Marvin Bamburg, is a prominent resident of the East Foothills. Also notable in the design are the distinctive, Aztec-inspired metal entry gates and the playful metal cartoon characters that add so much to the children’s play area by artist Keith Bush, another resident of the East Foothills. To complete the Eastside connection, I was the Project Manager for CHD and the contractor was Barry Swenson, a longtime resident of the east hills. The event was attended by over 80 people who enjoyed the weather, listened to live jazz and had a wonderful lunch following the moving tribute to individuals whose actions best exemplify community involvement in San Jose.

Bradley Bening and his late wife Billiana devoted much volunteer time to two important issues that greatly impact the quality of life in Santa Clara County - affordable housing and children’s arts programs.

Brad, an attorney in San Jose, has been a Board member of CHD since 1986 including Chairman of the Board of Directors for a period. CHD is the oldest, private, not-for profit, developer of housing in San Jose begun in 1979 with current Congressperson Zoe Lofgren as the first Executive Director. Over its 27 years of existence, the organization has focused on developing housing for special needs groups: seniors, the disabled, battered women and the working poor. CHD both constructs and maintains apartments for these groups in a portfolio of over 2000 units in 22 properties. The organization has also been responsible at times for running the below-market for-sale housing programs for Los Gatos, Los Altos, Santa Clara and for specific projects in San Jose. All of this activity requires strong leadership and a strong all-volunteer board of directors. In this capacity, Brad Bening has been crucial. In spite of his prominent position as a principal in the San Jose law firm of Willoughby, Stuart and Bening, Brad has found the time to give back to the community by helping to guide CHD in its mission of providing housing for the underserved in our area.

Brad and Billiana were also long-time supporters and volunteers with Children’s Musical Theater of San Jose, a true cultural gem of our city with its emphasis on exposing theater arts to the younger generations. CMTSJ has long been acknowledged as one of the finest programs of its kind in the country in no small measure thanks to volunteers such as Brad and Billiana. Theater arts for children was especially important to Billiana who was a strong supporter until ill health forced her to curtail her activities a few years ago. Billi’s increasing health problems eventually also impacted Brad’s ability to volunteer for CHD. During the year and a half that he was unable to attend board meetings, he was greatly missed by the staff and fellow board members of CHD.

Upon Billi’s untimely passing 1 ½ years ago, Director of New Development of CHD at the time, Bonnie Bamburg (herself a former board member who is also yet another resident of the east hills community), suggested a fitting tribute to the work that Brad had provided for CHD and Brad and Billi had accomplished with CMTSJ. Her idea of dedicating the “community area” of CHD’s brand new development on Alum Rock Avenue to the Benings seemed extraordinarily appropriate.

In September of 2005, the CHD board unanimously agreed to the dedication and the idea was then presented to Mr. Bening who was supportive. The staff was able to contact Mr. Michael Mulcahy, the former Executive Director of CMTSJ, who eagerly agreed to speak about the support that Billiana and Brad had given to him and his organization over the years. Thus began the scheduling of the ceremony which was set for late August in order to allow the Benings’ son Blake and daughter Ashley to attend while out of school for the summer.

The event itself perfectly illustrated the impact of these two individuals on the community. Craig Elliot, a noted local graphic designer from the East Foothills who knew the Benings, designed beautiful announcement cards and programs at no charge in support of the ceremony. The two-hour program included a proclamation from Congressman Mike Honda and attendance by a member of Congressperson Zoe Lofgren’s office. Mr. Paul Fong, the current Chairman of the CHD Board of Directors spoke of Brad’s importance to CHD as did the current Executive Director, Ron Morgan.

Michael Mulcahy, who was a strong San Jose mayoral candidate earlier in the year, then gave a heartfelt tribute to Brad and in particular to Billiana for their contributions to CMTSJ. Attorney Robert Hansen, another long-time CHD board member, then presented Brad the bronze plaque that will be placed in the courtyard naming the area “THE BENING FAMILY COURTYARD AND PLAY SPACE.” Upon being presented the plaque, Brad gave a very moving thank-you for the recognition of his work and especially for the recognition of the work of his late wife. It was a touching tribute to her and a fitting ending to the ceremony honoring both.

By this memorable dedication event, CHD believes that they have in a small way acknowledged the legacy of a couple that spent many volunteer hours helping to make our community a much better place for all.

Click here for photos.

NNV Note: Neighbor Bill Zavlaris is Vice President of Community Housing Developers and a 1968 graduate of James Lick High School.

Return to Section 1

------ Community Resource Notice -------

Pandemic Influenza... Are You Prepared? Click here to

read more or call Regional HealthSource at 1-888.RMC.8881

(English and Spanish) or 1-888.RMC.8811 (Vietnamese).
Regional Medical Center of San Jose, 225 North Jackson Avenue.


NNV Briefs

bulletLick Alums and Community: Come On Down for JLHS Homecoming/Stadium Dedication!!
bulletAlum Rock School Board Election: “Gustavo Gonzales has my support” by Ellen Turner
bulletOn Alum Rock Avenue: Logos Church beautifies the Avenue – La Bodega grows its blight
bulletOn McKee Road: Quality Tune-Up “tunes-up” corner
bulletAn Airport on Alum Rock Avenue? Really? You betcha! Avenue B marks the spot
bulletRegional Medical Center partners in Regional Golf for Health 2006 by Victoria Emmons
bulletPorter Lane Cherry’s Vineyard Development - Neighbors seek best possible solutions
bulletEast Foothills Community Wildfire Protection Plan Update - Got results? Judy wants to know!
bulletAlum Rock Park – Autumn Refuge - Photo by Richard Brown
bulletKnock-Knock, Knock-Knock? Knock-Knock-Knock!!! by Alum Rock Park Ranger Roger Abe
bulletComcast Cares About James Lick High School - Neighborhood school receives attention
bulletJames Lick Considers College Prep Model - Expert explains Santa Cruz success

Message to Alums and Community: Come On Down!!

“Decades” theme for JLHS Homecoming/Stadium Dedication

Returning alumni musicians welcome to perform with Lick band

A Back-in-the-Day feeling will pervade the 2006 James Lick High School Homecoming game. The student leaders are planning a bang-up grand finale for the Saturday, October 28th game when Comet alumni, decade by decade, will be honored and invited to participate.

During the halftime presentation, “Comets Forever” from four decades will be called onto the playing field to be regaled with skits and artifacts from each of their respective decades. The 2006-07 leadership class is researching styles from the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. The four decades each will be interpreted by a different class. The seniors got first dibs and chose the rich 1980’s. It was decided that the decade of the 90’s was just a little too recent to characterize, but, of course, 90’s grads will find themselves guests of honor, as well.

The official dedication of Lick’s excellent new football stadium/track complex will also take place at halftime – this will be a great opportunity for the community to see the “brick and mortar” improvements paid for with their tax dollars.

The Homecoming King and Queen will be crowned. Departing from the tradition of earlier years, this year’s golden couple will be nominated by all the school clubs rather than only by sports organizations. Voting will take place at the student dance on Friday evening.

Leadership Class Advisor, Julissa Huerta, stresses “inclusion” to the thirty members of the leadership class exhorting them to change the status quo mentality and think of ways to include more groups of students in activities. The idea is carried through to involve more alumni and community members in the activities of Homecoming Day. Tomoko Nakajima, Lick’s band and choir director, wants all the band members among the alumni to bring their instruments and play along with the Lick band. She’ll have sheet music ready. (You might want to practice the James Lick fight song!) And, following the game, everyone will be invited to stroll through a “gallery walk” featuring enlarged photos and illustrations from the school’s inception in 1950 to the present.

Be there or be square - as we used to say “back in the day”! The game starts at 1:30 PM. See the NNV Community Bulletin Board for more information.

Return to Section 1

Alum Rock School Board Election: Some Observations

“Gustavo Gonzales has my support”

By Ellen Turner

I don't have children in the Alum Rock School District. My own children are grown, and when they were small we lived in Berryessa School District. Still, I have always been interested in the Alum Rock School District because that is the district that serves most of the families in my parish, St. John Vianney Catholic Church. I know that a large percentage of the students are the children of immigrants, and that few of their parents have the educational background that I have. I remember embarrassing stories in the newspaper about school board members actually having fist fights with each other. I have heard comments from people who live in other parts of Silicon Valley, comments that discount the value of people who live on the Eastside. But I have also met wonderful, involved parents, some immigrants themselves, who care desperately about their children's educational opportunities. I appreciate the efforts that PACT has done to bring the small school concept to Alum Rock Schools. It won't solve all the problems, but it will help some kids have a better chance.

Many people without kids in school resent paying taxes for schools. Such an attitude is very sad and misses the entire concept of the American way. Americans believe in the Common Good. That means we recognize our commitment to community members beyond our own family concerns. If we send our children to private schools and provide them with educational advantages, this is good for our children, but it is also our obligation to provide solid educational opportunities for all the children in our community. (If nothing else, it improves our property values, but that is just a selfish reason.) The real reason we should be concerned is that we understand "It takes a village to raise a child" and acknowledge that all the children in the community are our responsibility. Sure, parents have the primary responsibility. Sure, the schools and teachers have a basic responsibility to all these children. But so do the childless members of our community. If you want to live in a good community, you must take responsibility for the community. Part of that responsibility is paying attention to our public schools.

I don't know all the candidates who are running for Alum Rock School Board, but I do know Gustavo Gonzalez and I can tell you that he has my support in this election. Gustavo has a beautiful, intelligent wife, Grace, and two smart children. I have been trying to get him involved in the school district for several years. Now that his daughter has entered kindergarten he has finally agreed to give it a try. Gustavo is interested in three basic goals for Alum Rock Schools:

Increase parent involvement by putting real effort into creative ways to reach out to parents who are the first educators for their children. When the parent is involved in the school, the student does better.

Recruit and retain the best teachers available. Our kids deserve nothing less. One idea that Gustavo has been researching is how to develop ongoing relationships with top universities. Another idea is to find ways to constantly support and cheer on our good teachers.

Lastly, Gustavo wants accountability to the vision and mission established by the school board. Board members, principals, teachers, parents, and students must show a real commitment to the vision of education in Alum Rock.

Gustavo also says we need to support promising programs that have already been started in the district. He wants us to concentrate on providing a well-rounded education, including music and art, not just successful test taking.

I don't know if electing Gustavo will have a big impact on our schools, but I think it is a possibility. I am willing to try.

Click here for a photo of Gustavo.

Return to Section 1

On the Avenue – Alum Rock Avenue

Logos Church beautifies the Avenue – La Bodega grows its blight

The folks who bought the First Church of the Nazarene and renewed it as a neighborhood gem continue to lend beauty to the block between Cragmont and Sunnyslope. Logos Christian Fellowship added an informal flower bed to a corner of their manicured front lawn near their offices. The hot pink and coral petunias have thrived handsomely and provide a delicious bit of eye-candy for Avenue goers. Thank you Pastor Neal!

The pink building that might someday be called La Bodega (and be a “classy deli-produce” store in the Village) got another dose of ugliness recently. Reportedly cited by the City for the dangerous condition of its badly cracked front windows, owner Rogelio Ruiz “fixed” the situation by having plywood sheets screwed to the window frames to cover the mess. This doesn’t strike NNV as a sign that he’ll be completing the project anytime soon. Why not get on with La Bodega and put in new windows? Disappointingly, we heard from a reliable source that reportedly Mr. Ruiz has a couple more “projects” started around San Jose in equally crummy condition! Why not sell the place and give someone else a chance to develop the corner of Alum Rock and Manning, Rogelio?

Click here for photos of beauty and the blight.

Return to Section 1

On the Road – McKee Road

Quality Tune-Up “tunes-up” corner

In the past, NNV has been critical of the poorly maintained “landscaping” and signage at the Quality Tune-Up shop at the corner of McKee and White Roads. Well, it’s time to give the owners some credit – and positive vibes – for the tidy new bed of black and white stones which replaces worn-out, ill-pruned dietes (if that’s what those plants were). It really looks better and much more fitting for a place that, after all, calls itself “Quality.” Thanks from neighbors who drive past that corner every day!

Click here for a Quality photo.

Return to Section 1

An Airport on Alum Rock Avenue? Really?

You betcha! Avenue B marks the spot

Alum Rock had its own airport “back in the day!” It seems to be a well-kept secret, however, and teasing out the details has been a challenge.

We can tell you that right after WWI, many young men bitten by the flying bug during the war bought surplus planes cheaply and established airfields around the country. The grain field east of Calvary Cemetery on the north side of Alum Rock between Capitol Avenue and White Road became just such a site.

A young Reserve Lieutenant named Johnny Johnston (or Johnson depending on the source) started it up sometime around 1919. The field was located across the street from today’s Orchard Supply Hardware block. It was not really an ideal location because, in order to land, pilots had to precipitously dip their planes’ noses after clearing the giant eucalyptus trees which lined both sides of Alum Rock Avenue. And, according to San Jose historian Clyde Arbuckle’s book History of San Jose, there was a “huge, widespreading Valley Oak in the middle of the field” which had to be avoided!

Arbuckle (an amateur flyer himself) says that the neighbors in this sparsely settled area were “a friendly lot who endured” the dust storms churned up on the south side of Alum Rock by Johnston’s propeller wash “long after the novelty had worn off.”

Johnston made quite a name for himself by taking passengers on ten minute flights at $10 a crack. Arbuckle adds “most of the early aerial movies of the Santa Clara Valley were taken from his ‘ship’.”

“On one occasion, [Johnston] swooped down over White Road and dropped a rope ladder into a speeding automobile to permit aerial acrobat Franklin Rose to climb from the vehicle to the plane,” according to Arbuckle. An even more ambitious stunt involved strapping the casket of a deceased “aviation enthusiast” to the top of Johnston’s plane and delivering it directly to a cemetery. This was billed as the “first airplane funeral in history” – perhaps it was also the last?

By 1927, the patience of Alum Rock neighbors had worn thin and they sued to have the airport removed “as a nuisance.” The facilities were moved two years later to a “more satisfactory” site on King Road south of Story.

Johnston went on to fly daily roundtrip airmail runs beginning with a San Jose to Oakland flight in 1928. He died in 1932 at age 34 in the crash of a mail plane in which he was a passenger.

An NNV reader whose family has lived in the area for many years recently e-mailed us an old parcel map for a housing tract called “American City Subdivision” a “Re-subdivision of … the Chas. White Subdivision” that was developed at the west end of the airfield lot. The map is dated November 1925 and shows the proposed Pala Avenue running uninterrupted north from Alum Rock to “San Carlos” which appears to be today’s Gay Avenue. Could it have been a runway at Johnston’s airfield? To this day, three of the east–west streets in the tract are named Avenues A, B, and C – remnants of Johnston’s taxiways? Avenue B still connects with Capitol Avenue at an intersection about two blocks north of Alum Rock.

The photo of an airmail pilot of the proper era named Johnny Johnson showed up in an Internet search. We think it’s Alum Rock’s Johnny Johnston! Click here for the photo. What do you think?

Click here for the map.

Return to Section 1

Charity Golf Tournament to Benefit School Health Clinics of SC County

Regional Medical Center partners in Regional Golf for Health 2006

“A little competition is always healthy!”

By Victoria Emmons, VP, Public Affairs & Marketing, Regional Medical Center of San Jose

Regional Medical Center of San Jose, Regional Medical Staff and The Health Trust are teaming up to support thousands of local children in need of health care. Along with many other sponsors, Regional is proud to be hosting a charity golf tournament, Regional Golf for Health 2006, on Wednesday, October 18, at Cinnabar Hills Golf Club, 23600 McKean Road in San Jose. Proceeds will benefit the nonprofit School Health Clinics of Santa Clara County.

Children are the most medically underserved group in the United States. With thousands of uninsured children in Santa Clara County, School Health Clinics provides affordable and easily accessible health care to those with few or no other options. With the help of golfers and sponsors, the charity event will raise funds to help kids remain healthy and in school, allowing them to reach their full potential.

“By partnering with Regional Medical Center, Regional Medical Staff and The Health Trust to present Regional Golf for Health 2006, School Health Clinics of Santa Clara County will raise the necessary funds to ensure thousands of low-income children and adolescents in our community continue to receive high-quality medical care at easily accessible school locations,” said Sue Lapp, chief executive officer of School Health Clinics of Santa Clara County.

The charity tournament includes:

Shotgun start at 12:30 pm. Enjoy a fun round of golf, a cart, tee prizes, lunch & dinner for a great cause for only $165. All levels of golfers are welcome.

Putting Contest. Compete for prizes on the putting green. Also contests for longest drive, closest to the pin and hole-in one.

Enter the “Corporate Challenge” or the “Physician Challenge.” A little competition is always healthy!

Sponsor opportunities. This is a great way to promote your business for a worthwhile cause. Sponsorships available from $200 to $10,000.

Make a contribution. Cash and in-kind donations are welcomed.

Auction and donation drawing with exciting prizes. Tickets can be purchased for just $5. You need not be present to win. Prizes include dinners, theatre tickets, golf outings and more.

This year’s committee members include: Sudin Vittal, MD, Gerald Weiss, MD, Linda Raby, RN, Ann Huntsman, RN, Miesha Hardy, Marie McCutcheon, Dick King, Keri Rees, Pilar Furlong, Joe Sexton, Sue Lapp and Victoria Emmons.

“We’re very excited to be supporting such a worthwhile cause,” said Bill Gilbert, Regional’s CEO. “I encourage anyone who plays golf to come join us for a wonderful tournament that will help provide much-needed care for kids in our community.”

For more information and to support this great event, contact Victoria Emmons at (408) 928-7011 or Pilar Furlong at School Health Clinics at (408) 282-4347.

Click here for the brochure for the tournament.

Return to Section 1

Porter Lane Cherry’s Vineyard Development

Neighbors seek best possible solutions

A new housing development has been proposed for the old Cherry’s Vineyard property on the west side of Porter Lane. The owner, Chad Viso, would like to subdivide the four acre property for twenty new homes.

Neighbors from Porter Lane, Piazza Way, Hidden Valley and Alum Rock Avenue met with County Supervisor Pete McHugh on September 19th to discuss possible mitigation of the development’s impact on their neighborhood. Piazza Way resident, Marilou Ayupan, ably represented the neighborhood group.

The proposal would mean average size of the new lots would be about 6,000 square feet – much smaller than the existing lots in the neighborhood which run anywhere from 12,000 to 24,000 square feet. The neighbors don’t think houses on such small lots will complement their homes. They also are not happy at the prospect of having 20 new “two-story boxes” such as the homes of the Braddock & Logan “Sundance” development on Alum Rock near Fleming.

The neighbors think they can improve on Mr. Viso’s tentative development map and have created their own revised version. It reduces the development from twenty lots to seventeen and places the largest three lots along the front of the development on Porter. It places the smallest of the lots at the back (west) of the property. They believe this will present the best possible arrangement to make the development seem part of the “estate” ambiance nearby. However, the 20-lot plan has been approved by the County Planning Department and it’s far from automatic that a new lower-density project would be approved.

The neighbors are concerned about increased traffic on their streets. They believe that each of the twenty houses will generate at least two drivers who will compete for limited space on the narrow streets – and add to the congestion at the corner of Porter and Alum Rock where it’s already hazardous to make a left turn to get out of the neighborhood.

And, they are concerned at the loss of the park-like green space the vineyard has meant to their neighborhood. They would like to see Mr. Viso’s plan include new trees planted on either side of Porter Lane to beautify the neighborhood – as well as the mandated replacement of the thirty mature trees which would be lost to make way for construction.

Mr. Viso has been working with the neighbors in a cooperative spirit, but it’s not clear how much he will yield on his plans. He has not yet chosen a builder for the project or the style of the houses that will be built. The neighbor group would like to see one story houses which they believe would make less of an impact on the views from Piazza Way above.

Supervisor McHugh jumped right in with a plan to delay proceedings by 30 days and arrange for a meeting with Mr. Viso, himself, his aide and neighborhood representatives. He seemed happy to intervene on behalf of this small group of County pocket inhabitants who are determined to make the most of a situation which is not going to simply go away on its own. Unfortunately, the 30-day stay was not granted. Stay tuned.

Click here for photos and the proposed plan.

Return to Section 1

East Foothills Community Wildfire Protection Plan Update

What are the results? What happens next? Where can I find more information?

Judy wants to know

Judy (very nicely): So, Allan, you’ve written several articles about a Community Wildfire Protection Plan for our area. And you’re spending a lot of time on this. What did you see when you went out to look at our neighborhoods?

Allan (somewhat defensively): We saw lots of things. We’ll put our observations in the plan and you’ll be able to read all about it when it’s ready late this year.

J (a little more insistently): The Santa Clara County FireSafe Council is spending a lot of grant money on this. What are the results?

A: Well, we saw lots of good houses with the trees trimmed and good roofs. And we saw lots of houses with old wood shake roofs and fire prone trees growing up against the houses. And we saw too many neglected dry, grassy fields that hadn’t been disked in preparation for the high fire danger season.

J: How did it look on Dorel Drive and El Grande where the last big fire was in October 2000 near Alum Rock Park?

A: The house that burned looks good. It’s been replaced with a new home which has a good roof and no open eaves. And it has nice trimmed trees around it.

J: So, that area looks good?

A: No, there are lots of houses nearby with old wood shake roofs and combustible trees like Italian Cypress close to the houses. And the combustible Eucalyptus and Palm trees across the street are still there and no one is maintaining them. Fortunately, the nearby fields have been disked this year.

J: Sounds like some folks didn’t learn anything from that big fire.

A: Maybe some new people moved in? We need to do more to reach new residents who are not familiar with the wildfire danger in this area.

J: How are conditions on the south side of Penitencia Creek Road as you approach Alum Rock Park?

A: You know that’s a high fire danger area. Poppy Lane is right next to the Park and there are no fire hydrants on Poppy Lane itself, probably because it’s a private road. And that’s directly below the Chula Vista Court cul de sac and the end of Enchanto Vista Drive. There are a couple new houses there now and someone has put gates across the fire access road between Chula Vista Court and Enchanto Vista Drive!

J: What does the fire department think about that?

A: They’re watching it very carefully. Fortunately, the gates open wide enough for fire engines to pass through and the gates are not locked. But sometimes cars are parked so the fire engines can’t get through. This access road is not just for fire department access; it also gives the residents along Chula Vista and Enchanto Vista a second way out in case a fire is threatening their neighborhood.

J: So what do they do?

A: They drive up with a big fire engine and ask them to move the cars.

J: Eeeeek! How about Alum Rock Park? How did the rangers prepare for the fire season this year?

A: They did more than usual this year. In addition to maintaining the fire roads and fuel breaks on both the north and south sides in the Park, they did more to maintain the Crothers Road Fuel Break. And the County cut down several dead trees and cut some of the tall grass early this spring.

J: How about the rest of the East Foothills south and north of the Park?

A: In the hot summer months, Suncrest Avenue and the area northeast of the Park is a high fire danger area. Access for fire engines is limited and there are still some wood shake roofs and trees too close to houses. Fortunately, the landslide which closed Sierra Road earlier this year has been fixed so fire engines can go up there now.

J: And south of the Park?

A: It’s the same mixed picture – some homes are looking good. But there are lots of homes with wood shake roofs and neglected trees. And there are big, grassy fields on the lower part of Clayton Road which weren’t disked until very late this year.

J: What can be done? Are wood shake roofs allowed in these areas?

A: Yes, most of us live just west of the area designated as a Hazardous Fire Area. So wood shake roofs are allowed even on new houses. But it’s not a smart thing to do. As every San Jose Fire Department Wildland Officer has said for several years, “Don’t have a wood shake roof – it’s the single, most important, thing you can do to help protect your home.”

J: How’d you look at all these places?

A: We made six trips and completed about 20 field survey forms starting late last year. Either SJFD Battalion Chief José Luna, who’s responsible for Battalion 2 here on the east side, or Captain José Guerrero, the SJFD Wildland Officer, drove around with me to look at the most fire prone areas. The consultants who are helping the FireSafe Council on this grant went with us for some of the surveys. They’ll use this information, plus fire history and satellite photos of the vegetation, to identify the high fire danger areas and help plan what can be done to reduce the fire risk.

J: Did you talk to any property owners?

A: Yes, but only a few people who saw us and asked what we were doing or let us drive through their property. The firefighters have keys to most of the gates and know where to go to see the high fire danger areas. Captain Guerrero was at Station 2 for many years before he became the Wildland Officer so he is very familiar with this area.

J: What happens next?

A: The FireSafe Council needs to finish writing the Community Wildfire Protection Plan so we can get it approved and apply for more grants – and work with people to help them do what they can around their own homes. And we’re trying to get some other things done as we do this – like more work on the Crothers Road Fuel Break and some trees cleaned up in high fire danger areas. The County has done more work on the hazardous Eucalyptus trees on Penitencia Creek Road this year.

J: Next time, I’d like to hear about what the consultants have done for the FireSafe Council and more about how the fire departments and the CDF are involved in this. Where can people find out more about this?

A: That part’s easy:
Santa Clara County FireSafe Council:, E-mail
San Jose Fire Department:
CDF (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection):
Introduction to Community Wildfire Protection Plans: (PDF File)
Living With Fire in Santa Clara County:
Community Wildfire Protection Plans:

Return to Section 1

Alum Rock Park – Autumn Refuge

Photo by Richard Brown

Sweet pink fallen leaves. A sunlit path of buckskin suede. Faint alkali perfume. Smudgy shadows in the dust. A bench waiting for you in the distant shade.

Click here for the photo.

Return to Section 1




By Alum Rock Park Ranger Roger Abe

This is the activity you might witness being displayed by resident Acorn Woodpeckers at Alum Rock Park who have not yet (most have by now) learned about the new siding on certain exterior walls of the Park Visitor Center.

Frequent park visitors will have noticed that over the years the woodpeckers had taken over most of the Visitor Center walls to use as their private acorn granaries. Visitors find it very entertaining to watch the woodpeckers drilling holes and going in and out of their holes. Sometimes there would be frenzied activity as ground squirrels discovered the stashes of nuts and woodpeckers dive-bombed the furry intruders. Very funny, but not to the park staff who had to work inside. They had to contend with incessant knocking during the day and hatches of moths and other things that sprout out of acorns and invade the building interior in Spring. You wouldn’t put up with such things at your house!

The park staff didn’t want to put up with it either. But when repairs were initially asked for they were told that this wasn’t “normal wear and tear” on the building, and so, there was no funding available to solve the problem. That’s when you might have noticed the shiny mylar strips that were hung around the building perimeter to shoo away the pesky woodpeckers. But, Hahaha-Haw-Haw! After a short while the redheaded woodpeckers saw through this scheme and were back at work.

During the last week of August, contractors were finally brought in to replace the pegboard-like wooden siding. After several wheelbarrows full of acorns were removed (to the dismay of a cloud of angry woodpeckers) and fiberglass batting repairs were made, new siding panels made of Hardy Board (a cement and wood fiber composite material, very dense and hard) were installed on the most degraded walls. Further repairs will be made as funding becomes available.

The next time you visit the park, check out the Visitor Center’s new exterior walls and see if you can tell the difference between wood and Hardy Board - please, without banging your beak on it!

Click here for photos.

Return to Section 1

Comcast Cares About James Lick High School

Neighborhood school chosen to receive whirlwind of attention

Every year Comcast organizes a “Comcast Cares Day” on the first Saturday of October all across the country. Their employees, families and friends (plus students and neighborhood volunteers) go out en masse to “Improve Neighborhoods – One Incredible Day at a Time.”

Last year, their effort saw more than 30,000 volunteers contribute more than 180,000 hours to benefit the communities Comcast serves from East Coast to West Coast. As they like to point out, 180,000 hours is the equivalent of over 86 years of service!

This year, James Lick High School was chosen to be the local recipient of the Comcast Cares Day good works. In early September, six project leaders (four Comcast employees and two City Year volunteers) met with Lick principal, Bill Rice, to scope out areas of the campus which could benefit from some concentrated TLC to be delivered by as many as several hundred volunteers.

Although the school recently was enormously improved by having superb new athletic fields installed and the total refurbishment of the Administration building, there were still plenty of items on the “To-Do” list.

The area around Lick’s swimming pool has been an eyesore for quite a long time because the plywood surrounding the fence has degraded over the years to a mangy, dog-eared appearance. The Comcast project leaders listed replacement of the worn sections with new plywood and a fresh coat of green paint over-all, Numero Uno on their project list.

The weedy planter areas near the pool and tennis courts were singled out for weed barrier cloth. The need for rose and shrub pruning was noted. The posts on the basketball court went onto the list for a fresh paint job. And, 38 classrooms were cited for a good wiping down of desks and even some woodwork improvement.

Power wash the concrete? No problem! Repaint the roll call circles? Sure, and they’ll bring the paint to boot. Pick up, paint up, clean up? Comcast, City Year and friends do it all.

To add even more luster to the event, Comcast foots the materials bill and treats the entire volunteer crew to a box lunch from KFC – even if that means multiple hundreds of folks! And then, everyone cleans up after lunch, takes off the work gloves and goes home in a Comcast T-shirt to fondly recount several hours of good works for the community.

Click here for photos.

NNV Note: We were curious about Comcast and City Year’s close relationship and asked City Year volunteer Nellie Tsai to enlighten us. Here’s what she shared:

Comcast’s initial involvement with City Year came in 2001 when The Comcast Foundation funded the City Year Detroit Leadership Development and Training program. Building on this successful collaboration, Comcast committed to become City Year’s National Leadership Development and Training partner in 2003. The Comcast partnership supports all of City Year’s leadership development programs. Additionally, Comcast is dedicating communication and broadcasting resources to help bring additional visibility to City Year and to extend City Year’s message to more young people across the country.

City Year is a 10 month fulltime service program that challenges 17-24 year olds to use their skills and abilities the strengthen and build community. Our corps members work 45-60 hours a week, collectively providing more than 100,000 hours of service throughout 10 months in San Jose, while serving in under-served schools, community centers and running weekend service learning initiatives for youth.

In 16 sites across the country and in its first international program led by former President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela in South Africa, City Year replaces apathy with action and motivates young people to see themselves as effective agents of social change.

Return to Section 1

James Lick Considers College Prep Model

Expert comes to campus to explain Santa Cruz success

Andrew Goldenkrantz, Principal and Superintendent of Santa Cruz’s excellent Pacific Collegiate School, visited at James Lick High School recently to share his experience and wisdom on starting up a college prep high school.

James Lick is at a crossroads deciding what sort of school it would like to be and what sort of school it can be considering the demographics of its student body. One possibility being considered by ESUHSD is to reconfigure Lick as a college prep school.

Mr. Goldenkrantz described Pacific Collegiate as being very small. PCS parents’ expectations are that the school feature strong academics, that it remain small enough that every student’s name is known by the staff, and that it promotes a culture that supports learning. PCS students are “not surrounded by kids who fundamentally don’t want to be there,” according to Mr. Goldenkrantz.

PCS has only about 400 students spread out over six grades – 7th -12th. It is challenging academically with a focus on the fine arts and foreign languages. It is so popular that students are selected by lottery. Its aim is not just to get all graduates into universities, but to have them all be successful in those universities. The PCS student body is predominantly Caucasian and Asian with a tiny percentage of Latinos and African-Americans. Mr. Goldenkranz mentioned canvassing door-to-door in Santa Cruz to find more “minority” prospects to help the school better reflect the demographics of the community. PCS charges no tuition and has no admission criteria other than mandated parental involvement.

Mr. Goldenkrantz says that writing well is the most important skill PCS students learn. He says that the school does not try to be a comprehensive high school, instead having an English/Social Studies core. He says that a school such as JLHS could begin a gradual change of focus by emphasizing writing and social studies.

“Too large a change, too fast, wouldn’t work at James Lick,” agreed Bill Rice, Lick’s principal. He looked for parallels between Lick and PCS and for those commonalities which could be explored and exploited. There are unfortunately not very many that apply. Lick’s students tend to be “underskilled” and about half don’t have intact homes with parents to involve or “be accountable to.”

It’s important for students to start out with a “going-to-a-four-year-university mentality in the sixth grade,” ESUHSD superintendent Bob Nunez ventured. And, he said, sometimes it’s too late to start with students in the ninth grade “if kids have [already] defined themselves as failures.”

To instill sixth graders with a college-bound mentality would require much closer articulation with the “feeder” middle schools which send their graduating eighth graders to Lick. Mr. Goldenkrantz pointed out that by having a 7th – 12th grade configuration such as PCS has, students have one less articulation point and a lot of “junior high craziness” is squelched by the influence of the senior high “coolness” and a gentle relationship develops between the younger and older students. However, to achieve a 7th – 12th school here would mean blending schools of two different school districts (Alum Rock Elementary and East Side High School) – no mean feat!

Next Steps which were discussed included exploring the idea of Academic Summer Boot Camps for the three summers preceding high school. Also looked at were special characteristics Lick might develop which “you can’t get anywhere else.” Mr. Goldenkrantz urged building a system in which the community is “reclaimed” and “wraps around” those kids who tend to fall through the cracks.

Bill Rice, looking for that “specialness” Lick could claim for its own, seized upon the school’s greatest strengths when he summed up that “James Lick High School is a small school which builds relationships.”

Now, could our high school successfully adopt Pacific Collegiate elements which would work here in East San Jose?

Return to Section 1

------ Advertisement -------

Century 21 Golden Hills
"In Alum Rock for more than 20 years, we know your neighborhood"
Luciano Zamora, or (408) 968-9571
Maria Pando, or (408) 691-1593
Call us and expect immediate results.


NNV Cat Finds His Tongue

“Sharing my point of view”

By Schuster Es. Thompson

Judy said I can write one more story for New Neighborhood Voice before she and Allan stop publishing. I am glad to have the opportunity, once again, to share my point of view because I certainly don’t get a fair hearing here at NNV headquarters. To say that Judy and Allan don’t listen to my opinions is a wanton understatement.

I’m sure that readers have wondered what it’s like to be a “literary” cat who has to live his life with two people who are obsessed with publishing a neighborhood newsletter. I can tell you that it’s been awful for the last four years for a humble cat such as yours truly.

I get so little quality time or attention that I have felt the need to periodically dart quickly between Judy’s keyboard and her monitor screen. After a few passes, Judy totally loses her cool and grabs me. She rudely thrusts her thumbs under my armpits and lets my body dangle while she forces me to make eye contact as she squints her eyes and, emphasizing every syllable, screeches, “No! No! No! NO! NOOOOOOO, Schu-ster! NO!”

I think I may have told you before that I just love to see Judy riled up because she looks so cute when she’s mad. I have never let on that I actually like it when she has her thumbs hooked under my armpits but, I have to pretend to hate it and squirm away. I secretly retort under my breath, “Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! YESSSSSSS, Ju-dy! YES!” She drops me on the floor from about chest (hers) height. I skulk away, but I chalk that up as an important Win for the Kitty.

Judy thinks that I’m getting old and cross because, more and more, I like to bite her. I am thirteen years old – hardly a senior citizen. I do attack Judy’s feet, but listen to this. Judy insists on running around the house with bare feet - flashing her shiny hot pink toenails. Her feet are long and slender (that’s how she describes them, me I’d say they’re big and voluptuous) and her toes are like ten flirty lollipops just begging me to ambush them. And, in case you are wondering, yes, I have been “neutered,” but, no, my libido was not affected. Judy tells Allan jokingly that I think of her as “my woman.” ‘Taint funny, Magee. She is my woman.

On being a literary cat: Readers may remember that I used to have an older (unrelated and stupid) “brother” named Simon. Judy thought it would be just hilarious to name me Schuster* so they could say we were Simon and Schuster and we used a “literary box.” And because our name is Thompson (and Simon and I had our gonads ripped out as infants), she liked to say we were Thompson Seedless Cats. Ha. Ha. Ha. I must tell you, to his credit, that Allan never said such dumb things about us. I guess being a male, he is more sensitive to that gonad thing.

I wanted to tell you from my point of view about the day the fox came into our house. Allan and Judy were at OSH because it was a no sales tax day, right? I was guarding the house. I had taken my usual position scanning the street from the office window. I may have closed my eyes for a brief moment. I did not hear the flap of the cat door open and close, but suddenly, there was a musky odor in the air. I looked down from the windowsill only to see this evil-eyed, bushy-tailed varmint saunter in and sit down on the carpeting to scratch a flea behind his ear. I took a defensive position among the suitcases under the bed and connoitered the situation from behind the dust ruffle.

At just about this moment, Allan and Judy came home. Allan saw a gray animal and called to Judy, “Hey, I think there’s a strange cat in the house … or something!” Judy actually lied about it later when she wrote that she thought Allan said there was an “intruder” – she knew all along that he really said “cat,” but she sometimes shades the truth (but just a little).

How do I think life will be different after November 5th when the last NNV will be finished? Well, for one thing, my woman and I will be spending more time in the garden where I will shower her with lizards. She will not be spending hours “processing words” on the computer and therefore I will not have to do the darting maneuver to get her to pick me up and look me in the eye. She will not be dropping me from four feet above the floor.

I may have to figure out another way to get her goat. It won’t be difficult, actually; she flies off the handle so easily. And, may I reiterate just how darn cute she is when she’s mad? I think not having Judy and Allan working all the dumb time on NNV will be another big Win for the Kitty!

* They could at least have had the grace and foresight to name me something masculine like Rex or LeRoy or Garfunkel. Or maybe something athletic and racy-sounding like Scooter?

Click here for photos of Schuster helping with NNV. Click here for the Intruder in NNV Headquarters story.

Return to Section 1

Legal Eyes: Spite Fences (and Trees)

Beauty and privacy? Or just annoying?

By Stephen F. Von Till, Attorney

Q: Can I force my neighbor to cut his trees which block my view of the hills?

A: Yes, if they are over 10 feet high and constitute a malicious “spite fence.”

A “spite fence” is an unreasonably tall fence that one builds to annoy a neighbor. It constitutes a “nuisance.” Courts may order removal.

For the first time in 80 some years the Court of Appeal decided a “Spite Fence” lawsuit. The question was: Can the planting of a row of tall trees violate California’s “spite fence” law?

The trial judge said “No.” A row of trees is not a “fence.”

The Court of Appeal reversed the trial judge, holding that a row of trees might violate the “spite fence” law.

Wendy Wilson sued Leon Handley. Wendy owned a lot next to Leon’s property, with a view of Mt. Shasta. She decided to build a cabin on her lot.

When Wendy started building, Leon planted a row of trees along the property line, including cypresses, “specifically designed for screening barriers and windbreaks.”

Wendy contended the trees will block her view of Mt. Shasta. Leon contended the trees were beautiful, provided privacy, and that the law did not guarantee Wendy the right to “a view.”

Civil Code 841.4, the “spite fence” law, states:

“Any fence or other structure in the nature of a fence unnecessarily exceeding 10 feet in height maliciously erected or maintained for the purpose of annoying the owner . . . of adjoining property is a private nuisance.” A court may “enforce” removal.

The lawyers disputed the meaning of the underlined words.

Leon’s lawyer argued that trees are neither a “fence” nor a “structure” and they “necessarily” grow. They cannot be a fence because people can walk through the row of trees. He argued that Leon did not “maliciously” plant the trees – that Leon’s intent was to protect his privacy and beautify.

Wendy’s lawyer argued that “fence” is defined in one dictionary as a “structure erected to separate two [adjoining properties].” Therefore, a planted row of trees can be a “fence.”

The Court agreed with Wendy’s lawyer, stating the words in the law must be interpreted “to promote” its purpose of prohibiting annoying structures. The court held that “a row of growing trees can be a structure,” because it “can be constructed.” Therefore, Leon’s row of trees might fall under the “spite fence” law.

But Wendy hasn’t won yet. The case was ordered back to trial to determine Leon’s “dominant purpose” in planting the trees. Was it malicious?

If his “dominant purpose” was beauty and privacy, Leon was not malicious and did not violate the law. The trees stay.

If his “dominant purpose” was to annoy his neighbor for building a two story cabin next to his property, he violated the law. The trees go.

The Lesson: There’s nothing wrong with trees for privacy. You have a case only if your neighbor planted a row with malicious intent to annoy. If you build fences, be sensitive, sensible, and considerate.

NNV Note: Hillcrest neighbor Steve Von Till writes the newspaper column "Legal Eyes." He has given permission for us to re-print his columns in NNV. Steve has over 35 years in law practice. See his website at His office phone is 510.490.1100. Click here for a photo at a Hillcrest Neighborhood Watch picnic.

Return to Section 1

You Dig It?

Area gardeners, both "Master" and casual, share their wisdom and experiences with Eastside gardening and related topics here.

October Hot Topics

By University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners Bracey Tiede and Larry Johnson

Call the Master Gardener Hotline at (408) 282-3105 with your gardening questions or check out our website at

Fall Tasks:

With the cooler weather and the winter rainy season ahead, now is the time to clean your garden beds to prepare for the winter. Many insects and diseases can survive the winter in weedy areas and dead plants left over from summer gardens. Keep your planting beds clean and you can greatly reduce problems next year. Be sure to clean dropped or diseased leaves from roses, camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas, and clean up in the vegetable garden too. But don't clean up leaf litter under oaks, pine trees and junipers, because the leaf duff helps protect the roots of these large trees and shrubs. Add a deep layer of compost on your planting beds to provide nutrients for next year's plants. Many perennials benefit from removal of one-third to one-half of their growth. Create your own compost with healthy trimmings by alternating green cuttings with brown leaves or straw in a pile or compost container. Free composting classes and low cost composting bins are available from the Master Composters who can be reached at THE ROTLINE at (408) 918-4640.

Fall is a good time to plan and to plant. Look around your garden and think about replacing tired annuals, perennials and shrubs. If you have a place for a small meadow, seeding of native wildflowers can be done now. Poppies, clarkias, lupines, collinsias and more are easy from seeds that are available at local nurseries or online. Planting just before the winter rains start can help perennial or shrub roots get well established before next summer's heat. By selecting plants that are native to areas of the world that have cool wet winters and warm dry summers, you can reduce the amount of watering needed during the dry summer months. Detailed information about the best cool season vegetables for Santa Clara County can be found at

Fruit trees will need some care during the cool months ahead. For more information, see our fruit tree care calendar at

A new pest, the Diaprepes Root Weevil, is posing a threat to agriculture and landscaping in California. It affects 270 plants including citrus, hibiscus, avocado, peach, guava, loquat, and oak. People who think they've seen one should capture it in a jar and call 1-800-491-1899, or see information at 

Return to Section 1

------ Advertisement -------

Curtis Horticulture,, (408) 280-7339, CA Lic #826409

Ecological landscaping services: design/consulting, renovation, maintenance

Specializing in native and drought-tolerant landscapes. We live and work in the neighborhood.


Notable Neighbor: Arvind Kumar

Notable Mission: Promoting California Native Plants

He spreads the word and spreads the plants, beautifying naturally

Let’s say you’re a highly educated, India-born, software manager type guy at KLA Tencor – what do you think you would do in your spare time? Play bridge or chess? Golf with your colleagues? Bring work home to do in your home office?

Let’s say that you eschewed all the above and decided to beautify your scraggly, unkempt Eastside yard – what sort of plants do you think you would choose? Roses and hydrangeas? Tulips and daffodils? Geraniums and larkspur?

Now let’s say that you tried all of the plants above and managed to kill them all – repeatedly. Do you hire a gardener? Or pave over your yard? Do you throw up your hands in despair? Or do you naively give California native plants a try?

Let’s say you’re Arvind Kumar and your partner Ashok Jethanandani buys two California native plants from a native plant society sale and the plants shrivel and die while still in their pots. And then you and Ashok buy two more plants and they too turn brown and konk out. Let’s say you’re ready to give up and revisit the idea of paving over the yard.

Aha, not if you’re Arvind Kumar!

Arvind exemplifies the “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” model. From his rocky first experiences with those four poor little specimens, Arvind has grown to be the neighborhood advocate and expert on California Native Plants. We won’t call him a “guru” for fear of ignorantly misusing a word from Arvind’s own culture, but actually it would be our first choice to describe him.

Arvind has learned just about every bloomin’ thing about the plants that Mother Nature intended to grow here in our valley. He and Ashok have removed the paving from their yard and patiently built a native garden at their house near Lake Cunningham. They have planted seeds and tended sprouts. They have persevered through season after season watching plantlets wither or thrive. They have discovered watering secrets which come only first hand by trial and error.

Arvind is not afraid to admit errors made along the way and he has generously shared his trials, triumphs and excellent photos (and his burgeoning expertise) in a beautifully composed monthly column in New Neighborhood Voice for several years. There is a small loyal bunch of NNV readers who subscribed to the newsletter primarily to read Arvind’s columns – and Master Gardener Bracey Tiede’s Hot [gardening] Topics every month.

Arvind’s generosity doesn’t end with his columns or at his front sidewalk.

His neighborhood (all those streets with “Glen” in their name) near Tully and White Roads, is across the street from Lake Cunningham Park. Arvind has arranged to have a ½ acre parcel of the 220 acre park designated as a California Native Plant garden. For several years, he and a little band of neighbors have taken upon themselves the removal of non-native plant species and the introduction of natives in their place in that not-so-small area.

Arvind points out that the park and its lake are the result of a drainage project which morphed from a large swampy dairy farm into an artificial lake surrounded by totally non-natural hardscape. The muck which was excavated to create the 10-15 foot deep lake was piled along the edges of the park as berms. Those berms were all planted with trees which, though unfortunately non-native, shade the edges of the park nicely. However, there are no shade sources in the native garden to protect the newly planted shrubs and flowers from the summer sun. Arvind and the “Lake Cunningham Volunteers” are planting native cottonwood trees as close to the banks of the lake as possible so their roots can migrate to the water source as they grow. Until those roots are grown, the volunteers are watering the small trees over the summers. It won’t be long until the cottonwoods can provide sufficient shade to help the young native plants survive long enough to get well-established.

Arvind has discovered that during the creation of the lake and park, the original soils were scraped away leaving lean clay which even hardy native plants find daunting. Years ago, the seeds of several invasive non-native weed species were carried into the park in mulch material. Those seeds can grow in the clay just fine and the nondescript plants challenge the newly introduced natives for territory. The little volunteer group finds that its first priority is to get rid of the tenacious weeds which must be done by hand – one plant at a time. On an early evening in mid September when we visited Arvind at the park he was there weeding.

Arvind’s new-found (just since 1999) love of California’s fascinating native flora has grown into an enthusastic commitment to teaching others about the plants which are meant to grow here in harmony with the native fauna in our environment. He has taken a leadership role in the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society and helps to organize the annual Going Native Garden Tour every spring. His and Ashok’s small garden, now lovely with mature and maturing natives of all descriptions, is an Eastside fixture on the tour.

Let’s say that you’re not quite ready to be “an Arvind,” but you’d like to get your hands dirty beautifying Lake Cunningham Park (or another worthy barren space) with California Native Plants. Why not fill your spare time by getting in touch with friendly Arvind (E-mail and begin by offering the services of your weed puller – with yourself attached? 

Click here for photos of the native garden in Lake Cunningham Park.

Return to Section 1

Cunningham Wouldn't Know His Own Park

By Patricia Loomis; Staff Writer SJ Mercury News; Thursday May 6, 1982

James F. Cunningham would be interested in the doings Friday on the land he farmed nearly a century ago.

Cunningham, a civil war veteran who took part in the Battle of New Orleans, once owned much of the east San Jose land that will be dedicated Lake Cunningham park at noon Friday.

Cunningham Avenue was named for him when the more than 700 acres were subdivided in 1888, and the San Jose city park and lake takes its name from the avenue.

Jim Cunningham didn’t spend much time on his farm (his house was on King Road where Cunningham Avenue cuts in), or on the farm he owned near what became Moffett Field. He was too busy with his lumber business over the hill in Santa Cruz County.

Born in the Canadian province of New Brunswick in 1844, Cunningham worked on the family farm and at 13 was an apprentice in a dry goods store. In the fall of 1861 he enlisted in a Marine infantry division, serving four years and seeing action at Baton Rouge, Red River and other campaigns. He was wounded twice.

Mustered out as a first lieutenant, he returned to the dry goods business, but poor health sent him south and finally he and a brother, Jeremiah W. Cunningham, decided to come to California. Arriving in San Francisco on Oct. 10, 1869, James landed a job clerking in a dry goods store and banked his money. The following spring the bank failed and Cunningham lost all his savings. Still batting poor health, he went to the Santa Cruz mountains and took up government land above Felton, making shingles and fence railings until he had saved $1,000. That he put into a general mercantile business with a man named McCoy.

Cunningham, operating lumber mills and general stores, became a force in the birth of Felton and Boulder Creek. One writer at the time called him "a ruling spirit in the San Lorenzo Valley."

He married Sarah Glynn in 1873 and in 1878 was elected to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors. In 1881 he represented the county in the state assembly and was appointed to the board of directors of the proposed Agnews State Insane Asylum. He also was senior vice commander in the Grand Army of the Republic of California and Nevada.

In the 1880’s, Cunningham got caught up in the great land boom that swept California, buying property near Mountain View and on the alkali flats north of the little community of Evergreen, where he may have hunted ducks on the shallow lake that formed in wet winters.

During this period, Cunningham was cutting timber where the present town of Boulder Creek stands today, and operated two shingle mills and a sawmill there. He also had a planing mill and lumber yard in Santa Cruz.

He died on the Mountain View farm Nov. 23, 1907, and was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Santa Cruz. A military salute was fired over his grave.

His brother, Jeremiah, was involved with James in the lumber business and lived with his family in Boulder Creek. For about a dozen years, Jeremiah farmed on Cunningham Avenue and operated a grocery store on South Market Street in San Jose. He died in Boulder Creek in 1929.

James Cunningham had no children, and the last of his brother’s children, Letitia, died at Notre Dame Villa in Saratoga last March.

None of the Cunninghams would recognize their old farm where the dirt road cut east from the farm house across the unfenced flat lands to the hills.

NNV Note: Neighbor Patricia Loomis wrote many superb articles for a series called “Signposts” and for the San Jose Mercury News. These stories are used with permission. Special thanks to Patricia Loomis for letting us use her stories - and to San Jose Park Ranger Mark Raynor for this story from his Lake Cunningham Park Web site at (click on "History" for more history of Lake Cunningham).

Return to Section 1

------ Advertisement -------

To run your ad in New Neighborhood Voice, E-mail or call (408) 272-7008

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

bulletIs it really true that there will be only two more editions of New Neighborhood Voice?
bulletWhat will the Alum Rock community do without a regular source for area news and views?
bulletDid Councilmember Nora Campos ever get her Annexation Answer Book?
bulletWhat about the City of San Jose’s transfer tax when homes are annexed into the city?
bulletWhat will the new retail building look like at the corner of McKee and Vista?
bulletWhat is happening with the Hillcrest “group home” for developmentally disabled adults?
bulletWhat is the big excavation in the yard of the landslide-damaged Alum Rock Avenue home?
bulletWhat did the renovation of Lick’s Administration Building entail?
bulletDid the deceased woman found in a garbage processing station have Eastside connections?

Q. Is it really true that there are going to be only two more editions of New Neighborhood Voice? Are you really retiring from publishing?

A. Yes, this (October) edition and the next one (November) are the final two newsletters. And, yes, after we publish on November 5th and deliver the final paper copies that week, we will bid adios to our readership. Click here to read our plan.

Q. What will the Alum Rock community do without a regular source for area news and views?

A. ARNNE (Alum Rock Neighborhood Network E-list) is up and running. Click here to read about it and join the group.

Q. Did Councilmember Nora Campos ever get her Annexation Answer Book? I love her memo to the City Manager in the last edition of NNV!

A. Yes, finally. And some Lyndale residents and others have it now also. Click here for your copy (big PDF file).

Q. Why isn’t the City of San Jose’s transfer tax mentioned during discussions of the change in taxes which happen when homes in County Pockets are annexed into the city? Isn’t it significant?

A. Well, significance is in the eye of the beholder’s pocketbook, we guess. We understand that, when a home in San Jose is sold, a transfer tax amounting to $3.30 per $1,000 is assessed. That amounts to $3,300 on the sale of a one million dollar home. It’s usually paid by the seller at the close of escrow. The County has no transfer fee.

Q. What will the new retail building look like at the corner of McKee and Vista across the street from Country Club Plaza?

A. It will be a one-story structure with lots of windows on McKee and some facing the driveway on the west side of the building. The exterior color scheme features warm browns and olives accented by natural wood siding and stone trim. It will be quite close to the street rather than being set back the way the old gas station/produce store was. Parking will be in the rear. Click here for a rendering.

Q. What is happening with the “group home” for five developmentally disabled adults (from Agnews) which the state wanted to set up at 5402 Club Drive in the Hillcrest neighborhood off McKee Road?

A. Nothing is happening because the plan was withdrawn. Some Hillcrest residents are heaving a sigh of relief because they dodged what they perceived as a major threat to their way of life and property values. It cost a large consortium of Hillcrest homeowners a total of $30,000 to $40,000 to achieve this end. Click here to read the article in last month's NNV.

The advocates for the home which was to be installed in a single family home in this “nice” neighborhood have moved on to other communities where their vulnerable clientele will be welcomed.

Q. What is the big excavation being carved out of the front yard of the Alum Rock Avenue “Goode” property which was so badly damaged during the 1998 landslide which closed Crothers Road and the Alum Rock Avenue entrance to Alum Rock Park?

A. A new custom-built 4,000 square foot home is being built there in front of the old house where the young Goode family lived until the landslide began pulling the house apart. The man who bought the property about eight years ago is having the new house built for himself and his family. He’s not sure whether the old, damaged house can be salvaged, but, if it can be, there will be two houses on the one half acre (double) lot. Click here for photos.

Q. What did the renovation of Lick’s Administration Building entail? It seems that work went on there for many months.

A. NNV reported that the project would be completed early last spring. However, the staff wasn’t able to leave their temporary offices until just before school started in August. The drab old building received a major make-over right down to its bones. The entrance was upgraded nicely and the old marble steps are now complemented by fresh soft-green double doors. A major improvement took place in the entry hall which had been a barren space surrounded by anonymous solid doors which always seemed to be closed. Now there is a classy reception desk giving a welcoming ambiance to what used to be unused space.

New carpeting and furniture – much of it in cool shades of green – replace old, worn-out furnishings. The attendance desk is newly outfitted. Principal Bill Rice’s office, his secretary Sheri Bonacorso’s office and the small conference room all are fresh with simple new desks, chairs and tables. One of Lick’s best original features, the large windows facing the East hills, continue to illuminate all the bright offices on the front of the building.

A new driveway and visitor parking lot were constructed in what used to be an awkward front lawn area. It’s now possible to reach the entrance of the Admin building without traipsing around the perimeter of the lawn! New sod and landscaping plants were installed shortly after the start of school.

Click here for photos.

Q. Is it true that the deceased woman whose body was found in a garbage processing station in September had connections to our neighborhood?

A. Yes. Drivers passing the corner of Alum Rock and White Roads might remember a diminutive woman selling copies of the Mercury News early in the morning as recently as last February. The body of that small woman, Kelley Rose Daniel, was found by refuse sorters in Sunnyvale. She was the estranged wife of Henry Enos. According to the Mercury News of September 26th, “Her family asks that donations in memory of Daniel be made to the Emergency Housing Consortium, sent either directly or through a PayPal link on the Web site. The address for [mailed] donations is Emergency Housing Consortium, Resource Development Department, 2665 N. First St., Suite 210, San Jose, Calif. 95134."

Click here to read more about Henry in the last edition of NNV.

Return to Section 1

You can send comments or letters to the editor (Click Here to see the Letters)

E-mail us at or fax to (408) 272-4040. Please limit letters to a few hundred words (shorter items are more likely to be used in the newsletter and read) and include your name and phone number in case we have questions.  Contributions may be edited for content and space requirements.  Want to take photos, write articles or essays?  Please let us know!  And don't miss our new Letters page on Deer, Fire and/or Drought Resistant Plants if you'd like to share information with our readers.

Community Bulletin Board (Click Here)

E-mail to let us know about your events of interest to our readers.

--------------------------- Contact and Subscription Information ---------------------------------
Copyright© 2006 by Judy Thompson, 16174 Highland Drive, San Jose, CA 95127 
Phone: (408) 272-7008, E-mail: Fax: (408) 272-4040 
Your ideas and comments are always welcome. 
To Unsubscribe: E-mail with "Unsubscribe" in the Subject line. 
Privacy Policy: Your contact information will not be sold, distributed or visible to others. 
Opinions expressed by other writers and contributors are not necessarily shared by NNV.

Copyright© 2006 by Judy Thompson.  All rights reserved.  Updated 10/8/06.

Return to Section 1