Disneyland Comes to Alviso

City Hall Diary

Disneyland in Alviso?  Not quite, but the comparisons are definitely there.

Several months back, I accompanied Councilmembers Chu and Liccardo on a tour of the San Jose Water Pollution Control Plant.  We rode on electric carts that were linked together like those at an amusement park.  Our tour guide spouted off words like, “sewage back-up, micro-organisms, aeration, methane gas”—much different then “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

The facility itself is quite large (2,600 acres) and old (built in 1956). The tour included the carts going from different facilities and walking down into the bowels of some of the buildings. San Jose could easily rent this space to the maker of a horror movie since these basements were eerie. Some of the rooms looked like scenes from a large naval ship, with long dark hallways and big pipes running overhead.  Down below, we were able to view wiring that is 20–40 years old; life expectancy of the wiring is only 25 years. 

This facility treats over 110 million gallons of water each day to serve 1.4 million residents in eight cities.  The water that we flush from our toilets travels north to the plant where it goes through a series of phases. The finished product is clean water that flows to the bay.  Also, “recycled water” can be pumped back out to the city through “purple pipes” to manage industrial and irrigation needs. In some cities it becomes drinking water. I am leaving out a lot of detail on all the phases since this would get too wordy, and I must leave you with some mystery. 

You may actually tour the plant yourself! The city offers a two-hour free tour on Saturdays. You may choose 9–11a.m. or 1:00–3:00 p.m. The remaining dates available are June 7, July 12, August 2, and September 6. Call 408.975.2551 to sign up or email [email protected].

The San Jose Water Pollution Control Plant is an important facility.  Although many people may not realize it, the plant is an important part of San Jose government. We would quickly forget about any other city issues we discuss on this blog if in the future we were told we could not flush our toilets.

I support investing in the infrastructure so that we can continue to rely on this resource. Water will continue to be a scarce resource locally and globally; therefore, San Jose should take advantage of this unique opportunity to be in the driver’s seat with a leading-edge Water Pollution Control Plant by making capital investments today.

I encourage you to stop and have lunch in Alviso (before or after the tour) and enjoy your own “Bay Area Backroads” experience.


  1. Public tours of public OR private facilities are extremely worthwhile and educational. For once, I give credit to the City of San Jose for doing something right and I urge people to take advantage of this opportunity.
    We had attempted to book a reservation for May 17 but were informed that there were no more spaces available. I hope that this was an indication that there IS considerable general interest and not that all the slots were allocated to VIPs. At any rate I’m impressed that PLO took the tour and I wonder if my own Councilperson did. I will now attempt to book the June 7 tour.

    While in the parking lot of the sewage treatment facility visitors might also take note of the gigantic mound of fill dirt that lies between Los Esteros Rd. and the Zanker Rd. landfill. This plateau suddenly appeared about 3 years ago and when I questioned then Councilman Chuck Reed’s office about it I was informed that it was to be a “temporary” location to put the dirt from a nearby City pipeline project. As far as I could tell there was never any EIR or even any public review of the impact that this change would have on this ecologically sensitive area. One would think that a “green” politician would have been more concerned with preserving the wetlands around San Francisco Bay.

  2. It’s shameful that the city of SJ hasn’t taken better advantage of our only waterfront and bay access.  Other cities have would capitalized on such prime real estate but we just dump sewage in ours. 

    It’s been 40 years since SJ annexed Alviso in an election that to this day is viewed by many as one that was rigged, and yet what abandoned carcasses remain of the boats that once docked at the marina are sitting in mud and weeds.

    Can you say, “backwater?”

  3. The following comes from the KQED website:

    “The nation’s first urban National Wildlife Refuge is a jewel on the San Francisco Bay. Its 30,000 acres of open bay, salt pond, salt marsh, mudflat, upland, and vernal pool habitats are constantly changing. It’s a great place to hike or watch birds.”

    From the Bay Trail website:

    “Though often overlooked, neglected, and overshadowed by its flashy high-tech neighbors, it [Alviso] is one of the most unique and colorful communities in the Silicon Valley. Though high-tech development is lapping at its doorstep, it is one of the last genuine reminders of what the Santa Clara Valley was like before it became siliconized.

    The main attraction of the Alviso area for bike riders, walkers, and joggers are the miles of trails on the levees in the area. This area has some of the longest, but loneliest trails on the Bay Trail. They allow you to get away from crowds and get close to nature. This area has thousands of acres of marshes, salt ponds, mud flats, sloughs, freshwater creeks, and bay shallows. It is incredibly rich in wildlife, especially in bird species. There are some 250 species of resident and migratory birds here. It is a bird watchers paradise and a good place for wildlife studies. The San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory is headquartered in Alviso and conducts studies of birds on and around the Bay.”

    Pretty good usage of our waterfront, I would say.

  4. Diana Foss has posted an award winning PBS-style video on web site produced locally some years back. It’s still very relevant and educates the viewer about why we need to recycle.  PLease take 24 minutes to view this video and share the link with your friends.

    http://dianafoss.com/Misc Files/WaterInAnEndlessLoop.mp4

  5. 5: The wildlife refuge is nice, but for it to take up the city’s entire access to the bay is a bit much. Maybe you like staring out across the mud, but that doesn’t sound too romantic to me. It’s not to much to ask for a bit of maritime culture in San Jose. It doesn’t require paving over the marshlands with another Santana Row.

  6. Pat, this is my delema,Diana or Judge.Not a fair choice.Pat brings a fresh aproach to the district and Judge brings good experience and common sense.The two bring us a combination we deserve as taxpayers.Both endorce Sunshine or transparent government, but Judge has introduced the Sunshine process to the Water District and this was badly needed at the Water District.
        With Sunshine citizens can participate at meetings and listen to proposals on the table and pro and con arguments.We can also express our concerns with the district.
        Many people complain about what could have or should have been and, rightfully so, but there was no opportunity for them to participate.
        With transparent government it is up to us to attend the important meetings and express our concerns.It has to do with our core values, what a person believes is honest government.I find “Core Values” hard to find in the “professional politican”.They seem to be easily swayed one way or another. Diana nor Judge are professional politicians.

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