Evergreen no more…

By Guest Blogger Dave Cortese

Close your eyes and imagine one of the greatest public/private partnerships in San Jose’s history. A $3 billion package of housing, retail and jobs, parks, trails, open space, money for new schools and a new library spanning over 600 acres of true infill lands.

Imagine along with that, new growth limits established for this same area of the city that would allow all of the development above to happen over the next ten years, but no more.

On top of all of that throw in $120 million in transportation improvements including the long-awaited widening of the 101 corridor between 280 and Hellyer Ave, and three all-new interchanges at dangerous backlogged locations like Capitol, Tully and 101. Imagine all of this paid for, including the planning effort, without any taxpayer money involved.

Now, imagine all the tax revenue and jobs this is going to create for the city.

Imagine a process where consensus is reached on all of this and more by 31 neighborhood leaders together with a half dozen of the most successful landowner/developers in the area AND the city planning department, and having them all reach consensus.

Sound like a dream? It actually happened in Evergreen in 2005!

Imagine the city councilmember representing the area bringing this report to the San Jose City Council. Should be a big celebration, right?

Oops! Forgot one thing.

Imagine Ron Gonzales is Mayor of San Jose. He likes to try to intimidate people. He asks developers to pull out, to abandon the process and start all over again with him and a group of political buddies and insiders—so he can get rid of the original participants. He has his courageous lieutenant sneak around warning people not to testify in a public hearing. He tells people nobody consulted him about this opportunity in time, despite the fact that he has, in the past, cast several votes in favor of the process, and has his signature all over documents that say he knew all about it. He succeeds in convincing a majority of the council to stall and delay and play games.

Only in San Jose, when it is time to jump at a window of opportunity, does the Mayor slow things down and send everything to be studied some more. Only in San Jose does the Mayor play political games with multi-billion dollar economic development successes. No wonder we’ve missed so many opportunities as a city… No wonder so many ordinary citizens feel disenfranchised in this city.

Dave Cortese is a San Jose City Council Member representing District 8 and a candidate for Mayor.

33 Comments

  1. Even though I will be running against you, I believe you and others were wronged. In this case, I would make public documents, drawings, plans, and ideas as soon as possible. I am a true believer in transparency and so-called sunshine laws. Let the good people of San Jose decide that you and others were wronged. Another issue, I would bring up is VTA. More on that later.

  2. Where were the other Council members? Why can’t we get representation from Gonzo?
    Why does this re-inforce his reputation as a carpetbagging opportunist only out for himself?

    At least Mr. Cortese is from the area he ( and his father) represents (ed) and knows how those proposed improvements would have positively impacted Evergreen and beyond.

    We teach our kids to get involved, to do the right thing, to look to our leaders for intelligent
    altruism at best and what is good for the overall community at the very least, and to leave things a little better than we found it.

    This episode is one of the worst examples of the mayors’ short sightedness.

  3. From where I sit (on the end of the couch with the remote) I can’t imagine Gonzalez has any coattails, he’s an extremely unpopular lame duck.

    So how does he intimidate the city council?  Are their FORs (Friends Of Ron) that hold sway over the council?

    I’d think the last thing any council person would want is an endorsement from Gonzalez.

  4. He still holds the budget dollars and uses that as his “club” to threaten or reward councilmembers with. Unfortunately, most of the Council doesn’t have the backbone to stand up to these types of tactics and condemn them. Maybe if we had a City Manager with a spine the Mayor would not be allowed to run loose like this. Maybe not.

  5. Gonzo clearly thinks he is a teflon mayor.  And he has good reason to do so, since he has never been called to answer for any of his scandalous behavior in the workplace or outside of it.  This latest move of his regarding the Evergreen plans only serves to show that he feels he can get away with anything.  I suspect we’ll see him pushing the envelope more as his term winds down.  And the lap-dog council will completely accommodate him.  Truly disgusting.  I suspect morale has never been lower at City Hall and Gonzo is 100% to blame.

  6. As a former City Hall employee, I know first-hand how Gonzo—or should I say Guerra—have tight control over the City Manager.  Just look at the new City Hall floor plan, Joe’s office will be on the same floor as the City Manager’s. 

    On more than one occasion, Gonzo’s staff has been known to say “It would be so much easier with a Strong Mayor form of government in San Jose.” 

    The Evergreen stunt last week was Mayoral politics at their finest.  Ron knew this project was going forward and so did Nora.  I guess Nora was just upset that poor Neil did not have a chance to enusre that his boys would be doing the construction if the plan were implemented.

    Ron’s days are coming to an end; too bad the City Council won’t stand up to him.  But, that is what you get with a council that has fewer than 6 people with a backbone. 

    Chuck, Dave, Linda are the only ones to stand up to Ron.  Dando would, too, until she became Vice Mayor then she tempered her comments to play the Vice Mayor role. Yet even as Vice Mayor she managed to get under Ron’s skin and would take him on but in a much less public way.

  7. This is one thing bad for San Jose since it’s proposed in the outlying area, not downtown.  They must come up with this grand plan in the downtown area and pump it up from shame. Dave, it’s an ambitious plan I like , but it’s out in the suburb.  It’s the city’s worst enemy.  You must propose massive development in downtown.

  8. Dave-
      What I find surprisising is that you seem surprised.
        After all of the shots you’ve taken at HizzRonner…most of it richly deserved…what did you expect, a free ride?  OF COURSE he was going to slap you down, and line up his Greek Chorus to say “That’s Right Ron!”
        With your life-long experience in politics did you not see this coming?

  9. It is a shame that this did not pass.  This development seemed so promising.  Maybe if Dave and the neighborhoods in the area offered up the land for a new baseball stadium in his evergreen project Gonzo might have changed his tone.  But as for now we get left with more studies and more research.  All of this in the name of progress?

  10. B to the C, you’re not even close.

    Now if the Evergreen project would’ve included:

    An 18 hole private course with a direct phone linkup from pro-shop to the Mayor’s office. 

    An Austin Powers style underground tube that whisks our mayor from the rotunda along with his Mini Me minions to the golf course.

    then Dave’s plan might have had a chance.

  11. A lot has been said about lobbyist and other insiders taking advantage of our city.

    How about the people and consultants doing these “studies”.  Could there be or is there a shame involving these studies?

    Why do the studies cost so much?  Why has the city under gonzolez switched from building and developing to a strategy of endless studies?

    Could the mayor and certain city staff be making money on the side?  or could their close friends or relatives be making money from this?

    think of it this way.  How many millions have been spend on “future” projects for downtown and the so called strong nieghborhoods projects that will never get done.

  12. OK – all good comments.

    But, the nights not over.  Dave has a pretty good chance of pulling this through.  He followed the rules, which were open and approved.  Nobody was caught by surprise, not really smile

    Doesn’t mean he’ll win.  But he knows he did his best for his community he represented.  What’s at fault with that?

    Good job Dave.  Best of Luck!  Bay back to those who lie and scheme away is just around the corner.  As my dad use to say, Justic is something your can’t eat or take to the bank, but can nurish you just the same.

    Norm

  13. Councilman Cortese found out what those of us who are employed at City Hall know all too well: If you say or do anything that is perceived by Mayor Guerra as rocking the boat, retribution will be severe.  In Cortese’s case, he made the mistake of asking questions about the Cisco/City Hall scandal that got too close to revealing what is common knowledge, which is that nothing happens without the approval of the Mayor and that Del is routinely bypassed.

  14. How is it that Ron G. keeps getting elected? With just my limited knowledge of the city’s politics, I’ve seen a dozen mismanagement issues.  The new city hall and the forgotten equipment and furniture needed, the entire light rail system and its justification just to name two boondoggles.  Just because it wasn’t HIS idea doesn’t make it a BAD idea.

    Yet this man keeps getting elected. What is driving him the most is a gigantic ego and a belief that with a friendly grin, he can do no wrong.  Sounds a lot like a former president. 

    I’ve been living with my own bureaucratic nightmare for several years now, the pipeline laid beneath Silver Creek Valley Road and the horrible roadway that was left behind.

  15. This is a city where the plans for Coyote Valley (under the City Planning Department) are not integrated with plans for North San Jose ( by the Redevelopment Agency )and analyzed for inpacts on projections of BART ridership.  The Mayor, as a strong supporter of BART, avoids this nexus as a subject of study. So does SVLG—whose name change confers a repositioning away from representing interests that could be objectively polled to reflecting a small self-appointed group lacking transparency.

  16. If there was some money in it for the Mayor or his consultants then it would have flown threw.  Councilman Cortese did a great job but with this Mayor what does that matter.  He’s a sick person who I don’t understand isn’t run back to the dead zone with the other supervisors.  Soon he’ll be back there running again where he can hide and do his damage unnoticed.

  17. I continue to be aghast at what Gonzales and crew are doing. The entire purpose of districts in city governance is to establish local control and representation for those areas that matter. Managing and involvement close to home, so to speak. Cortese has done a great job of building consensus and the product of the visioning needs to be recognized for what it is: a great step in building a city of involved neighbors and neighborhoods in the spirit San Jose should be proud to foster.

  18. This is so typical of Mayor Gonzales.  There is nothing new about what he has done here.  Ron hasn’t had an original idea in years.  He is a very sad excuse for a human being much less a leader.

  19. As a proud and privileged member of the Evergreen community, and 40-year resident of San Jose, I am extremely disappointed by your decision, and that of the Council, to shuttle the good work done by a committed group of citizens who want nothing more than to make their city a better place to live.  Not to consider their recommendations, the culmination of two years of voluntary work, is not fair. 

    These recommendations are what local government and concerned citizens do. 

    And you can not claim you were not aware of the task force as this has been on the public agenda and in the local media for almost two years.  I went to my first meeting because I read about it in the Mercury News.

    If this is politics, it is the local citizenry that suffer.  This is not a time to compromise with a constituency and special interest groups in which we have no say, and which we are not given a seat at the table.  You can not make these decisions without us. You can not and will not unilaterally remove us from the conversation. 

    If this is an attempt to undermine Dave Cortese’s candidacy, think again. This will galvanize the troops and energize us beyond your dreams.  I just threw in my support for the Cortese For Mayor campaign, and I know a lot of other people in town who feel the same way.

    We are voting not only with our ideals and our hearts, but with our heads and our pocket books.

    We are a constituency and we will be heard. 

    This is a call to arms. See you at the Council meeting on May 3rd.

  20. One of the better ideas by the Mayor is the Strong Neighborhood Initiative: give the residents access to the city departments necessary to make positive change and to hold government accountable.

    The biggest obstacle to overcome in making the SNI process work is mistrust of government.  Volunteers and neighborhood leaders now have learned the power of participation.  If the results are not always as planned, at least we were part of the discussion and planning.

    Now, a morphed version of SNI and Specific Plan committees (EVP) convenes, and government by the people is hijacked by politics.  Hundreds of hours of study and discussion (not always happy) will swept away as “not proper protocol.”

    Contrary to the war of words from the Mayor, the EVP used city planning experts of all sorts to drive the advisory process.  Traffic is the number one issue amongst a menu of guiding principles, all of which bow to the “quality of life” factor.

    Tweak the EVP to overcome any shortcomings. Sure more outreach and council review is necessary, but that is the stated next step of the group.  At the end of the day, the council decides what the development plan is anyway.  Just analyze the recent development decisions, and judge the citizen input vs. final outcome equation.

    If you usurp the citizen input process embodied by this group, you will be telling every SNI and citizen group that their input is only as good as the politics of the day.  And that is what leads to the mistrust that will undo the SNIs.

    Take a chance, City Council.  See what happens using this novel process.  If you don’t like it, you will vote to change it, anyway.

  21. The actions of the Mayor and his cohorts from 4/19/05 to date is a prime example of, “The incompetent driving/causing the unwilling to do the unnecessary.” There appears to be a definite hidden agenda.

  22. In the interest of fair play, I don’t think it is too much to ask to grant Councilman Cortese the two week postponement on this evening’s meeting, that he is requesting.  (Although, fair play might not be a concern of some of the principals in this matter, after last weeks “broadsiding” of the EVP’s efforts.)

  23. For this 11th hour change of events from the Mayor to hijack the work that the EVP has worked so hard to put into place is politics at its worst.  The community of Evergreen has taken the stigma out of it being “just south San Jose” to a community where the pride of ownership and the return on our investments have significantly created wealth for San Jose overall.  In addition to letter writing to the Mayor’s office, please call and engage his office by leaving messages for a call back.  He has been put in office to serve us and this is our issue for him to readdress.  Mr. Cortese has to have us to stand with him.

  24. To Charlie A # 15:

    Charlie, the entire roadway system in San Jose is crubmbling before our very eyes.  I live in Willow Glen, and the arteries such as Curtner and Chery are literally crubling away.  They look like high country roads after a cold winter—big patches coming apart.  But we’ve got half a bilion dollars for The Taj Gonzal.  Even at Caltrans rates that’s a couple of hundred miles of new roads.

    Our infrastructure is literally falling apart, and we have boondoggle programs eating up wads of cash.  Government needs to get back to basics—police, fire, infrastructure maintenance—and forget about protecting everyone from cradle to grave from a lack of self-esteem.

  25. As much as El Alcalde’s pulling the rug out from Dave Cortese and his constituents was the wrong thing to do, many of the comments above point to one of the major problems with San Jose city government.

    District elections have Balkanized San Jose and have been a major contributor to the mini-mayor system we have.  That leads to a lot of mutual handwashing by councilmembers, so that each member gets his/her way in the district.

    We should return to city-wide elections so we have councilmembers who represent San Jose, not merely Willow Glen or Evergreen.

    John Michael O’Connor

  26. The Ranch Golf Course and subdivision of million dollar homes is an example of a District Council rep screwing the entire City for the benefit of one Company – Wm. Lyons.

    After more than 20 years of policies that perserved the ridgelines and hillside viewsheds of the east foothills, we now have thanks to Alice Woody, a total abdication of the hillside protection policies of the past. And, a ridgeline that looks like Daly City for all coming into SJ from south 101.

    I hope you can do better for both Evergreen and the rest of the City when you “plan” more housing for Evergreen.

  27. Councilmember Dave Cortese,

    You are the “Great Man!”
    The man who really cares…Who speaks up for his district residents…And together with the people, you stand-up for the people right.

    City of San Jose really needs such person like you to lead us into the next generation.

    May God blesses you throughout your journey…
    Best wish from Asian community.

  28. What I have never understood is how Hiz Onerous, R. Gonzales, can continue to get elected. I have voted against him everytime he has run for office even relocating once to be able to be in the particular political venue. I rented an apartment in Sunnyvale to do this.

    As for the city council, those I’ve met seemed dumb as stumps. I have not met all of them so there is still some hope. Many of them can neither read well nor write or even correct the letters they sign that have been prepared by others even less educated. Hope it gets better in the future.

    Vote for honesty and truthfulness and if a mistake is made, remember there is a recall provision.

    Thanks to for the recent turn around in the policy of the Mercury News. About time they had something bad to say about an elected official.

  29. I disagree with more housing built in this community. If the population increases it would be disastrous. Why did we as residents have no vote on this issue. My neighbors located next to the golf course do NOT want any new homes, condos, apts. invading our community. There are plenty of homes in San Jose readily available. We don’t need to overfill the schools and we already have way too much traffic. What we need is develop busness and restaraunts before adding homes to this area. Do that first and then try and convince us Mr.Cortese
    We bought our homes for the peace and quiet and enough already with overcrowding! Ask us who live near the golf course if we want more neighbors and alot of us say No! I stand behind Mayor Ron on his decisions here.

  30. Dear Pala Rancho Resident (#32), PLEASE do not be mistaken here. More homes will ulitmately be built. The parcles of land that are now vacant will someday have something on them. That is the way it has ALWAYS been! The difference with the EVP process is (was) to allow residents to have a say, unlike what has been the tradtional way in San Jose (see #29 above). Council member Cortese heard loud and clear that traffic issues were the number one concern of residents in Evergreen. So, knowing that developers / property owners were looking to make zoning changes and land use proposals he asked them to hold off and enter into a process where traffic improvements and community amenities would be included with any new homes being built.

    Many of us (Evergreen residents) bought homes when there weren’t as many in the community. But REALITY tells us (at least me) that the cherry orchards, vineyards and (much of) the open space would eventually give way to development. The hope with the EVP was that the community would gain in some areas despite allowing more homes and traffic in the area.

    By the way, Mayor Gonzales doesn’t care about the concerns of your neighborhood, his approach to undermine this process was politically motivated.