North San Jose a Worthy Model for the City’s Future

As the city embarks on a very ambitious plan in North San Jose for jobs and housing, and a mini-debate is had on the wisdom of the city owning land, it will be instructive to look at the past. While we may not always learn from our history, it never hurts to look at it and glean a bit of knowledge and perhaps even some insight.

In the mid seventies, there were thousands of acres in North San Jose littered with an assortment of mobile homes, small farms, and generally rundown properties on the road to Alviso. For our city, leaving this area alone and employing a laissez-faire approach would have put us on the road to insolvency. As we grew larger and larger with homes, scant attention was paid to job creation in our industrial areas (there were few) and our downtown, which existed more in memory and a few visionaries’ dreams than in any reality. But then inspiration and a good plan came our way.

Instead of more of the same, a plan to create an unassisted redevelopment area that would grab our piece of Silicon Valley occurred. At the Planning Commission, where I was chairman, we turned down a number of more-of-the-same mobile homes and other unwise land use options. Instead, we planned for the future, and the city took stock of what we might become. It was the basis for the real beginning of a tax base that spanned from HP to EBay. It was, indeed, the correct course.

As we engage in any discussion about how to use the city’s powers now, it is imperative that we look to the past. The strength of the North San Jose plan has enabled the city to have museums, sports facilities, hotels, and highways to reach them, moderate housing for many, and a downtown that will one day be an important part of the tax base that we never had, but our residents have every reason to demand. If we listen to the faint of heart or the short term panic, then we will never reach that potential. Certainly mistakes have been made, and the last decade was replete with them, but that is not a reason to be timid or foolhardy now. We can build a fine city here with a concerted approach to job creation and an eye on the future. To do otherwise would be a return to a past that only saw darkness with no hope.


  1. Please don’t let “jobs and housing” translate to “McMansions and office parks.” We may need to compete with Santa Clara, Sunnyvale and Palo Alto, but that doesn’t mean we should look like them.

  2. What we should be striving for are high paying jobs, and homes for upper income individuals.  San Jose has to few high paying jobs, and to many low income areas. 

    Adding to the status quo will only exacerbate existing problems, and create new problems.

  3. Greg – you must have me confused w. some other mayor. I was the one who drew the line and held it on endless homes and suburbs that we could NOT service. That’s the darkness, my friend.  We built the tax base and the Downtown. I think we can see it clearly.  That former city, built only to serve a few special interests, was held at bay while I was mayor – they raised their heads again, and although quiet now, are still around. You can look it up.  TMcE

  4. Tom,

    My apologies if you and the SJI readers thought I was criticizing you for the impending North San Jose housing mess. 

    To the best of my knowledge, it was Gonzo, the RDA and countless lobbyists representing developers and labor unions.

  5. Tom,

    This is great news… we don’t have to worry about “darkness with no hope.”  With tens of thousands of additional residents, our only concern will be where to get our next glass of water.

  6. The North San Jose plan was the right direction.  Unfortunately having worked in the area for years the plan forgot to provide any amenities for employees.  The area is a waste land devoid of any decent restaurants, stores (unless you want to drive all the way to Milpitas to improve their sales tax base), and even gas stations.  To run any errands at lunch requires at least a twenty minute drive each way to civilization.

  7. ok,

    so wat dis fat cat writin’ bout now? seems he only like to harken back to the delusional memories of his former self as tamany hall fat cat so’s he can pat his self on da back and say, “my o my, wasn’t i a clever fellow?!”

    well, i hates ta tell it to ya like it is, but mr. fat cat mayor, what y’all done advocated for waaaay back then aint no different than what other cities have done all over da world. in fact, you tryin’ to take credit for the natural order of social development fo which we humans yearn. it’s like pattin’ yo self on da back for being able to take a crap and wipe yo self. now, if’n you was a little kid, den i be pattin yo back, too. but you ain’t and annexing property and planning it out ain’t no rocket science neither.

    point blank: cities always lookin’ to expand tax base. if der be land to take, den da city gonna take it. it’s called annexation. you actin’ like you invented da term and da process.

    but i love how you keep on makin’ it in yo lousy blogs like you da man of wisdom and you like a soothsayer or a oracle, foreseeing a future beyond da grasp of mere mortal men.

    you’s got da vision of a old cat wit cateracts, can’t see furder dan his grayin’ whiskers.

    if you and yo ilk had vision back in yo heyday, we’d have:

    a MUCH better light-rail transportation system that was more efficient and that spread to every corner of da city not just a few stray tentacles;

    a vibrantly, artfully developed downtown 2 decades into maturation when you was runnin’ things, and not what it is now: a few months into figuring out what da heck it gonna be in 2 decades

    a vibrant university-centered culture that’s publicly tied to our base industry, and not peripherally acknowledged like a red-headed step-child in da attic

    a very pedestrian and bay-friendly north san jose, where people can access da water and canoe, and be outdoors, and walk along the wharfs and docs there.

    wanna really be a tourist spot? forget yo st. peter’s square and put money in alviso.

    that’s where the future be.

    so, i dunno how i’ma live thru another of yo tired ol’ self congratulatory riffs dat, firstly, are poorly written in dat vague, politicianese style o language o yours, and dat is all fluff and wit little meaning or wisdom. ain’t no one honest wit you in yo life? aint you got loved ones to keep yo self in check?

    man i’m tired….

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