Because it’s summer and heat waves make me insane, I have been spending a lot of time in our lost-in-the-60s sister town to the south, Santa Cruz. The more time I spend in the little-beach-town-that-could, the more I realize what we’re missing in San Jose.
First of all, it’s almost like stepping into a time warp every time I drive over Highway 17. Life is slower, yet you wouldn’t know it because of the insane traffic you encounter going across town or trying to go anywhere on Highway 1. Yes, they have the beaches, the water and the ambiance that we cannot match, but take one look at their downtown shopping district and it begs the question: “Why can’t we have that in San Jose?”
I think the main reason for making Santana Row fake and locating it in the middle of nowhere was fear of the homeless. Well, it seems that the homeless and eccentrics live just fine amongst the locals in Santa Cruz at Pacific Garden Mall. It doesn’t stop patrons from eating there and spending their hard-earned money—and they do have other malls and restaurants to choose from. Is our tolerance not as high because we are not as liberal as those in Santa Cruz? Because you are more likely to see someone roll a joint on the sidewalk in Santa Cruz, does that mean they are more tolerant of so-called “undesirables” in their main shopping district?
With a town as laid back and lost in time as Santa Cruz, how can they have managed to make more progress on retail and creating a shopping district that is organic and real than San Jose—a city that is nearly twenty times as large, with more money and more power? The fact that they have accomplished so much more, even though things move along at a snail’s pace there, should make us embarrassed we have done so little as a city compared to Santa Cruz. Who or what can change that?