Single Gal and Shopping Heaven or Hell?

It’s no secret that I am single and young (in my mind), and with that comes a fervent passion for all things shopping. I wouldn’t call myself materialistic, but when it comes to new clothes, department stores and boutiques, I find myself one of America’s great consumers—always on the lookout for something new and better to wear.

So when I heard the news that Valley Fair was planning a large expansion in January 2009 and would be adding high-end stores Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s, my initial reaction was of both elation and fear, and then annoyance.  The elation comes from two stores that are usually reserved for “Shallow Alto” or San Francisco residents, and now they are coming to our Podunk, million-resident town?  Golly Gee!  Then fear immediately comes on elation’s heels as I realize I don’t have the income to back up my love of shopping and fashion items.  Ugh.

After those two emotions set in, I began to become annoyed that they are expanding in an area that is already too crowded.  Have you ever tried to park at Valley Fair or Santana Row on a weekend? Have you ever tried to exit Stevens Creek Boulevard from 880?  It’s probably easier entering downtown Beijing.

What about the fact that this is an area that has too much already?  How about spreading the wealth? All of the debate about downtown retail has centered on the fact that you need a department store anchor to start any new development.  How many shops do you think would locate downtown if they knew Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s were going to be the cornerstones of a new revitalized retail offering?  It seems everything is done the easy way around here instead of having foresight, vision and innovation.

So I am sure I will be there when these two stores open, but I will probably be a bit exasperated from the traffic and the prospect of spending money.  But I would be much happier spending those dollars downtown!


  1. Your clothes may be Beau Brummelly
    They stand out a mile—
    But Sister,
    You’re never fully dressed
    Without a smile!

    Who cares what they’re wearing
    On Santa Clara Street,
    Or Santana Row,
    It’s what you wear from ear to ear
    And not from head to toe
    (That matters)

    Hey, Hobo man
    Hey, Dapper Dan
    You’ve both got your style
    But Brother,
    You’re never fully dressed
    Without a smile!

  2. Maybe we shouldn’t have to worry about parking there. Light rail down that corridor would be nice. Then Westfield can devote more land to a variety of shops or even some relaxing, open spaces. Valley Fair should be a counterpart to Santana Row, not a place where you focus more on finding a space and navigating your way out of the lot. The suburban mindset kills us again…

  3. Suburbanization doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

    However, I have one suggestion to improve the lives of everyone with regards to parking.

    I have faith that people can be trusted with their own food choices, but people consistently prove they cannot be trusted with parking behavior. People will block whole parking structures for FIVE MINUTES (each) just to get a parking spot 25 feet closer to the shopping center door—while there are plenty of spots just 50 feet away. Multiplied by 500 cars, that takes up about 30 minutes of your life parking every trip. And all because of inconsiderate, nonpluralistic selfish behavior.

    If the developers were to invest in some way to discourage or end this antisocial behavior, it would prove they are interested in surbunization that has at least some positive visions of growth.

    I recommend either metering traffic into parking structures (San Francisco style), patrols yelling at people, extra-wide parking structure lanes (probably won’t happen), or enforced loitering rules with cameras that capture the license plates of repeat abusers with chronic ‘15-foot Me-Vision’ who can’t assess the impact their decisions have on those around them and then disallow them into parking structures.

    End of overreaction.

  4. Part of the traffic problem comes from the pathological dysfunctionality of the traffic light system at 280 and San Carlos, which could serve as a textbook example for bad system design. Although the citizens of San Jose normally have little appetite for historical preservation, we seem to be devoted to maintaining a traffic light system dating back to the early Cold War.

    But even if the traffic light system were updated to 1980s technology, there would still be a traffic problem because there are too many cars there.

    Surely the basic idea behind successful public transit is to have it go where people want to go.  If people want to go to Valley Fair, public transit should go there.  With all the new housing going in on San Carlos, restoring the old light rail line along San Carlos seems an obvious choice.

    I should mention the excellent suggestion someone made in last week’s Metro—run Bart to the Great Mall and connect to the light rail there.

    Since Safeway and Long’s are going to be kept in the new Valley Fair, I don’t have any other strong opinions about the expansion.  At one time there were a few businesses there selling things that I could use, but they’ve vanished over the years.  The only one left is the bakery—seemingly the only source of fresh bread in San Jose—but rather than deal with the parking, we often just make our own bread.

    Kenny, my tip on parking is to park at the far edge of the lot, where those lamebrains would never think to go in the first place. I’ve sometimes seen the same cars sitting there blocking traffic when I walk out with my bread that were there when I went in.

  5. 10 MHz,

    You run the risk of putting yourself in harm’s way.  Suggesting that light rail serve the big, bad, nasty Valley Fair/Santana Row complex is pure heresy!

    Adopting such a plan would enrange our purely altruistic politicians and investor/developers, all of whom desperately need a thriving Downtown.

  6. With the usual griping about parking, no one has ever mentioned the VTA bus line that currently links Downtown with Valley Fair/Santana Row: the 23.

    This line is due to have rapid bus service added, similar to the current 522 in the near future.

    The 23 bus stops right across from Nordstrom Rack’s rear entrance on the northwestern tip of Valley Fair, next to the big parking garage.  No worries about parking or having to wait for a parking space to open up.

  7. “It seems everything is done the easy way around here instead of having foresight, vision and innovation.”  Tell that to the BART naysayers!  I agree with you SG, NM and Bloomingdales should be thinking downtown San Jose, either in the historic core or across from HP Pavilion.  Heck, all of VF/SR should be downtown for that matter, but that’s pure fanstasy (thanks to our civic forefathers).  I do agree with Nam Turk that Light-rail should run down San Carlos/SC Blvd. from downtown to Cupertino; this would actually make sense and enjoy huge ridership numbers, unlike many current lines.

  8. OMG, more of the “put it Downtown” so we can work our way out of the inferiority complex. 

    C’mon, these corporations do plenty of market research, and building Downtown just doesn’t pencil out for them.

    Why not just let the Downtown area grow organically?

  9. Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales are in the retail business.  And they’re there to make money, not to be a guinea pig for some failed city redevelopment project.  I am sure that both of these stores have come up with a lot of foresight, vision, and innovation as well and that has lead them to the decision that setting up shop in Valley Fair makes the most business sense.  Isn’t free enterprise beautiful?

  10. 9. Yes, I must admit that Valley Fair does have some bus connectivity at present.  We should preserve existing bus connections while replacing current or future high traffic routes with light rail. And very high traffic routes with heavy rail, but I don’t think Valley Fair is quite there yet.

    The history of Valley Fair versus downtown would make a good PhD dissertation in several disciplines.  I say run light rail from one to the other and you’ll get a corridor.

    Connect Bart to light rail at Great Mall and light rail to Valley Fair, and the east bay hordes will be descending on to Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s.  City gets sales tax -> libraries open on Sunday.

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