The Last Shall Be First

Last week’s discussion of the Valley Fair/Westfield behemoth mall complex and its fleet of department stores is linked in one way to the more recent and dubious history of the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. Yes, they both have “fair” in their titles, but more precisely, they both offer lessons and opportunities to do a few things right in the development of key properties in our city. 

In the Valley Fair and subsequent Santana Row proposals, the condition that none of their leases should prohibit the location of a store—a Crate and Barrel for example—in the downtown must be removed. It is testimony to the denseness of our planners and political leaders that this abomination was allowed to be recorded.  It is in the best interests of the citizens of San Jose not to have such restrictions on trade and the creation of a stronger tax base in the core area.

It was only after a painful intervention that the stranglehold the Syufy Theaters had on movies downtown was broken, and residents can now frequent first-run movies at the Camera Theatres. This is only reasonable and provides more understanding of the prejudices that allowed downtown to die.

Likewise, the new developer of the fairgrounds, Cattellus, should be given clear directives on what will complement the city’s investments downtown and elsewhere and not threaten them. This became painfully apparent in the noxious battle between the desperate county officials, in their quest to hit the big time with a music hall, and the city of San Jose. The only dumber idea was the “wooden domed arena” that was once the “Lord of the Rings” icon of the fair’s board and a few supervisors, and quickly bankrupted that same fair board. History should not repeat itself first as farce and then as tragedy. Clear direction must be given by the supervisors who, after all, represent the people of San Jose as well as the rest of the county’s citizenry.

There are ways for the county and the city to prosper, but it will involve putting the animosities of the past behind us and looking to the future wellbeing of our city in incredibly difficult times. It can be done and the critical ingredient is common sense.


  1. Greg – I advocate good land planning at both –  sound land use, not restriction of commerce.  Try getting off on the off ramp at Valley Fair from 280 – this was anticipated and obvious and the developer talked/bought their way out of improving it – a sad day for our city.  TMcE

  2. 1: I think he’s saying that whoever develops the fairgrounds should be reassured that their investment will not be threatened by whatever goes on downtown.

  3. JESUS CHRIST…  you should auto-replace “Downtown San Jose” to “My Financial Interests” on your computer.  Seriously, you sound really bad.

    And I’m not trying to attack you TMC.  But you continue to bash development outside of Downtown, and EVERYTHING Downtown is golden.  Makes one wonder where your ideas are coming from.

  4. “JESUS CHRIST… you should auto-replace “Downtown San Jose” to “My Financial Interests” on your computer.  Seriously, you sound really bad.

    And I’m not trying to attack you TMC.  But you continue to bash development outside of Downtown, and EVERYTHING Downtown is golden.  Makes one wonder where your ideas are coming from.”
    Right on the money DRE! This is getting old TMC…MOVE ON! You really want your baby(downtown) to prosper, get rid of that airport! im done here…this horse is beyond beaten.

  5. Eastsiders – sounds like you guys are recycling some of the old attacks from my two mayor’s races – I just love “memory lane” – fortunately, people in SJ made up their mind on my land use and development ideas before either of you – or just the one of you w. your many names – got your first computer. Nice try.  TMcE

  6. Tom,

    Please provide a little clarity here.  Are you saying that restrictive lease covenants at Valley Fair and Santana Row are bad, but such covenants at the Fairgrounds are good?

  7. This is a worthless discussion, leases written at these shopping centers do not restrict retailers from opening stores downtown. Retailers are free to choose where they want to be in business. I would challenge anyone stating otherwise to bring a retailer forward who has been unable to open in downtown due to a lease held elsewhere. The buyers simply aren’t there, sales tax generated at Santana Row and Westfield still flow back to the city and are still blamed for stealing tenants from downtown. This is myopic is vision. Think bigger. Look to the San Carlos Steven’s Creek Corridor and how Downtown and the “Shopping Districts” can come together as one larger Downtown.

  8. well, it seems to me that TMCE has slipped amid the ridiculous accusations hurled at him. Read statement 7: “fortunately, people in SJ made up their mind on my land use before either of you got your first computer.”

    What exactly does this mean? Which people made up their mind? What did they decide? What land use? for whom is it fortunate? For Tom? For the citizens who pay taxes to fund his development? if for Tom, as i read it, that’s a self-serving statement if i’ve ever heard one and completely unbecoming of such a public figure. Furthermore, what does he mean by, “before you got your first computer”. What is Tom assuming? What does he know about these east siders? He’s not clear that he knows them, but he’s obviously alluding to: 1) a belief that these eastsiders’ are latecomers to technology and the internet (read: ignorants), 2) relief that his projects got through before these ignorant unmodern east side people—as he is suggesting—could cause unnecessary damage. It’s very condescending. He’s never made a remark of this kind to any other person opposing him—and there are MANY who have on this blog.

    Says alot about tom’s character and his thoughts about those residing on the east side.

    on the other hand, i cannot ignore their offensive remarks. they make accusations that are unfounded. but the former mayor clearly had the opportunity to rise above it. after all, he was once the leader and driver of san jose’s values. he was the face of a bright future for san jose. is this what san jose was and is about? is this where san jose has arrived? bigotted innuendo, reactionary xenophobia? Was this a glimpse of our former mayor’s real views? Is there a dark wickedness behind the facade of his constant harking to good old days and his years of glory? i now have to ask, what exactly does tom want to return to? what images conjure up in his mind when he recalls his glory days of policy making? perhaps we can turn to his formidable years when he once believed he would grow up and set his own mark on san jose. what was san jose like when tom was growing up? where was he? who were the influencers in his life? what did the east side mean to him growing up? did he ever venture there? was he afraid of the east side? did he spend time around people who enjoyed deriding “that” side of town and those in it?

    his attitude is very common among the faux blue blood of california, who saw a necessary evil in sharing space with those who labored to provide the blues their wealth.

    in this case, he not only did not rise above the nastiness, he actually stooped to its level.

    was this a glimpse of san jose’s roots? And have these roots led us to where we are today? divisive, fractionalized, territorial, and bitter?

  9. “leases written at these shopping centers do not restrict retailers from opening stores downtown”  then why is SJ Economic development tell us that they do at city meeting?

    You are right San Jose’s downtown is not successful after years and millions tax dollars wasted because retailers see downtown as

    – too expensive – high costs, rents, cost of fixing problems, too many years to at best low profitability. potential employee unions

    – too many problems – unrealistic property owners, long unpredictable city government approval process, potential employee labor unions, many homeless, drug and mentally ill problem people, higher crime rates than other local locations, dirty, lacking large free parking areas, bad public transit that few customers would ride but non customers use and planned BART will bring more problems and crime to downtown – see recent East Bay take over robberies by same criminals who shoot up downtown clubs  

    – having high costs, many problems, no parking, and years of retail failures that can’t even attract the ho hum retailers and fast food chain restaurants that are in every suburban mall in US but are now 1 mile from downtown on Coleman Ave

    – not where successful retailers since good retailers have many more profitable potential retail locations with few or none of downtown problems

    – not needed since San Jose residents will drive to shop – at Coleman Ave, GE Plant, Story / King Santana Row, Valley Fair, neighborhood business districts. many other shopping centers in neighboring cities

  10. Dear 8 – please don’t read so deeply. The East Side anonymous folks are no more from that area that George Bush. I live downtown in the real world; I think I know this city well.  Since, I think you are serious, I’ll give you a serious response: “before they got their first computer” means the late seventies and early eighties, a time when many of us were building this city, and fighting sprawl, and trying to give the neighborhoods, like Alum Rock and others, the services that they deserved and never got.  TMcE

  11. There are thousands of retailers in the United States. There are only 300 at Valley Fair and Santana Row. Why don’t the thousand of other retailers come downtown??  San Jose is not a few select blocks downtown it is ALL of San Jose.

    If you want to test the redevelopment agencies thesis ask them to produce the list of tenants that say they want to be downtown but are prohibited. You will be waiting for a long time.

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