Thursday, March 27, 2008


Alum Rock neighbor James Cape and Todd Trekell of Barry Swenson Group shake hands after Trekell pledged to include the community in any new plans to develop the PEO home property on Kirk Avenue. Cape and others promised to hold the developer to his word.

By Len and Julie Ramirez

If anyone ever doubts the commitment of Alum Rock neighbors to improve their community and their ability to defend it, let them hear about what happened tonight. "I left excited and ready to roll up my sleeves," said one long time Alum Rock resident after attending the standing room only meeting at the fellowship hall of Foothill Presbyterian Church on McKee Road. About 150 residents packed the room for the Alum Rock Neighborhood Coalition's regular March meeting. Community spirit was reborn and special commissions were set up so neighbors working in small, cohesive groups could tackle some of areas of concern:
  • Graffiti Removal
  • Blight
  • Beautification
  • Neighborhood Watches
  • Roads and Traffic
  • Schools and Education
  • Community and Business Relations
  • Public Relations/Media
But two items dominated the night's agenda: the future of the PEO home on Kirk Avenue and the ongoing concern over the proliferation of swanky nightclub-style cafes on Alum Rock Avenue.

Interest over the PEO property exploded during the last 10 days while talks of a women's prison surfaced and later fizzled. Intense emails and phone calls flooded the in-boxes of local officials, news reports aired, and tempers flared, while neighbors rallied. "Calls went from nothing to 50 the next day over this issue," explained Darcie Green of Assembly Member Joe Coto's office. Applause broke out as ARNC President David Sanchez proclaimed, "What's the latest on the PEO home? Nothing--it's over!!"

The sigh of relief was short lived; however, while neighbors realized the future of the property is still a big question. Todd Trekell, representing property owner and developer Barry Swenson, also noted the overwhelming response of neighbors to his office over the prison plan. "We heard you loud and clear," he said. Trekell also assured the community that Barry Swenson will work with the community in the future. Trekell tried to gain credibility with the skeptical crowd by citing his own family ties to the East Side as well as Mr. Swenson's (he graduated from James Lick High School). Trekell told neighbors that the site is an excellent location for an assisted living center, and that his company is working with a couple of entities in that regard, but noted that the land is for sale, and thus could be sold and developed by others.

Neighbors also heard a presentation by Greg Lippman, of ACE Charter Schools, over his company's interest in the PEO site as a potential charter middle school. Citing its beautiful grounds, good driveway access and ample classroom and meeting areas, Lippman said the site is an excellent candidate for a school of about 400 students. But he also noted that his company is not yet ready to move forward with formal plans.
The owner of Miss Cafe on Alum Rock Avenue faced a large and skeptical audience of concerned East Siders.

Some of the most heated discussions of the night centered around two of the newest members of the Alum Rock business community: Miss Cafe and Thien Y, which are Vietnamese cafes that feature short menus and even shorter skirts and skimpy tops for their waitresses. Attorney James Barrett, who represents Miss Cafe brought up the businesses owner (who was not named), his wife and two toddlers and said "these are the faces of Miss Cafe." The audience gave a collective chuckle, but bit its tongue on voicing more pointed comments until after the wife and children had left the front of the room. Miss Cafe attorney James Barrett fielded questions and criticism from neighbors while Miss Cafe's owner and manager stood by. Barrett said "I want Miss Cafe to be a part of this community."

"This is an issue of appropriateness and its impact on this community," said neighbor James Cape referring to the dark, reputedly smoky environment and skimpy outfits. Maureen Behlen pointed out how she currently avoids using the Wells Fargo ATMs next to its entrance after her 12 year old son was shocked by what he saw during their last visit to get cash. "Would you take your children there?" she asked the owner. To her surprise he admitted he took them to work with him and his wife. As the audience gasped, she snapped, "Shame on you!"

Attorney Barrett said he would meet with ARNC's newly formed community and business relations commission next week, while insisting he wants Miss Cafe to "be a part of this community."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Mercury News Columnist Scott Herhold attended a recent ARNC meeting and wrote the following article after interviewing Alum Rock locals Julie Ramirez and ARNC President David Sanchez. His article takes a look at the Alum Rock Vietnamese cafe controversy:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


The following is a letter to the Alum Rock community from Leaders in Community Alternatives President Linda Connelly formally withdrawing from the PEO/Prison plan:

Dear Neighbors,

I submitted a letter to the State of California today officially withdrawing our application for a Female Rehabilitative Community Correctional Center at 10 Kirk Avenue. Our intent was never to develop this site without the consent of the neighbors, and it was apparent there was not enough support to continue with the process.I want to apologize to you that it appeared as though we were trying to push this project on the neighborhood without your involvement. We were in the very early stages of discussions with the State of California for the project. This was a highly competitive bid process (funding was availablefor 1200 beds and there were 10,000 beds bid throughout the state), and there was no certainty that Santa Clara County would be selected. We were in the planning process with some Alum Rock neighbors strategizing the who,what, where, why, and when of talking with neighborhood groups andindividuals, and the best way to go about that. We planned this process to take several months, and did not want to begin in a major way until we knewif the state was even interested in Santa Clara County for the women'sprogram. Unfortunately this very preliminary concept of possibly using the 10 Kirk Avenue site for a rehabilitative program for women was leaked to the pressvery prematurely and we were not given a chance to talk to each of you. I know this has been very distressing, and has caused great concern for manyof you. I understand completely, and am deeply disappointed that this washow you heard about our proposal. I have worked in the criminal justice field for 34 years, and have opened many residential programs over the years. Our typical process if to lookfor potential sites. When we find one, we first talk to immediate neighborsto see if there is any major concern. If not, we begin the process of talking to police, elected officials and neighbors. This process is done over several months because it takes at least six-nine months to go through a conditional use process. It is during this time that we decide if we canget the community support to open a program,. If not, then we back away from a site. Neighborhood support is crucial, and without it, there is no point in going forward. There is a serious lack of programming available in Santa Clara County for women and men returning from state prison to their home communities. Theresult of this is high recidivism rates, increased crime, and significant expenses to the local infrastructure. The State of California, Departmentof Corrections and Rehabilitation, is attempting to mitigate the revolving door of our criminal justice system, utilizing evidence-based research, and developing intensive treatment programs in the community offenders will bereturning. This is a huge asset to local communities and a significant benefit for the clients in the program and the communities housing theprograms. Obviously, though, the program site needs to be in the rightlocation. All of the programs I have started, and the hundreds of programs my colleagues across the country have started, have completely integrated themselves into their respective neighborhoods in a positive way. Neighbors end up loving these programs because of the value they bring to thecommunity - jobs, tax revenues, community service and neighborhood projects,resources for neighbors as well as program clients, 24-hour awake presence,decreased crime, and increased housing pricing. The research and actual programs demonstrate this over and over again. I know it would have been true at 10 Kirk, and I know it can be true where ever we end up.The silver lining in what has transpired over the last week is that thisvery serious issue of re-entry has been brought to the forefront of not only the Alum Rock neighborhood, but also the city of San Jose and County of Santa Clara. There has been a lot of interest in working with us to providethis necessary treatment services in the right location within the County. The other silver lining is that your neighborhood has demonstrated its cohesiveness and ability to coalesce around an important issue in a short period of time. It was impressive. I wish you the best, and again, my heartfelt apology that this process did not work itself out the way it was intended. Regardless if the end result had been the same, you and the program deserved to be fully vetted and understood before a decision was made. Thank you.

Linda Connelly,
President/CEO Leaders in Community Alternatives, Inc. (LCA)594 Howard Street - Suite 300San Francisco, CA 94105415-546-5222 (Phone)415-546-1932 (Fax)mailto:lconnelly%40lcaservices.comhttp://www.lcaservices/.com

Monday, March 24, 2008


By ARNC President David Sanchez

This Thursday's Alum Rock Neighorhood Coalition Community Meeting will be held at the Foothill Presbyterian Church, 5301 McKee Road and will begin promptly at 7:00 p.m.. An agenda will be posted but the main focus of this meeting will be on the PEO Home/FRCCC (Female Rehabilatative Community Correctional Center) with updates from last months meeting.

Please use the evite invitation link ..... HERE ...... to RSVP, it will help us get a rough idea of the attendance. The invitation is and open invitation so please share this email and the evite link with others who may be interested in attending. If someone would like to post the invitation at some of the local businesses as well, that would be great!

Saturday, March 22, 2008


By Julie Ramirez

The energy and momentum generated in Alum Rock over the last week is inspirational and a real testiment to the will, committment and wealth of knowledge in our community. Our neighborhood has sent a clear message to San Jose and state leaders that our neighborhood is not a suitable area for a prison. Aside from the buzz of the proposed prison site, neighbors have begun asking: "What's next?" "How can we keep the momentum going to build a better Alum Rock? How can we attract [and sustain] more businesses to our area?" The answer has clearly emerged: We need to invest in our neighborhood!!

Among the many hidden treasures in our area, one that is often neglected and bashed is our school system. My children attend an award winning school. It offers extra curricular activities including GATE, band, drama, and dance. They are exposed to and enjoy the diversity of cultures and languages. Their teachers are credentialed. They're offered a hot breakfast and lunch and a free after school YMCA program. They go on several field trips throughout the year, attend enrichment festivities like a Back to School Carnival, Family Literacy Nights and an International Dance Festival. And, they are receiving a great education!

I don't pay high tuition rates; I don't transport them across the Valley. And I don't settle for mediocrity. I proudly send them to Linda Vista Elementary school. If we are looking for a place to start investing in our community, it makes sense to start with the schools.

Linda Vista is a California Distinguished School with an execellent, experienced staff. Principal Paddy Douglas and Vice Principal Colin Ford are dedicated and work closely with their staff and students to create a welcoming environment and great educational experience. Over the last three years, it has consistently improved its API scores, and is getting very close (765) to breaking the 800 barrier which many parents shopping for neighborhoods and schools look for. It's an outstanding achievement for the students and staff given the diverse community Linda Vista serves.

Unfortunately, many families in the area are quick to look beyond our local schools when it comes to their kid's education. Just imagine what the schools in the area can become if more parents invested in them? And we get so much in return. As a family, we have built great relationships with our neighbors because of our ties to Linda Vista.

The Alum Rock Unified School District also houses three other Distinguished Schools-- including McCollam, which is also in our immediate area. Alum Rock has 27 schools throughout its District, including three so called "small schools." Our Superintendent Norma Martinez was recently named "Administrator of the Year" by the Association of California School Administrators and many of its teachers have been recognized as well.

Schools are the heart of a community, more so than trendy businesses and fancy chain stores. They are where families meet. If you build strong schools, more people will be attracted to the area, and prosperity will follow.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


The recent groundswell of opposition to a proposal to locate a state women's prison facility on the PEO Home site may have forced the plan's backers to look elsewhere. Here is how NBC 11 covered the controversy tonight:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


The following letter was sent as a follow up to the recent Alum Rock Neighborhood Coalition meeting in which several neighbors urged city planning and code enforcement officials to take
a harder look at the cafes. The specific complaint neighbors made is that the cafes applied to be restaurants, but are not operating as such.

Miss Cafe/2880 Alum Rock Avenue

Code Enforcement issued a compliance order to the property owner and business owner requiring that entertainment activities cease until such time as the business can demonstarte that the business is operating as a "bona fide eating establishment" as defined by the Zoning Ordinance. In addition, the property owner and business owner were ordered to remove the outdoor seating located to the rear of the building that was added without Planning approval. Finally, the business owner has been issued administrative citations for allowing smoking to occur inside the business.

Please be advised that I personally accompanied staff during inspections conducted on Monday, March 10th and Wednesday, March 12th. The Miss Cafe has created a menu that now offers a variety of menu choices for customers. You may recall the original menu appeared to serve only appetizers. In addition, I inspected the kitchen area and observed silverware and plates/cups necessary for a restaurant use. Finally, I observed the kitchen refrigerators and observed food items necessary for preparing food when ordered. During my inspection yesterday, at noon, I did not observe any of the customers eating food, of the approximate 20 customers in the Cafe'. In addition, I observed several tables and chairs to the rear of the building for smoking customers. I was accmpanied on the inspection with Principal Planner Jeannie Hamilton as I was interested in her viewpoint as to whether the business was operating as a restaurant as described by the Zoning Ordinance.

I am not convinced, at this point, that the Miss Cafe' is operating as a restaurant as described in the Zoning Ordinance, though I believe that the Cafe' is moving towards compliance with there efforts to date. I admonished the business owner on allowing outdoor seating and ordered that the outdoor seating cease immediately, pending subsequent Planning review and approval. I advised the business owner that entertainment may not be reinstated until Code Enforcement is convinced that the use is that of a restaurant and not a "coffee shop".

Thien Y Restaurant/3116 Alum Rock Avenue

Code Enforcement staff has been monitoring the business since the original complaint was received, and on March 3rd obtained enough preliminary evidence to begin enforcement proceedings. Additional evidence was obtained yesterday, March 13th, to support Code Enforcement's position that this business is not operating as a bona fide public eating establishment.

Code Enforcement has issued a compliance order advising the property owner and business owner of the following violations: entertainment, specifically karaoke, must cease at 10:00 p.m. and for failing to obtain building permits for the mounted television monitors that exceed 50 pounds as previously instructed. The compliance order will provide the property owner and business owners notice of violations and corrective action required as follows :

1. Obtain a building permit or remove the mounted television monitors that exceed the 50 pound limitation no later than Thursday, March 27, 2008;
2. Cease any live entertainment, specifically the karaoke entertainment, after 10:00 p.m., no later than 10:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 20, 2008.

Thus far, Code Enforcement has issued the business owner a $250.00 administrative citation for failing to obtain a sign permit.

Please let me know if additional information is desired. Please share this e-mail with community/neighborhood members.


Michael Hannon
Code Enforcement Official
Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Department
City of San Jose