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07.09.08

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Retail Hype

Months after Wal-Mart got the official OK to establish a supercenter at Cochrane Road and 101, Morgan Hill residents are still up in arms over the decision. Wal-Mart developers and supportive city officials are promising that the local version of world's largest retail chain will be an "upscale" and "unique" shopping experience, apparently to fit Morgan Hill's more refined taste for cheap imported goods. Wal-Mart representatives are expected to submit plans for merchandise and architecture to the city within the next few weeks. Though Morgan Hill Mayor Steve Tate has been publicly gung ho for the vacancy at the Cochrane Plaza shopping center to be filled, he can't actually say what an "upscale" Wal-Mart would be. "I don't know what 'upscale' means, but that certainly doesn't seem downscale, the way they've got that laid out and stuff," Tate says. "They said that the store would be very appealing to the residents of Morgan Hill, and I guess the upscale part of it comes from the fact that the residents of Morgan Hill are kind of picky and want nice things." But Al Norman, who has been called the "guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" by 60 Minutes and is the founder of Sprawl-Busters.com, said that this "unique, upscale" angle is just one more strategy Wal-Mart has been using in recent years to elbow its way into traditionally more-well-off communities. "There's always something special about the one they're doing in your hometown, and it's always nonsense. It's just a pickup line. It's a Frankenstein's monster with a tuxedo." Perhaps city officials can next approve a "luxury" Dunkin' Donuts to occupy the city's long decrepit El Capri Restaurant on Monterey Road.

A Banner Week

The Little Saigon debacle seemed mostly resolved when Mayor Chuck Reed signed a peace deal with protesters in the Vietnamese community that promised that banners displaying the "Little Saigon" name could be flown to officially recognize the Vietnamese retail area. But what wasn't spelled out was how many banners could go up. Certain members of the Vietnamese community got a little irked recently when they were told they couldn't have the 40 or even 20 banners they requested along Story Road. "Maybe they don't want Little Saigon all over the place." said Barry Hung Do, who is leading the Little Saigon effort. "It's a political game that they are playing." Do pointed to San Francisco, where Mayor Gavin Newsom recently recognized a neighborhood now known as Little Saigon in the city, and ponied up most of the cash needed to pay for the gateway sign that identified the area as such. "They don't have Chuck Reed and Madison up there," Do said. "There is no fighting at all; the community asked and they got it." But what Do did not mention is that San Jose is allowing the community to put up the banners even though it goes against the city's current policy, which doesn't allow for banners in areas that are not official neighborhood business districts. The city is allowing the group to put up the temporary banners while Reed and the council rewrite the city's code that would allow for all 20 banners along Story Road. "It's not that we said they are bad," said Joe Horwedel, planning director. "We are just working in the policy direction of the council."


Adult Swim

Just in time to help beat the local arrival of global warming, San Jose has reopened its Alviso, Biebrach and Ryland municipal swimming pools. These reopenings don't come close to ending San Jose's public pool deficit, but it's a nice break anyway. (As an August 2006 story in these pages revealed, San Jose provides less free swimming per resident than any other big city in America.) The city's summer-only swim program is offered at nine pools. In 2005 the city began leasing pools when long-neglected repairs and code violations closed the Alviso, Biebrach, Mayfair and Ryland pools. It has taken 12 months for the city to develop a consensus-based Aquatics Master Plan, which will be implemented over the next 15 years. Job One was to repair the closed pools, which were opened "on time, on budget and as promised," says Cynthia Bojorquez, Park, Recreation and Neighborhood Services director. "The community wasn't happy with the city for closing the pools but they gave us a second chance and we listened," Bojorquez says. Sporting bright orange arm floaties and huge swim goggles, Councilman Sam Liccardo helped Bojorquez and Gardner Advisory Council President Rudy Martinez cut the ribbon at Biebrach Pool.


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