Miscellaneous and Useless Information

San Francisco Bay Area

Just one day after his keynote at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, Steve Jobs made an appearance last night at the Cupertino City Council to present the company’s plans for a new campus in Cupertino, on the old Hewlett-Packard site. It essentially consists of one giant building shaped like a doughnut that will hold 12,000 people. It will be surrounded by open space, and the parking will be mostly underground.

While the plans certainly make a statement, I’m more an urbanist and not usually fond of buildings surrounded by lots of parking lots or open space, since they don’t tend to be very energetic spaces. So I’m actually lukewarm on what I’ve seen so far. I’m also left with a lot of questions:

  • How accessible will the open space be to the public?
  • In the slides that Jobs presented, Pruneridge Avenue disappears. Where does it go? Is it eliminated? Does it go underground? Does it become a private street, serving only the underground parking garage?
  • What are the plans for the existing redwood grove and the historic Glendenning Barn?

I’m sure that the final result will be pretty close to what was presented — I can’t imagine Cupertino giving Apple a really hard time. And even though it would still be a corporate office park instead of a more urban neighborhood, it would be a really nice office park, better than what is there now. By the way, I grew up in Cupertino and I still live nearby, so I know the area very well.

And I echo Mayor Gilbert Wong’s desire to open an Apple Store in Cupertino. Too bad the city’s Vallco Mall is such a basket case.

Remember this slogan? “If you paid full price, you didn’t buy it at Crown Books.” Another company bought the naming rights to Crown after it went bankrupt in 2001, and the chain has opened a store in Cupertino. This incarnation of Crown Books buys remainders and overstock at big discounts and passes the savings onto customers. It may not be a first-run bookstore, but it’s the closest thing to a mainstream bookstore Cupertino has, and I’ll take what I can get. Time to pay them a visit.

From the Cupertino Courier:

Higher prices make it harder to buy a home in Cupertino

A concern frequently expressed by some city council members and planning commissioners is that Cupertino homes are become so expensive many families cannot afford to move here….

“In the first six months of the year, it was a seller’s market. There was a scarcity of homes,” [said John Miner, sales manager for Van Vleck Realty]. “Now there are not so many buyers. We’re still seeing a good market, but now what it was six months ago….”

[Darlene Phelps of Raintree Realtors] maintains Cupertino is a desirable place to live because of its access to freeways and a “good” school district….

I forgot to mention the date: January 1, 1975. The article states that the average price of a house in Cupertino was $39,170 in January 1974, and $46,660 the following June. In 2007 dollars, that’s about $165,200 and $196,800, respectively. Fast forward to last month: the median price in Cupertino was $1,025,000.

This past weekend kept me quite busy. On Saturday I met a college friend for lunch and then went to a potluck dinner with my high school friends. On Sunday I met up with another college friend to go the dragon boat festival, where a friend I’ve known since elementary school was racing. Afterwards I went to a housewarming of a friend I met when I was in graduate school, and a co-worker of mine was also there.

So that’s at least one person from five major phases of my life. If only I’d met up with someone from my birthplace — it would have been a clean sweep!

Farley I was truly saddened when I read in the San Francisco Chronicle that Phil Frank died yesterday. Phil Frank drew the only local comic strip in the country, Farley, which was published in the Chronicle. Indeed he captured the spirit of the Bay Area through his cast of distinctive and wacky characters, and because it was a local strip, Mr. Frank was able to comment on current events in his strip within days. He will be sorely missed.

Kepler's Books in Menlo Park may have barely survived, but other venerable indies are hurting. The main Cody's Books store on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley is closing. I have fond memories browsing through (and even buying!) books there. Although its two smaller stores will remain open, this hurts.

Courtesy of San Francisco magazine and Check, Please:

It’s odd that, now that I’m living in the South Bay, I seem to be going to San Francisco more often than I was in Berkeley. In fact, I’ve gone up once a week for the past 4 weeks: to visit Francis, Simona, Rich, and Agata [photo]; Ame and Chris’s wedding reception; a Super Bowl party with Jon; and a Lincoln Highway Association meeting [photos]. And I’m probably going up next week to visit Norman. It’s all about being done with grad school…

There a few restaurants that have been featured on Check, Please! Bay Area on KQED Channel 9 that I want to try out.

  • Ninna in Oakland: Mediterranean/Thai fusion. Sounds weird, but all three reviewers thoroughly enjoyed it.
  • Piperade in San Francisco: Basque
  • Bissap Baobab in San Francisco: Senegalese
  • Aziza in San Francisco: California-inspired Morrocan (or is it Morroco-inspired Californian?)
  • Salang Pass in Fremont: Afghan
  • Manresa in Los Gatos: but only if I win the lottery

With Check, Please! reviews, your mileage may vary. For example, Vik’s Chaat House is a favorite place of Berkeley students for chaat. 2 out of 3 reviewers weren’t impressed with it, but one of them doesn’t like Indian food in general, and the other one usually orders Chicken Tikka Masala and was bewildered by the chaat menu. Argh! This place definitely deserved better reviews. Thankfully a ton of people have defended the restaurant on the Check, Please!‘s web site. I’m tempted to chime in.

It’s also unfortunate that the vast majority of restaurants that are reviewed are around San Francisco. I know there is good food down here in the South Bay — it just may not be in the most classy setting (OK fine, they’re all in strip malls). Which reminds me, there’s a hole in the wall that serves great pot stickers and noodles in west San Jose (near Cupertino): Tong Dumpling Pot. Highly recommended.

Both Hong Kong and Taipei have RFID smart cards available for paying fares on subways and buses. Taipei even knocks 20% off of each subway ride. You don’t need to take the card out, just hover your wallet over the reader. It’s amazingly convenient. The Bay Area desperately needs something like this, especially since we have over two dozen transit agencies (which is stupid, but that’s another topic). The Metropolitan Transportation Commission has been testing such a system, TransLink, for almost four years. Let’s go people! What’s the holdup?

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