Miscellaneous and Useless Information

San Francisco Bay Area

I don’t think many readers of this blog live in Cupertino, but Measures A, B, and C would have region-wide impact. These measures would set limits on building density, height, and setback from the street; only part of Vallco would be exempt. Any other exemptions would need a citywide vote, paid by the developer. Proponents want to preserve Cupertino’s suburban character, but these measures are way too extreme. Passing them would just continue ugly sprawl.

For example, the height restriction (36 feet maximum) means that the new library and Apple’s corporate headquarters would be in violation. The Senior Center and the new Peet’s Coffee/Panera Bread building would violate the setback restriction (35 feet minimum). These are not urban skyscrapers by any means. It’s not too often you find a Chamber of Commerce and the Sierra Club on the same side of an issue. They are both against Measures A, B, and C, as are virtually every elected official in Cupertino. I’m with them.

Today was the second day of the grand opening celebration at the de Young Museum, and it was in full swing. Ben and I planned to meet at 10 AM, but when I got there, I found no parking within the park and settled for the new parking garage underneath the Music Concourse. It ended up being $15 for 4 hours — painful, but worth not circling the park for an hour. Then I got in line, which at the time stretched from the museum entrance all the way out to 8th Ave and JFK Drive, about 200 yards. A volunteer guessed it would take about 1½ hours, but it ended up being “only” 45 minutes, and granted, the line moved faster than I expected.

There is so much to see at the museum that we chose to concentrate our visit in three areas: the tower, where you get great views of the city; the special exhibition on Hatshepsut, the only female pharoah of ancient Egypt; and American paintings from the 18th and 19th centuries. I really enjoyed the Hudson River School and trompe-l’oeil paintings, but there were a few pieces of contemporary art that also caught my eye, including a stainless steel “fake rock” by Zhan Wang. As for the building itself, it’s very unusual, but in a good way (IMHO). I hope the copper holds up in the salt air… [photos]

Normally, my taste in architecture is traditional, but I’ve been trying to broaden my range. For example, San Jose’s new City Hall, which had its grand opening today, is decidedly modernist: clean lines and an absence of ornament. This is no surprise given the architect, Richard Meier. But it is an impressive space: the all-glass rotunda is striking, as are the views from the 18th floor, the tallest vantage point in the city. Dare I say, it’s a good place to bring visitors from out of town. Now if only the surrounding downtown blocks could get spiffed up a bit… [photos]

A miracle happens: Kepler's Books is saved! And in a timely article, the San Jose Mercury News describes how several independent bookstores have adapted to survive the chain bookstore and Internet era, including the Berkeley institution Cody's taking the gutsy move of opening a branch in Union Square.

My mom and I went to see the Fleet Week air show today, including the Blue Angels. What a show! The weather was perfect, and the view was great from Crissy Field, with plenty of parking at the Main Post in the Presidio. I haven’t seen the Blue Angels for about nine years, so I’d forgotten how much fun they are to watch. Even some of my photos and videos came out.

Also, we took some not-so-popular streets within the city, to try to dodge traffic going to Fleet Week, or the Columbus Day parade, or the golf tournament at Harding Park, or the Colts vs. 49ers game, skirting Laguna Honda Hospital on the way there and Diamond Heights on the way back. Let’s just say I went through parts of San Francisco I’d never seen before.

On Saturday, Jonathan and I went to the grand opening of the Vasona Light Rail line, which runs from downtown San Jose to Campbell [photos]. It was packed. At 11, they started the speeches. I leaned over and saw the schedule — there were a lot of politicians lining up for their turn. We decide to skip the chitchat and ride the trains themselves. First, from the Downtown Campbell station, we headed north. The train was faster than I expected; it was a smooth ride, and as Jon pointed out, a lot quieter than BART. (Granted, it’s also slower.) We got off at the Convention Center station, then waited about 20 minutes to take a Winchester train back. We took it to the end of the line, and then arrived back at the downtown Campbell stop at 12:30. And they were still talking.

But soon they were done, and then we hit the free food stands (grad student instincts). But it was a little chaotic, so we didn’t get enough for lunch. Instead, we went to nearby Sam’s Barbeque. Jon immediately decided on the beef brisket, which brings back good memories for him, while I went for the pork shoulder. That’s mighty good eatin’!

A follow-up: Looks like the new light rail line is off to a good start.

An updated list of grand openings I’m keeping my eye on:

[Logo for Cupertino's 50th Anniversary Celebration]Yesterday I went to the festival celebrating Cupertino’s Golden Jubilee at the Civic Center. I spent most of my time at “History Lane,” which had nice exhibits on Cupertino’s past, starting from the Ohlone Indians, through Elisha “Stevens Creek” Stephens, the vineyards, the orchards, the Cali Bros. Mill, and finally the development boom of the 1960s and 70s. A lot of people crowded around the aerial photos capturing that development. [photos] By the way, it’s scary to think that my family has lived in Cupertino for almost one-third of its existence as a city.

Two weeks ago, Michael and his two brothers joined me in the grand opening of the Guadalupe River Park. It’s a somewhat odd juxtaposition of greenery, urban and suburban landscape, and the sounds of jets landing at San Jose International Airport, but it is a nice respite in the heart of San Jose, and I’m sure it’s much better than what was there before. [photos] After all the talking I’ve heard over the years, I was glad to finally see it finished. Sort of.It turns out that the section between Julian Street and Coleman Avenue is bisected by a railroad, and it was closed off at the railroad the next day while a bypass was being planned. Meanwhile, another section between Santa Clara and San Fernando Streets was also closed off the next day for Highway 87 construction. Also, not all of the signs have been put in yet, which led us astray a few times. But it was a nice day and there was a huge turnout.

The next week, I shoved my bicycle into the back seat of my car and drove to downtown, where I rode in as much of the Guadalupe River Park as I could, and then went over to the Los Gatos Creek Trail, which stretches from Willow Glen, through Campbell and Los Gatos, to the Lexington Reservoir. [photos] This is an ideal bike trail for me: nice scenery, relatively flat, long, and virtually no cross traffic. Did I mention it’s flat? It also passes through a few large parks, and in Oak Meadow Park, I saw something I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of before: a miniature railroad. The Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad was opened in 1943 and inspired Walt Disney to build his own miniature railroad in Disneyland. Fun for the whole family! And the trains were packed.

Instead of going up to the reservoir, I decided to stop in downtown Los Gatos. I browsed through the History Museum of Los Gatos, located in Forbes Mill Annex, ate lunch at Pizza My Heart, and then headed back. At the end of the trail in Willow Glen, I couldn’t take much more cycling, so I biked over to the Tamien light rail station and took it through downtown San Jose, and then biked back to my car, shaving about 4 miles. It was worth it, especially since I brought my Eco Pass — no fare needed! Woohoo!

Kepler’s Books might not be doomed after all. A group of investors is trying to help Clark Kepler save the bookstore his father founded 50 years ago.

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