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by Yolanda Reynolds • September 29, 2008

It was almost 6 months after the very first meeting that we had our second gathering that had been requested by Shasta Ave resident, Ron Ruiz. Upon notification of another neighborhood meeting, our Council person, Nancy Ianni, said she would be there as would her aide Linda Crabill and then San Jose City Manager, Gerald Newfarmer.

Almost 75 neighbors came and with that number we had to gather in our backyard. With this meeting we were made aware of the extent of the needs in our lovely but somewhat neglected neighborhood. As previously mentioned, traffic was a major concern; speed, cut through commuters hurrying to work and reports of serious auto accidents.   How could we deal with these problems?

It was at that gathering that we were surprised to hear that a high rise was planned for the Alameda at the intersection with Julian. Mary Sweeny who lived near the Alameda and still lives there not only informed us of the proposed development but had, in hand, the grand design of that planned development. It was an impressive high rise that had the effect of an arrow shot through the neighborhood.

The nightmarish image of increased traffic and noise, a building whose design was incompatible with the nearby businesses and homes certainly reinforced our desire to address the concerns of the neighborhood!  The planned high rise inspired us to immediately ask how to reverse the plan. It would be a daunting task but we let our Council person Ianni and the city manager, understand that this was a structure we DID NOT want in our neighborhood.

Insufficient or non existent street lighting was another matter that came up, as did the seemingly ineffective and sporadic code enforcement. We pointed out that there was a need for more police officers in our neighborhood to enforce traffic speed limits.

With neighbors from the surrounding streets at our second meeting there was verification of those same concerns raised at the initial gathering persisted throughout the entire neighborhood. This second, very lively meeting began at 9 am and lasted until noon.

Mr. Newfarmer told me that he had grown up on Shasta Ave. at 1618. In that, I do believe that we were very fortunate as Mr. Newfarmer seemed to still have an attachment to the neighborhood.

City manager, Gerald Newfarmer promised to lend staff time to look into the issues we had raised with the intent of helping us find solutions.

After that meeting, I found myself frequently asked by city officials for my opinion on matters related to the neighborhood. With all the attention that we had sought and were getting it became clear to me that my thoughts and opinions, alone, were inadequate. I discussed my discomfort with Ms. Ianni who was most gracious and understanding and she put me in touch with the Joan Doss, then President of the Willow Glen Neighborhood Association who in turn introduced me to Bobbie Fischler, the president of the Campus Community ( Naglee Park Campus Community). Both of these Associations had been instrumental in effecting major improvements to their respective neighborhoods. The Campus Community Association was suffering from a number of very serious problems two of which were major, one was many (too many) poorly maintained group homes in what were once stately family dwellings built at the turn of the century and many traffic related problems. These were unfettered student parking throughout the neighborhood and constant noisy traffic through the neighborhood which is located right next to San Jose State University.

Both Joan Doss and Bobbie Fischler shared with me their experiences in working with City Hall, especially in how they proceeded ahead and installed the impressive traffic plan (still in place) within the Campus Community. Besides that invaluable help, Joan Doss was most gracious and shared the Willow Glen Neighborhood Association’s bylaws with our fledgling group.

With so much to work to do and decisions to make it became clear that it would be wise to call a meeting to discuss the formation of an Association. That meeting 3rd meeting took place at the Rosegarden library that fall. There were so many neighbors in attendance that we almost exceeded the fire marshals’ limit for the “Community Meeting Room”. I was armed with the by laws and an overhead to go over the bylaws.

Fortunately, that got nowhere fast. The late Rocky Rotondo nominated me to be president and suggested that from those in attendance a selection should be made of volunteers to serve on a board which would convene to determine the specifics of the bylaws. Another neighbor, Al Alves, now well over 90 who still resides in his home on Shasta Ave. and now as then most knowledgeable regarding local government, suggested that donations be made to pay for postage and other incidentals in order for the board to communicate with the Association members. All these suggestions were approved by those in attendance. Enough money was collected to assure a monthly news letter.

It was agreed at that first meeting to adopt the name of Shasta/Hanchett Park Neighborhood Association primarily because these two streets served as the “neighborhood collector streets”.

At that meeting other concerns surfaced such as the excessive noise and sometimes low flying aircraft from and to the San Jose Airport.  Another was the horrific conditions surrounding the Safeway Grocery Store and the entire center. Before the meeting adjourned, those wanting to be involved and informed were asked to sign on with their contact information. The meeting adjourned at noon with almost every person present  able to address issues or concerns on or nearby their homes.

The newly formed Association had a huge agenda and though there was much to do we all felt it WOULD get it done or we would know the reason why!!

Many happy surprises awaited our venture as well as one very threatening development plan. The Board agreed to have a monthly meeting, produce a newsletter, issue each Board member business cards and conduct a canvas of all the neighborhood streets then encompassed by the Association,

Next installment: the surprises.