Archive for the ‘Northside’ Category

Northside neighborhood celebrates restored bocce courts

Bocce court

Two of three bocce courts at Backesto Park have been restored.

The Northside Neighborhood Association celebrated recent improvements to the bocce courts at Backesto Park with a bocce lunch party yesterday. Unfortunately the event was scheduled before the US made it in to the World Cup round of 16, playing at exactly the same time, which might partly explain the modest attendance.

The Luna Park Business District, composed of businesses located along North Thirteenth Street in the Northside, held a mixer event at the bocce courts on Friday. The Luna Park businesses, especially Chiaramonte’s Deli, have made significant contributions to recent work on the courts, and have volunteered to help with future maintenance. Chiaramonte’s also provided lunch for the NNA event yesterday.

After the courts were threatened with removal due to underuse, as we reported in April, a group of volunteers from the Northside got together to restore the courts and make them playable again. Two of the court surfaces were cleaned up with a new layer of crushed oyster shells, and sun shades were erected over the two ends of one of the three courts. All in all, NNA president Chuck Hagenmeier estimates over 100 volunteer hours went into the project.

The results are impressive. Courts that had been weedy, cracked, and flaking are now as smooth as a slate pool table, and eye-searingly white and clean. New users such as a Special Olympics group are coming forward, and the improved court surface should make the courts more appealing to casual pick-up players. The courts are available for use by the public at no charge. The keys to the courts and a set of balls can be borrowed from the nearby Bronco’s Mexican Restaurant or Chiaramonte’s Deli, with the deposit of a drivers license or credit card, during regular business hours.

Fate of Backesto Park bocce courts up in the air

Bocce courts in Backesto Park

Bocce courts in Backesto Park have become overgrown and dilapidated.

The fate of three bocce courts in the Northside’s Backesto Park came up for discussion this evening as part of ongoing discussions of improvements to the park. The courts were renovated a little over 10 years ago, with a traditional natural oyster shell surface. At the time these were the only free public bocce courts in San Jose, although courts have been added in a couple of other city parks since then. The courts were initially tended by a dedicated group of players in the Northside Bocce Club, but after a few years several of the players dropped out due to advancing age, and the courts were not maintained. Now weeds and moss grow from the cracked and uneven courts, and few players come to use them.

Now the city has some hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on capital improvements to Backesto Park (but barely a dime for maintenance) and with the bocce courts fallen into disuse, the possibility of replacing them with some other amenity that would benefit more users had come up for consideration.

At tonight’s meeting, hosted by District 3 councilman Sam Liccardo and his staff, close to two dozen bocce players and enthusiasts came to show support for retaining the bocce courts, possibly with some improvements. The diversity of the participants was encouraging: There were parishioners from the nearby Holy Cross church, a representative from an Italian-American heritage organization, and a coach/educator connected to Special Olympics, among others all interested in using the courts.

The bulk of the discussion revolved around making the courts more accessible. Currently the key to the locked gate to the courts (and a set of bocce balls) can be borrowed from one of two local businesses, Bronco’s Restaurant or Chiaramonte’s Deli, but there’s no signs saying so, and you’d only know how to get the key if you already know how to get the key. Many participants suggested opening the gates during the day and locking them each night, but nobody proposed who would actually do the locking and unlocking, and nobody volunteered to take the job themselves.

Liccardo earned my respect at the end of the meeting when he pointed out that whatever improvements are made with the available capital money, maintenance will only be possible with volunteer help, and that real commitments from individuals or organizations for that maintenance will be needed before investing in refurbishing the courts makes sense.

Just met the new neighbors…

Walking a few blocks to the grocery this evening, I saw two “new families” in the neighborhood. Has anyone else been seeing a lot of these guys lately?

Los Banditos del Northside

Luna Park Chalk Art Festival

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Sharyn Chan Namnath and Andrea Johnston painted this chalk mural, sponsored by the 13th Street Cats rescue group.

Today the Luna Park Business Association hosted the second annual Luna Park Chalk Art Festival in Backesto Park. At least a couple of dozen artists got together to paint sidewalk murals with chalk and pastels. The artists ranged from chalk art festival circuit riders Wayne and Cheryl Renshaw and well-known local muralist Paul J. Gonzalez, to enthusiastic high school and elementary school artists.

Meanwhile, accordionist Mike Zampiceni and dancers from Movimiento Cosmic Aztec provided entertainment, and North 13th Street restaurants served refreshments. The event drew plenty of visitors, and there was always a crowd admiring each of the artworks.

The Renshaw’s work was particularly fascinating as they used computer image manipulation to create an image with proportions adjusted to look natural when foreshortened by viewing from an angle. Viewed from most directions the image is distorted and surreal, but viewed from directly below their soccer playing figures become surprisingly lifelike and almost seem to stand out from the sidewalk.

Soccer player mural by Wayne and Cheryl Renshaw

Soccer player mural by Wayne and Cheryl Renshaw

Paul J. Gonzalez Chalk

Northside’s National Night Out

Officer Sanchez had goodies for the kids.

A couple of photos from the National Night Out event in the Northside.


San Jose Grocery History

Gurus Market today.

Guru's Market today.

I was recently pointed at a discussion thread on Yelp!, on the topic of the proposed Little Italy district somewhere near downtown San Jose. The post that caught my eye was near the top, where Anthony B. says “Gurus liquor store was the first grocery store in San Jose, Jeoy Francos PW, and it was Italian owned.” Earlier investigation had led to the information that the Guru’s Liquor building was built in 1934 by the same contractor who had earlier built my house, back in the 1910’s; so I wanted to find out if he had really also built San Jose’s first grocery store, and started the Joey Franco’s chain that’s still around today.

Unfortunately, it turns out Anthony B.’s claim isn’t quite true, but there is an interesting story connecting the building and the Franco family.

First, this wasn’t a Joey Franco’s PW Market. As the story is told on the PW Markets community page, Joey Franco started out in the grocery business working for his cousins, the brothers Henry and Joseph Franco, at their Franco Brothers Markets. The 13th and Washington Street store was one of theirs, and it was known as Franco’s 13th Street Market.

Second, this wasn’t the first grocery store in San Jose. It wasn’t even Franco Brothers’ first store. Visiting the California Room at the San Jose Public Library to review the old city directories, I found out that as early as 1925 they had a store on Santa Clara Street. It might have moved in the interim, but in 1932 they were located at 5th and Santa Clara, a site that is now, I guess, buried beneath City Hall. One of the key selling points was their own “$25,000 Ice Cream Factory”. They built the 13th Street store in 1934, and by 1945 they had added a third store on The Alameda. They were still listed in the directory in 1950, but by 1960 Franco Brothers were out of business.

So, what’s now Guru’s Market and Liquors wasn’t actually San Jose’s first grocery, and it wasn’t Joey Franco’s PW Market; but it was Italian-owned and in the Franco family. And that’s still a nice piece of San Jose history to keep in mind.

Francos Thirteenth Street Market, circa 1945.

Franco's Thirteenth Street Market, circa 1945.

Northside Photo Show at Joyce Ellington Library

Shots in the 'Hood will be shown from March 18 to April 1. Photo: Liv Ames.

Shots in the 'Hood will be shown from March 18 to April 1. Photo: Liv Ames.

Local photographer Liv Ames’ photographs of life in the Northside will be shown at Joyce Ellington Branch Library in a show called “Shots in the ‘Hood”. The show will be opened with a coffee reception Wednesday night, March 18, from 6 to 8 pm, and runs for two weeks, ending April 1.

I’ve been running in to Ames around town as I go to the kind of events and gatherings that I’ve posted about here, so I expect the show to focus on neighborhood life, and I’m expecting to see some excellent photography.

Joyce Ellington Branch Library is at 491 East Empire Street, just north of downtown San Jose. The branch was established in 1977 as the Empire Branch Library, largely due to tireless work by neighborhood leader Joyce Ellington. The branch was renamed for Ellington in 2001, and fully renovated in 2008, making it one of the highlights of the Northside neighborhood.

Air powered rockets from the Northside in Make:

photo: Gabriela Hasbun/Make

photo: Gabriela Hasbun/Make Magazine

San Jose Northsider Rick Shertle’s article “Compressed Air Rocket”, originally published a few months ago in Make: Magazine Volume 15, just appeared on the Make Blog, where anyone can read it. Shertle gives plans and instructions to build a launcher and rocket that can fly 200 to 300 feet, using paper, pvc pipe, and a few other parts you can get at the hardware store.

The only note of caution from some of the commenters: after the launcher is used a few times, the pvc pipe can become weaker, and eventually it might fail explosively. Be sure to wrap the pipe in duct tape as instructed in the article.

Joyce Ellington repair work underway

Repair work at the Joyce Ellington branch library.

Repair work at the Joyce Ellington branch library.

On my way to work this morning I saw that repair work has begun on the Joyce Ellington branch library building in the Northside. The building was damaged on Sept. 7 or 8 when a police chase ended with the fugitive crashing into the southeast corner.

Given the need (I hope) for a competitive bid process to hire the repair workers, and the likely state of city finances, I’m impressed that they’ve gotten started working on this just a month after the damage happened.

Northside development

The owner of this house wants to demolish it and four other units on the property to build new houses.

The owner of this house wants to demolish it and four other units on the property to build new houses.

A proposed property development at the corner of N 15th St and Berryessa Rd has caught the attention of nnasj, and was also a discussion topic at tonight’s 13th Street Neighborhood Advisory Committee (NAC) meeting. The property owner wants to demolish five homes, currently rental units, and build in their place four new detached homes.

The property currently contains two Spanish-style bungalows, one of which has three attached apartments. The courtyard between the two buildings is paved and used for parking. The three apartments look to be incredibly small, maybe only one or two rooms each, and built with minimal architectural detail at minimum cost. The two bungalows, though, presumably are considerably older, and have the kind of style that would make them terrifically desirable if they were only freshly painted and located in Willow Glen.

The owner wants to knock all of that down and replace it with four contemporary two-story houses. In a neighborhood dominated by bungalows, the planning department have somehow concluded that the impact of this change on the “existing visual character or quality of the site and its surroundings” would be “less than significant”, which is at least a highly debatable conclusion.

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