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Friday, May 29, 2009

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May 2009
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Neighborhood improvement program makes progress and tries for new goals
By Stephen Baxter Seven years and $2.7 billion into a city program intended to improve 19 neighborhoods in San Jose, an independent report has been released that touts the success of the Strong Neighborhoods Initiative. The report was prepared for the Redevelopment Agency of the city of San Jose by San Francisco-based Seifel Consulting Inc. More than 50 community and youth facilities have been built through the initiative, and five neighborhoods in the Willow Glen, West San Jose and Rose Garden areas have seen some positive changes. The initiative intends to make neighborhoods cleaner, safer and more prosperous in the long term, and city leaders behind the program say they are encouraged with its progress. "SNI is a 30-year plan, and we're coming up on seven years," said Richard Keit, the city's director of neighborhood and business development. "Each area is reviewing their Top 10 priorities, and sometimes they're the same" as their original goals, he said. Roughly $755 million in city funds has been pumped in to the program, and more than $1.96 billion has come from private investments and development interests, according to the report. More projects are still in the works, including efforts to calm traffic, plant trees and increase affordable housing. Delmas Park is one of the smaller SNI areas in San Jose, and leaders of its neighborhood action coalition said it wasn't even identifiable as a neighborhood until the city program started. It is bounded by Highway 87, Interstate 280, Bird Avenue and the Los Gatos Creek. Because of its proximity to downtown, many visitors to the Children's Discovery Museum and other places parked in the neighborhood and shut out residents. A residential parking program was introduced, and it has helped, according to the report. Parts of Delmas Park area were zoned for more high-rise housing, but the neighborhood coalition successfully lobbied city leaders to scale back the

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high-density zoning near Bird Avenue. The change preserved some ordinary single-family houses and limited some growth there. The neighborhood coalition's next task will be to try to slow traffic, and city traffic engineers are now working with neighborhood leaders on some possible solutions. "SNI showed us that we could have a future that treasures and protects our older homes and welcomes new development," said Kathy Sutherland in the report. She is a former chairwoman of the Delmas Park Neighborhood Action Coalition and now works in Councilwoman Nancy Pyle's office. "Before the SNI program, there wasn't a Delmas Park neighborhood," she said. In the Blackford neighborhood in West San Jose, some residents' initial goals of better street lighting and more options for youth recreation have been met. The area is roughly bounded by San Tomas Expressway and Payne, Saratoga and Blackford avenues. "SNI helped in resolving some longtime neighborhood issues like installation of storm drains, traffic calming and improved lighting, to name a few," said Blackford NAC vice president Mack Johansen in the report. In the Burbank/Del Monte neighborhood, private housing developments have made some significant changes since 2000. The area roughly covers the Los Gatos Creek to Interstate 880 from Forest to Fruitdale avenues. There have been nine new housing developments and eight new commercial projects worth about $496 million since the SNI program began. The neighborhood has less open space and parks than other areas of the city, so one of the initiative's successes was developing Buena Vista Park and its tot lot. A new park also is expected to be built near condominiums under construction on Auzerais Avenue and the Los Gatos Creek. Led by San Jose City Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio, the city council recently approved a dog run at a future park there, but the facility's details have not been decided. Neighbors are now looking to improve sidewalks, curbs and lighting to better link the area to downtown.
Silicon Valley Community Newspapers | 1095 The Alameda, San Jose, CA 95126 | Phone: 408.200.1000 | Fax: 408.200.1011 Copyright MediaNews

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