Planning the Beautiful Way

I take El Camino Real as it is. As long as it is and as storied I accept that parts of it are going to be funky, unattractive, or even downright depressing. Yet for all its sketchy stretches still there are delightful oases. I freely admit that my favorite slice of El Camino is The Alameda.

The Alameda is three miles long and spans from downtown San Jose to the Santa Clara border, roughly from HP Pavilion to Santa Clara University. Alameda is a Spanish word meaning tree-lined boulevard and traveling south on El Camino that’s the impression you get as soon as you cross Interstate 880. With its lush canopy of green and its historic buildings The Alameda has an elegant yet quaint and intimate character which sets it apart from neighboring stretches.

The Alameda, trees

The residents and businesses on The Alameda know they’re special. After all they had the cheek years ago to change their name. “El Camino Real” is good enough for 597 miles of the road, but for three miles The Alameda has to be different. In Spanglish, no less. I don’t mean to imply that they have a superiority complex. Rather they’ve long recognized their street’s unique appeal and sought to maximize its capital potential with a name change, like a Hollywood starlet taking on a more glamorous identity. They’ve got it, so they flaunt it.

For all its charm though The Alameda is not perfect so its stakeholders are doing something about it. In particular there are concerns about how safe and inviting it is to get to, from, up, and down the street, and how to preserve its historic heritage while growing and thriving. A coalition of residents, businesses, and non-profits has received a $250,000 grant from the California Department of Transportation and is working with the San Jose Redevelopment Agency to generate a 10-year plan for the Alameda immodestly titled The Alameda: A Plan for “The Beautiful Way.”

The Redevelopment Agency web site says:

Key elements of the final plan will include:

  • Walkability (including safe crosswalks)
  • Traffic calming
  • Pedestrian and bicycle access from the neighborhoods
  • Preservation
  • Promotion of the historic character of The Alameda
  • Transit integration including improved links to the Diridon Station

This project is community-driven so to engage said community there will be a series of public meetings. The San Jose Mercury News reports that the first meeting was August 19 at Westminster Presbyterian Church and the next one is scheduled for September 1 at 7:00 PM at the Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center. I have not confirmed this event and I have seen conflicting dates so if you plan to go, you might want to double-check its details. Update: confirmed!

Regrettably I missed the first one so I’ll try to attend the upcoming meetings and of course report on them here. My natural tendency is to be a lurker but who knows, I may challenge myself to bring a few ideas to the table.

I hope that these community meetings will generate some great ideas to preserve what makes my favorite tree-lined avenue so especial.

Update: A representative of the San Jose Redevelopment Agency has confirmed that this meeting is indeed happening as reported. The next meeting is September 30.

The Alameda Transportation Project Community Meeting

Tuesday, September 1, 2009 7:00PM Confirmed! [update]
Billy DeFrank Silicon Valley LGBT Community Center
938 The Alameda, San Jose, CA 95126
(408) 293-3040

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