From the archives
City of San Jose was planned in secret — in smoke-filled back rooms
Millions, perhaps billions, were made by a select few as California’s first city grew into the largest city in the San Francisco Bay Area in an octopus-like spurt during the 50’s and 60’s
The names at the end of this story, pulled from the San Jose library archives, will tell you all you need to know about this race for absolute power, ill-planned growth and vast wealth
When I was a young reporter in 1973, I noticed something strange about San Jose.
When I arrived, fresh from Southern California and Vietnam journalism adventures, there were numerous reports in the news about a moratorium of construction in one of America’s fastest-growing cities.
Of course, as a curious reporter and new to this territory, I wondered what this was all about.
When I was assigned to cover the city of Cupertino on the west side of San Jose, I learned that the city – and others — were formed as San Jose was expanding aggressively and was looking to make Cupertino part of San Jose.
Reporters are trained to look for anomalies because when things seem out of order, there is usually a story behind it.
I wanted to tell the story. The editors – now long gone — did not. Now the story can be told (sorry – couldn’t help myself).
One thing I noticed was that San Jose streets often change names abruptly and do not continue on as the same street — a small but curious item.
Also, I noticed that San Jose had approved construction on top of a landslide on the east side of town. Not only that but San Jose was building on known earthquake rupture zones. Today they are still doing it
In those days, 40 years ago, the only “market” in Evergreen, my part of town, was a 7-Eleven on the corner of a Aborn and San Felipe roads. What was strange about this was there was no sidewalk or no curb and gutter, instead only an asphalt berm. It was owned by a top city official.
When I had a chance, I gathered information on these anomalies. I continued to collect information over the years and from time to time would approach an editor about the story.
But I could not tell the story. On all occasions I was rebuffed and one editor just laughed at me.
There was a reason for all of this I learned later and that is the subject of this report.
While I was still working on this, I learned that a student at San Jose State University was working on the same information. His name was Mitchell Mandich and his thesis was entitled “The growth and development of San Jose, California – social, political, and economic considerations.”
Mr. Mandich’s thesis runs more than 200 pages and reveals what happened to make this city’s growth beyond its ability to provide some basic services one of the oddest in the San Francisco Bay Area.
This is what the introduction to his 1975 thesis says:
“Santa Clara Valley, once one of the most beautiful valleys in the world, now lies beneath concrete, asphalt, and smog. A dominant sprawling metropolis covers much of the valley floor, and the beauty that initially attracted migrants to the area no longer exists. Dominant economic forces in the public and private sector pushed the Valley toward development and the pervasiveness of these interests exert strong, and perhaps nonnegotiable pressures for development. However the policies and practices of the San Jose city government also did much to ensure the destruction of the natural environment. At the onset of the spectacular growth during the 1950s, municipal government embraced the belief that growth was beneficial to the community.”
Much can be said on this subject.
But the telling details can be told in the membership of the so called “Book of the Month Club.” Its members:
Steve Dorsa: Operated major gravel business
Ray Blackmore: San Jose Chief of Police
Roy M. Butcher: electric utilities contractor (also on planning commission)
Arch McDonald: Savings and Loan
William Elbert: pipeline construction president
Dan Caputo: Land Developer (also on planning commission)
Leo Piazza: owner paving company
Patrick Regan: paving company executive
Bo Raisch: paving company owner
Al Raisch: paving company owner
Leo Ruth: civil engineer and zoning consultant
Jack Going: Owner of Ruth and Going, civil engineers
Earl Freitas: Bank of America
George Siegfried: subdivider
George Myren: Title company
Paul Potts: Title company
George Honore: President of San Jose Steel
Clifford Swenson: road and building contractor
Charles Quinn: Realtor and developer
Victor J. Lo Bue: speculator, developer and subdeveloper
Al Ruffo: Zoning attorney, city councilman
Howard Campen: county planning
Anthony P. Hamann, city manager
And (drum roll, please) Joe Ridder, publisher San Jose Mercury-News
(Source: Mayfair, 1/25/64)