Monday, April 22, 2019

Viva Calle 2019 Part 1 - "Downtown and Eastbound" on May 19th

One of my favorite events of the year returns is returning in a big way. During Viva Calle SJ, miles of city streets will be completely shut down to let people walk, run, bike, or skateboard down the streets of San Jose. For 2019, the event will take place twice! The first event is on May 19th and the second will take place sometime in September.

Viva Calle features multiple activity hubs which are basically festivals-within-a-festival that highlight the local area. For part 1, the activity hubs will be at St. James Park, Parque de los Pabladores in SoFA, and Emma Prusch Farm. You can expect live music, vendors, food, activities, bike parking, and good times at all three hubs. In between the activity hubs you will still find all sorts of interesting stops, hydration stations, and stores. Last year over 100,000 people attended the event.

The route will extend from Emma Prusch to near Willow Glen. At the intersection of Keyes St. (Story Rd.) and 1st St., you will be able to take 1st/Market St. all the way to the St. James Park area.

Viva Calle 2019 "Downtown and Eastbound" takes place on Sunday, May 19th from 10am to 3pm (streets are closed until 4pm). It is completely free and has no designated beginning or end as it's not a race. It is not clear yet if PokemonGo will be integrated into the event like the previous two years. You can use the handy map below to locate the routes and festivities. For more info, head over here. Hope to see you there!


Thursday, April 18, 2019

San Jose Wayfinding Project

The SJ Economy Blog has some interesting information on a Wayfinding Project for San Jose. The goal is to provide block-by-block guidance to Downtown visitors.

One of the big challenges Downtown faces is that there are many districts that are poorly connected with dead space in between them--empty store fronts, parking lots, etc. Thankfully, the Knight Foundation funded a project to help overcome this key issue and city staff is working on implementing some of the proposals.

The first phase of the program will focus on delivering navigation totems throughout Downtown at key intersections. It will cover a ten-minute walking radius and the first totems will be placed along San Carlos between the convention center and SJSU. It will help visitors and students branch out into other parts of Downtown.

The totems for now will unfortunately be static, which is inconvenient as Downtown is changing very rapidly. I was hoping for interactive screens that would be better suited for the "Capital of Silicon Valley" and perhaps direct people to events happening that day or allow for integrating creative art or even location-based games. At least there will likely be a mobile way-finding element at some point.

For more info, check out the link below or check out the Knight Foundation report.

Source: SJ Economy Blog





Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Santana Row Summer Fashion Show

Below is the press release for Santana Row's most popular event of the year. Tickets often sell out, so if you are interested it would be a good idea to buy them early.

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On Saturday, June 8 at 2 p.m. Santana Row’s most popular annual event, the Summer Fashion Show, returns to showcase the coolest looks for a hot summer in the most summery of spots – Santana Row Park. This professional runway show will benefit The Princess Project, an organization that collects dresses and gives them to teens all over California to make sure everyone feels like a princess at prom. Participating retailers include:

  • Free People
  • Kendra Scott
  • Tea Collection
  • Ted Baker
  • Anthropologie
  • Everything But Water
  • …and more Santana Row retailers!

Tickets are $50 and include seating at the runway show, access to the on-site style boutique, champagne and wine, light hors d’oeuvres, a Passion for Fashion shopping card with exclusive incentives and post-show soirees. Tickets are now on sale online, and inside the Santana Row Concierge. 


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Bay Area Michelin Star Restaurants - 2019 Edition

The Michelin guide is the most renowned rubric in the world for measuring culinary success. Unfortunately, we have some bad news this year. San Jose's first and only Michelin Star restaurant, Adega in Little Portugal, lost its star after holding the honor for two years. It's unclear why, although it is still featured in the guide as a recommended restaurant.

Michelin has three different star categories:
  • One Star - A very good restaurant in its category with cuisine prepared to a consistently high standard. A good place to stop on your journey.
  • Two Stars - Excellent cuisine, skillfully and carefully crafted dishes of outstanding quality. Worth a detour.
  • Three Stars - Exceptional cuisine with distinctive dishes and superlative ingredients. Worth a special journey.
There are also restaurants in the Michelin guide that do not get a star, but are considered "Michelin Recommended." This is already a significant honor that a very small percentage of restaurants achieve. Within this category San Jose scored a total of 8 restaurants, which is up two from last year (one is Adega). Luna Mexican Kitchen on the Alameda is the newcomer. Fortunately we we did not lose any Michelin recommended restaurants this year.


San Jose Michelin Recommended Restaurants:
  • Downtown
    • Back A Yard
  • East San Jose
    • Adega
  • Midtown
    • Luna Mexican Kitchen
    • Din Tai Fung
    • Walia
  • South San Jose
    • Thien Long
    • Lau Hai San
  • Camden
    • Zeni

I also created a Google doc listing all of the star recipients for 2019, along with tabs for all previous years and some general statistics. Below is an image capture from the doc. This year there were a total of 57 restaurants that were awarded Michelin stars, which is up 2 from last year and an all-time high for the Bay Area. 63% of the restaurants are locating in SF, 18% in Silicon Valley (split evenly between the South Bay and the Peninsula), 16% in Wine Country, 2% in the East Bay, and 2% in Marin. This is the first time ever where Silicon Valley has more Michelin Star restaurants than Wine Country. There are 5 new restaurants on the list for 2019 and 3 that did not make the cut or were closed down. The only new starred restaurant on the list from Silicon Valley is Protege in Palo Alto.

Source: Michelin Guide

Monday, April 15, 2019

"A Spoonful of Sherman" U.S. Premiere @ 3Below Theaters & Lounge

A great song is always "singable, sellable, and most of all, sincere."

This is the core belief of The Sherman Brothers where we come to love many of their songs including those from Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, Winnie The Pooh, Charlotte's Web, and the infamous, "It's a Small World After All." Nevertheless, "A Spoonful of Sherman" is much more than The Sherman Brothers  - it's about their family.


The San Jose Blog was given an opportunity to talk with Robert J. Sherman, the son of Robert B. Sherman and the nephew of Richard M. ShermanAfter his father passed away in 2012, Robert launched a posthumously biography of his father but thought a book signing wasn't really appropriate. Given this, Robert decided to do a small cabaret show in London with just four cast members and with him as a narrator. With low expectations, Robert did not realize that his show would garner rave reviews including 4 stars from The London Times. Robert worked with a producing partner and reworked the show to what we have today as "A Spoonful of Sherman."




3Below hangs these colorful umbrellas in their lobby to welcome "A Spoonful of Sherman"
Photograph taken and with permission by John Huân Vu.

"A Spoonful of Sherman" is a loving tribute to Robert's family starting from the roots of his grandfather, Al Sherman, to The Sherman Brothers, to his own life as a songwriter and composer today. In addition to 55 songs, the show is narrated by the singers themselves where we follow the family during the Great Depression, the fight in World War II, the successful work under Walt Disney, and their continued legacy to today. The show had its world premiere in the United Kingdom with a tour in the United Kingdom and Ireland. In the future, they are hoping to do a production in South Africa and Singapore.

Nevertheless, it was an honor for Robert when Guggenheim Entertainment reached out to have the United States Premiere at 3Below Theaters and Lounge! Like The Sherman Brothers, it was no coincidence that the brothers and producers of 3Below (Scott Guggenheim and Stephen Guggenheim) really wanted "A Spoonful of Sherman" to be at their theater in San Jose. As Robert puts it, the brothers were persistent!



A close up set of "A Spoonful of Sherman" from Row E
Photograph taken and with permission by John Huân Vu.


The set of "A Spoonful of Sherman" from Theater 3 Entrance
Photograph taken and with permission by John Huân Vu.

Well, the persistence paid off when I had the opportunity to see the show on Sunday, April 14, 2019 at their matinee. The last time I got to see a stage production was "Sondheim on Sondheim" and you can read my article on The San Jose Blog here. The production was significantly different from "Sondheim on Sondheim" where "A Spoonful of Sherman" was focused on a gifted, talented, and close-knitted family.

Although I would consider myself a Disney fan, I was more keen to hearing about the Sherman family and listening to other unknown musical pieces. Fans of Mary Poppins would know its songs including the infamous "A Spoonful of Sugar", "Jolly Holliday", "Feed the Birds", "Step in Time", "Chim Chim Cher-ee", and "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious". With the amazing lighting and set design, the singers were able to narrate the story while bringing all its songs to its fruition. 



Robert J. Sherman talks to the cast and audience after the show of "A Spoonful of Sherman"
Left to Right: Susan Gundunas, F. James Raasch, Barry Koron, Robert J. Sherman, Theresa Swain, Stephen Guggenheim, Shannon Guggenheim
Photograph taken and with permission by John Huân Vu.


For me, there were some songs that stood out. Although he is the main pianist throughout the show, Barry Koron sung "Crunchy Crackers" humorously as a bird from the musical "Love Birds." In honor of one of Al Sherman's work, Theresa Swain sang "Now's the Time to Fall in Love" taking a positive spin during the Great Depression. If you love Winnie the Pooh, you would enjoy the singing and acting of "The Wonderful Thing about Tiggers" done by Shannon Guggenheim. F. James Raasch was able to make us laugh by monkeying around in "I Wanna Be Like You" from "The Jungle Book." Giving life to "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," Stephen Guggenheim lend his opera voice to the song "Hushabye Mountain" with Susan Gundunas expressing her pining love in in "Lovely Lonely Man."


Although some might consider the song "It's a Small World After All" an annoying song, learning about its history, especially at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, brings us the reality of why The Sherman Brothers wrote it. And if you get to see the show, try to hear that one extra verse added and only been shared on "A Spoonful of Sherman."


Robert J. Sherman with the cast of "A Spoonful of Sherman"
Left to Right: Stephen Guggenheim, Shannon Guggenheim, Susan Gundunas, Barry Koron, Robert J. Sherman, Theresa Swain, F. James Raasch 
Photograph taken and with permission by John Huân Vu.


Robert J. Sherman with the cast of "A Spoonful of Sherman"
Left to Right: Stephen Guggenheim, Shannon Guggenheim, Susan Gundunas, Barry Koron, Robert J. Sherman, Theresa Swain, F. James Raasch
Photograph taken and with permission by John Huân Vu.

Although I only covered the tip of the iceberg of "A Spoonful of Sherman," only you can experience the entire production in your own ears, eyes, and heart. Catch a performance today until May 5, 2019 on Thursdays to Sundays by purchasing tickets online at the 3Below Theaters and Lounge website at www.3belowtheaters.com or at their box office at 288 South 2nd Street San Jose, CA, (408) 404-7711. Discount tickets are available for seniors, students, military, and youth. Please note that although it's a family-friendly production, children under the age of 10 may find some parts boring and some parts exciting like "Let's Go Fly a Kite."



Written by John Huân Vu.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Living Spaces opening first San Jose store at Oakridge Mall

The Sears department store location at Westfield Oakridge officially has a successor. Living Spaces, a popular furniture gallery, will be taking 100,000 SQFT from the 140,000 SQFT two-story space. It will be their first store inside of a shopping center in the US--typically they are massive stand-alone stores similar to IKEA. It's not clear what Westfield Oakridge plans to do with the other 40,000 SQFT Sears is leaving behind.

This will be the very first Living Spaces in Santa Clara County. The closest one to San Jose today is in Fremont.

Source: SVBJ


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

April 2019 Downtown Dimension Highlights

The latest addition of Downtown Dimension features one of the most significant decisions in Downtown history--increased building heights. This clears the path to 300+ ft tall buildings Downtown and greater incentives for developers to invest in San Jose. In addition to the highlights below, Downtown has it's first true Persian restaurant at 205 N. Fourth St. and two new craft coffee bars. More details below:


The APRIL 2019 Downtown Dimension is now available at: https://sjdowntown.com/wp_2016/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/DTDAPRIL2019.pdf In this edition:
  • Downtowners celebrate a City Council decision that allows downtown buildings to go higher than before, an SJDA advocacy initiative that took 12 years to complete and a city initiative that should provide economic boost to downtown and the airport. 
  • The Successor Agency has almost completely dismantled the former San Jose Redevelopment Agency, now down to just a few remaining assets.
  • Google continues to buy on the west side -- now up to 54 acres.
  • Owners of larger downtown buildings must begin complying with a new ordinance meant to reduce energy and water use.
  • Among the new businesses and offices opening in San Jose, say hello to AARP and Stone Stew Persian restaurant.
  • Have you subscribed to the new-look Downtowner Online yet?  The Downtowner helps San Joseans make plans for the week and weekend ahead. Subscribe by sending a note to sjda@sjdowntown.com
Here's an invitation to attend SJDA's next public meeting, April 12, 8-9:30 a.m. at The Glass House. Main topic:  Mitigating homelessness downtown. Please rsvp to sjdarsvp@sjdowntown.com

Also for your information:
  • Maps of downtown commercial property availability and development proposals.
  • Boom City: SJDA's summary of new downtown building proposals and west side acquisitions.

Downtown Dimension is a leading source for information about downtown San Jose news, events and businesses.  Subscribe with a simple email to sjda@sjdowntown.com, subject line:  Subscribe.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Sofar Event - Singer Christina LaRocca on April 12th

Sofar is an interesting and unique concept where three-act musical events take place in secret locations including people's homes and retail stores. It's a great way to meet new people and brings a new level of intimacy to performances by aspiring musicians. Below is a short video that explains the concept.



We have one such event coming up in San Jose on April 12th featuring soulful singer songwriter Christina LaRocca. She is doing an international tour before launching her album "Whiskey Dreams."  You can preview Christina's music over here and "apply" for the San Jose event at this Sofar page.


Monday, April 8, 2019

“Adios Mama Carlota” @ The San Jose Stage Company

There’s no bad seat in the house.

Although I was sitting on the last row—also known as row 5—at The San Jose Stage Company (The Stage), it was far from a a typical nosebleed. As we sat around a beautiful and yet simple stage, the backing of the set contained picture frames that enveloped different projected images to tell us a story of each scene. From the beginning to the end, we witness the illusion and metaphors projected to us through the screens, lighting, costumes, and music on an unexpected true story of Mexico’s history with a contemporary and comical twist!

“Adios Mama Carlota, The Express of Mexico” is the world premiere production in partnership between The Stage and El Teatro Campesino in San Juan Bautista written by Luis Valdez and directed by Luis’ son, Kinan Valdez. Before opening night, Kinan shared to The San Jose Blog that The Stage was a “home away from home” especially the intimateness of the small theater. Growing up witnessing his father’s work at El Teatro Campesino, Kinan truly felt humbled and honored being asked by his father and mentor to direct this production. Kinan not only hopes that the production will help audience members leave the show as true collaborators, but rethink on the history of imperialism and abuse of power noting the layers of humor throughout the story.

Set at least 150 years ago in Mexico, we are led by Empress Carlota played by a regular cast and staff member of The Stage, Allison F. Rich, whose bold eyes and body language can rivet anyone into a storyline. Her husband, Maximilian, played by Will Springhorn Jr., whose character’s interesting life lacked the true foundation in himself both as a leader and as a lover.

Instead of being a footnote in the history books of the United States, we get to unpack the story better including the remnants of the United States Civil War (with a brief appearance of President Lincoln) to the north, the political realities of leading a country at home and abroad, and layers of relationship issues including sexual morality. We are led along other supporting characters (including the multiple ghosts) played by cast members rooted in the partnership of The Stage (Martín Rojas Dietrich, Edward Hightower) and El Teatro Campesino (Estrella Esparaza-Johnson, Noé Yaocoatl Montoya). After seeing him perform in Hand to God and Newsies, it was not surprising to see Sean Okuniewicz play another seductive character but this time wearing (or growing) a large beard. And to round it off, nothing touched my heart more than Jessica Osegueda who enhanced her character and the entire storyline with a couple of musical and dance numbers.

Catch a performance playing from Wednesdays to Sundays now until April 28, 2019. You can purchase tickets online at The Stage website at www.thestage.org or at their box office at 490 South 1st Street, San Jose, CA, 95113, (408) 283-7142. Discount tickets are available for students and seniors.

Written by John Huân Vu.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Union Pacific vs. Neighbors

Starting last month, the Union Pacific railroad began running trains at 11pm and 3am through Downtown, Japantown, Hensley and Ryland neighborhoods. Apparently during some nights the trains run at 11pm, 2am, 3am, and 4am--making it very difficult for residents to sleep and potentially impacting property values. The only solution proposed so far is creating a quiet zone by installing millions of dollars worth of equipment at 19 crossings. Unfortunately, that won't be happening anytime soon.

If you are in an impacted area, you can access the petition over here asking the Union Pacific to return to regular operating hours:  https://www.change.org/p/zoe-lofgren-stop-the-union-pacific-late-night-trains-through-historic-san-jose-neighborhoods


Tuesday, April 2, 2019

San Jose is the 8th Happiest City in the US

WalletHub crunched the numbers and evaluated the 180th largest US cities to find the happiest people in America. There were 31 indicators of happiness including depression rates, income growth, life expectancy, rate of illness & disability, participation in sports, and overall leisure time. San Jose made it to the 8th spot on the list. The only local city that beat us was Fremont at 4th place. San Francisco was two spots below us to round out the top 10.

Source: WalletHub, hat tip to Barclay Livker for sending this in


Monday, April 1, 2019

Watch the Light Between Two Towers

You can now rent Tom Wohlmut's exceptional documentary linking the San Jose Electric Light Tower to the Eiffel Tower over here! The 56 minute film takes you through a journey of how San Jose's innovative light tower was built, how it brought San Jose international recognition, and how it was tragically destroyed. The tower was one of the tallest man-made structures in the world when it was built and it illuminated a half-mile radius.

I was fortunate to watch the premier at 3Below Theaters and hope they will feature it there regularly for the full theatrical experience. The film is so packed with San Jose history that it should be required watching for all students in San Jose schools. Please support this great project and watch it using the link below.

Click here to watch the Light Between Two Towers!