Monday, November 22, 2021

November 2021 Downtown Dimension Highlights

The NOVEMBER 2021 Downtown Dimension is now available for download.
 
This month's newsletter highlights:  
  • Kristi Yamaguchi Downtown Ice returns for its 25th season. Skating under the palms begins Nov. 19. Christmas in the Park returns to Plaza de Cesar Chavez, too.
  • Silicon Valley Turkey Trot and Santa Run Silicon Valley will both be run virtually this year.
  • SJDA proposes Clean Community Fee to take care of messes.
  • SoFA motel slated for homeless housing
  • Original Groundwerx detailer earns Employee of the Month recognition
  • Coming Nov. 5: Sonic Runway of Burning Man fame.
  • SJDA spread Abierto funds among seven recipients who have some special events planned for downtown
  • Newly approved crane fee is meant to take care of airline fee losses when construction cranes exceed maximum heights
  • Dai-Thanh Super Market will have to move from downtown someday when it is redeveloped. The owners have purchased locations to the east and south of downtown and plan two new locations.
  • Opening Nov. 1 at San Pedro Square Market:  Hella Good burgers and shakes.

NEXT SJDA PUBLIC MEETING:  Dec. 10 Year-in-Review meeting, starting 8:15 a.m.  You can attend in person at Hammer Theatre Center! Or by viewing it through Zoom or Facebook Live. Registration details will be posted here.

Agenda includes the year-end presentation on the big screen, Golden Nail awards and words board members reaching the end of their terms.  Hope you can make it.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Happy Halloween 2021!! + Halloween in the Park (Part XIII)

Happy Halloween everyone, hope you have a blast tonight! I'm optimistic today will mark some return to some normalcy after a brutal two years.

Usually in October we have a wish-list post for Halloween in the Park. The idea is to build on the momentum that Christmas in the Park brings to San Jose each year and create something of similar scale for the month of October with Halloween in the Park! A lot of the infrastructure such as wiring, lighting, and booths might even be able to be shared between the events. The goal would be to make Downtown San Jose the epicenter of October Halloween experiences.

Below you will find brainstorming ideas we have collected for this concept so far over the years. Please have a look and provide your feedback and suggestions in the comments. Thanks!




The largest draw to Downtown San Jose for many years now has been Christmas in the Park. It has continued to grow year after year and brings in visitors from all over the Bay Area. It's economic impact is substantial and helps keep many Downtown businesses and restaurants alive.

What would you think about a similar event for Halloween? Picture Downtown lit up in orange and purple with elaborate Halloween displays assembled by local artists. Perhaps infrastructure could even be shared with Christmas in the Park (e.g. retail booths). A strong event in October would help maintain traffic between the summer months and Christmas in the Park. 
Here are the ideas we have so far:
  • Animated Halloween Displays
    • Created by local artists
    • Analogous to the Christmas displays that attract many families during Christmas in the Park (almost half a million visitors)
    • Family friendly so that everyone can enjoy it (PG/PG13, perhaps around the same level as Great America Halloween Haunt)
    • Halloween Lighting
      • Orange, purple, and green LED lighting on trees
      • May be possible to use new programmable LED lighting that can go from Halloween colors to Christmas colors with the push of a button, allowing the lights to stay up for Christmas in the Park as well and reducing setup/take-down costs.
    • Halloween Food
      • Booths with candied apples, chocolates, candy, pumpkin seeds, etc.
      • Food trucks
      • Trick-or-treating station - a free piece of candy to anyone wearing a costume any day in October (could also be used to hand out promotional flyers for Downtown events/businesses/resources)
    • Retail Booths selling Halloween items, for example:
      • Artwork (paintings, glass pumpkins, etc.)
      • Home decor/crafts like candles
      • Light-up hats/necklaces/bracelets
      • Costumes
      • Zombie/Halloween make-up station 
    • Halloween-themed Carnival Games
      • Pirates of Emerson and Candlelighters (Fremont) do a good job of providing family-friendly games themed around Halloween
      • A handful of children's rides could also be added to the Paseo and reused for Christmas in the Park
    • Interactive Art
      • Subzero/ZERO1-style, but with a Halloween spin.
      • Halloween-themed video game kiosks and/or arcades
    • Pumpkins
      • Instead of the sponsored Christmas trees in Christmas in the Park, how about decorated Pumpkins (can even be Styrofoam so there is no mess/decay)?
      • Pumpkin carving station for families. 
      • Pumpkin carving contest.
    • Costumed Entertainers
      • Walking around the area, not necessarily scaring people but adding to the ambiance and providing photo opportunities for families
    • Haunts / Mazes
      • Would be ideal if these were nearby, perhaps in vacant retails spaces, surface parking lots, the San Jose Convention Center tent, or at SJSU.
      • Could partners with one of the established San Jose haunt providers such as Deadtime Dreams or The World's Largest Haunted House.
    • Potential Events
      • Zombie-O-Rama can be used to kick off Halloween in the Park (late Sep. / early Oct. time-frame)
      • Zombie Crawl
      • Dia De Los Muertos Events
      • Halloween/Dia De Los Muertos Bike Party
      • Horror Movie Trivia Contest
      • Weekly horror movie screening (perhaps in the Circle of Palms area?)
      • Costume Ball
      • Pet costume contests and pet-friendly events

      Monday, October 18, 2021

      October 2021 Downtown Dimension Highlights

      The OCTOBER 2021 Downtown Dimension is now available for download.
       
      This month's newsletter highlights:  
      • The next step to our economic recovery -- big events extending to weekdays
      • The return to the stage has not been easy.  Lisa Mallette of City Lights Theatre Co. explains.
      • The Colbeck brothers of San Jose get inside a 19th Century home where their mother was born.  Google has plans to save the house by moving it to the Creekside Walk section of its Downtown West development.
      • The fourth version of SJdowntown.com is launched and active. Take a look.
      • Groundwerx' Employee of the Month Joel Ramirez loves his job, downtown and his Groundwerx family.
      • New businesses include Gameshop Downstairs, Cash Bar and Punch King Fit.

      Saturday, October 9, 2021

      September 2021 Downtown Dimension Highlights

      The SEPTEMBER 2021 Downtown Dimension is now available for download.
       
      This month's newsletter highlights:  
      • SJDA provides an overview of how it has responded to the Stabilization Plan released in August 2020 and meant to navigate the COVID crisis into economic recovery.
        Deemed most essential to recovery: Continued clean and safe services and the renewal of the Property Owners Business Improvement District.
      • In August, SJDA hired a new Business resiliency Manager, Omar Torres, who will assist businesses with their economic recoveries.
      • Groundwerx' Employee of the Month is Angelina Lopez.
      • New businesses include Western International Securities, Rec Room, and Health Carbon
      • An 87-unit affordable housing project breaks ground at Almaden Boulevard and Balbach Street.
      • Newly named Barack Obama Boulevard will be part of Downtown West, surrounded by SAP Center, Diridon Station and Los Gatos Creek.

      Tuesday, October 5, 2021

      Theater is back with "The Great Leap" @ The San Jose Stage Company

      The program cover of The Great Leap at The San Jose Stage Company

      Program cover of The Great Leap at The San Jose Stage Company.

      Manford (James Aaron Oh) making a basketball shot as
      Wen Chang (Alex Hsu), Connie (Monica Ho), and
      Saul (Tim Kniffin) watches at a distance on the court.
      Photograph courtesy of Dave Lepori.
      Randall King, the Artistic Director of The San Jose Stage Company, announced that "theater is back!" Yes it is and what a surreal feeling when I realized that the last time I saw a show at The San Jose Stage Company was the musical Chicago in February 2020. Oh, how great it feels to be back in the theater again ... safely!

      Kicking off their 39th Season "Resilience" is Lauren Yee's play The Great Leap. Following four characters, an American basketball team travels to Beijing for a "friendship match" in 1989. There is much more to this "friendship" than meets the eye: a deep, yet strained, relationship between the two countries bringing the characters into a collision course. The most common line that shows how deep this "friendship" really goes: "no Chinese team will ever beat an American team."

      The set of The Great Leap at The San Jose Stage Company.
      Photograph courtesy of John Huân Vu.
      On a beautiful and minimal stage centering around a basketball court, we follow two storylines eighteen years apart. This split timeline highlights two major points in our history: renewed relations between the United States and China and the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing, China.

      In the past timeline of 1971, we meet the American University of San Francisco basketball coach Saul (played by Tim Kniffin) who convinces a Chinese translator, Wen Chang (played by Alex Hsu), to a "friendship match" that will be played 18 years later in 1989. While in the present timeline of 1989, we follow 17-year-old Chinese-American Manford (played by James Aaron Oh) who pesters coach Saul to play in the "friendship match" against Beijing University. We also meet Connie (played by Monica Ho) who is a university student and is Manford's loving "cousin".

      Saul (Tim Kniffin) and Wen Chang (Alex Hsu)
      converses on the basketball court in 1971.
      Photograph courtesy of Dave Lepori.

      Without sharing the details of the story, each of the actors bring a unique dichotomy to their characters delivering comedic relief towards a dramatic, unexpected, and satisfying climax!

      When we first meet Saul in 1971, he is an ambitious and confident coach but now struggles personally and professionally in 1989. Ironically, Wen became the opposite of Saul where Wen was a "nobody" in China in 1971 and is now one of the more influential citizens in the country in 1989. Although Manford started out very obnoxious and arrogant, you come to love him when you realize this kid never gives up - especially if it's for the right reason. Lastly, Connie is an extravagant and straight-to-the-point girl but works to embody that family love that was truly missing from Manford's life.

      Manford (James Aaron Oh) confronted by his "cousin"
      Connie (Monica Ho) on why he's not at school.
      Photograph courtesy of Dave Lepori.
      Personally, I was very impressed by Tim Kniffin where his body language spoke as loud as his words. As for Alex Hsu, it was personally so great to see him back on stage after last seeing him a decade ago fabulously acting in the musical Tales of the City at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. Although I can't play basketball (or any sports) for the life of me, I really appreciate seeing that James Aaron Oh took the time to study up the sport so he can deliver a solid performance on stage. Lastly, the range that Monica Ho delivers during this play foreshadows that she's an actress I'd be on the lookout for in future performances.

      Overall, the show delivers a great story through the impressive dramatic and comedic performances of the actors to show that indeed, "theater is back!" Please note that heavy language is used and may not be suitable for all audience members.

      Wen Chang (Alex Hsu) facing the tanks at Tiananmen Square.
      Photograph courtesy of Dave Lepori.
      Catch a performance from Wednesdays through Sundays now until October 24, 2021. You can purchase tickets online at The San Jose Stage Company website at www.thestage.org or at their box office at 490 South First Street, San Jose, CA 95113, (408) 283-7141. Discount tickets are available for students and seniors. To ensure the health and safety of the cast, staff, and those attending, please note that you must adhere to their safety protocols which also includes a proof of vaccination.

      Written by John Huân Vu, edited by Greg Ripa.

      Sunday, September 26, 2021

      SoFA Street Fair

      The SoFA Street Fair FALL EDITION is Sunday September 26, 20212-8pm. After 2 years of virtual and hybrid events to keep the music playing, we are finally back LIVE on First Street, with the best local music and performance our San Jose scene has to offer. This event continues to be FREE, and ALL AGES are welcome. There are 8 outdoor stages and 66 live acts performing - all within 2 blocks. Rock bands, Alt bands, Punk bands, Latin bands, Jazz Bands, Singers, Comics, Wrestlers, and Burlesque Performers. There’s a little something for everyone. https://sofafall2021.sched.com

      Tuesday, September 14, 2021

      Topgolf opens first Silicon Valley location in San Jose

      North San Jose and Alviso are quiet parts of San Jose. There is honestly not much to do in terms of entertainment. Fortunately a new major amenity arrived a few months ago, Topgolf. It's part driving range, part Dave & Busters, and part gastropub.

      The San Jose location is the first in the Bay Area as well as only the second location in all of Northern California. It is also one of only 4 flagship venues. To give you an idea of how popular these are, the Topgolf in Austin sells more alcohol than any other venue in Austin. The San Jose location is three stories with large bars and restaurants on each one.

      The driving range aspect is more of a video game than anything else. Each golf ball has a microchip that lets it be tracked and the computer scores you based on your level of accuracy. There are also tons of games with different rules that you can play with your companions.

      The food was surprisingly solid for a big chain. The burgers and fried mac & cheese were delicious. Service was a bit slow, but they were completely slammed when I went (on a Monday).

      If you want to play, I would recommend getting a reservation since standby times can stretch to 4 hours or beyond. Parking is free, convenient, and they have a large number of free EV chargers as a bonus. It's also a great location for corporate events and parties. I experienced one firsthand and it was a blast.

      For more info and to make reservations, head over here.



      Tuesday, September 7, 2021

      San Jose is the ultimate electric car hotspot

      In order to move the needle on climate change, one of the key transitions we have to make is to move towards sustainable transportation. Fortunately electrics cars are also usually fast and fun to drive, providing further motivation to make the switch. 

      It shouldn't come as much of a surprise that San Jose is the top metro driving the EV industry. It seems like every other car on the roads is a Tesla, but several new compelling EVs are also hitting the road these days.

      Despite being the 10th largest city in the country, San Jose has the 3rd highest number of EVs of any city in the US irrespective of population. It also has 2.4 charging stations for every 1,000 homes, versus the national average of 0.3 stations.

      A common complaint for renters interested in EVs is that there are no charging stations at their apartments. In San Jose 12.3% of all rentals actually have stations, which is by far the most of any city. Not to mention most grocery stores and shopping centers have multiple stations, with some places like Santana Row having hundreds of chargers (have a look at the 4th floor of the parking structure on Winchester Blvd).

      San Francisco came in as the 2nd best metro for EVs followed by Seattle and LA. For the full article to see all of the criteria used for the study, click here.