The We Company — you knew them as WeWork — has opened Backyard San Jose, a game-changing, pop-up garden in the lot next to Fountain Alley in downtown San Jose.
Through Oct. 31, Backyard — bordered by cardboard tubes and green plants — will feature more than 200 events like movies, concerts, wellness activities like yoga and zumba, and yard games for kids. Inside, there are rotating food trucks (including meatless products from the Beyond Company), as well as beer, wine, soft drinks and coffee for sale. A series of “Backyard Bazaars” curated by San Jose Made launches this Sunday with “Women Are Heroes,” showcasing the work of female artists.
It is an astounding turnaround for Fountain Alley, a narrow path between First and Second streets just south of Santa Clara Street that for years had been a hotspot for drug dealing and prostitution. Di-Ann Eisnor, the We Company’s “CWeO” for Cities, said at Thursday night’s launch event that a couple of weeks ago, “this was mostly urine and cars. Now, it’s something wonderful.”
There have been attempts to make Fountain Alley more inviting to pedestrians with the addition of artwork and one-night events, but the biggest change came when a law-enforcement office was established a couple of years ago in one of its vacant storefronts. But what We Company has done — clearly backed by a lot of money — is transformative.
The We Company smartly has partnered with neighborhood entities including San Jose Made, Good Karma Artisan Ales, MACLA, SPUR and Local Color, to provide the space with a hip, local vibe that is sure to draw the city’s urbanist crowd. These are all people who are passionate about San Jose.
But it’s also important to remember that Backyard San Jose is not a truly public space like a park or even Fountain Alley itself. Like the streets and open spaces at Santana Row, this is a private enterprise that looks like public space but isn’t open to everyone all the time. You need to download an app to RSVP for events and activities or even to find out what those activities are since they’re not listed on the www.backyardsj.com website. Don’t have a smartphone or have an aversion to creating a data trail? You may be out of luck.
Now, this may not be a huge trade-off if you just want to enjoy morning yoga or watch one of the “Star Wars” movies on a Wednesday or Friday night. And that’s entirely fine. But when Backyard finishes its run in October, we should remember to support the activation of our truly public spaces just as much.
SCHOOL NAMED FOR IMMIGRATION CHAMPION: Journalist and immigration advocate Jose Antonio Vargas was back in Mountain View — where he grew up — for the dedication Thursday of a new elementary school in the Mountain View-Whisman School District that bears his name.
Vargas, who came to the United States from the Philippines when he was 12, graduated from Mountain View High School and was part of a team of journalists at the Washington Post that won a Pulitzer Prize. Since revealing his undocumented status in 2011, he has been a major voice on immigration issues in the United States.
Hundreds of jubilant people attended the dedication at the K-5 school, which is set to open to students on Monday. There is, however, one cloud on the horizon: The Mountain View Voice has reported that the school is currently without power and is relying on backup generators because of a dispute between PG&E and a nearby homeowners association. I’m sure it’s a complicated issue, but it’s hard to believe PG&E needs more people unhappy with it these days.
BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME: The Reactica team that was attempting to set a Guinness World Record for Largest Rube Goldberg Machine fell short of their goal last weekend at the Tech Interactive in San Jose. The team of six college students set up a machine with 500 steps, more than enough to beat the record of 412, but couldn’t get them all to work in a chain reaction despite about 30 attempts. You can watch the effort, impressive nonetheless, on the Tech Interactive’s Facebook page.
HOLLYWOOD LEGEND BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE: Writer and performer Jessica Sherr plans to bring audiences back to the night before the 1939 Academy Awards with her one-woman show, “Bette Davis Ain’t For Sissies,” on Aug. 23 and 24 at 3Below in downtown San Jose.
TIME TRAVELING FORTUNE?: What a week for Steve Wozniak. The Apple co-founder and unofficial San Jose ambassador to the world accepted a commendation at Tuesday’s San Jose City Council meeting for Silicon Valley Comic Con, which took over the San Jose McEnery Convention Center this weekend. While he was at City Hall, he shared that he and his wife, Janet Wozniak, celebrated his 69th birthday Sunday at Mandarin Gourmet in Cupertino. As is the custom, he got a fortune cookie after dinner that had the following message: “You would do well in the field of computer technology.”
Well, I guess he would. Or did. Seriously, was that cookie sitting around for 45 years?
MARATHON MARRIAGES: Former South Bay TV and radio personality Steve Dini and his wife, Susan, celebrated 50 years of marriage on Aug. 16 at his brother’s ranch in Morgan Hill. Their 1969 wedding at Sacred Heart Church in San Jose was certainly a groovy affair, with longtime Bay Area sportscaster Hal Ramey serving as best man (and probably calling play-by-play during the ceremony).
The Dinis, however, have a ways to catch up to Gabriel and Lupe Gonzales, who have their 75th wedding anniversary on Aug. 18. Esther Faria, who took over running Bellarmine Barber Shop in San Jose after her dad retired, said the happy couple had a family celebration last week.
- First Vietnamese American to serve as police deputy chief in San Jose
- San Jose's Vietnamese cafes serving up coffee, tea and whee!
- Vietnam's cultural centre planned for San Jose
- "Ao Dai: a Modern Design Coming Of Age" in San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles
- Hong An does well at San Jose Piano Competition
- METALEX Vietnam 2009: New Phenomena Opening "Hi-Tech Zone"
- Mercure Debuts in Vietnam with Two New Hotel Openings in September
- 130 new hotels open in HCM City
- Vietnam advance at New Zealand Open
- New terminal opens in Da Nang