"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way." - Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities, 1859
Back in 1934 the owner at this home (Taylor St used to be called Polhemus St) sold cannery produced dried peach pits by the bag or the ton to be used as a source of inexpensive home heating.
In June of 2014 this home was purchased as a converted 3 plex with upgrades for $948,000. While the subdivide down the street will sell for $4 million this rental produces monthly revenue while retaining its original value.
So it is with these two homes on busy West Taylor Street between The Alameda and Stockton Avenue that we see the continued loss of single family homes in our neighborhood. This is just the most recent example.
Both houses were recently purchased by out of neighborhood investors looking at the huge housing demand in Silicon Valley's bedroom community of San Jose.
Squeezing four homes with their combined 20 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms on this single family lot meant losing a front yard, back yard and any meaningful greenspace. Gone is the California Redwood, but at least the Oak Trees along the street were saved.
The only neighborly space is the shared driveway with no outdoor seating or pedestrian safe walking area to reach the back units. The lack of a fenced off safe area for kids or pets means they have to stay inside all day. The closest park is a distant Lenzen Park which if you let your kid walk to alone could land you in jail! Sad to think this is a big contributor to society's No Child Left Outside Law.
The DeNardi Home builders would probably claim that only building three $1 million dollar homes and leaving a common green space or larger parking area wouldn't have been profitable. Sadly it is the livability of our neighborhood that has to pay the difference. Street parking is going to be at a premium here.
Squeezing three rentals into one house was accomplished by converting the living room into two separate entrance ways into the home.
I'm grateful the home wasn't knocked down to put in an apartment building. The street facade still looks nice, although seeing 3 front doors all in front is a bit peculiar!
I talked with the Sunnyvale landlord and she told me that the place rented quickly. Two lawyers and a Tesla engineer loved the neighborhood and moved in.
I like that the large trees on the property are still here. The long drive way to the back has plenty of resident parking and a community BBQ. While I wish more landscaping and ornamental work would have been added, it still looks better than the other rentals on the street.
If you get the chance to walk down West Taylor Street take note of incursion of rentals and multiple residential units on a single lot.
Subdivide Equals Subdivison
Next came the Spanish Missionaries that set aside our neighborhood as the pasture land for Mission Santa Clara's cattle on this side of the Guadalupe Creek from the Pueblo de San Jose on the other side, with The Alameda built to connect the two.
In 1846 the Mexican-American War brought new American settlers to San Jose eager to acquire new land. In 1847 Roberto was $500 in debt and sold the property to Antonio Suñol, San Jose's first postmaster and wine grower.
In 1849 Antonio subdivided our neighborhood into three parts, he kept one-third, gave one-third to his daughter Paula Sainsevain, and the other one-third was sold to an American Henry M. Naglee for $10,000. Henry was a Civil War Union General who had moved to San Jose in what is now called the Naglee Park neighborhood just East of San Jose State University. Our neighborhood's Naglee Avenue is named in honor of it's first "American" owner.
Commodore Robert Field Stockton purchased part of Naglee's landholdings that became Stockton Ranch. Stockton Avenue and the Garden Alameda neighborhood are a legacy to his development of our neighborhood. He was the first to disdain the use of Adobe bricks or primitive sawmills and had finished homes built in New York, disassembled, and then shipped around Cape Horn into San Francisco Bay where the homes were carted in by horse and assembled on site in our neighborhood. These were the first commercially crafted homes in our neighborhood and were coveted by San Jose's early American pioneers.
The College Park neighborhood was formed when Reverend G.R. Baker's University of the Pacific purchased a 450 acre section of Stockton Ranch and moved their college from Santa Clara to our neighborhood in 1871. To help fund the college they subdivided the college property into our neighborhood's first subdivision. The East/West streets were named after trees (Myrtle, Elm, Laurel, Chestnut, Walnut) and the North/South streets were named after Methodist Bishops (Hamlin, Morris/Vermont, McKendrie, Hedding, Emory, Asbury, Polhemus/Taylor), University Avenue was the main entrance to the school from The Alameda.
The building of the "San Francisco and San Jose Railroad" lead to a lot of purchasing and subdividing of Stockton's Ranch by the railroad founders Henry M. Newhall who the Newhall neighborhood is named after and Charles B. Polhemus who owned huge sections of our neighborhood prior to it's opening in 1864.
Two residents who were honored with street names named after their subdivision are now forgotten.
- Moore had a street named after him, but since it crossed Morse Street and caused confusion the name was merged with Idaho Street.
- Charles B Polhemus had a Polhemus street named after him his family's home at the corner of Polhemus Street and Stockton Avenue, but after his house was carted away to Bellarmine and the street realigned to match Naglee Avenue it was changed to Taylor Street (assuming the Methodist Bishop or possibly the US President).
In 1856 the Agricultural Society fundraised $6,000 to pay General Naglee for the 76 acres that became Agricultural Park. Race street in the St Leo's neighborhood is named after the horse race track in the park. In 1907 Lewis Hanchett purchased the Agricultural Park and Fairgrounds and developed the Hanchett Residence Park neighborhood with famed Golden Gate Park and Rose Garden designer John McLaren to create San Jose's first streetcar suburb.
The neighborhood's booming fruit canning and orchard industry gave rise to additional subdivisions of the neighborhood with the St Leo neighborhood in 1915 when the St Leo School was built, the Rose Garden neighborhood in 1937 when FMC President John Crummey subdivided his 25 acre pear orchard.
In 1925 our various subdivisions St Leo, Garden Alameda, Hanchett Residence Park, College Park and the Hester District became part of the city of San Jose. One would think that moving from unincorporated districts into the municipality would ensure better planning and development rules, but if anything the conversion of orchards into home, mansions on The Alameda into office buildings and losing our industrial space (Stockton, Cahill, Midtown) for high density housing for jobs outside our neighborhood has only accelerated in 2014.
Finding balance in Silicon Valley is hard, but we should be able to find the right incentives to create full vibrant communities right here in our own neighborhood without having to tear out what makes this such a desirable place to live!
I encourage you to walk our neighborhood more, and talk more with your neighbors. It's good for the soul.
Six Flags of California
While I don't give the ballot initiative much chance of succeeding (41% in favor), and he has become the butt of comedy shows, I do think the idea has some merit in making our elected leaders more accessible and accountable to locals instead of lobbyists!
For those that have been around, Tim Draper has a history of bold ballot initiatives. His last big push was in 2000 when he unsuccessfully tried to get Prop 38 - Californians School Vouchers approved. It would have allowed parents to use taxpayer dollars to take their kid to any public or private school, rather than being restricted to failing public schools in their school district. It failed, but it was the apex of a much larger Charter School Movement as a valid 4th school option (Public, Private, Home) for Californians.
Anything we can do to improve the quality of our neighborhoods has my vote! #SubDivOblivion