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Flash News

Supe Joe Simitian was recently spotted at the county's crime lab getting his mug shot taken, Eye has learned. No, the Palo Alto pol wasn't caught doing anything illegal. Joe explains that he still doesn't have an 8-by-10 color portrait to go along with the shots of the other supes in the ground-floor lobby display case at 70 W. Hedding. ... Simitian says he's been too busy to schedule a time to get his official portrait, but the powers-that-be finally persuaded the frosh supe to do a little modeling session with them. The county's photo equipment and photographer just happen to be located in the crime lab, Simitian informs Eye.

Historical Event

Out in tiny Monte Sereno, four members of the Heritage Preservation Committee have quit after demolition man Joel Gambord recently pushed his "voluntary preservation" proposal through the City Council. Gambord, busted two years ago for altering John Steinbeck's former residence without the necessary approvals, persuaded his council colleagues to radically change the city's preservation law--which required council approval of any changes to landmarks, down to the color of the paint--so that property owners can destroy historic buildings without any city interference. Gambord's "volunteer clause," which won't go into effect for at least a few months, applies preservation guidelines only to homeowners who ask to be on the city's historic house list. ... Disgusted preservation committee members maintain that "voluntary preservation" equals zero protection for historic buildings, including a few storybook-perfect Victorians and turn-of-the-century Craftsman cottages. "I've already decided that I'm wasting my time with this City Council," committee chair John Wimer grumbles. ... The only commissioner not quitting is newcomer Judy Field, who thinks Gambord's proposal just needs some work. Gambord and his council pal Gordon Knight were unfazed by the resignations, saying they needed to purge committee members who disagree with the council, anyway. Before the resignations, Knight called the threat to quit a "temper tantrum" and warned that commissioners would have to get with the program or not be reappointed. Gambord summed up cryptically: "The winds have changed."

Please Don't Squeeze The Schlarmann

Settling an old score, the Redevelopment Agency has agreed to give San Jose Parking Inc. financial control over the busy Fountain Alley parking lot plus exclusive negotiating rights to buy the site, company president Al Schlarmann tells Eye. In return, San Jose Parking will continue to accept validations and build a parking garage--possibly an underground one with retail and offices above--although details are fuzzy. "I haven't had quite enough time to plan a $25 million development yet," Schlarmann explains. SJP sued the agency for never delivering on an old promise to build a garage on the Fountain Alley lot to be run by the parking contractor. Around 10 years ago the city tried to placate Schlarmann by offering his company two lucrative contracts to run a couple of downtown parking lots when plans to build the Fountain Alley garage fell through. Instead of pacifying Schlarmann, the deal apparently only irked him more. In a separate lawsuit, SJP sued the city for allegedly shortchanging the company of its rightful share of revenues from the two lots. ... With that obstruction flushed out, San Jose Downtown Association exec Scott Knies hopes the settlement brings a permanent toilet facility to the Fountain Alley lot. Schlarmann has talked about possibly replacing the site's overused portable potties with a public bathroom, possibly of the kiosk variety. "We know there's a need, a nature's calling, if you will, in the downtown," Knies soundbites, noting that the portable loos on the site must be emptied two to three times a week. "It looks like we might finally be getting some relief in that transit mall zone," he reveals.

Show Stopper

Construction of the multimillion-dollar repertory theater came to a halt for two days last week when a nonunion contractor accidentally used the gate entrance for union workers. Bob Ryan, the Redevelopment Agency's project management director, tells Eye that EMCO, a nonunion siding contractor, made the mistake during the company's first day on the job. Unionized workers promptly responded by walking off the job. Ryan was at a loss to explain the rationale behind the idiosyncratic two-gate system. But Ryan assures us, "It really has nothing to do with the agency." John Neece, business manager for the Building & Construction Trades Council, says the two-gate system has its roots in a 1970s court decision which had the effect of diminishing union influence on construction jobs. "It's just the goofiest damn thing," Neece acknowledges.

Reluctant Reformers

Cupertino City Council members Michael Chang and Don Burnett ultimately wound up voting for a proposed campaign reform ordinance, but they did so kicking and screaming. The draft version of the law sets a $100 limit on campaign contributions from individuals. Chang and Burnett--the latter is up for re-election this November--wanted a watered-down version of the law. Chang, who spent $50,000 to get elected in 1995, caved in only when it became clear that he was going to lose. ... Meanwhile, Burnett acknowledges it was easier to vote for the ordinance than explain to voters why he opposed it. "I figured it wasn't a hill worth dying on. There was a lot of support for it from many of my supporters and it was going to happen anyway," confides Burnett. Councilman Wally Dean, co-author of the ordinance, had a slightly different view of Chang's and Burnett's last-second conversions. "They were chicken shit," he tactfully explained. "They are two people who are going to be running for office and are trying to look good."

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From the April 17-23, 1997 issue of Metro

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