The double deuce year had all the earmarks of terrible twos. Putin invaded Ukraine but it didn’t go well, not for him nor for the bombed out and freezing Ukrainians. Billionaires kept buying up the media. Were we in a pandemic—or not?
Off-cycle elections divided the power, both by tipping the House of Representatives to the Republicans, and here in San Jose, where a newcomer beat the head of the valley’s most powerful political machine in the race for mayor. He’ll have to contend, however, with a council that’s unaligned with the citywide vote. The sheriff retired, then resigned, then was thrown out of an office she no longer held.
As is our tradition, we celebrate the disreputable accomplishments of another rogue year and raise a toast to the absurdity around us. The Silicon Valley paradox of millionaire ghettos amidst tents along the freeway suggests that the “can do” mentality is still a work in progress.
Anyway, this is our roundup of some of the things that happened.
San Jose State University quietly settled a retaliation lawsuit with swim coach Sage Hopkins for $225,000 and apologized to him, 12 years after he blew the whistle on sexual misconduct involving more than a dozen female swimmers. Former SJSU director of sports medicine Scott Shaw meanwhile faces federal charges related to touching student athletes’ breasts and buttucks under the ruse of performing therapeutic treatments.
Despite bringing in more sales revenue per year than any other mall in California, Westfield Valley Fair apparently is looking for even more sales. This January, the mall began charging employees $40 per month to park on site. The next month, Westfield began charging its customers up to $10 a day for the privilege of spending money there—though only if they stayed for more than two hours.
Finger Prick Fail
Once touted as The Next Steve Jobs, she instead turned out to be more like The Next Bernie Madoff. On Jan. 3, after seven days of deliberation, former Theranos CEO Elzabeth Holmes was convicted on four charges related to scamming the public with a blood testing device that never really worked. In November, she was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison.
Facing criminal charges locally more than 50 times since 1983 proved little deterrent to Andrew Deanda, who was arrested in February for smash and grabs at dozens of local businesses. San Jose police say Deanda, 43, would throw a rock through the establishments’ plate glass window and make off with their cash registers, often in a stolen car.
Brave public safety workers fear little needles
San Jose continued wrangling with police and firefighters unions after holdouts to the city’s vaccination mandate refused to get their Omicron boosters. Rather than face staffing shortages, the city extended the deadline for compliance.
In recent years, scientists have warned that humans are displacing other species as more habitat is paved over. But some species are fighting back. Workers at NASA Ames Center in Mountain View made the mistake of feeding a few wild turkeys who were roaming the grounds, and soon two dozen birds were blocking traffic, destroying property and leaving their calling cards around the property. Wildlife experts were called in to relocate the birds.
A Better Excuse Than The Dog Ate My Homework
John Arrillaga, the generous commercial developer who gave more than a quarter billion dollars to Stanford University, was set to have yet another building named after him, a gym in Palo Alto. His plans to donate $35 million, however, fell through when he was unable to write the check due to his death in January. Despite the unfortunate news, Palo Alto forged ahead with plans to build the sports facility anyway.
Side Hustle Gets Cop Jail Time
Former San Jose police officer Robert Foster was sentenced to three years in county jail after he was convicted on a smorgasbord of charges, including worker exploitation and insurance fraud. Prosecutors accused Foster of running an “off-the-books payroll” to save his private security firm $578,000 in payroll taxes through a scheme that falsified hiring dates and under-counted employee totals, and that the company engaged in money laundering, with secret bank accounts.
Next Thing You Know, They’ll Actually Let a Woman Be Governor
A mere 102 years after the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in the U.S.—and millennia since gender roles evolved beyond a hunter-gatherer lifestyle—Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis became the first woman in California history to sign a piece of legislation into law on March 31. Acting as governor while Gavin Newsom was on vacation, Kounalakis signed Assembly Bill 2179, which extended eviction protections through June 30 for pandemic-affected tenants. At the time, she said the law would help 220,000 households. Those statewide protections were later left to expire. Let’s not get too crazy with the progress!
Party Mom in the Big House Tonight
Once upon a time, out-of-town parents sparked raging house parties—at least in teen movies. But in Los Gatos, there was “Party Mom” Shannon O’Connor, whose soirees made Risky Business stunts look quaint—and left her facing 39 charges of felony child endangerment and misdemeanors for furnishing liquor to minors and orchestrating both consensual and non-consensual sex acts amongst the high school athletes. As of 2022, the Town of Los Gatos is ready for the next sociopathic party planner. Its social host ordinance mandates fines starting at $1,500 if underage drinking or drug use is allowed to occur—a figure some thought should be higher in a town where homes sell for millions.
Don’t Meth Around
“We have a serious problem at SJPD,” Mayor Liccardo concluded after four incidents came to light. Officer De’Jon Packer, 24, fatally overdosed on fentanyl after a party. One officer allegedly reported to work drunk to search for a kidnapped infant. Another was arrested and criminally charged with unzipping his fly and stroking himself in front of a 23-year-old woman during a domestic call. And yet another was placed on leave on charges that he traded a meth pipe for information, according to officials.
No Greater Love
Consider the lengths that mothers will go to for their children—feeding them, raising them, putting their lives on the line…getting stuck in roofs trying to rescue them. At least that’s what one raccoon mama did in May. After being separated from kids when their attic dwelling was sealed shut, she chewed through the roof and ended up making it halfway, with her head inside and hind legs out, Winnie-the-Pooh style. Luckily, a nearby work crew came to the rescue, widening the hole enough for the raccoon to squirm into the attic and reunite with her babies.
Beautiful Music in 40831 Land
Famed metal magazine Revolver paid homage to the 40831 hardcore scene this year with its June issue, featuring San Jose/Santa Cruz band Scowl on the cover. The group appeared above the words “The Norcal Hardcore Revolution,” and the main article detailed the stories of other local breakouts like Scowl, Drain and Gulch.
You Think Your Job is Difficult
On June 21, Jim Throop became Cupertino’s third city manager in four years to quit. Counting the three interim city managers, seven have served in the position since 2018. At the time, local group Cupertino For All called Throop’s resignation a “scathing indictment of the current city council leadership.” Six months later—after an election that saw two CFA-endorsed candidates win seats on the council—the 2022 Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury released a 52-page report, titled “A House Divided,” alleging that councilmembers “berated and belittled” staffers and “interfered in the day-to-day operations.”
The City of San Jose acknowledged that its downtown was struggling with post-pandemic recovery. While sales tax collections were down citywide by just 1 percent, the drop was 38.5 percent in the downtown district, according to a June 17 report to the city’s Community & Economic Development Committee.
Great America’s Last Ride
The summer was bumpy for fans of amusement parks. Cedar Fair announced at the end of June that it had sold the land its California’s Great America theme park sits on to Prologis, a real estate management company. A couple weeks later, Gilroy Gardens officials confirmed that Cedar Fair would no longer manage the South County amusement park. Gilroy officials are looking to develop Gilroy Gardens into a recreational destination, but the fate of Great America is uncertain. After its 11-year agreement with Cedar Fair runs out, a Prologis spokesperson says, the company will be “working with local government on the long-term plan.“
Southern Californians were in mourning at the end of the year over the death by euthanasia of P-22, the charismatic but geriatric mountain lion. Other big cats haven’t been so long-lived. In August, a less celebrated local lion was injured when it was shot by the Hollister Police Department after an attempt to use a tranquilizer dart failed.” The young cougar was transported to the Oakland Zoo for surgery but did not survive. In a social media post, zoo staff wrote: “This is the 20th mountain lion to come to Oakland Zoo in need of help as another victim of human-wildlife conflict, and we are heartbroken with the tragic loss.”
San Jose experiences hottest day on record
September was already off to a warm start by the time the 9th rolled around. That’s when San Jose had its hottest day on record, local thermometers peaking at a sizzling 109°. It’s the kind of heat normally reserved for the desert, and this writer prefers it staying there. According to Forbes, 1,500 cities set new records for heat this summer. Sacramento set their new heat record on the same day as ours, with a punishing 116°.
Unlucky $13 Million
The staff at the Santa Clara County Housing Authority helps low-income families and individuals find affordable housing. But their expertise doesn’t seem to extend to commercial real estate. In 2020, the Authority coughed up $37.35 million for an office building at 3553 N First St. to serve as its new headquarters, before realizing the building was too big, too far from downtown, and too expensive to revamp. In September, the authority sold the property for $24.5 million. Bob Staedler, principal executive with the land-use consultancy Silicon Valley Synergy, expressed many Silicon Valley residents were thinking. “Instead of losing $13 million dollars now, they should have held onto the building and let nonprofits use it as is,” Staedler told the Mercury News. “That way they could have broken even when the office market improves.”
Something was burning
An investigation is launched after a video was posted to instagram showing a woman in a bikini and high heels exiting a San Jose Fire Department engine and striding into the Pink Poodle strip club. Mayor Liccardo promises in a press release that “heads must roll.” The investigation determined that the vehicle also stopped at the AJ’s bikini bar, however no reports of headless San Jose firefighters have surfaced yet.
You’re hired! Just don’t tell the public, who pays your salary
County supervisors vote in closed session on October 17 to appoint James Williams as the new county executive “by unanimous vote with all members present.” The following day, Williams, still serving as County Counsel, reports publicly “There are no reportable actions taken at the closed session meeting on Oct. 17.” By meeting secretly on an unagendized item and not reporting it publicly at the next meeting, Williams and the supes manage to violate the Brown Act in the first 24 hours following the appointment.
Well, it is half a block from the Dollar Tree store
A 1953-vintage, 1,634-square-foot house sells for $1.7 million. The home is strategically located half a block from Almaden Expressway and in the Canoas Garden neighborhood that real estate agents have cleverly rebranded “Willow Glen South.”
We’re not sure if this counts as good news or not
Rents drop for the first time in two years in the San Jose area, the nation’s most expensive market, where the reported average rent is $3,341 per month.
Jeeter weed sued for not being strong enough
Anyone who’s ever puffed a vape, preroll or dry, crumbly eighth and thought “there’s no way this stuff is 32% THC” got a major boost to their beliefs this October. That’s when two customers sued the makers of marijuana company Jeeter, alleging their products vastly overstated their potency. In one example, a product boasted a +40% THC potency, but only tested in the mid-20s. Not cool, Jeeter. Not cool.
Showing some flair in its headline writing, the 2022 Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury came up with the title “Unsportsmanlike Conduct,” for its report on the Santa Clara City Council’s overly cozy relationship with the 49ers. The report charged that Anthony Becker, Suds Jain, Kevin Park, Raj Chahal and Karen Hardy “govern as if the City Council owes a fiduciary duty to the 49ers as opposed to the city.” Its Oct. 10 release date raised criticism that the report would affect the Nov. 8 election, but both Chapel and Hardy were reelected and incumbent Lisa Gillmor beat Becker by just 776 votes in the mayoral race.
Going in Circles
During the pandemic, the San Jose Downtown Association exited the events business and handed off the beloved Downtown Ice in the Circle of Palms to Willy Bietak Productions. Bietak’s tenure lasted all of one season, ending the ice rink’s quarter-century run. The circular track was reinvented this year as a seasonal outdoor roller skating venue.
Palo Alto reports a wave of burglaries in unoccupied homes between 7 and 9pm, often on Friday and Saturday nights. The perpetrators are dubbed the “Dinnertime Home Burglary Crew” in a city press release. Police say “nobody is readily identifiable” in surveillance footage but that the suspects wore hooded sweatshirts, face coverings and gloves. Somehow police determined their ethnicity, announcing that they were “Hispanic.”
I’m voting yes and no on this issue
After labor unions and the SIlicon Valley Council of Nonprofits speak out against the way in which Williams was appointed as County Executive, Supervisor Cindy Chavez switches her vote to a no vote. Spotlight breaks the story, but reports on Nov 4—four days before the San Jose mayoral election—that Chavez was the one no vote, without mentioning her switcheroo.
How not to lose an election
After election night results show Matt Mahan leading Cindy Chavez, the Santa Clara County supervisor lashed out at Sam Liccardo, refused to concede for a week and then wished the city’s next mayor “good luck” in his “two year” term and working with council, without actually congratulating him.
Tales from the Crypto
Stanford-born, Peninsula-raised decabillionaire Sam Bankman-Fried, 30, saw his $26.5 billion net worth drop to around $16 billion, then basically zero, when his crypto exchange FTX collapsed in a “liquidity crunch.”
Streaming giant Roku discloses plans to cut 200 workers, including about 93 employed at Roku’s headquarters complex on Coleman Avenue near Mineta San Jose airport. Other layoffs include Cisco (4000 job cuts), Netflix (480), Amazon and Meta.
Santa Clara-based Silicon Valley icon Intel lost a patent infringement suit in Texas to a Fortress Investment Group, a SoftBank-affiliated private equity firm that buys up patents. The case is one of three actions brought by rival chipmaker VSLI against Intel. It was ordered to pay nearly $1 billion in damages for making a microprocessor it says it developed independently and that rival VSLI’s technology is “outdated.”
In a savvy move, the purchaser of Steve Jobs’ very well-worn 1970s sandals decided to make their purchase anonymously. To pay $218,000 for a pair of dirty sandals worn 50 years ago simply says too much about the purchaser’s psyche for it to ever be done publicly. Articles on the sale all come equipped with a very TMI sized photo of the Birkenstocks. No thanks.
Beset by objections from bird lovers and the San Jose Sharks, promoters of the proposed Breeze of Innovation landmark announced their hopes to erect the structure in Plaza de Cesar Chavez, the original location before city leaders steered the project to the Arena Green.
Surprise to the upside, insane in the brain
Sequoia Capital, which showed its prowess in its early investments in Yahoo, Google and Apple, wrote off its entire $214 million investment in FTX after a run on the crypto exchange forced it to file for bankruptcy protection. Sequoia apologized to investors but bravely shrugged off the loss with a quote that could be reworked into a great hip hop lyric: “We are in the business of taking risk. Some investments will surprise to the upside, and some will surprise to the downside.”
An attempt to recall Gilroy council member Rebeca Armendariz failed to achieve the required number of signatures. Armerdariz was accused of helping host a party at her home where minors drank and two partygoers were killed by gunshots. Armendariz was implicated in the blocking of streets with city-supplied barricades, making phone calls to a neighbor to arrange overflow parking and providing investigators with accounts of her actions that just didn’t add up.
Sam’s Downtown Feed wound down its operations, spelling the end of an agricultural era holdout and reliable source for local honey, hay, chicken feed and dog biscuits.
“It is hereby adjudged and ordered that the defendant, Laurie Smith, is forthwith removed from the office of sheriff of the county of Santa Clara,” San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Nancy Fineman declared. During the Zoom sentencing, Smith did not turn on her video camera, even though Fineman asked her to.
Crime and Crypto
New FTX Chief Executive John Ray tells a congressional hearing that the crypto exchange collapsed because of “plain old embezzlement” by an unsophisticated and inexperienced management team. FTX’s accounting system, he said, relied on Slack communications and Quickbooks. “Nothing against QuickBooks—very nice tool—just not for a multibillion-dollar company,” he testified.
Just Plane Smart No Longer
Travelers who had hoped to celebrate the holidays with family and friends found themselves sleeping in airport terminals when a spate of bad weather overwhelmed airlines’ capacity to reschedule flights. Southwest Airlines canceled 155 flights at Mineta San Jose International Airport, 77% of scheduled air travel here. The airline apparently uses technology that dates back to the 1990s, when smartphones weren’t a thing and people checked their email with screeching modems.
Criminal Referrals for Donald Trump
After a year and a half, the committee investigating the events of Jan. 6, 2021, announced in December that they would recommend criminal charges against former president Donald Trump for his role in the insurrection at the Capitol. It’s the first time charges have been recommended against any former US president, and they include objectively bad-sounding things like Obstruction of an Official Proceeding and Conspiracy to Defraud the United States. That’s one spicy cup of covfefe.