Saturday, March 13, 2010
San Jose: The Rainbow Tour
The Alameda @ Race Street (Photo: the phunktOGraphist)
San Diego's gay district is called Hillcrest. Los Angeles' is West Hollywood. San Francisco has The Castro.
And San Jose?
Well, for years San Jose has quietly had ... The Alameda.
It might come as a surprise to some that the center of San Jose gay life is that idyllic neighborhood west of downtown. The Alameda is not as flashy as other gay hubs, but it still serves an important function. It's home to The Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center, a mainstay in the Silicon Valley gay community for close to 30 years. The Alameda is also home to the folks who produce San Jose Pride (a festival, by the way, older than San Francisco's), Out Now Magazine, and The Watergarden, said to one of only two remaining bath houses in the Bay Area. Other establishments in the neighborhood include Cafe Crema (950 The Alameda), 5 Color Cowboy (1445 The Alameda), Renegade Theatre Experiment (1635 Park Avenue), Schurra's Candy Factory (840 The Alameda), Cafe Rosalina (1077 The Alameda), Greenlee's Bakery (1081 The Alameda), Recycle Bookstore (1066 The Alameda), and of course, the iconic (though sadly soon to close) Andy's Pet Shop (1280 The Alameda).
In recent months, there have been significant changes to the neighborhood, including the opening of the historic Plant 51 residential development and stately renovations to some buildings, including 865 The Alameda. (Whole Foods still plans on opening a store at Stockton Avenue in the spring/summer of 2011.)
Meanwhile, thanks to funds from Caltrans and the SJRDA, the Alameda is also in the midst of long over due upgrades. (You can read the latest progress report here.) The project is largely geared toward improving issues such as traffic flow, pedestrian crossings, and bike lanes; there's even an intriguing roundabout proposal. But I hope that in all the revitalization efforts, the gay community the Alameda has served for so long isn't lost. I think it's an important identity to preserve. The city would do well to protect as it would for Little Portugal or Japantown. The Alameda's proximity to Diridon Station will put it in the shadow of the largest transportation hub in Northern California—as well as a potential A's stadium—so I hope the city keeps this unique community in mind as it proceeds. The loss of the gay culture of the Alameda, however subdued it may be, would be a shame.