San Jose

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Overview

San Jose is the largest city in Northern California (third-largest in the state), the oldest town in the whole state, and the anchor of Silicon Valley. It has a dozen museums, some truly striking architecture, and a traditionally low crime-rate.

Few people outside of Northern California even know San Jose is a place.

That’s what happens when you’re the other big city in the San Francisco Bay Area. Despite being much larger than the City by the Bay, the “Valley of Heart’s Delight” suffers a serious case of sibling envy for its prettier, more prosperous, more famous neighbor. Even notoriously dangerous Oakland is better known, leaving San Jose playing third fiddle to a crime-ridden poster-city for urban decay.

Outwardly, San Jose has always plugged along, quietly and amicably seeing to its own affairs, rooting for San Francisco teams, enjoying the revenues from industry and technology along the peninsula. But a sullen resentment simmers under the surface, bubbling up every so often in its popular culture (the subtly nasty never-was anthem, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose”) or its politics (a bid to rename the surroundings the “San Jose Bay Area” that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger laughed off his desk).

San Jose suffers from the Second Depression like most cities do, and its people get to watch San Francisco and Santa Cruz cling to wealth and privilege. Without the tech industry to buoy the economy, the city is drowning, and a drowning town will reach out for any helping hand.

History

Indians to Americans

The first inhabitants of the area now known as the Santa Clara Valley were Ohlone Indians, who watched nervously as explorer Gaspar de Portola and missionary Junipero Serra founded the Presidio of Monterey and Mission San Carlos Borromeo del rio Carmelo in 1770. In 1775, Juan Bautista de Anza left Colonists from Mexico (then New Spain) in the valley on his way to explore the San Francisco bay. Led by Jose Joaquin Moraga, these settlers founded El Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe two years later. With a population of 68 in 1778, the pueblo moved to where modern-day downtown San Jose stands today in 1797, as rancho land grants from Mexico dramatically expanded the municipal area.

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Decades later, in 1846, Thomas Fallon and a small band of American settlers rode from the port town of Santa Cruz to capture the pueblo, declaring California an independent republic under the bear flag. The United States military began occupying California shortly thereafter, and the Bear Flag Revolt disbanded its republic, its memory preserved in the state flag. Fallon became the pueblo’s 10th mayor, ordering all Hispanics out of town. This order would be rescinded following his term, but no restitution was ever paid the people who lost their land.

The next year, a Mexican cavalry captain named Andres Castillero discovered cinnabar in the wooded hills south of the pueblo. Mercury is extracted from cinnabar, and used to separate gold from its ore, and Castillero had discovered the richest cinnabar mine in North America.

In Northern California.

In 1847.

Named for the mercury mines in Almaden, Spain, Castillero’s Almaden Quicksilver Mine did huge business throughout the goldrush and remained in operation until 1976. The dangerous metal was a big enough part of the early San Jose economy to give the local newspaper its name — the San Jose Mercury. California officially became the 31st state of the Union in 1950, with San Jose its first incorporated city under mayor Josiah Belden. It also served as the first state capital, though the legislature moved to Benicia shortly thereafter due to San Jose’s lack of large buildings.

Valley of Heart’s Delight to Silicon Valley

San Jose’s roots are in agriculture, having been founded to supply the Presidios in San Francisco and Monterey. Prunes, plums, and apricots were the valley’s original exports, and the first commercial broccoli farms appeared here. It was from the smell of ripening fruit San Jose earned its poetic nickname, the “Valley of Heart’s Delight.”

Farming remained the local occupation well into World War II, when the local branch of the Food Machinery Corporation became a defense contractor, building the tracked landing vehicles which made landfall on Omaha Beach. FMC’s military business spun off into United Defense, which went on to make the M113 Armored Personnel Carrier, the controversial Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and subsystems for the M1 Abrams tank. IBM also established their west coast headquarters in San Jose during WW2, expanding with a research and development facility in 1952 and manufacturing in 1956. IBM and United Defense attracted more technology to the area, and people were already calling the area Silicon Valley by the 1970s.

Dutch Hamann and the Annexations

World War II brought new jobs to San Jose, and with new jobs came new arrivals, including Mexicans and southern blacks. Violence inspired by the Los Angeles Zoot Suit Riots erupted in 1943, and San Jose’s citizens were considered some of the most enthusiastic about Japanese internment. The city might have had a very different history had A.P. “Dutch” Hamann not decided these tensions were due in large part to limited living space.

Hamann served as City Manager from 1950 to 1969. Having grown up in Orange County, he disliked its lack of a hub city, and dedicated his career to making San Jose that city for Santa Clara County. From his appointed, bureaucratic position, Hamann beautified the city streets and expanded and modernized its sewers. He went on an avid campaign of city expansion, including “strip annexation,” whereby San Jose would annex swathes of land around locations likely to house shopping centers and other hubs, thereby more territory and higher tax revenues. Hamann and his staff — nicknamed Dutch’s Panzer Division — also annexted the town of Cambrian Park, and when the city of Alviso tried to annex his new sewage plant to boost its revenues, Hamann countered by annexing Alviso!

Hamann spent much of his time on the east coast, selling San Jose as an ideal place for business, and was instrumental in bringing IBM to the area. Halfway through his tenure, urban sprawl had swallowed all of San Jose’s farmland. All told, he spearheaded San Jose’s growth from 95,280 people across 17 miles to 495,000 across 136 square miles by 1969. But this growth led to overtaxed public services, high municipal debt, and serious environmental damage. The formerly conservative rural community veered sharply left, electing anti-growth candidates who would oppose Dutch’s plans, leading him to retire in 1969.

Setting boundaries

Subsequent liberal mayors like Norman Mineta — for whom its airport is named — and Janet Gray Hayes found themselves unable to deter San Jose’s ongoing expansion. Instead, they set the city limits and limited growth to that area. The computer boom raised the population even further, driving up housing costs, until San Jose outstripped San Francisco’s population for the first time in 1989. Recent development has focused on Smart Growth in hopes of reducing sprawl with efficient, multifamily housing and pre-planned neighborhoods. The city’s population rose over 1 million in 2008, but dipped just below that by the 2010 census.

Recent History and Current Events

San Jose’s future seemed bright at the turn of the millennium, with the tech industry ramping up and urban sprawl finally stabilizing. While San Francisco remained the cultural hub for technology, the many of the major companies were located in San Jose, and with them their tax revenues.

The city thus found itself in the middle of an expensive retrofitting when the second depression hit. New territory was allocated for parkland, to include a zoo and art museum. Whole swathes of the city were undergoing rearrangement, to fall in line with Smart Design principles of denser, more efficient urban layouts. Neighborhoods were having their utilities redone, including having their power lines run under the city streets and their sewer systems updated. This all stopped when the money dried up, and it dried up especially fast when the demand for technology dropped sharply. Now, some mostly abandoned neighborhoods in San Jose lack power, running water, or both. Only those who cannot afford to leave have stayed, living out a slice of third-world poverty in neighborhoods that once saw staggering rent hikes.

San Jose’s fortunes have plummeted faster than any other city in California’s, with average household income, education, and health all dropping rapidly. The population has moved closer to the city center, leaving those on the outskirts to fend for themselves. Rows of business parks stand abandoned, massive corporate headquarters and single-office startups moldering side by side, housing more shifty eyed squatters than bright-eyed entrepreneurs. San Jose also boasts several small-to-moderate-sized Ryanvilles in its shopping center parking lots and under its overpasses.

Officials have scrambled to staunch the bleeding, but with no real money to fund programs, crime is on the rise and the police department, used to a fairly calm city — is losing more officers to retirement, departure, or death in the line than it can replace. The fire department is overtaxed, and it’s rumored one out-of-control blaze near downtown could level half the city or more.

Without access to ports or nearby agriculture, San Jose is in very real danger from the nationwide mass starvation experts warned would result from the Second Depression. Times are lean enough, but the slowly receding food surplus and the ongoing California drought could spell the doom of what was once a farming community. This has led local leaders to question whether the San Jose soil could once again withstand farming.

Layout

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The largest city in the Bay Area and the third largest in California, San Jose sprawls across 180 square miles from the southernmost point of the San Francisco Bay to the town of Morgan Hill. Dutch Hamann’s aggressive expansion created a city with haphazard, ugly borders, bounded by no particular natural feature or major thoroughfare.

Downtown San Jose straddles state route 87 at the conflux of all the major freeways through town (I-280, I-480, and state route 101), with San Jose State University just northeast of downtown, and Japantown nearby. The Evergreen District to the southeast is generally the most upscale neighborhood in San Jose, though the truly wealthy live in Los Altos or Los Gatos. Especially because East Side San Jose, just north of Evergreen, is widely considered the most dangerous part of town. The intersection of Story Road and South King Road, called King and Story, is equally notorious for its gang activity and delicious Mexican food.

Other Attractions

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  • Winchester Mystery House: After inheriting her husband stake in the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, Sarah Winchester moved to San Jose, where she began construction on a sprawling mansion in 1884. The construction, and the sprawl, did not stop until 1922. Sarah Winchester believed herself haunted by the ghosts of all those killed by “the gun that won the west,” and built her house into an ever-expanding maze in hopes of confusing the spirits. Today, the Queen Anne Victorian manor sits near the upscale outdoor mall at Santana Row. Once a popular tourist destination, lack of revenue during the Second Depression has reduced it to a barely-maintained derelict, its echoing chambers, stairways to nowhere, and bricked-off chambers standing empty, so far as anyone knows.
  • San Jose Electric Light Tower: 237 feet tall, this “moonlight tower” was one of many attempts to illuminate cities by night using early electric light. The tower stands over Kelley Park, among a cluster of small museums. Not quite sufficient to the task of lighting the city, the tower nonetheless served as one of Alexandre Eiffel inspirations for his own famous Parisian tower. Every so often, talk crops up in the city of putting modern lights atop the tower, but the idea is always deemed a waste of resources. Mostly the tower serves as a popular hangout for teenagers after school. At least one kid per year is injured trying to climb the thing.
  • Homeless Jungle: Across from Kelley Park sits an infamous mass squat called the Homeless Jungle or simply the Jungle. This patch of urban wilderness has hosted San Jose’s derelict and destitute on-and-off since the 1960s, with sporadic attempts to chase them away seeing limited success. The last such attempt was in 2014, and lasted until 2017 and the Second Depression. Today, over 1,200 homeless live in the mixed shanty and tent village slathered across what could be a lovely little stretch of park. Miserable and desperate, the homeless strike back violently against any attempt to clear the area, and live in self-imposed anarchy, knifing each other over blankets or squirrel meat, prey to whichever drug dealer brings the most guns that week.

Freehold: the Quatrine Kingdom of the Giantslayer’s Heir

California has always had a particularly strong pull for Changelings, and as the oldest town in the state, San Jose boasts one of its oldest freeholds. The Quatrine Kingdom of the Giantslayer’s Heir was the trendsetter for Golden State freeholds using poetical translations of their cities’ Spanish names, as seen with the Holy Cross Duchy of Santa Cruz, the King’s Mountain in Monterey, San Francisco’s Gentlesaint Refuge and The Land of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels on the River in Los Angeles. Unlike its home city, the Quatrine Kingdom is powerful and respected by its neighbors due to centuries of wise rule and a Seasonal Court unbroken for over a century. Only now, at the Edge of Everything, is its influence beginning to wane.

Changelings were among the first settlers brought to the valley by Moraga, and quickly established a small but vital freehold in the farming community. Despite initial conflicts, the Spanish Changelings came to welcome those among the Bear Flag rebels, both sides recognizing their common suffering as Lost came before divides of race and creed. They became the lovers, muses, friends and comrades of ambitious locals, working to keep San Jose small and peaceful and paradisical.

This worked well until the 1940s brought wartime industry to the Santa Clara Valley. With industry came workers. With workers, vampires. The Kindred spearheaded San Jose’s rapid, reckless growth, their own numbers swelling with the population. Dutch Hamann is believed to have been one of their ghouls, though this has never been proven. San Jose’s expansion lasted until the vampires were satisfied with the size of their herd, and still only slowed rather than stopping, as no parasite ever willingly starves its host.

The leeches’ hegemony came to an end in the late 1990s with the arrival and rise of the Scary Black Man. His hatred of the undead matched only by his brutality and cunning, the Ogre led any Changeling who would follow on daylight vampire hunts. While not a match for vampires in an open fight, Changelings are more than equal to their ghoul servitors. When the Autumn King tried to squelch this crusade, SBM challenged and defeated him for the Ashen Crown. By the time the Kindred realized who’d been hunting them, the leaves were falling, and the vampires did not have the numbers to withstand the full force of the freehold under SBM’s command.

So the bloodsuckers surrendered, agreeing to limit their numbers and feeding and cede stewardship of San Jose to the Quatrine Kingdom.

This control has been subtle, with Changelings inspiring new ideas rather than manipulating from behind the scenes. Under the Seasonal Courts, the city explored programs of Smart Growth, urban renewal, and education. But the Second Depression is what it is, and funding for these programs has run out.

The Quatrine Kingdom is widely admired for its perfect record of seamless transitions between Seasonal Monarchs. Perhaps this owes to the early settlers’ Catholic dogmatism, or to the rhythms of a farming community. Crowns have changed wearers, and not always peacefully, but never has one court held sway a day longer than their season.

While there is no proof the cycle of the courts does anything to truly discourage predation by the Others, San Jose has always had a low rate of encounters with the Good Neighbors, either in the World or the Thorns. This has led some to believe that if one of the monarchs ruled longer than they should, the True Fae will return en masse, feasting on chaos wrought by the break in tradition. Given the tendency of things to fall apart and circles not to hold, many Changelings (especially among the Courts of Winter and Spring) believe this is only a matter of time.

Easily as populous as Gentlesaint in San Francisco, the Quatrine Kingdom is a force to be reckoned with in Changeling politics. It is better organized than many freeholds, and provides its members with medical, dental, and life insurance as well as holding regular festivals and military drills and investing in the arts. Unfortunately, its high population has remained static for some time, as someone or something closed up the major trods leading escaped Changelings to San Jose. This has changed with the recent arrival of a motley from the much-feared Homely House, but the Kingdom’s claim to the trod over Loch Lommond has angered the nearby Holy Cross Duchy. Where tensions between the established freehold and its nascent neighbor will lead remains to be seen.

San Jose

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