LA OFERTA - MARCH 21, 2003

"Can a business be 'blighted' if it is thriving?"

- Pete Campbell

The first thing that comes to mind when you drive into the Calderon’s Gas Station and Tire Shop on Story Road, is that this is a business that the owners take pride in running. It has the look and feel of a successful business…because it is one. Why then, is the government trying to take over the property?

(Jose Calderon) raised concerns for the family’s safety after an event that occurred two weeks ago. A mysterious intruder went onto the Calderon property, after hours, and without the prior knowledge or expressed consent of the family.

The San Jose Redevelopment Agency (RDA) is “negotiating” with the Calderons to purchase the 26,000 sq. ft property adjacent to the Tropicana shopping center. But the Calderons don’t want to leave, and don’t understand why they have to.

For their part, the Calderons maintain that they have tried to work with the RDA. Art Calderon, one of the brothers, said that at one time, they were even willing to relocate if the RDA could move them across the street. “A lady from the RDA told us that she would look into it, but nothing ever came of it.”

The RDA has offered the Calderons a sum that is far less than their original purchase price, due to anticipated costs associated with the site (fuel tanks, clean-up, etc). Is it fair that the Calderons be asked to take a financial hit for the RDA and its plans?

“I was raised here in this neighborhood,” Art Calderon says, “I am not treated with dignity.” Brother Jose takes it a bit further, raising concerns for the family’s safety after an event that occurred two weeks ago. A mysterious intruder went onto the Calderon property, after hours, and without the prior knowledge or expressed consent of the family.

On Saturday, March 1, Art and Jose received an emergency call from one of their customers. When they arrived at their shop, they saw someone with a flashlight looking around the property. They approached the man and asked him what he was doing on their property after hours. Whatever he was doing (he had a map or diagram in his hand), he explained that he was doing it, “while the owners are not here.” The Calderon Brothers explained that they were the owners, and asked him for some identification. He stated that he worked for “Earth Tech.”

"We are told that the RDA is in the business of making communities better. How can the 'community' ever be better, if honest, hardworking people lose their businesses in the process?"

In a letter to the Redevelopment Agency, Charles Katz, Vice President of Earth Tech Inc., assured that Earth Tech personnel have not at any time entered…(the property)…, nor has anyone been requested or instructed to visit and enter the property.”

But the letter also states:

“As you are aware, a single incident occurred when a potential subcontractor stopped by the property in the evening on Saturday, March 1, 2003.”… "The potential subcontractor decided to stop by the property on the way home from another job (not an Earth Tech project) to determine if a treatment compound and utility drops for a prior treatment system were still in place at the property. Earth Tech did not instruct the person to visit and enter the property.”

In a letter to Mr. Calderon Senior, David Panagore of the Redevelopment Agency wrote, “Thank you for letting me know about the incident that occurred the evening of Saturday, March 1, when someone entered on your property and claimed that they were an Earth Tech employee.”

So, it did happen. Someone went on their property to retrieve information. But no one’s responsible for it.

Mr. Panagore assured the Calderons that, “No agency employee or authorized representative entered your property without permission.”

(Mr. Panagore did not return this reporter’s phone call).

Some would characterize this as trespassing. Others simply call it, the way things get done in San Jose. Seeing someone, who you think was sent by the government surveying your property before it’s been acquired, is a little like being measured for your coffin while you’re still alive in your hospital bed.

By law, Redevelopment money is only to be used to eliminate areas of blight that cannot be rehabilitated by the private sector acting alone. How can a business be blighted if it is thriving?

The Calderons run a successful business. They pay taxes and follow the law. What further obligation do they have to their city?

We are told that the RDA is in the business of making communities better. How can the “community” ever be better, if honest, hardworking people lose their businesses in the process?