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Top Stories: Aug. 28, 2009

Downtown Grocer Opens; SJSU Dorms Evacuated; Vilsak Visits

Swanky Safeway Opens in Downtown Highrise
It may sound trendy to live downtown, but what do you do for dinner every night? After all, even the best restaurants can get expensive night after night, and what happens when you just want some comfort food, like PB&J or a tub of Haagen Dazs? That is not a problem anymore now that Safeway has opened a brand new store in the heart of downtown San Jose beneath The 88, a snazzy new highrise condo tower.

The new Safeway has all the amenities of a traditional suburban grocery store—you can still get ketchup, white bread, and American cheese for a "Leave It to Beaver"-era lunch (with lime Jello for dessert). But you can also expand your options at The Market, a gourmet food section, which features 200 kinds of cheeses as well as an enormous selection of prepared foods. In other words, the store will cater not only to families but to young business people too.

It may even cater to a more diverse crowd than originally anticipated because of it extensive underground parking lot, built by the city to attract the store. The price tag for the lot was $1.85 million, but parking will be free for anyone with a validated Safeway receipt.

Safeway may compete with nearby Zanotto's Market, especially with such high unemployment in downtown San Jose. On the other hand, it may draw more people to the downtown area, and they, in turn, will attract even more businesses. Or more new residents. As Mayor Chuck Reed said at the ribbon cutting ceremony, "Now go upstairs and buy a condo!"
Read More at The Mercury News.
Read More at CBS5.

Tom Vilsack Visits San Jose
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack dropped by San Jose yesterday to witness federal stimulus money at work. He had come to check out the Lower Silver Creek Flood Protection Project, designed to protect local homes and businesses from potential flood damage. Already halfway to completion, the project's 4.4 miles of canals and landscaped areas have received $18 million in federal funding, but could save the city and property owners as much as $51 million in damages in the event of a flood.
The last time Lower Silver Creek flooded was in 1986.
Read More at CBS5.

City Workers, Retirees Protest Pension Fund Oversight Plan
Representatives of the city's police, firefighters, and city workers unions and retirees are up in arms over plans to restructure the boards that oversee their pensions. Their pension funds lost almost one-quarter of their assets in the recent stock market crash, leaving them with $3.2 billion. Now the city is planning to replace its representatives on the oversight board with council-appointed delegates who do not work for the city or do business with it. According to the employees and retirees, this does not preclude executives from banks and insurance companies that were largely responsible for the recent meltdown of the country's financial markets. They also oppose the proposal to pay these new representatives as much as $40,000 each to serve on the board.

The restructuring was proposed by Cortex Applied Research, a Canadian firm hired by the city to review the current oversight structure. Cortex found that many of the board members had conflicts of interest, and suggested that they be replaced by external professionals.
Read More at The Mercury News.

SJSU Dorms Evacuated
Students at San Jose State University were evacuated from their dorms on Thursday morning after a Volkswagen caught fire in an underground parking garage. There were no injuries, though one student received treatment for smoke inhalation.

The fire began at about 9:00 am, when a student driving in the garage, two stories beneath a residential tower on 10th Street, heard a sound from the chassis of his vehicle and saw flames. He quickly got out of the car and pulled a fire alarm, but within seconds the whole car was ablaze and the garage filled with smoke. According to firefighters, the smoke was so intense throughout the garage that they needed to use ropes and thermal imaging just to get to the source of the fire.

Altogether, some 2,300 students were evacuated from their dorm rooms.
Read More at KCBS.