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Lights Out for Saving Willow Glen Trestle in San Jose?

The upper council chamber seating was awash in orange as dozens of residents came with signs to support the Willow Glen Trestle. It had been unanimously approved for nomination to the City’s Historic Landmark status by the Historic Landmarks Commission.

At this meeting the city staff had suggested that the council and mayor deny this status as well as vote for the demolition order for the WG Trestle. This had been previously approved for demolition by the City of San Jose. But a local group, the Friends of WG Trestle had filed suit against San Jose stating that San Jose needed to conduct an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to assess the historical nature of the WG Trestle.

The City of San Jose had lost the lawsuit (and is appealing) but has gone forward with conducting an EIR during late 2014 and early 2015. After the expiration and review period by residents, the issue went to HLC.

Two months ago, the HLC was for the first time in approximately two years was able to officially take action. They were fully supportive of the WG Trestle. Normally a structure that is potentially historic would go to the Planning, Parks and Recreation and Historic Landmarks Commissions before going to City Council. The San Jose Parks and Recreation Department bypassed this normal procedure of expert review and instead took the unprecedented (and potentially in violation of CEQA) went to two organizations: Save Our Trails and the Willow Glen Neighborhood Association.

Fast forward to this meeting and the dozens of speakers came to passionately talk about the issues. It appeared that there was about 95% in support of restoring the WG Trestle and the remainder in support of it’s destruction citing either environmental or financial issues in addition to it not being historic.

After much discussion by Don Rocha, Raul Peralez and Ash Kalra with attempts to save all or part of the WG Trestle there were finally votes to deny Historic Landmark Status and to approve the demolition contract and approve the destruction of the WG Trestle. There was discussion about repurposing the wood from the massive structure, but it turns out the creosote coated material (most has probably leached out) is considered toxic.

Mayor Sam Liccardo joked that we can’t get Creosote Wheaties.

The pro WG Trestle crowd were thanked by many Council Members and one Council Member asked that he might have considered Historic status if the speakers had offered a solution. Someone in the audience said “we only had one minute!”
It’s deja vu all over again as Yogi Berra would say.