by Yolanda Reynolds
The Mexican Heritage Gardens project is inching closer to reality. The San Jose City Council, in a 9-2 vote last Thursday, approved a “Master Agreement” between the Redevelopment Agency/City Council and the Mexican Heritage Corporation for the development of the Mexican Cultural Heritage Gardens Community Center at the corner of Alum Rock and King Road in East San Jose.
Months ago, at a previous meeting, a study and report by the Wolf Consultant Group to the Agency questioned the viability of the proposed project unless major activities and actions on the part of the Mexican Heritage Board and its President occurred in order to assure the success of the project.
San Jose attorney and Heritage Foundation Board Chairman Fernando Zazueta in a summary to the Agency/Council, detailed the status of the actions. The recommendations the Wolf report included: a sustainable and effective fundraising program, training of the Board and the development of technical skills for the successful operation of the 500-seat theater, among other suggestions.
Zazueta says. “The Heritage Gardens will become a focus for the community that will be recognized at the local, national, and international levels as a cultural and community center that will be built – has to be built -with the help of the community and its involvement.”
Zazueta adds that the current board membership of 13 will be expanded to a total of at least 30 persons. These new members, he says, are intended to bring in individuals from business and corporate industry as well as celebrities in the arts.
Zazueta explains that broad community involvement will be especially critical and continued support will be just as important, once the Cultural gardens are opened.
For many in San Jose, there has long been a desire and hope for a cultural center to present and inform about the rich heritage of the Americas with its worldwide inﬂuence.
The inﬂuence of that heritage in the arts, agriculture, exploration, philosophy, architecture, tradition and history is immense and it deeply touches the life of every person living in the Americas.
There were two dissenting votes at last Thursday’s meeting and there was obvious concern, even from some of those who voted for approval of the agreement.
District 3 Council representative, David Pandori, says that he supported the original plan for the Gardens and Community Center but not the theater. He explained that it would be wiser to build youth centers and support more after school homework and other youth programs than to use the $10+million for a theater that, he felt, would have far more limited interest.
Pat Dando, Council representative of District 10 explained that she too supported the Garden and Community Center but felt that the theater belonged in downtown where she felt support would come from an already growing arts patronage in that area.
There was considerable discomfort on the part of the Agency/Council because the Heritage Gardens, as currently proposed, will require long term annual subsidy of $414,000. And for the ﬁrst four years an additional subsidy of $453,000 from the City’s General Fund.
City spokesperson, Elly Oppenheim, explained that other arts groups have received similar funding from the City and that the proposed subsidy is not unusual. Indeed, this has long been the subject of dispute with ethnic and minority based arts groups who have sought City support.
San Joseans/taxpayers are being asked for their opinions on recommendations from a year-long study that has a number of proposals intended to ﬁnd ways to meet General Fund obligations. Every year, the Council has had to make adjustments to accommodate a lack of funds. These proposals include such items as: increase in hotel occupancy fees/taxes, the employment of competitive bidding from both the government and private sector for providing city services, and reduced beneﬁts for City workers including (delaying the age for their retirement) among other suggestions. A public meeting was held last Monday at City Hall to discuss these suggestions.
Zazueta said that the Board will be aggressively seeking community help. If you wish to help, or wish more information, contact the Mexican Heritage Corporation or its President, Pete Carrillo, at 292-5917. © La Oferta Newspaper.