Posted 05.31.2014 in News by Christopher
Our Electric Car Guest Drive in South Bay was originally slated for Central Park in Santa Clara but we learned just a few weeks before the event that the City “discourages” the use of lightweight camping chairs and shade canopies on their lawns. "Is that in the rule book?" I asked politely. I had read the rules cover to cover and hadn't seen that rule anywhere. No, I was informed, it was an “informal policy” but that it was “enforced by the park rangers.” Pressing for a better answer I was told that it was a “safety issue”. (No, we don't understand that either). Repeated phone, email and mail inquires to Director of Parks and Recreation James Teixeira went completely unanswered. Residents of Santa Clara, we're not sure what you are actually allowed to do in your parks, but if sitting on the lawn in a 48oz aluminum chair under an aluminum and nylon shade canopy is a safety issue you have real reason to be concerned. Very concerned. I would look into that. Seriously.
The City of San Jose was much more welcoming. Melina Iglesias, an events coordinator for the City's Park division was able to find us accommodations on short notice. Although all of the suburban parks which we would normally meet at were booked, she suggested that St James Park in the downtown city center would fit our primary requirements: a patch of flat grass lawn with nearby parking. She put us in touch with Manuel Cota in the city's Department of Transportation who helped us reserve the entire row of slant street parking on St John Street for the day. Thanks Melina and Manny!
St James Park has a pretty rough reputation as the site of a permanent homeless encampment, a detail that hadn't been mentioned in any of the nearly dozen phone conversations and emails that went back and forth to the city in preparation for the event. (Full disclosure next time 'kay Melina? Only fair if you're going to ask people to fill out a 17 page special event permit application and pay a few hundred bucks in parking and park fees. I do appreciate that the City waived some of the fees, extra thanks for that!).
There were several dozen people lounging around in various places around the spacious two city block park when we arrived to set up the four 10x10 shade canopies that form the center of our meeting site. But upon seeing fellow travelers with tents, the park residents graciously made plenty of room for us and we staked out our patch of grass in the corner of St. John and 2nd streets with four teardrop flags and a row of feather flags in front of the parking spots we had reserved with city-issued "Special Event, No Parking" signs. Although occasionally curious about what these middle-aged yuppies were protesting, with tents boldly mashing-up a solidarity fist salute with the lightning-bolt of Thor, they generally ignored us and were peaceable neighbors.
The first local EV ally to arrive was EAASV president Wes Lambert, who glided up in his white and silver Smart ED. Wes' club Electric Auto Association of Silicon Valley co-hosted the San Jose meet-up and it was great to get to know Wes in person after a long thread of emails.
David Herron, well known in EV circles as the owner of the popular V is for Voltage forum, came by for a visit although he left his cute little Karmann Ghia electric conversion at home, not realizing that we had reserved parking and that a row of 8 Chargepoint chargers were ultra-conveniently located right across the street in the parking garage. V is for Voltage is actually the very first forum about electric vehicles I ever joined, about ten years ago. I have met with David in the past and it was great to see him in person again.
Musician King Ra Pharaoh stopped by say hello and entertained us with his irrepressible enthusiasm for life. Definitely going to have to engage King Ra on a professional basis for the next South Bay Electric Car Guest Drive event, this guy is on fire!
A pair of Chevrolet Sparks appeared at almost the same moment, and I had to rub my eyes to make sure I wasn't seeing double as they parked side by side in parking spots right in front of our gathering spot.
Young Max Hunter impressed everyone with his enthusiasm for EVs (specifically, um, TESLA EVs), having traveled - no kidding - from Fayetteville Arkansas to attend the Electric Car Guest Drive. It was really fun to ride with him, and we took the scenic route in the Tesla Model S when his turn at the wheel came up. Thanks to Steve Hawker for making dreams come true.
Nicholas Littlejohn and Kelly Wang came down from Berkeley to spend the day in the park with the Quorum. I appreciate Nicholas' help putting up posters for San Jose, thanks man!
Thanks to UC Santa Cruz students Alex DeGroat and Chris Loghman for making the trek over the hill to help setup and breakdown camp, help with the event and the hardest work of all, driving the Tesla Model S down to Monterey. Fist bump!
Additonal thanks to Chris Novak at Electric Vehicle Entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley for helping get the word out about the meet-up.