a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Looking Back -- Population and Freeways

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Looking Back -- Population and Freeways

SUMMARY: Silicon Valley then and now
From a FB discussion on my post about Spokane vs Coeur d'Alene, and about avoiding big cities. June 30 2020.

Likely gibberish to folks who haven't lived here, or maybe not.

I said:
My current big city [San Jose aka Silicon Valley aka Santa Clara County aka South Bay Area--overlapping multiple city and county boundaries] grew up around me. I know that there have been traffic issues always, but they build more freeways and more lanes and that just encourages more cars and more people. When I moved here (with family), the county held about a million people. About 1.2 million when I moved out on my own and joined the work world. Now it holds about 2 million. It's overwhelming at times. Not just the traffic, but the smog--which got much better for a while--is getting worse again. Construction is infilling everything, and usually higher (no more 1-story office buildings).
I've actually been threatening to move elsewhere since 1976 or so. Colorado was on my radar at the time. [Note: But that was more because I wanted to move around like we always had as a family. We can see how well that worked out.]

Friend who recently moved to Victoria BC said:

when my parents brought me to Sunnyvale in 1962 there were still orchards everywhere, I-280 didn't exist, US-101 was still the Bayshore Freeway, and CA-237 was still a 2-lane country road.
As you know, we decided to bail out for someplace less metropolitan. It helps being retired because I don't have to care about finding a well-paying job

Then I responded:
Yeah, the job thing for sure. 
I think that things weren't too different in 1968. Going to friends' houses, I'd bike past orchards in our neighborhood. Horse riders very occasionally came down our street from the stables 2 blocks away. Friends in high school cut apricots nearby for summer jobs. I-280 between San Jose and CA-85 wasn't completed until some time after we moved here, and the section going north to SF still went along Cañada Road (I remember the awful traffic on the annual high school honor society bus trip up and back). 
CA-237, yes, when we'd drive north on this 2-lane road for whatever reason (probably off to go camping), during the winter it was very clear that it ran through wetlands: water and ponds along both sides of the road in the fields. And plenty of time to look when stopped at all the stoplights. All hint of that is long gone. A real detriment to the Pacific Flyway. [Now almost all commercial.]
For many years, I made an annual trip from Campbell to Visalia, which meant north on CA-17 to I-280 to US-101 south where it was still Monterey Road aka Blood Alley for several miles, talk about traffic... Then eventually that section of US-101 was finished, and it shortened our trip by at least half an hour; then 85 went in from Cupertino to south San Jose, which shortened it by at least another half hour but increased the traffic noise at our house by a lot. Somewhere in there also CA-152 past Casa de Fruta was upgraded to a 4-lane freeway, which took care of the traffic jam there, so even a shorter trip. 
OK, this is fun. Really have things I need to do.
"When I was a kid, we really had it hard..."

  • Wikipedia discusses US-101's history going back even further than its fame as El Camino Real with the Spanish missions built starting in the last 1600s.
  • I love Casa de Fruta. My photos of one visit. ... And of another visit. (See captions: Hover cursor over image viewed smaller or larger.)
  • Map of expected Santa Clara County land use from this Army Corps of Engineers document written in 1959 (page D-3):
  • I haven't compared to current reality of industrial vs residential and commercial
    (I've tried for an hour to find a current land-use map; this old one shows more the Santa Clara city area--
    CA-237 angling up to the right, US-101 angling down to the right),
    but the former is now likely much lower than the latter.
    You can see that the SF Bay has vanished by their 2020 vision (even then some of the wetlands and/or the bay had been converted to salt ponds).
    True story.
  • CA-152: One of the few major routes out of the south bay. Once you're on it, you're stuck for about 25 miles. So if there's a major accident, you're stuck big time. On one trip, a semi caught fire. We were stopped, then slowly crept, for maybe an hour. Everyone herded past it on the very slanted center divide--watching semis drive on that was scary!

  • Construction ev-ry-where 24/7/365. I don't think it has stopped in 10 years. (in early 2000s, with the dot com bust, it slowed for a while). Often replacing "older" buildings of only one story.

  • Traffic. Not always 24/7/365, but sometimes seems that way.  This section always has brake lights and stopped traffic during commute hours and often just any daylight hours.

  • Looking down on my family's neighborhood, 1969. Almost everything in view built within the previous 1-10 years I'd say. One orchard off to the right (winter so trees are bare); chunks of empty green on the lower left (flat). None of that there now. And the smog, OMG THE SMOG! Many days you couldn't see those mountains at all!

  • From the same hilltop 40 years later. Can't see anything for all the trees (not complaining about trees...).  Above the bush in the previous photo is a yellowish-green field with 2-story buildings to its  upper left. That's the high school.  Here it's zoomed in 40 years later--above the shrub on the right side of the photo. You can see the buildings but barely see the field. (Smog is much better. After it has rained, it is often even clearer.)

  • And in the 1969 photo, above the people, there's another (closer) green rectangle; that's the junior high.  Here it's zoomed in from the same hill -- you can barely see the field (center right, with a line of evergreens along its far side). The arrow is our house.

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