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Weed abatement plan in the works along Almaden Expressway

By Julia Baum, JBaum@bayareanewsgroup.com
Posted: 07/13/2016

Although Santa Clara County crews last month started tearing out some of the overgrown weeds along the Almaden Expressway, residents want to know why San Jose isn't on top of the problem.

"That's the No. 2 thing I get complaints about is weeds," District 10 Councilman Johnny Khamis said in an interview. "I'm very happy that the county did clean up the weeds."

As for why the city itself isn't abating the weeds, there's a simple explanation, he added.

"The answer is, it's maintained by Santa Clara County, not us," Khamis said. "In some areas the county has allowed cities to take over, like the cities that actually have money, and what it does is relieve the county of their responsibility."

He said Mountain View and Palo Alto are two cities that have taken over the county's weed abatement duties in their areas.

Though San Jose isn't in a position to do the same, Khamis said his office is working with the Almaden Valley Rotary Club and other groups to secure private funding to do some weed abatement.

Rotary treasurer Ken Tavernier said in an interview that his club and Khamis' staff aide Michele Dexter are working with the county to create a special pilot program contract.

Under that contract, if approved by all parties, the Rotary Club and Woman's Club would adopt a stretch of the expressway between Coleman Avenue and Mcabee Road and pay to maintain the landscaping for a limited period.

The county and Rotary have been working on the contract for several years but finally made some real progress recently.

"The county had to change the wording because an adoption is in perpetuity - once you decide to adopt it, it's yours, and the Rotary wouldn't do that," Khamis said.

Tavernier acknowledged there's been a reluctance to permanently adopt a highway stretch.

"There are some concerns about the cost and what it's going to take to maintain, and is this something we want to do long term," Tavernier said, adding that the initial adoption fee would be $50,000 and annual maintenance about $12,000.

Then there's the question of whether the community will "accept the fact that we spent money on plants instead of human resources," he added. "Right now the expressway doesn't look that great, but I think it's more important to meet some of the needs of the lower-income community members."

He said there's also concern that the groups were discouraged from doing any of the work themselves to save on maintenance costs.

"We're not allowed to go out into the median ourselves to do it, so we'd have to hire a company to do it," Tavernier said, "so some of the stuff we can't do ourselves. It's just kind of frustrating that all the stuff we wanted to try to do, we weren't able to do, mostly because of environmental reasons."

A decision on the contract probably won't be reached until after the new Rotary Club president is sworn in early next year, Tavernier said.