Alex Chen

Alex Chen

Before Urban Villages Were Cool

Larry Ames wanted to live in a walkable, bikeable neighborhood long before it was the popular sentiment it is today.

A resident of Willow Glen in San Jose since 1979, Larry has been advocating for neighborhoods with a mix of homes and businesses, convenient public transit, and people-friendly public spaces for 35 years. San Jose is finally catching up with plans for 70 urban villages peppered throughout the city (such as the West San Carlos Street and South Bascom Avenue urban villages).

Larry and his bike

“As a kid, I grew up in the suburbs and everything was get in the car and drive five miles,” he recalls. “You need to buy a bottle of milk? Get in the car and drive five miles. You want to go and do anything? Get in the car and drive five miles. I did not want to be dependent on my car here in San Jose.”

The recently adopted Diridon Station Area Plan is the plan for the neighborhood around San Jose’s preeminent transportation hub—Caltrain, Amtrak, light rail, bus, and (fingers-crossed) future BART and high-speed rail lines all run through here. The neighborhood’s plan also includes a provision to restore access to Los Gatos Creek and to connect the bicycle trails that run along it. The creek and bike trail access was all Larry; he championed this feature’s inclusion in the final plan.

“[The trail] would make it so people could more easily get to the arena, to Diridon Station, to work without having to drive there. When you commute to work on a bicycle trail like that, it’s a little bit of a vacation before you go to work, it’s a little bit of a vacation when you leave work.”

“I’m going to meetings so that San Jose has pleasant places to live, work, and enjoy life.”

Only recently retired, Larry has been an engaged community advocate for over three decades because it’s his passion.

“I guess I’m going to all these meetings to make it so the rest of the city has this. That’s what I’m hoping these urban villages turn out to be: pleasant places to live, work, and enjoy life.”

This year, voters around the Bay Area have the opportunity to vote to create thriving neighborhoods like San Jose’s urban villages at the ballot box. See all of our ballot recommendations for the upcoming November election here.


Photo: Alex Chen


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