San Jose neighborhood mural spruces up blighted area

It’s an effort to lift up an East San Jose neighborhood plagued with blight and crime. The community is coming together hoping to change its image with a new beautification project. It’s a new mural that will represent and celebrate the city’s history, diversity and culture.

Many residents in the Alum Rock neighborhood of San Jose said this part of town gets a bad rap with old, rundown buildings attracting loitering and crime.

“A lot of people believe it's forgotten, it's hopeless, it's helpless,” said Kat Da Silva of the Alum Rock Village Action Committee.

Instead of moving out, neighbors are working together to make it better.

“It’s a wall that has a lot of life going through it every day,” said Muralist Carlos Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, who has deep roots in East San Jose, is an artist now tasked to add some vibrancy and color, painting a 50 by 15 foot mural at the intersection of Alum Rock and White Road that will tell the neighborhood's story.

“My interpretation of the story is the Alum Rock history, the Ohlone people that are natives to this land and have been here for hundreds of years,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez didn't come up with the mural's concept alone, enlisting help from art students at nearby James Lick High School.

For 11th Grader James Nguyen, he shares his idea with pride, adding fruit to the mural, saying it pays tribute to San Jose’s farmland.

“It’s really cool because I’m helping immortalize the East Side, Alum Rock history onto a wall,” said Nguyen. “I never thought little old me could be a part of this.”

A sketch of the final design shows it'll include Alum Rock Park and the Lick Observatory. Its focal point will be flowers to honor Miss Flo, who was killed in a home invasion robbery last year.

The goal of the project is to welcome people to Alum Rock and for the community to be empowered to inspire change one brush stroke at a time.

“We feel alive, we feel acknowledged and we feel who we are matters,” said Rodriguez.

“My hope is that people will start enjoying the eastside and not labeling us as this terrible area to live,” said Mary Valderrama of the Alum Rock Village Action Committee.

The project is funded by grants totaling $8,000 from the Viva Calle San Jose program and Beautify San Jose. The plan is to have it completed by mid-October.