Local professor presents research on Black people in Santa Clara County

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN AND ARI STROBER, PHOTO BY EMILY MCNALLY

Local author and historian Jan Batiste Adkins will be speaking at the Los Altos History Museum in a Zoom event on Feb. 24 at 5 p.m. to commemorate the contributions of Black visionaries in the Bay Area.

African Americans have a long, yet relatively unknown history in Santa Clara County brought to light in Adkins’s recent book.

Adkins, an adjunct faculty member and lecturer at San Jose City College, wrote “History of African Americans of San Jose and Santa Clara County” to educate her students on the contributions of African American people to the history of California. 

While Adkins was working on her master’s degree at San Jose State University, she found that she had trouble finding local literature written by Black people in the Bay Area. Adkins then set out to find Black writers and read their accounts of why they arrived in this area and what they contributed to the local community. Her interest in researching grew from there, leading her to local libraries and historical societies.

“I wanted to research more; I wanted to find out more about some of the early pioneers,” Adkins said. 

Jan Batiste Adkins, an adjunct faculty member and lecturer at San Jose City College. (courtesy Jan Batiste Adkins)

With this newfound interest in researching the history of Black families in Santa Clara County, she began to study the paths that African American people took to get to the region.

“African American families started to come to this area in waves of migration both before and after the Civil War,” Adkins said. “They heard the call ‘Go west young man, go west,’ and free men and women came to California to buy land to establish businesses, establish farms, and establish schools.” 

Adkins explained that prior to the Civil War, many families of African heritage came to California as slaves. However, miners in the area believed that slave owners received an unfair advantage through employing slave labor, allowing enslaved workers to go to court in California and win their freedom.

“Miners collaborated with abolitionists to work towards freeing the slaves in California,” Adkins said. “Thus Black families were able to build Black schools, Black churches and Black businesses in this area.” 

Through hundreds of historical accounts and photographs, Adkins’s book pieces together the stories of the Black pioneers whose names are unknown to history but played an important role in local development.

One of those pioneers, Sam McDonald, was born in Louisiana in 1884. A descendent of slaves, he worked various jobs before settling in South Palo Alto, then known as Mayfield, where he eventually became superintendent of athletic grounds and buildings at Stanford University and deputy sheriff for Santa Clara County. McDonald began acquiring property in the local hills and eventually bought 400 acres of land that he later donated to Stanford. 

As Adkins described, McDonald’s legacy lives on through his “pet project” of planting gardens and cooking food alongside children at the Stanford Convalescent Home for Underprivileged Children, now known as the McDonald House. 

“I think someone needs to write a movie about him,” Adkins said.

In her book, Adkins also features the story of Roy Clay. Originally from Kansas, Clay worked with Hewlett Packard during the early years when the company was founded in a garage in Palo Alto. After working in Hewlett Packard, Roy Clay started his own successful company called Rod Electronics. Eventually, he became the mayor of Palo Alto.

“He loved kids and loved making people happy,” Adkins said. “He tried to help students understand the impact of racism and how to succeed. He made a big impact on the local community.”

Throughout the webinar, Adkins will present those stories along with others and share the past of Santa Clara County.  

“Santa Clara County has historically attracted people of color, not just African Americans, but Asians and Hispanic families,” she said. “We have a lot to be proud of and I look forward to discussing this diversity.”

Register to listen to Adkins’s talk here.

CIF reverses, allows athletes to participate in same-season club and school sports

STORY BY GARV VIRGINKAR, PHOTO BY GIL RUBINSTEIN

Note: At the moment, Santa Clara County cohorting restrictions still prohibit participation on multiple teams.

The California Interscholastic Federation has reinstated its waiver of Bylaw 600-605, allowing student athletes to participate in both school and club sports through the same season.

This latest development, according to the CIF, follows clarification from the California Department of Public Health that language in its Dec. 14 youth sports guidance regarding multi-team participation is a “recommendation,” rather than a mandate.

Football is an exception to the ruling, and athletes in the sport are still barred from participating in both school and club sports during the same season; the CIF cited the full contact nature of the sport, as well as consultation from its own sports medicine advisory committee and California law regarding full-contact practice limitations.

No guidance was provided as to if this will be revised at a later date, but no football athletes have currently lost eligibility in relation to the decision as there have been no CIF football games. 

Under typical circumstances, the CIF does not permit athletes to participate in same-season club and school sports, but had rescinded that rule during the pandemic to allow athletes to play in club sports while school seasons had not yet started. That decision, however, was reversed last month following new state guidance, but in yet another reversal, has been reinstated again today.

DeMartini Orchard: Oldest business in Los Altos sticks to its roots

STORY BY DANA HUCH AND GIL RUBINSTEIN, PHOTOS BY DANA HUCH AND EMILY MCNALLY

June 26 might just seem like a regular summer Sunday, but here in Los Altos, it’s officially known as DeMartini Day, commemorating the oldest business that still operates in the town today: DeMartini Orchard, a farmstand on the side of San Antonio, founded in 1932.

Over the almost nine decades that the store has operated, it’s passed through three families; first the DeMartinis, then the Zeitmanns before the current owners, the Kozys. Its deep roots have made DeMartini a pillar of Los Altos’ history and community.

The Kozy brothers — Craig and Tony — gained ownership of the stand in 1985 and have kept the family-run tradition alive. Craig’s son, James, began working the stand at 12 years old, and he’s grown up witnessing the complications of running a family business. 


Aerial photos of Demartini Orchard, 1930’s and 2021 (courtesy Kobi Myszne and Los Altos History Museum, respectively)

“Community is a big part of our store,” James said. “A lot of our customers come here not with a dinner plan, but wanting to see what looks good that day. We’ve been here for so long that we are entrenched in the community.”

The stand has stood the test of time partially due to the DeMartini family’s continued ownership of the land on which the store sits, relieving a significant amount of financial pressure from the business. 

Because of this support, the stand has been able to stick to its charming, anachronistic purpose of serving fresh produce to the community, despite time’s changes. Heritage and attention to detail makes DeMartini Orchard stand out among the grocery delivery services of the tech age.


Photos of Demartini Orchard from across San Antonio, 1930’s and 2021 (courtesy Los Altos History Museum)

But given that same tech age, the stand has needed to branch out in the types of produce it sources to accommodate for a wider demographic. Since the tech industry has boomed, DeMartini’s has seen its patronage diversify and has tried to reflect this change in their inventory.

“Historically the demographics of Los Altos were a little bit older and white; in the past decade or so, there’s been a shift to a younger demographic,” James said. “There has been an explosion in diversity, so I’ve focused a little bit more on getting more ethnic foods and different vegetables.”

Every day, DeMartini receives a new shipment of produce from farms as far as Watsonville and Calistoga, as well as other farms along the coast and in the valley.

“If they’re willing to drive the product to me, I’ll take it,” James said. “If it’s in season and if it’s local, it’ll always taste better than if it has to sit in a warehouse or truck. It’s also great to keep money in local communities.”

But DeMartini, like many small businesses, still has not been immune to the effects of COVID-19. While it does now offer curbside pickup, extra costs and manpower associated with selecting items have added to employees’ workloads, making it a less than ideal system.

And the pandemic has also brought in a new crowd of shoppers — tech workers.

“Before the pandemic, a lot of these tech workers would get fed all their meals at the campus,” James said. “Now, since they closed the campuses, a lot of tech workers are coming out and looking at produce for the first time. I’ve had a lot of people ask, ‘What is this vegetable? How do I cook it?’ I’ve had people come in who didn’t know that there were more than 10 varieties of apples. It’s really cool to see someone who tries something for the first time; it’s really fun.”

But going to the locally sourced produce stand is often not the most convenient or cheapest option, especially in comparison to supermarkets and grocery delivery services. Even before the pandemic, DeMartini found itself being forced to fight the larger companies for customers, but has prided itself on having fresher produce than the big box chains.

“Your Safeways, your Walmarts, your Costcos, they take everything that the farm produces regardless of quality,” James said. “I have people that go to the markets every day and they pick out the best looking boxes off the pallets. It’s not the easy way to do it, but it is the best way to do it.”

County walks back 25-foot rule for youth sports, but adds new restrictions

STORY BY TOMOKI CHIEN, PHOTO BY GIL RUBINSTEIN

The Santa Clara County Health Department appears to have walked back its previous mandate that athletics cohorts maintain a 25-foot distance from one another, a restriction that sparked outrage among the high school sports community.

The new guidance notes that participants in youth athletic activity must maintain at least 6 feet of distance, conspicuously missing its previous stipulation that cohorts keep 25 feet from one another.

In its latest order, however, the county added a restriction that requires athletes to wear masks at all times, the only exception being for aquatic athletes when in the water. That’s a change from previous guidelines, which allowed athletes to remove masks when engaged in strenuous physical activity.

The guidance also allows for two cohorts within the county or an adjacent one to engage in competition — but only track and field, cross country, skiing, snowboarding, tennis, swimming and diving are permitted to hold competitions with three or more cohorts.

“I understand wearing masks when we are on campus, warming up or stretching, but when we are working really hard, it definitely makes the workout a lot harder and less enjoyable when masks are required,” said Los Altos junior and varsity cross country runner Riley Capuano.

Capuano added that when her team goes out on runs — without masks, which was permitted by previous guidelines — they space out, 6 feet apart, in groups of three or four.

“I can’t imagine racing with a mask and how much slower I would run,” she said.

Earlier today, superintendents and athletic directors expressed outrage at the county’s now-rescinded order that athletics cohorts keep a 25-foot distance, which would’ve made competition virtually impossible; that order was released by county in October of last year, but local leaders — notably, Palo Alto Unified School District Superintendent Don Austin — were only made aware of it at a county meeting with superintendents last night.

But the miscommunication between county officials and high school officials sparked a torrent of indignation through this evening, culminating in the county’s release of its new guidance.

The Santa Clara Valley Athletic League is set to begin its season one competition in just over two weeks, on Feb. 15.

County guidelines could spell disaster for high school sports competition

STORY BY TOMOKI CHIEN, PHOTO BY GIL RUBINSTEIN

Note: Santa Clara County has walked back its guidance mandating a 25-foot distance between athletics cohorts. Click here for the most recent updates.

Santa Clara County safety restrictions could thwart high school sports competitions set to begin in just over two weeks. 

County guidelines allow practice and conditioning within stable cohorts of athletes given 6-foot social distancing, but also dictate that separate cohorts must be kept at a 25-foot distance; that presents a challenge once local schools begin competition, when a handful of different cohorts from different schools look to compete against one another.

“[The county] just announced that athletics between schools will require 25’ of spacing,” wrote Palo Alto Unified School District Superintendent Don Austin in a tweet last night. “That sport doesn’t exist.”

The 25-foot clause — part of the county’s “mandatory directive for programs serving children or youth” — dates back to October of last year, but Palo Alto High School Athletic Director Nelson Gifford said he expected the county to lift the clause when the state ended the regional stay-at-home order on Jan. 25, and announced the youth sports competition could begin.

More than that, Nelson expressed frustration with the disconnect between the state and county.

“Everyone expected sports to be able to compete according to their tier designation as communicated by the California Department of Public Health,” he said. “This was a shock to everyone.”

Neighboring San Mateo county has no such restriction regarding a 25-foot distance between cohorts, and state guidance only dictates 6-foot social distancing between athletes.

Los Altos Athletic Director Michelle Noeth said that she was previously aware of how the 25-foot clause affected how athletics cohorts needed to be spaced around campus, but only just learned that it applies to the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League’s competitions slated to start on Feb. 15. 

According to Noeth, the county is set to hold a webinar for coaches and athletic directors tomorrow to clarify guidelines, which she hopes will give a “glimmer of hope of information.”

Noeth did, however, express optimism, suggesting ways that schools could hold competition even under the restrictions.

“In theory, I read it as swimming and diving and cross country can still do this,” she said. “They [can] run competitions by themselves and upload the results to determine who won the contests. … Just my thoughts of how to make it work.”

She added that the same could be done for track and field — set to begin in April — as well as golf, which may allow for more traditional competition that still satisfies the 25-foot requirement.

Gifford, for his part, noted that throughout the pandemic, he’s been inspired watching programs provide opportunities for students despite restrictive safety orders.

“We know COVID is serious and I have seen so many programs do everything with their limited resources to provide opportunities for their students,” Gifford said. “It’s been inspiring to see communities pull together and work with one another.”

But he again expressed frustration with the county.

“It’s been terrible,” he said. “Athletes, parents, coaches and the community are all distraught. … We were working in good faith believing we had the blueprint to return to play. Then in two days, the rules change and we are back to nowhere. It doesn’t pass the smell test.”

The county health department is set to release “clarifying guidance” later tonight, according to a spokesperson.

Los Altos Police Department to encrypt public radio channel

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN, PHOTO BY ALLISON HUANG

Starting in March, the Los Altos Police Department will be encrypting its radio communications following new guidance from the California Department of Justice.

The justice department’s order mandates that police departments statewide encrypt personal information such as names, driver’s license numbers and other personal identifiers when transmitted over the radio. Currently, officers must transmit personally identifying information over a radio channel shared with other first responders that’s accessible to the public by commercial scanners and smartphone apps.

The order allows police departments to either encrypt their public channels, create a separate encrypted channel or else find another way to communicate sensitive information.

In a memo to city council, Police Chief Andy Galea announced that the department chose to encrypt the main channel, citing a lack of available staff to manage a separate encrypted channel.

The switch may now limit the media and public’s ability to access and monitor police activity, a fact that Galea acknowledged.

“I certainly understand the concerns expressed by those who would lose access to our main radio channels,” Galea wrote. “The department has embraced social media to keep the community up to date and provides tools for community members to keep informed.”

The move follows the Palo Alto Police Department’s decision to encrypt its channel, which drew quick censure, as the department gave no warning before making the switch and did so without any advisement from the city council. 

Although the justice department directed police departments to make the switch last October, Los Altos is one of only three cities in Santa Clara County yet to make the switch.

Click here to read the full memo.

Teachers speak out against LASD return at board meeting

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN, PHOTO BY TOMOKI CHIEN

While for many, school commutes now consist solely of the distance between bed and laptop, the Los Altos School District Board’s decision on Jan. 11 to continue as planned with in-person learning means that many LASD teachers are now forced to return to campus. For fourth grade teacher Emily Simon, that means spending her commute in tears.

“I spent each of my commutes in tears, deciding between my life and my students’,” she said at the board meeting.

LASD began its opening earlier this year, welcoming elementary school students beginning in late September through December; that was temporarily put on hold due to staffing shortages in early December, but the board’s move on Jan. 11 has seen transitional kindergarten through fifth graders on campus this week, with middle schoolers slated to return on Jan. 20.

Like all other teachers who gave comments at the meeting, Simon echoed the fact that the District has forced many teachers to make a difficult decision: their safety or their job. While all can agree that students receive a better education in-person, many teachers and some parents are concerned for the safety of teachers, especially those teaching middle school.

“I would much rather be in person,” said Blach science teacher Megan Greenbaum. “But as a teacher, I will be seeing around 120 students a week; the case numbers are higher than ever, and the number of ICU beds in the county is shrinking.”

As reported by the Town Crier, the Los Altos Teachers Association opposed the District’s move, wanting to hold off on a mandatory return until either the county sits in the red tier of coronavirus restrictions for two weeks, or all staff members are vaccinated. 

Throughout the board meeting, members of the board implored teachers to look at the statistics.

“Does the data support our anxiety or not?” said District Superintendent Jeff Baier. “I want to make sure we are looking at this through the lens of reality.”

A chart detailing COVID-19 statistics across LASD schools. (via Los Altos School District)

However, considering that the number of available ICU beds in the county sit in the single digits, many teachers are concerned for the health of themselves and their families.

“After 21 years teaching at Blach, I got a little bit older, and like many of the mature teachers, I am a bit frail, and I am very very afraid with in-person teaching,” said Blach teacher Lorinna Roland while fighting back tears. “There won’t have to be many cases for it to be me, and for it to be fatal. Please wait until we can get a vaccine.”

While the cases in Santa Clara County increase and ICU beds decrease, teachers spoke out against parents allowing their students to defy state and local COVID restrictions.

“Students have been seen in Los Altos neighborhoods without masks, and they have had sleepovers with friends, and seen extended family members,” said Egan teacher Ann Specter. “Guidelines have not been followed by everyone, and without regular testing the risk is huge.”

At the time of publication, the Post was unable to reach Baier for comment.

MV Council elects Kamei and Ramirez as mayor and vice mayor

STORY BY CARLY HELTZEL, PHOTO BY GIL RUBINSTEIN

As outgoing Mountain View City Council Members Chris Clark and John McAlister said their heartfelt goodbyes to a teary-eyed council, they were anticlimactically moved to the attendees box on Zoom while elected Council Members Margaret Abe-Koga, Sally Lieber, Lisa Matichak and Pat Showalter were sworn in by pre-recorded video oaths and designated panelists by the click of a button.

Tonight, the new city council took office and unanimously elected Ellen Kamei as mayor and Lucas Ramirez as vice mayor. 

Kamei served as vice mayor under former Mayor Abe-Koga, making them the first Japanese American mayor-vice-mayor pair in the mainland United States. Abe-Koga said she was more than happy to be handing the position of mayor down to Kamei’s “capable hands.”

Finding inspiration for her public service in the compassion and perseverance of the Mountain View community, Kamei said she hopes that it will build a better future for everyone.

McAlister echoed this appreciation for public service that being a council member provided him during his terms.

“You’d be amazed at the connections you’ve made and the impact you have during public service,” McAlister said. “Working with these people day in and day out was tremendous.” 

And despite the profound sadness for McAlister and Clark leaving the council, it was quickly replaced by an excitement to greet new Council Members Lieber and Showalter.

With State Senator Josh Becker calling her a “true champion for social justice” — highlighting her work in providing secure and affordable housing for the city — Lieber said that while on the council she will strive to bring empathy and respect to all encounters with the community. 

“Everybody is in, and no one is left out,” Lieber said. 

Similarly, Showalter said she is an advocate for environmental sustainability and housing security for all Mountain View residents, especially those in motor homes. She also said that among the multiple city councils she’s been on, Mountain View’s shows a civility across divides in opinion that is rare in today’s political climate. 

In all of the remarks throughout the evening, the council members expressed great pride in their city and a fervor to build a stronger community.

“In the words of outgoing Council Member John McAlister, there are only two types of people in this world: The people who live in Mountain View and the people who wish they did,” said County Supervisor Joe Simitian.

A look into the MV Housing Justice Coalition: activists protecting renters and mobile home owners

STORY BY CARLY HELTZEL, PHOTO BY GIL RUBINSTEIN

Logging onto the Mountain View Housing Justice Coalition (MVHJC) Zoom call, you’d hardly expect to be greeted with a tight-knit, welcoming group of advocates laughing about how many trout brains makes a serving of food — but the amicable environment took nothing away from the gravity of what they were about to discuss. 

The activist group, comprised of members of the Mountain View community, seeks to protect apartment renters and residents sheltered in motorhomes from eviction, raised rent prices and displacement.

Following the Mountain View City Council’s vote to confirm its implementation of Measure C — the ban of oversized vehicles, including motor homes, from streets 40 feet wide or less — the advocacy group still hopes to delay the installation of the signs necessary to enforce the ban, continuing a year and a half long attempt to block the measure. 

“[The City] is going to run into the issue of enforcement,” said MVHJC member Jackie Cashen at tonight’s meeting. “One place where it’s likely we would be able to challenge is in selective enforcement. I don’t think they’ll enforce in a handful of cases because no one complains, but if they start enforcing it anywhere then it’s likely to become more of a problem.”

According to Cashen, motor home residents and advocates could appeal for a temporary injunction in light of the pandemic to delay the implementation — this is the last time to be moving people around, she said. 

Cashen said she lives in an apartment, but has been on the waiting list for affordable housing for over a year and a half. 

Despite many of their efforts ultimately being unsuccessful, the group continues to sound optimistic, with members continuing to use phrases like “if Measure C is implemented” — a stark contrast with some members of the City Council’s determination to make it happen. 

However, with new council members sworn in, the MVHJC is experiencing a supportive council for the first time in a while, according to MVHJC member Edie Keating.

Looking forward, former Mayor Lenny Siegal, a member of the coalition, said the next major issue the group has set its sights on is the Rental Housing Committee appointments that will take place in a few months. This committee is tasked with implementing and administering the Community Stabilization and Fair Rent acts, which provide protections for renters in Mountain View. 

Describing holding a seat on the committee as a “thankless task,” Siegal and the group discussed community members to nominate and the strategy in placing MVHJC’s endorsements; however, the organization is bracing for pushback from the council on many of the candidates they will endorse, given anti–rent control council members such as Lisa Matichak and Mayor Margaret Abe-Koga.

Through all of the group’s successes and roadblocks, the activists say they hope to regroup after Measure C, and continue to fight the housing crisis and work toward a “safe community” and “to protect vehicle residents against harassment and exclusion.”

For more information on the MVHJC, visit their website

Neysa Fligor continues breaking barriers

STORY BY GIL RUBINSTEIN, PHOTO COURTESY NEYSA FLIGOR

Los Altos City Council meetings used to look a certain way: white, often older individuals coming together to discuss the various, sometimes trivial issues they perceived to be important. Like constructing bocce ball courts.

Two years ago, that changed when Neysa Fligor became the first Black council member in Los Altos history. This year, breaking yet another barrier, she was elected mayor by the new Council, making her the first Black woman to hold the post.

On Council, Fligor has fought for safe routes to school, a larger-scope police task force and affordable housing, and plans to continue focusing on those same issues throughout her term as mayor.

Fligor got her start in public service as Deputy Counsel to Santa Clara County, and after moving to Los Altos, she sought to continue her career in public service by applying to the Planning Commission in Los Altos. The applicant pool was competitive, however, and she was offered a spot on the Grant Writing committee instead. Fligor said the Council was “very apologetic” that they could not offer her a spot on the Planning Commission.

“I felt immediately welcomed,” she said. “Los Altans overall, regardless of race, they welcome you; it’s part of the Los Altos spirit.”

After being the vice chair of the Grant Writing Committee and the chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission — and after being encouraged by friends and colleagues — Fligor decided to launch a bid for City Council in 2016, losing in an upset to current Council Member Lynette Lee Eng by a margin of only five votes. 

In the following two years, Fligor continued serving the public and bolstering her credibility in the community through a seat on the El Camino Healthcare District Board; she then confidently relaunched her Council campaign, this time winning the most votes out of any candidate, going so far as to win every single precinct in the City.

After finally becoming a council member, Fligor set out to increase affordable housing in Los Altos, one of her biggest priorities while on Council. In a City that is mostly white, Fligor hopes that increasing affordable housing will allow more families to come to Los Altos, increasing diversity. Additionally, with more affordable housing, more individuals will be able to access the good education available in Los Altos.

“Some developers just want to reach the minimum threshold, so I’ve always encouraged them to go higher,” Fligor said. “By having more affordable homes, that will increase the diversity in our community.”

Fligor’s campaign in 2016 proved one thing that all politicians say: Your voice matters. And for those that cannot express their voice through a vote, public comment heavily impacts most if not all Council decisions.

“Most of the issues we discuss have a lot of public encouragement and engagement,” she said. “You can look at the community center, or at the downtown vision plan, or even safe routes to school, local government affects everything you do in Los Altos: if you drive on the street, benefit from our streetlights, if you go to our parks. Anything that you engage with in the city comes from the City Council or staff.”