At the end of Loma Alta Ave in the foothills sits the Los Gatos campus of Uplift Family Services, formerly Eastfield Ming Quong (EMQ) Family First. Tucked away among quiet residential streets, this unassuming establishment often goes unnoticed by locals, but it has deep roots in this Town and across the Bay Area, and especially within the Chinese community.
Origins: “Radiant Light”
Discriminatory laws such as the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882-1943) took their toll on US Chinatowns. Organized crime took hold in US Chinatowns and with it, human trafficking. Tong kidnaped Chinese women, smuggling them through the Golden Gate and into prostitution and slavery. In the late 19th century, Presbyterian missionaries in San Francisco began an effort to help the victims, women and children, escape to safety.
This undertaking expanded, providing safe houses and orphanages: Chung Mei (“China America”) Home for boys and Ming Quong (“radiant light”) Homes for girls.
San Jose, says the Los Gatos News, is making a lively bid for Los Gatos favors. The Mercury has arranged for a daily news budget and an agent (his name is Dennis) is canvassing the town for subscribers. Like the Novitiate College and Glenridge, the Garden City will soon be applying for annexation to Los Gatos. No doubt San Jose envies us our felicitous zephyrs and the picturesqueness of our mountain scenery and would like us to divide the honor which the Gem of the Foothills monopolizes on the Pacific Coast. We advise our Town Board to go slow on San Jose. It would be well to modestly suggest that our patronizing sister first purge herself of the discordant elements which have been blazoned from the electric tower and have been made so conspicuous in the councils of the body politic before we risk the chances of admitting her to our peaceful realm. We will take the Mercury on probation and if the evidences of peace and good will develop a tendency to reform in these important particulars, we may, at some future time, consider a proposition to admit San Jose as a suburb, providing she will allow us the privilege of attaching to her main sewer to the Bay, or offer some other equally persuasive inducement.
The author sets up the joke right at the start. The News and the Mercury are competing daily papers; the Mercury (based in San Jose) is hawking subscriptions in Los Gatos (home of the News) while condescending to the Town in it’s publications, at least in the author’s opinion. In response the author (presumably from our little Town and proud of it) turns right around and patronizes them back! This article references contemporary issues, from overtly bragging about annexations and reputations, to addressing the desired expansion of public utilities (sewage, in this case), and takes jabs at San Jose’s first attempt at electric street lighting and the “San Jose Electric-Light War”! What a cheeky piece of history!
Today we think of Los Gatos as being a town with plenty of medical services and we’re very proud of the healing and life saving work that is done there, especially now. But at the start of the 1900s this was just a pretty, agricultural town.
Only after a 1905 British medical publication professed that Los Gatos, CA had one of the most healthful climates in the world did thing start to change, and eventually a hospital for tuberculosis, the Oaks Sanitarium, was built and advertised to meet growing needs.
There were very few doctors in town, so locals who fought severe cases of influenza during the pandemic likely went to the clinics in more populated areas like nearby San Jose. State documents show that additional nursing and medical services were supplied to San Jose and other Bay Area cities.
There were many brave individuals who generously gave their time and efforts to help those in need both during the war and the influenza pandemic which immediately followed. We have details on some of them because their stories had tragic endings and made the news.
Today, Los Gatos is a bustling town of approximately 30,000 people with booming industry including high tech and an ever-expanding medical industry. We face a crisis locally and nationally, and do our part to help halt the progress of the COVID-19 pandemic by sheltering in place, working (or studying) from home, and supporting our essential workers.
The current pandemic has often been compared to the influenza of 1918 – 1920, but a lot has changed over the last 100 years. In 1920, Los Gatos’ total population was 2,317 (less than 10% of the current population) and it had only grown in size by about 85 people over the decade since the prior census! However small, this town has its own tales to tell, so I’ve dug up some history to present to you a retrospective on Los Gatos and the 1918-1920 Influenza pandemic.
Rolling back the clock, historic documents point to issues with masks and non compliance during the Spanish flu pandemic. Looking through 100+ year old Bay Area newspapers, you can review official city and county documents with numerous paragraphs lamenting the lack of progress on the “Joint Highway District”. In particular, there are gripes regarding the completion of a state highway between Santa Cruz and Los Gatos which some locals were banking their hopes on during the “disappointing experiences which this country passed through at the time” (Santa Cruz Evening News V 24 #113 Sept 13, 1919). Apparently, getting to the beach was a mood lifter then, too!
An exhibit on the Ming Quong Home is on display at the History Museum of Los Gatos through July 15, 2012. “Radiant Light: Memories from the Ming Quong Home in Los Gatos” has been ongoing since mid February and some events have already taken place, but two more are still to come in May (info below).
Land use is always a big deal in Los Gatos. Right now, a controversy at the forefront is what to do with 20 Dittos Lane.The town wants to put 32 units, low income housing, on a site that is presently zoned for 5 single family homes (previously rejected was an application to put 6 homes there). Public review and comment will happen on February 4, 2011, at 5pm (see link above).
Neighbors don’t seem to object to the low income angle (it’s well understood that we need more affordable housing) but thedensity is at issue. The “lane” is no wider than a driveway in most areas, so it’s questionable how all these people will come and go from the proposed one and two bedroom apartments.
Where is Dittos Lane?
Dittos Lane is tucked away between the Penthouse Apartments complex and the Los Gatos Creek and Highway 17 off of Main Street (see map of Dittos Lane here). If you climb up College Avenue, close to Main, you’d be looking down on Dittos Lane. Easy to miss, the entrance to it looks just like a driveway. It is a lush but very noisy location.
The 1.5 acre property was, until recently, the setting of a very run down old building that seems to have been originally intended as a brothel. I had heard this rumor (actually had been told it had functioned as a “house of ill repute”) but while checking my facts I found that Alastair Dallas stated in his book, “Los Gatos Observed” that Ed Ditto sold the property to a San Francisco group which built a lovely estate and yard and planned to make it into a brothel (page 60 – find the book affordably priced at our local Border’s). However, the idea became known and apparently that derailed the business venture. (That said, there were other such operations in town, as you you might imagine.)
Back in June I snapped a few pics, which I’ll share here today. The dilapidated structure was bulldozed maybe a week or two later.
The little road which is Dittos Lane was a little bit creepy the day we drove back there. Part of the ambiance was due to the decay of the place generally. The weeds were enormous, they had covered over some of the nicer elements of the place. A dog was loose. “No Trespassing” signs were littered about – both stuck to the stop sign and strewn about the ground. It was far from inviting. (You can view an image of the site post-demolition – with orange netting for proposed building location – on the Inside Los Gatos site.)
Redevelopment? It’s overdue, I’m afraid. What must have been a grand and glorious site in its day had been allowed to decay and become a blight.
Low income housing seems like a great idea. Having peered down the road, though, I don’t see putting 32 units of any kind along this lane, though. The street’s not wide enough, from what I saw, and the land’s just not that big.
Let’s see what happens on Thursday.
On March 9th, the town planners rejected the apartment complex proposed for Dittos Lane after hearing from many neighbors, residents and busienss owners. It seems virtually unanimous that Los Gatans want affordable housing, but the density is the #1 issue. Apparently, too, the plan was in conflict with several points of the Los Gatos General Plan.
What’s next? On April 4th it will go to the Los Gatos Town Council, albeit without the backing of the planning commission.
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