City Council Review:  Patty Mahan Fails in Push to Create Korea Town on El Camino Real 

By Robert Haugh

Twelve years ago, creating and naming a Korea Town in Santa Clara was a big controversy.  

Patty Mahan was mayor back then. And she opposed doing it. 

Mahan is Vice Mayor now. She’s flip-flopped and now supports a Korea Town on the El Camino.

Ken Kim of the Korean Chamber of Commerce brought the idea to the Council in March.  He came back last night with a petition supporting the idea. 

Except for Mahan, the Council did not support Kim. Mahan could not get a second on her motion to even study the issue. The other councilmembers said that Santa Clara is a diverse place, so it would be better to create something that’s diverse and inclusive. They said some interesting and positive things about our community. We’ll put some of the better quotes into a story later this week.

Kim was complemented by the Council for all the work he’s done to promote his idea. We compliment him, too. And it’s not just because he mentioned us in his comments. But that was nice. 

Freedom Circle

The Council directed City staff to evaluate the Freedom Circle area as a Phase III Future Focus Area in the General Plan. It’s the area north of 101, south of Great America, east of Great America Parkway and west of San Tomas Aquino Creek.

The original plan was to create a Specific Plan. That would allow the coordination of all the major developments in the area.  But there was a big problem. Two major developers (The Irvine Company and The Sobrato Organization) with land and buildings in the area dropped out.  We’ve been hearing for some time that they were not happy with City staff pushing for taller building heights. They didn’t want to take the risk of overbuilding. This is a big loss for the area.

City North Vision Plan

Director of Community Development Andrew Crabtree also pushed for a City North Vision Plan. It would coordinate all the specific plans north of 101. 

But most of the Council doubted the value of the plan. They said major developments have already been approved and specific plans have already started. 

Crabtree didn’t look prepared for their questions and wasn’t convincing. So they sent the Plan back to the drawing board. The Council wants Crabtree to include specifics, targets for housing, information on traffic and gridlock. And they want him to include height limits, too. 

Sellers Steps Down

Police Chief Mike Sellers got a resolution from the Council for his years of service.  He read a prepared speech. Sellers thanked every department and elected officials.  Interestingly, he didn’t mention anyone by name.

Sellers looked a little uncomfortable. We’re not sure why. But there could have been 500,000 reasons why. 

Note: All Councilmembers attended last night’s council meeting. And, except for Patty Mahan, all attended Monday’s special meeting. That’s when the Council interviewed candidates and made appointments to five different commissions.


  1. They been trying to create Korea town for years with much opposition in which I remember Vice Mayor Mahan then Mayor Mahan opposing. But as Santa Clara has been more increasingly diversified, I give her credit for supporting the idea and to be put on a future agenda to discuss. She now gives support for it after being against it. She had a change of heart over the years. That should be a kudos.
    Yet i also agree with a statement in this article that Santa Clara is hard to show the diverse regions like a Korean district or Latino district like San Jose has with Little Saigon.
    When I was a young boy I remember we knew parts of el camino as Korea Row because of all the businesses that prospered. Lately a lot of them have been lost to high density and gentrification.

    I reference article from San Jose Inside ( that talks about small businesses and/or minority businesses being lost, and I feel that is what’s happened to Santa Clara’s Korean strip. Santa Clara still has not elected a Korean candidate for council to discuss this more detail from the dais. With council districts I feel this can be a positive cause the diversity of the council will change quickly.

  2. Thanks. That is why I want the Korea Town to be named. Doing so it will upgrade the store front beautification
    which include the cleaning up the subject matters.

  3. Before I retired I made many trips to Korea and have an affection for the people and their country. I enjoy going to Korean restaurants and shops. There is no reason that shops can’t open where they want without regard to type or ethnicity.
    When the people trying to divide our city up by racial and ethnic lines for voting districts were frustrated because we don’t naturally gather by race or ethnicity much at all.
    In my opinion having an area officially declared Korea Town, or Japan Town, or Iran Town, or Portugal Town or anything else, doesn’t improve the organically diverse and inclusive nature of our city, it welcomes and promotes divisiveness.
    For me, I don’t think we need a specific part of town declared to be made up of a specific ethnicity.

  4. I watched the meeting. I don’t like the Korea Town idea. But I thought Mr. Kim did I nice job for his community.

  5. The City North Vision Plan should be renamed The City North Gridlock Plan. It’s ridiculous to think you can build lots more there. What happens after 49ers games if you add hundreds of new high rises and tens of thousands of new residents?

    Does Mr. Crabtree know anything about planning? His presentation skills need a lot of work.

  6. Thanks for kind comments for my not so successful civic quest. Fail mission doesn’t mean it’s dead for good. Sun will shine someday.

    • Ken, as a resident of the adjacent area, I have mixed feelings about this issue. The Korean community is very welcome here, but can’t we find a way that’s more inclusive than divisive? For example, a modest effort to add more Korean places to Google Maps entries for the vicinity would be easy, fast, cheap, efficient, highly visible, not require any special approval and be useful to the community at large. Because other web sites often indirectly use Google Maps, there would be some nice free ripple effects as well.

      Since you seem to have great connections with the Korean community, I’d like to mention another issue you might be able to help with. There are several free Korean language newspapers distributed at the front of various businesses. Too often those are dumped loose on the ground, where, in the more rainy/windy seasons, those become a real nuisance to the neighborhood by getting wet and blowing all over. Past attempts to bring this to the attention of appropriate people have sometimes failed due to language barriers. Can you help get some changes made so that these are either distributed inside the businesses or, for outside distribution, are moved to some form of distribution box that’s at least somewhat weatherproof? This isn’t in any way an attempt to censor anyone, just to help reduce neighborhood litter. Thanks!

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