Tag Archives: South Bay

Safe Outdoor Things To Do This Holiday Season

As the Bay Area reels under new shelter-at-home restrictions, most holiday activities that you and your family have been used to for years have profoundly changed. However, you don’t have to be house bound, you can still enjoy some of the long-standing Christmas traditions and get into the holiday spirit by embracing the best of winter.

We’ve got you covered with Covid safe activities you can enjoy with your whole family and spread the holiday cheer!


Union Square’s Great Tree
Over 83 feet tall and is decorated with more than 33,000 energy-efficient LED lights, the Great Tree will be lit throughout the holiday season.
Thru Dec. 31, 2020
Location: 170 O’Farrell Street, San Francisco

Westfield Shopping Center’s Upside Down 50-ft Crystal Tree
San Francisco’s famous Inverted Christmas Tree, the 50-foot chandelier-like tree, covered in crystals.
Thru Dec. 31, 2020
Location: Westfield Center, 865 Market St., Level 4 Under the Dome, SF

Whimsical Wonderland of Lights at Golden Gate Park
The Entwined art installation transforms Peacock Meadow into an enchanted forest of otherworldly shapes and ever-changing light creating a whimsical wonderland where visitors can explore paths and sit under a grove of three entwined sculptural trees while practicing social distancing.
December 10, 2020 to February 28, 2021 (Possible extension to June 1, 2021)
Sundown to 9:45pm
Location: Peacock Meadow (between McLaren Lodge & Conservatory of Flowers)
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

SF’s 20-Ft. “Star” Light Sculpture
The Kilroy Star is a stellated dodecahedron installation of light and movement. It spans 20 feet in diameter and is outfitted with more than 30,000 individually programmable LED bulbs. The sparkling structures may be seen from miles away and will be configured to oscillate in various rhythms and patterns of dynamic light.
 Dec 15- January 31, 2021
Location: The Exchange on Sixteenth (SoMA), 1800 Owens St., San Francisco 

San Francisco’s New Floating Fire Station
Fireboat Station 35, a two-story, 14,900-square-foot facility sitting on a massive steel float is the first of its kind in the world. SF’s new station, berthed at Pier 22½, will also have a new observation deck.
Location: Pier 22 right by the Bay Bridge.

 Illuminate SF Festival of Lights

Illuminate SF Festival of Lights
Observe 43 striking public light art installations across San Francisco’s 17 neighborhoods through New Year’s Eve.
Visit this website for public art locations.
Times vary, though best visited after 6 p.m.

San Jose’s Christmas in the Park Drive-Thru
Features your favorite annual displays plus some new immersive features dreamed up for 2020 like a tunnel of lights.
Nov. 27, 2020 – Jan. 3, 2021
Location: History Park, 635 Phelan Ave, San Jose
$10 from 4-5 pm; $20 from 5-10 pm
Tickets required in advance 

Garden of d’Lights at the Ruth Bancroft Garden
Using thousands of lights and lasers, the illuminated Ruth Bancroft Garden will come alive at night, as colorful sculptures are created from hundreds of illuminated cacti, succulents and trees.
5:30-8:30 p.m. Friday-Sunday. Through Dec. 20. $8-$20, free for children under 5.
Reservations required.
Location: Ruth Bancroft Garden, 1552 Bancroft Road, Walnut Creek. ruthbancroftgarden.org

Alameda’s Christmas Tree Lane
Each house has a different theme, drive through and listen to Christmas music on spotify.
Through New Year’s Eve. 5:30 – 10 pm
Location: 3200 block of Thompson Ave., Alameda

“Snow” Showers at Santana Row in San Jose
Snow is coming to San Jose, so make the most of this winter wonderland.
Starting Nov. 28, Santana Row will be covered by “snow” showers, as holiday music plays to
6-8 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday. Through Dec. 23; 6-8 p.m. nightly Dec. 20-23.
Location: Park Valencia, 377 Santana Row, San Jose.

“Crippsmas Place” Festive Fremont Neighborhood Lights
Continuing the tradition since 1967, over 80 homes participate in a cheerful neighborhood holiday display of Christmas lights and unique handmade plywood decorations. 2020’s event will be drive-thru only.
Dec. 12 – 25, 2020
Cripps Place (and surrounding streets), Fremont

Lesher Center Visit To The North Pole – Walnut Creek
An immersive visit to the North Pole home and workshop of Mr & Mrs Claus. Reserved timeslots of 10-15 minutes are being offered for families up to 6 people.
Dec. 15-23 (times vary.)
Location: Lesher Center For The Arts, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek, CA 94596
$45 General Admission

Holidays at Filoli Gardens
Follow the one-way route to stroll and enjoy the beauty of the winter garden adorned with lights and colorful decor. Cozy up to a fire pit under twinkling lights and sip on hot cider or mulled wine. Socially-distanced Santa visits will also be available on select Saturdays in December from 10 am to 4 pm, and themed visits will be held on Monday nights.
Through Jan. 3, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. everyday 

Location: Filoli, 86 Cañada Road, Woodside
$28 from 10 am – 4 pm; $38 from 4 pm – 8 pm
Tickets required in advance

Mattos Orchard Lights

Spans over 1/3 acre of apricot trees. Its display includes over 20,000 LED lights including thirty-two blow molds and 10 inflatables. The decorations make up 8 lands, a nativity scene, and candy cane lane.

5-10 p.m. Through January 12
Location: 1545 Stone Creek Dr, San Jose

Christmas Tree Lane

Drive through beautifully decorated homes each night from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Location: 1700-1800 Fulton Street, Palo Alto


A Virtual Chanticleer Christmas: From Darkness to Light
Featuring a candle-lit procession to the dawn of Christmas morning, featuring works by Antoine Brumel, Josquin Dez Prez, and holiday repertoire, including Franz Biebl’s “Ave Maria” and “Oh Jerusalem in the Morning” by Music Director Emeritus Joseph H. Jennings.
Available to stream starting noon, Dec. 15. Through noon, Jan. 1.
$25-$42. 415 252-8589. chanticleer.org

Zoom Sing-Along Messiah
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Berkeley’s fifty-year traditional sing-along. The Handel masterwork will be performed with live soloists, an orchestra and chorus.
You can get a free score to follow online at messiahcelebration.com.
4 p.m. Dec. 20, 4 p.m.

Berkeley Ballet Theater’s Nutcracker Celebration
The live-streamed event includes interviews, a ballet watch party with many generations of dancers included and a Zoom happy hour celebration following the performance at 7 p.m.
5 p.m. Dec. 20. Free.
Viewing available on their YouTube channel. berkeleyballet.org


San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus: (At) Home for the Holidays
Celebrate three decades of the group’s traditional holiday performance, presented in 2020 as a virtual live-streamed showcase. Programming includes performances by Tony Award winner Laura Benanti, comedian and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” champion Bianca Del Rio, India’s first openly gay royal Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, members of the San Francisco Philharmonic, the SFGMC Homophonics and Lollipop Guild ensembles and others. Home delivery of wine and treats to Bay Area homes is included with VIP tickets.
5 p.m. Dec. 24.

San Francisco Ballet: Nutcracker Online
Newly mastered recording of a previous year’s performance and a digital tour of the War Memorial Opera House including interactive activities to enjoy. Send downloadable holiday pictures to friends, enjoy historical highlights from the S.F. Ballet “Nutcracker’s” long history and learn steps from the choreography.
Through Dec. 31.
$49, includes 48 hour access to the programming.

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair at Home
In lieu of an in person event, the organizers plan to add a section on their website with new content each weekend. It will include access to videos of “A Christmas Carol” presented as a serialized reading, performances of traditional Victorian songs from the Coventry Carolers and the Bangers & Mash Band, era-appropriate craft projects and a virtual party on Christmas Eve.
Through Dec. 24.
Free. dickensfair.com

Some off the beaten path options. For trail directions and parking info visit All Trails or the park website.

South Bay: 

Eagle Rock
Impeccably maintained trails and stunning views, this trail may appear intimidating at first glance from the parking lot, but it is easier than it looks. The wide, swooping North Rim Trail leaves from the Eagle Rock parking area and slowly works its way uphill toward the ridge.
At the top of the hike, Eagle Rock provides a wealth of different viewpoints among the many large rocks. Find your own spot away from the crowd and soak in the sweeping views before you.
Distance: 3.3 miles
Difficulty: Easy

Berry Creek Falls Loop
Numerous redwood groves and breathtaking waterfalls grace this long trek. The length may be too difficult for some people to endure, but the overall difficulty of this trail is moderate as it is gently graded, well-shaded and the waterfalls provide cooling mists.
Distance: 10.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate


Mcnee Ranch State Park
Great options for any level of walk or hike that you would like. From a gentle walk on Gray Whale Cove Trail to the rigorous 1800 feet ascent to the top of the mountain where on a clear day you can see the tops of Mount Tamalpais and Mount Diablo and everything in between.
Distance:  8.04 miles
Difficulty: Intermediate

San Pedro Valley Park: Hazelnut Trail Loop
Great views of the ocean and Montara Mountain. With a huge variety of plant’s you’re likely to see something blooming or fruiting almost all year round.
Distance: 4.25 mile
Difficulty: Moderate

North Bay:

Matt Davis-Steep Ravine Loop
Hike a loop on Mt. Tamalpais covering two of the most famous bay area trails: Dipsea and Steep Ravine. Experience amazing views of Pt. Reyes, the Pacific Ocean, waterfalls, and wildflowers.
Distance: 7.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate

Hawk Hill
Enjoy a sweeping panorama 923 feet above the Pacific, and a great spot for raptor observing. The bare Headlands hilltop also offers eye-popping views of the surrounding Marin hills, the Golden Gate, and San Francisco.
Distance: 0.7 mile
Difficulty: Easy

East Bay:

Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park
Perfect for the holidays, this loop through the East Bay’s Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park is brimming with a holiday staple: mistletoe.
Distance: 2.7-mile
Difficulty: Easy

Springhill Loop, Briones Regional Park, Berkeley
This loop is a series of trails with some uphill sections and is mostly unshaded. Be prepared to climb and work up a sweat, but the steep inclines are well worth it for the views. Once you get to the ridge, you’ll be rewarded with a bird’s eye view of Walnut Creek and the surrounding areas, as well as unparalleled views of Mt. Diablo.
Distance: 3.9 miles
Difficulty: Moderate

Mona Shah is a multi-platform storyteller with expertise in digital communications, social media strategy, and content curation for Twitter and LinkedIn for C-suite executives. A journalist and editor, her experience spans television, cable news, and magazines. An avid traveler and foodie, she loves artisan food and finding hidden gems: restaurants, recipes, destinations. 

She can be reached at: [email protected]


Silicon Valley’s Success Sits on Toxic ‘Superfund’ Sites

At the Front Door – a column on climate change in our lives

The Environmental Burdens on our Neighbors

Silicon Valley has been one of the greatest wealth generators in the United States. Yet this wealth has come at a price, one that hasn’t been shared equally amongst the residents of the Bay Area. The more ‘visual’ costs, such as skyrocketing rents and urban sprawl obscure the more subtle, but far more dangerous and long-terms costs right beneath our feet. Literally. The true cost of Silicon Valley’s success is in the ground you stand on. Santa Clara County is home to 23 superfund sites, the most of any county in the United States. If you live in the South Bay, you are never more than a short drive from one of these sites. If you live in Mountain View, Sunnyvale, or San Jose, you can probably walk to one.

A site gains a superfund status if it scores above a 28.5 or higher out of 100 on the EPA’s Hazard Ranking System, which is a measurement of the site’s threat to human health. Sites must reach a certain level of severity before they can be designated as a ‘superfund’, which lets the government to force the parties responsible to perform cleanups or reimburse the government for EPA-led cleanup. There are also hundreds of other toxic sites which don’t qualify as superfund sites which are scattered across Silicon Valley.

To understand where we are, we need to look at where we have been. Silicon Valley earned its name by hosting semiconductor and microprocessor companies such as Atari, Fairchild, Hewlett-Packard. These companies used a solvent called trichloroethylene (TCE) in their manufacturing process. TCE is now a known human carcinogen and can also cause birth defects. After use, the TCE was poured down drains or kept in storage tanks which subsequently leaded and contaminated local groundwater.  In some instance, the pollutants can re-emerge as vapor and result in ‘toxic plumes’ or ‘vapor intrusion zones’.

The environmental burden of these sites fallen unevenly upon the shoulders of people of color and the poor, as most sites “are predominantly situated in Mountain View and Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara County cities which are comprised of the highest percentage of low socioeconomic immigrants of color.” Unsurprisingly, the whiter cities of Palo Alto and Cupertino host far fewer sites.

I live in northern Sunnyvale and I can easily walk to half a dozen, three of which are collectively called the ‘Sunnyvale Triple-site’. The vapor intrusion zone from this site encompass 400 homes and four schools, including the majority-Latino San Miguel Elementary School. Polluted in the 1980, the site was only fully cleaned up in the last decade and is now closely monitored by authorities.

Superfund sites are not the only environmental legacy of the economic boom. Another is traffic, a problem which plagues most of the Bay area, and Highway 101 is the “area’s most toxic industrial belt, with contamination impacting air, water, and soil.”

It is not a coincidence that Highway 101 through the same areas of Sunnyvale, Mountain View, and San Jose which host the highest concentration of minorities (and superfund sites).

The highway also runs through East Palo Alto on its way to San Francisco. East Palo Alto is diverse city with 61%  of its residents identifying as Latino, 15.6% African American/Black, and 11% Asian. The median income in 2018 was $58,783, a far cry from the average of $137,000 in whiter neighboring Palo Alto. Children in East Palo Alto are 2.5 times more likely to suffer from asthma as children in the rest of San Mateo County, and life expectancy is 13 years shorter.

And East Palo Alto isn’t an exception but rather part of a trend, a paper published by researchers at Santa Clara University noted that,

“Environmental burdens are concentrated along transportation routes and industrial centers that represent Silicon Valley’s rapid development. Hispanic populations, people of color, and socially vulnerable populations…are more likely to be exposed to multiple environmental hazards than other groups.”

The term ‘environmental burdens’ doesn’t quite convey the truth that our neighbors who bear these ‘burden’ will be sicker and die sooner than our neighbors without such burdens.

I felt two things when I learned this: shocked and lucky. Shocked, because I had no idea of the history of pollution and injustice which underlay the success of Silicon Valley.  And lucky, because while traffic is annoying I don’t live in an area where I have to worry that car exhaust will damage my health or the health of my family. Nor do I have to decide between affordable housing and living in an area which could be exposed to toxic vapor plumes.

And now I feel determined, because I can do something to help my neighbors who do have to worry about these things. I can vote for people who take environmental issues seriously, and who support clean public transportation. I can advocate at the state and local level for our legislators to ensure that the benefits and burdens of success are distributed more equally. I can speak up because we are all part of this community, and it is my responsibility to help my neighbors.

Erin Zimmerman was trained as a Climate Reality Leader in 2019 by the Climate Reality Project, but has been active in the environmental movement for over a decade. Erin holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Adelaide, where she focused on environmental degradation and its impacts on country and regional stability in Asia. She is currently the Chair of the Speakers’ Bureau of the Santa Clara Chapter of the Climate Reality Project  and an active member of the Legislative and Policy team.

Edited by Meera Kymal, Contributing Editor at India Currents.

Image by Hermina Olah Vass  @beautymakesasound

Fagone, J. and Dizikes, C. (2019). “SF’s Treasure Island, Poised for Building Boom, Escaped Listing as Superfund Site.” San Francisco Chronicle.
Greenaction. (2019). “East Palo Alto, California.” Greenaction.org.
Nieves, E. 2018. “The Superfund Sites of Silicon Valley.” The New York Times.
Pellow, D. N. & Park, L S-H. (2002). The Silicon Valley of Dreams: Environmental Injustice, Immigrant Workers, and the High-Tech Global Economy. NYU Press.
Rao, A. and Scaruffi, P. 2013. A History of Silicon Valley: The Greatest Creation of Wealth in the History of the Planet. Omniware Group.
Reilly, C. (2018). “Silicon Valley’s ‘Middle Class‘ Earns 7 Times US Average.www.cnet.com.
Schlossberg, T. 2019. “Silicon Valley is One of the Most Polluted Places in the Country.The Atlantic.
Siegel, L. (2015). “Building Trust at the Triple Site, Sunnyvale, California.” Center for Public Environmental Oversight.
Solof, L.E. (2014). “Bay Area Student Involvement in the Environmental and Food Justice Movements: A Narrative of Motivations, Experiences, and Community Impact.” Doctoral Dissertation. University of San Francisco; The Faculty of the School of Education.
Stewart, I. Bacon, C. Burke, W. (2014). “The Uneven Distribution of Environmental Burdens and Benefits in Silicon Valley’s Backyard.” Applied Geography. 55: 266-277.
Stock, S. Paredes, D. and S. Pham. 2014 (12 May). “Toxic Plumes: The Dark Side of Silicon Valley.NBC Bay Area.
Sustainable Silicon Valley. (2020).
United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2020). “What is a Superfund.