This will be the first Saturday in almost 18 years that the Bikes 90800 building in Houghton Park in North Long Beach will be shuttered. It has been estimated that more than 20,000 young people have been touched by San Jose, affectionately known as "Pops" by kids he has helped.
San Jose's program "taught respect and accountability" and "had value beyond measure," said Jim McDonnell, chief of the Long Beach Police Department.
"He mentored children, many from broken homes, and provided leadership and a positive direction," McDonnell said.
For one of the few times in his life, San Jose, 72, got a little speechless when I asked him why he was closing down the program he created and loves.
"It's hard to say," he said slowly. "I'm not clicking my heels over this. I love these kids, but I figure I've got 10 good years left before I end up in a wheelchair."
San Jose's health has been and continues to be an issue. In fact, he almost died after going into cardiac arrest while playing racquetball in August 2010.
He was treated at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, undergoing open-heart surgery. He has diabetes, some recurring heart problems and bad knees, all slowing him down from his tireless work with his kids.
"I also want to spend more time with my wife, Pat, a cardiac nurse at Memorial," he said. "She has been fantastic all of these years. For 20 years I've been promising her that I would remodel the house, and I haven't. Now, I will, at least starting with the kitchen. And I've got weeds all over to get rid of."
San Jose got his start in community activism more than 20 years ago when his neighborhood, the Coolidge Triangle in North Long Beach, was plagued with youths breaking into homes, vandalism and other criminal activities.
"I started talking to these kids and figured they needed something to keep them busy other than crime," San Jose said. "I got this idea to befriend kids by fixing their bikes. I didn't know much about bikes, but it was a way to get to these kids. I started with two bikes."
San Jose had some time because he was headed into retirement from his job as owner of a surplus equipment company.
San Jose, president of the Coolidge Triangle Neighborhood Association, had been working with then Councilman Jerry Shultz in various community activities, including a dream to create an effective youth center in North Long Beach.
The tragic gang-related shooting death of Javier Gutierrez, a popular Jordon High School student, spurred San Jose to officially create Bikes 90805 Peace (later changed to 90800).
"People were having lots of meetings on gangs and violence, but not much was getting done," San Jose recalled. "I talked it over with my wife and we agreed that maybe we could make a difference in the lives of these kids."
San Jose met with these young people at places including homes of volunteers and the conference room at the Press-Telegram, where columnist Ralph De La Cruz wrote about gang issues and solutions to youth violence.
"I had thought all along that we needed a community youth center, a place where kids could congregate safely," San Josesaid.
That dream was realized when Long Beach leased a building in Houghton Park to San Jose's nonprofit organization for $1 a year.
With the help of stalwart volunteers like Barbara Bolden, George Clay and Sadee Conn, the program grew from a tiny space under the bleachers of the building into a larger space now decorated on the outside with beautiful, eye-catching murals.
"I couldn't have done any of this without them," San Jose said.
As the program grew, Juvenile Court judges began sending youths to Bikes 90800 for their community service. San Jose estimates that about 20 percent of the kids he helped were sent by judges for community service.
In an earlier interview, San Jose said some judges told him that community service is meant to be a punishment, but he said that children need positive reinforcement to stay out of trouble.
He said kids need help building self-esteem: "They still are just children, no matter what they've done," he said.
But San Jose is no pushover.
"The kids know I won't let them screw around," he said. "If they are late, I send them home. If they don't do the right paperwork, they can't get parts for their own bikes."
With the help of his team, San Jose raises about $20,000 a year for bike parts and other expenses, like field trips and food. None of the volunteers, including San Jose, gets paid.
"These kids have kept me going," he said.
He told the story of a 9-year-old who came every week, saying he had a flat tire that needed fixing. "His bike was OK. He was just using that as an excuse to be here on weekends," San Jose said.
San Jose said he also is proud of another program, "Erase the Past," which provides tattoo removal for youth.
San Jose is a modest man and downplays his role in building the Bikes 90800 program, but he is the heart and soul of it. He gets calls at his home at nights and on weekends. He is always accessible to them.
"Dave has been like a father figure to so many of those kids," said Cmdr. Galen Carroll, head of the North Division in Long Beach. "He is a great role model to them, and he will be missed."
A man like this will be almost impossible to replace, if it all.
For now, Bikes 90800 Peace is closed, but the need of young people for help remains open.
"Aren't you going to miss the kids?" I asked San Jose.
He grinned and said, "The kids have my number."
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