On the road in San Francisco

Sunday, February 15, 1987 found me flying into San Jose, California, the third largest city in California with about 800,000 people. Near the San Jose Airport, FMC Corporation had a big complex of buildings and later that night on the television show, "60 Minutes", there was a story on the controversial Bradley Tank and some of the television footage showed Bradley tanks near the airport buildings I rode by earlier in the day. Downtown San Jose is real rinky-dink. Tallest building must be about 15 stories. San Jose State University, which is located next to downtown, has an ugly campus. I stayed at an excellent, brand new Doubletree Hotel that connects to the new convention center in Santa Clara, a city next to San Jose. Spent most of Sunday afternoon riding my bike around the famous Silicon Valley area. Mile after mile of industrial parks and research parks with high-tech names!

Apple Computer

Monday was Presidents' Day and I wasn't sure if any of the companies I was visiting in the area would be open. Made my way to Cupertino, about 8 miles from downtown San Jose, and found Apple Computer was open. The address I had for corporate headquarters turned out to be the Communications building. I was sent to another building where, I was told they had just moved over the weekend to ANOTHER building. I had been given a map showing the Apple "campus" and I counted almost 30 buildings in an area roughly four city blocks by three city blocks. I found the new building and met with Marianne Lettieri, Manager, Corporate Public Relations. Nice lady. The new building wasn't yet finished and workmen were all over the place. I couldn't see the CEO's office because they were still in the process of moving in and Lettieri said she wasn't even sure where the CEO's office would be located. There are 2,500 employees working in the complex of buildings. Most interesting tidbit; most of the buildings have popcorn machines and employees get free popcorn. I was also told the employees name the conference rooms in each building and they're named after soap operas; for instance, you might have an 11:00 a.m. meeting in the General Hospital Room or the Dynasty Room. Lettieri scored 7 points on my 1-10 scale.

About half a dozen miles from Apple Computer is the San Jose suburb of Los Altos Hills, according to the Rand McNally book, "Places Rated Almanac", it's one of the country's 74 most affluent suburbs. Los Altos Hills is hilly, lots of horses and an unusual mixture of homes; next to a $500,000 home you might have a shack-like home which looks to be worth about $10,000. A few more miles north of Los Altos Hills, I went through Portola Valley and Woodside, two more suburbs on the list of the 74 most affluent suburbs in the USA. The two suburbs are in woodsy areas with a lot of ranch-style homes. Great areas for bike riding.


Tuesday morning I showed up at the address I had for the headquarters of Intel, an electronics company, and found I was in the communications/mail building. I told the security guard/receptionist why I was there and told him I usually end up talking to someone in Public Relations. The guard said they have no Public Relations Department and proceeded to give me the company's personnel directory to find for myself; the appropriate person. I finally met with Pamela Pollace, Communication Specialist. She wasn't sure about the answers to a lot of my questions because I told her I was only interested in their corporate headquarters and since Intel was spread over 16 buildings, she wasn't sure if all the buildings were considered part of corporate headquarters. I never was invited past the lobby. Intel is located in Santa Clara, five miles from San Jose and forty miles from San Francisco. Pollace scored 9 points on my 1-10 scale.

National Semiconductor

National Semiconductor, located in Santa Clara, was similar to my visit to Apple Computer in that there are a bunch of different buildings spread over a campus-like arrangement, with city streets running between the buildings. After having to go to three different buildings, I finally met with Barbara Carroll, Script Writer/Producer, Corporate Communications. There are over thirty buildings, with 7,800 employees working in the Santa Clara area. Total square footage of the buildings is 2.25 million square feet. The buildings were so spread out; we got in Carroll's car and drove to the headquarters building a few blocks away from her office. Got to peek into the President's cubicle. There are no offices; all the senior officers in the two-story building have cubicles. Carroll didn't know how many of the buildings were leased or owned by the company. CEO Charles Sporck smokes cigars. Carroll took me on a tour through one of the huge buildings where microchips are manufactured. Also located amongst all the buildings is a beautiful 14-acre employee park, complete with volleyball, running track, soccer field, Par course, baseball fields and amphitheater. Carroll scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.

Palo Alto (population 56,000), which is about 25 miles south of San Francisco and about 15 miles north of San Jose, is home to Hewlett-Packard and Consolidated Freightways. Both companies have their headquarters buildings on land owned by Stanford University.


A small sign out near the street says, "Hewlett-Packard Corporate Offices" telling me I've found the place. The building doesn't look very big from the street but it's very deceiving. Vernon Andrews, Public Relations Representative, answered my questions and showed me around. The building is on a 30-acre site built in 1981 and contains 478,000-square feet on four levels. I was given a fact sheet on the structure which, in Hewlett-Packard lingo, is known as "Building 20." The four tiered levels, "step down" in order to: (1)conform to local building codes limiting heights, (2)fit the hilly terrain and (3)retain views of foothills. I was shown the boardroom and the doorless President's office. Hewlett-Packard has an "open door" policy and I do mean open doors. The four floors are called, "Level A", "Level B", "Level C" and "Level D." There are fifty conference rooms of various sizes and the conference rooms on each level are named after cities around the world in which they do business and the names of the cities must start with the same letter as the level/floor: Level B has conference rooms called the "Bombay Room", "Bangkok Room", etc.

Over 1,750 employees work in the building and vie for 1,312 parking spaces. The large parking lot is curved to avoid unsightly, endless rows of automobiles. Executive vice-presidents on up get reserved parking and there are 90 covered bike lockers. The company has seven corporate aircraft and I saw three shuffleboard courts. I was told there is a half-mile running course with 18 exercise stations, volleyball and basketball courts and horseshoe pits. Andrews went through the motions and showed absolutely no interest in my project. Andrews scored 7 points on my 1-10 scale.

Consolidated Freightways

Consolidated Freightways is about five blocks from Hewlett-Packard in a two-story building built in 1981. The Spanish-style stucco and red tile, 40,000-square foot building has no sign out front identifying it as Consolidated Freightways headquarters. For some reason, I was expecting the headquarters of a trucking concern to be located in a dumpy building in an industrial part of town. Matter of fact, Mr. Schmitt, Assistant Vice President, Director of Corporate Relations, told me the building won several awards for interior design. There's a skylight (one or two) over the staircase leading up to the second floor and the hallway walls were lined with photographs, some of them by Ansel Adams. Sixty people work in the corporate headquarters and the men's room had an electric shoe buffer. There's no cafeteria but, a small lunchroom where you can brown bag it or use the microwave. Schmitt gave me a nice welcome and is a super guy. Schmitt scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale. As I was leaving, I was given a miniature Consolidated Freightways tractor-trailer truck.

Sage Corporation

Saga Corporation, a food service company based in Menlo Park, was scratched off my original list of companies to visit because Marriott Corporation bought it. I did ride through Menlo Park and Atherton, the latter being one of the 74 most affluent suburbs in the country. Lots of impressive estate-type homes in Atherton with well-kept grounds. Commuter train runs through Atherton, allowing corporate bigwigs to walk to the station and hop on a train to downtown San Francisco.

I did ride around the beautiful Stanford University campus and I was told it encompasses over 8,000 acres. Part of the 8,000 acres is taken up by Stanford University's own golf course. As I was riding around the campus, I ran into Steve Roberts. A year earlier, I had read an article in the "USA Today" newspaper about a fellow riding a bike around the country equipped with a computer and writing articles about his travels. It was easy to spot him because his bike weighs almost 400 pounds and is eight feet long. The bike has 36 speeds and is equipped with FIVE computer systems. We talked for about an hour and a half and I had a great time listening to his stories. He's one of those people who has the gift of story telling.

I spent the night near the San Francisco Airport in one of Quality Inns' new lines of lodging called, "Comfort Suites." I was impressed. A few miles from the airport is Hillsborough, another one of the most affluent suburbs. The San Francisco area has six of the 74 most affluent suburbs in the country according to the "Places Rated Almanac" by Rand McNally. Hillsborough is located primarily on a hillside and has great views of the airport and the bay.


Wednesday morning found me in downtown San Francisco. McKesson, a huge wholesale distributor of non-durable consumer goods, is located in a 37-story building, which is 50% owned by McKesson. The total square footage of the building built in 1969 is 369,000-square feet and McKesson occupies 202,000-square feet of the building. I was ushered into the office of James Cohune, Director, Public Relations, and we went through my questionnaire. Over 700 employees work in headquarters and the company doesn't have its own cafeteria. Cohune scored 7 points on my 1-10 scale.


Amfac leases the 38th, 39th, 40th and 41st floors of a 42-story building in downtown San Francisco. I talked to Betty Colquhoun, Manager Office Services. Spectacular view from the President's office. Amfac has interests in many different areas, some are: owns Liberty House, a retailer in Hawaii, operates 11 resort properties, one of the largest electrical wholesalers in the country, distributor of pharmaceuticals, owns and leases thousands of acres of land in Hawaii, and is one of the three largest frozen potato processors in the country. Their large presence in Hawaii would explain the Hawaiian art in the corporate headquarters.

Wells Fargo Bank

I showed up at the headquarters of Wells Fargo Bank and was sent to a nearby building. I ended up talking to Robert Pacini, Assistant Vice-President, Public Relations. What a lousy experience! Pacini met with me in a narrow, crowded hallway and allotted me five minutes of his time. As I rushed through the questionnaire, he kept looking at his watch and made it quite clear he had better things to be doing. He was very brusque and you'd think being in public relations, he might at least try to feign an interest. His answer to most of my questions was, "I have no idea." As we were parting, I said, "I've obviously caught you at a bad time", and he just shrugged his shoulders and walked away. I did find out Wells Fargo owns their 12-story headquarters building. Very, very disappointed in my treatment. I have banked with Wells Fargo for over ten years and after my meeting with Pacini, I seriously considered closing my account. I didn't think it was possible but, Pacini scored a NEGATIVE 1 point on my scale of 1-10.

Bank of America

Bank of America leases space in a spectacular 52-story building, which was built in 1969. Bank of America occupies about 50% of the 2 million-square foot building. I met with Arthur Miller, Manager-Financial Communications, in his office. Executive Vice-Presidents, on up, get reserved parking spots. Never got past his office. Miller scored 9 points on my 1-10 scale.

Castle and Cooke

I stopped in at Castle and Cooke, and was told David Murdock had bought their company and the corporate offices had been moved down to Los Angeles.


I entered the headquarters building of Chevron and was greeted by a security guard/receptionist. It took about fifteen minutes before he was able to locate someone to talk to me. I went up to the 11th floor of the 22-story building, which was built in 1922, and talked to Dale Basye, Manager, Corporate Communications. The building has 568,066-square feet of usable space and there are 825 employees in the building. Chevron has 50 corporate aircraft in their corporate fleet but, only four are used by headquarters management: 2 Gulfstreams, 1 Sabre Liner and 1 Hawker. Never got to see anything outside Basye's office. Was intrigued by the fact the CEO's office is on the 18th floor and not the 22nd (top floor). As I was walking out the lobby, I heard a man say to the guard he wanted to see someone with Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro. My ears perked up because they're one of the most prestigious law firms in the country. I had never asked Basye if there were tenants in the building because the Chevron security guard greets you when entering the building and the way the lobby is set-up, you think it's all Chevron. I made a phone call later and found out Pillsbury, Madison and Sutro do indeed occupy space in the building.

Levi Strauss

I showed up at Levi Strauss earlier in the day and was told to come back and see Joyce Bustinduy, Public Relations Assistant. I returned and Bustinduy was still not available. An administrative aide, who didn't want to talk on record, answered some of my questions and showed me around the place. It's quite an unusual headquarters complex. There are five buildings in Levi Plaza, with heights graduating from 7-stories downward. The Levi Strauss Building, which houses the top executives, is the tallest of the five buildings at 7-stories and has 330,000 square feet. The exteriors of the buildings are red brick and blend in well with neighboring warehouses. The high-rises of downtown San Francisco are several blocks away and Levi Plaza is across the street from the Embarcadero Pier area.

There's quite an extensive collection of contemporary art scattered throughout the building and I was taken up to the 7th floor to see the view; which is a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay. I was shown a "quiet room"; if you are feeling under the weather-you can get a key to an empty room with a bed and lie down. I was also given a "speak easy" form; it's a form "for prompt answers to employees' company-related comments, concerns and questions." The forms promise absolute confidentiality. The lobby area is manned by several security guards/receptionists and a huge glass-roofed atrium greets you when you enter the lobby area. Levi Plaza is not owned by Levi Strauss but, it is on a long-term lease. Equitable Life Assurance owns 50% of the complex. The buildings take up 3.3 acres of the 8.2-acre site, with the remaining 4.9 acres being a paved plaza area and grassy public park. Walking through Levi Strauss, I got a sense of everyone being part of a big family. Levi Strauss was the first company I've visited to have homosexuals or gays in the corporate headquarters. I'm assuming they're homosexual because of their feminine mannerisms that stood out.


Transamerica is headquartered in one of San Francisco's landmark buildings-The Transamerica Building. I went up to the 27th floor of the 48-story building, twice, and both times no one was in the Public Relations offices. I was told they were "out to lunch." The 27th floor also happens to be where the observation area for the building is located. What a view! Built in 1972, the structure looks great from far away but, when you enter the building it looks run-down and in need of new furnishings and paint. I picked up a brochure in the observation area and it tells a few facts about the pyramidal office building. Total office space is 530,000-square feet. The area on the 5th floor is 22,000-square feet and the area on the 48th floor is 2000-square feet. It is a 48-story building capped by a 212-foot spire and reaching a total of 853 feet.

Pacific Telesis Group

Getting to see someone at Pacific Telesis Group was a real chore. I showed up around 8:30 a.m. and was greeted by a security guard/receptionist who, after telling him I wanted to talk to someone in Public Relations, told me I needed a name. He refused to call Public Relations or give me a name of someone in Public Relations or let me use a phone. I went out of the building and called from a pay phone across the street. After being transferred on the phone several times, I was told to check back after 9:30 a.m. because the lady who they thought would be the one most likely to handle my visit was in a meeting until then. I return at 10:00 a.m. and am told the lady just went IN to a meeting at 9:30 a.m. Feeling like no one knew what he or she were doing or I was getting the runaround, I called up and asked for the CEO Donald Guinn's secretary. I told the lady who answered the phone my situation and she transferred me to someone else who transferred me to someone else. Now, what I haven't told you is each time I was transferred, the phone was disconnected! This happened FIVE times! I got out my last quarter and called up the CEO's secretary. I again told her my situation and pled with her not to transfer me. She told me to hold on the line. About three minutes later, she comes back on and tells me Dan Purnell, Manager, Media Relations, will be right over from another building and will meet me in the lobby. We go back to Purnell's office and he was most apologetic about my calls being disconnected and the loss of my quarters. Never did get to go into the headquarters building. It's an old building with an Art Deco lobby. How old? According to Purnell, the building has no hot water. Purnell scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.

Bechtel Group

Several blocks from Pacific Telesis is Bechtel Group, a privately held engineering and construction company. Bechtel is big, with revenues of about $7 billion. I had read stories about the company's reclusiveness and wasn't expecting much when I showed up at the company-owned, 23-story headquarters building. Security guard/receptionist let me use a phone and I was eventually connected to a man who explained to me they were a private company. I explained to him I knew that and had been pretty successful in my receptions at private firms. He said he didn't have time to see me in person but, would talk to me over the phone. I was told the building was built in 1968 and 5000 people were employed in the headquarters building and two other leased buildings nearby. Never got past the lobby. The man didn't give me his name but, said he would enclose his business card when sending me literature on the company. *NOTE: I was sent a brochure called, "The Bechtel Report to Employees", but, no note or business card accompanied it.

Pacific Gas and Electric

My next stop after leaving Bechtel was Pacific Gas and Electric. I had received a message before coming up to San Francisco to call a man at PG&E. I had tried to call and he was out of the office. So, when I arrived at PG&E, I asked the security guard/receptionist if I could speak to this man. I was sent up to the 11th floor. As I got off the elevator David Monfried, Manager, News Services Department, approached me and said, "Quite frankly, we don't have time to see you and we won't be answering your questions." With that, Monfried shook my hand and sent me on my way. He treated me like I was nothing and a nobody. Maybe I was in his eyes but, as I like to say, "What goes around, comes around." Monfried scored 0 points on my 1-10 scale.

Fireman's Fund

Fireman's Fund is in Novato, a suburb about 30 miles north of San Francisco. What a pain getting up there on my bike. It's spectacular riding a bike over the Golden Gate Bridge but, it's pretty hairy if the wind's blowing. Headquarters is a beautiful 250,000-square foot, 4-story building built in 1982 and situated on 67 acres of green rolling hills. Received a nice reception from Richard Griebel, Assistant Vice President, Public Relations Manager. The boardroom is located in New York City and 950 employees work in serene surroundings. Had a nice Par course and softball field. Griebel scored 10 points on my 1-10 scale.

North of San Francisco and across the Golden Gate Bridge are three more of the most affluent suburbs in the USA: Sausalito, Tiburon and Ross. Sausalito is an artsy/touristy place with homes on hillsides overlooking the bay.

Ever been to Oakland? Try getting from San Francisco to Oakland on a bike. Bikes aren't allowed on the two bridges so, my other option was to take BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). I caught the commuter rail system in downtown San Francisco at 5:30 a.m. (bikes aren't allowed on the system between 6:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m.), and under the San Francisco Bay it went, eventually letting me off in downtown Oakland. It is amazing enough to think of the engineering and construction feats which were required to build the Golden Gate and San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridges but, it boggles my mind to think of how difficult it was building a tunnel UNDER the water. It was a shock to go from cosmopolitan San Francisco to hum-drum Oakland, a city of about 350,000. Not much to say about Oakland, although I did enjoy riding my bike around Lake Merritt, a 155-acre tidal saltwater lake about a mile from downtown.

Safeway Stores

I had a feeling Safeway Stores headquarters would be in an industrial part of town and I was right. Lots of trucking and produce companies in the area a few miles from downtown Oakland. The company owns the 5-story, yellowish-orange structure built in 1926. A small, red awning with the company's logo on it identifies the place. Very impressed by the friendliness and helpfulness of the receptionist, Lois Meyer. I waited about an hour in the small lobby area before Felicia del Campo, Manager, Public Affairs Department, met with me. I did get to see the boardroom but, not the CEO's office. About 600 people work in the 90,000-square foot corporate office building and 60,000-square foot nearby building. Noticed in the cafeteria area, employees don't get to choose between Coke and Pepsi but, Craigmont, the company's own line of soft drinks. Only have one elevator and a freight elevator in the building. There are about 325 parking spaces and 60 are reserved for service division managers and above. Not very fancy digs for the largest supermarket chain in the world. del Campo scored 8 points on my 1-10 scale.

Golden West Financial

Golden West Financial, a savings and loan holding company, is located in a new, white, 17-story building overlooking Lake Merritt. I was met by a security guard/receptionist and, after a few phone calls, was told to check back later. I came back later and felt I was being given the runaround. I met with a young fellow who said he had only worked for the company for four days and he wouldn't know the answers to any of my questions. I couldn't figure out if the company was being secretive or just disorganized. Company scored 2 points out of 10 for friendliness.

Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical

Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical is headquartered in a 28-story building they built in 1959. They have since sold the building and now lease space. Use of aluminum in the construction of the building is apparent everywhere. Building is looking its age. Met with Robert Irelan, Vice President, Public Relations. Did not get a tour of anything. Nice view from upper floors. Irelan scored 8 points on my 1-10 scale.


The address I had for the headquarters of Computerland was on Grand Avenue in Oakland. Turned out to be a retail store for Computerland. Employees at the store told me headquarters for the privately-held firm was in Hayward, California.

Longs Drug Stores

Next stop was Longs Drug Stores in the booming suburb of Walnut Creek, about 30 miles northeast of Oakland. I talked with Leslie Anderson, Vice President-Personnel. Longs Drugs was one of the first companies to move out to this suburban area. The 3-story, grey building with the orangish-red, pagoda-style roof was built in 1970. A small wooden sign out front identifies the place. Tiny lobby area. I saw the boardroom which was plain but, wasn't able to see the CEO's office. The company-owned 100,000-square foot building houses 470 employees. The employees' dress was as plain as the office furnishings.

Lucky Stores

Leaving Walnut Creek, I made my way to Dublin, a suburb about 30 miles southeast of Oakland and home to Lucky Stores, a supermarket chain. Wasn't too well received at Lucky. The fortress-like, one-story, red brick building is located in a business park. A small sign out front said, "Corporate Headquarters, Lucky Stores." Walked into the small lobby and was met by an indifferent receptionist. Judith Decker, Communications Coordinator, came out to the lobby area and wasn't very accommodating. Made me feel like I was a pest. About the only thing she told me was they have 291 employees. The amount of time that elapsed from my entering the building to my leaving was about four minutes. If Decker only knew how much of a hassle it had been for me to get to Lucky's headquarters! Decker received 4 points on my 1-10 scale. After leaving Lucky Stores, I headed to the airport and caught a flight back to San Diego.