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OMVNA Newsletter

September 2004
Volume 16, Number 6

Got Vote?


OMVNA Fall General Meeting

A Tool for Neighborhood Preservation?

Whither Historic Preservation?

Housing Problems in Mountain View? Call Project Sentinel

Free Repair Work for Qualified Homeowners and Non-Profit Organizations

History Corner: OMV Resident Studies Family History

Got Vote?
By Velva Rowell

The next presidential election will be held on Tuesday November 2nd along with elections for the Mountain View-Whisman School Board and the Mountain View City Council. Have you registered to vote?

In order to vote in the state of California, you must:

  • be a U.S. citizen;
  • be at least 18 years of age by Election Day
  • be a resident of the County at least 15 days before the election
  • be registered at least 15 days before the election
  • not be in prison or on parole for the conviction of a felony
  • not currently be judged mentally incompetent by a court of law

You must be registered to vote in order to sign petitions to place initiatives on the ballot. To register by mail:

  1. Obtain a mail-in voter registration form. Call the Registrar of Voters at (408) 299-8639 and ask to have one mailed. Forms are also usually available at city halls, post offices, libraries, and fire stations. And since the passage of the "Motor Voter" law, your Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) also has them.
  2. Complete the form according to the easy-to-follow instructions.
  3. Mail the form to the address provided in the instructions.

You may also fill out a registration form online at and it will be mailed to you for your signature.

The registration form must be received on or before the last day to register (15 days before an election). You may also register in person at the Registrar's office at 1553 Berger Drive, Bldg. #1, San Jose, CA 95103.

If you register 28 days or less before the election, the Registrar recommends that you vote at the Registrar's office.

Don’t forget to learn all you can about your City Council candidates by attending the OMVNA Candidates Forum on October 20th!

Many thanks to the Los Altos Mountain View League of Women Voters website for this information.

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By Aaron Grossman

Our Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) now has 36 members, thanks to several new volunteers who signed up at the OMVNA summer picnic by the firehouse. Most of us are Local Coordinators who work to help our neighbors prepare in advance for a major disaster, and who will form a neighborhood radio communications link when it hits.

Please note that the volunteers will not be able to give you water, food, medicine, or shelter after a disaster. What we can give you now are good lists to follow and tips on preparing. Let us know if you want a volunteer to contact you.

Many blocks in OMVNA are still without a volunteer. Let us know if you are interested in joining CERT. It's a fun and easy way to meet your neighbors.

Thanks! Aaron Grossman (650)

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Mark Your Calendars!
OMVNA Fall General Meeting

When: Wednesday evening, October 20
Where: Fellowship Hall, Trinity United Methodist Church (at the corner of Hope and Mercy)
What: City Council Candidates Forum, OMVNA Board Election

Come meet the candidates for City Council!

We’re hoping to provide child care for parents who want to attend this meeting. Please contact Velva Rowell at or (650) 938-0389 if you are interested in babysitting that evening.

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A Tool for Neighborhood Preservation?
By Ronit Bryant

Along with its recent efforts to pass a Historic Preservation ordinance, City Council has been working to change the existing Neighborhood Design (ND) Overlay Zone ordinance. This ordinance, which has been around for many years and was most recently revised in 2000, is intended to protect and preserve the character of residential neighborhoods rather than focusing on specific buildings in town. The ordinance depends on identifying architectural "features-in-common" shared by a majority of residences in a defined area. In parts of Old Mountain View, for example, most of the houses have garages set well back so they are not the first thing one sees looking at the house from the street. That is a distinguishing feature that neighbors might want to see preserved. Because design in our neighborhood is so varied, features-in-common will likely be very general, as is this one.

The old ND process was cumbersome, and no one (including Old Mountain View) succeeded in using it. The City is trying to make the process more workable by making it easier to define features-in-common. The new ordinance requires that at least 51% of the parcels in a proposed ND zone have a specified feature-in-common. If several features-in-common are specified, 35% of the parcels must have at least two of the other characteristics.

Once the neighbors have defined these features-in-common, they file a petition asking for an ND overlay zone — 50% of the homeowners in the defined area must sign the petition. The City then polls all homeowners in the defined area. If 67% of respondents vote "yes," the petition is submitted to Council for final approval. If the petition is approved, new construction will be required to comply with at least half of the features-in-common, and remodels will be required to comply with all features that apply to the parts of the house being remodeled.

Will the ordinance work as a tool for neighborhood preservation? Will it lessen the degree of incompatibility between some new construction and the rest of the neighborhood? The OMVNA Steering Committee hopes that a group of neighbors will try the new ordinance. The "pink booklet" available in the Community Development Department, a short list of voluntary residential design guidelines for Old Mountain View, is a good starting resource. You can find a link to it on the OMVNA website at

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Whither Historic Preservation
By Julie Lovins

At its August 17 meeting, the City Council voted 5-2 for a “voluntary Historic Preservation Ordinance,” along with re-institution of the Register of Historic Resources that was adopted in 2002 without a formal survey as a basis.

The proposed ordinance provides that property owners listed on the Register will have six months within which to remove themselves. Thereafter there will be other possibilities for self-removal, but with disincentives for doing so. There is also a procedure for adding one’s property to the list.

Those who remain on the Register will be eligible for various monetary and non-monetary benefits connected with owning, maintaining, and remodeling their property. Common minor exterior alterations to the property correction of unsafe conditions (as signed off on by a City official), and all interior alterations will be allowed with no questions asked. More extensive alterations will be subject to a permitting process to ensure that the historic architectural attributes of the structure will not be changed.

Members of the public protested that this would allow anyone to demolish a listed, significant piece of our local heritage simply by removing it from the list and then applying for a demolition permit, with no review and no public noticing. In response to this, the Council approved adding a clause requiring Staff to meet with the applicant to discuss demolition permit requests for structures that were formerly listed. However, the effectiveness of presenting alternatives to owners at this late stage was questioned.

The Council also asked city staff to prepare a proposal for a professional historic inventory.

The ordinance as summarized above was scheduled for a second reading and final passage on August 31. This did not occur. Instead the City Attorney recommended continuance to the meeting of September 28. The City has been informed that some provisions of the ordinance appear not to conform to California laws on historic preservation, and time is needed to resolve this. The ND part of the legislative package (see Ronit’s article on this page) has therefore also been delayed.

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Housing Problems in Mountain View? Call Project Sentinel
Gabe Zwettler, Fair Housing Specialist

Project Sentinel is a private non-profit corporation, whose primary function is to assist individuals with housing problems such as discrimination, repairs, deposits, privacy, tenant/landlord counseling, dispute resolution, and homeownership counseling. Project Sentinel is the largest and one of the most experienced fair housing agencies serving Northern California.

Project Sentinel's mission is to provide information and counseling, resource referrals, mediation and conciliation to the community. Project Sentinel strives towards enhancing opportunities for housing, fostering better relationships between tenants and landlords, preventing conflicts which may arise from rental housing issues, and empowering both tenants and landlords to resolve their own problems by working together towards resolution of conflicts outside the court system. Project Sentinel ensures that fair housing laws are being applied throughout the housing industry, and educates and trains people where necessary.

Project Sentinel investigates over 600 cases of housing discrimination each year and assists persons with disabilities in need of reasonable accommodations and reasonable modifications. If you feel that you have been the victim of housing discrimination, or if you have any questions or concerns about your living situation, please contact us at (888) 324-7468 (FAIRHOUsing) or go to our website:

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Free Repair Work for Qualified Homeowners and Non-Profit Organizations
By Jane Yi, Rebuilding Together Peninsula

Do you know someone in need of home or facility repairs? Rebuilding Together Peninsula (RTP) is a non-profit organization that brings together volunteers to provide free repair and renovation work for low-income homeowners and community centers. The type of work completed by RTP volunteers includes painting, minor plumbing, electrical, roof repair, landscaping, carpentry, safety modifications, etc. Our priorities are safety, warmth, and independence. National Rebuilding Day is primarily a one-day project. This year’s National Rebuilding Day is set for April 30, 2005. Applications are due October 15, 2004.

Please contact us at 650-366-6597 if you are interested in requesting an application or volunteering, or visit us on the Web at English and Spanish are spoken by the office staff.

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History Corner: OMV Resident Studies Family History
By Gloria Christine

Seeing my great-grandfather's name for the first time was magical, like meeting a stranger I'd always known. So how could this happen to a person who had zero interest in family history?

My immediate family fell victim to the sort of severe problems that made it easy for me to leave home and never look back; and that's what I did. Thirty years later, in 1998, I found myself struggling to complete a four-generation pedigree chart. Almost all the names were either incorrectly spelled or unknown. My father had two sisters whose names I didn't even know. He spoke only once of his mother, and my mother almost never spoke about her family. In addition to scant information, it was emotionally difficult to look back and get started. But I did, and what I found changed my life.

I was awestruck when I read my great-grandfather's name for the first time. He was born in Rostock, Germany, in 1831. Cyber time-travel yielded pre-WWII photos of "old town" Rostock, much as it was when he was a child playing in the streets. He and his brother came to the U.S. after the failed 1848 democratic revolution. (At this point I'm writing my findings, downloading images, and becoming completely addicted to genealogy.) I located his marriage record in a database in and sent for the microfilmed record, which listed his birthplace.

My next discovery came from the California State online birth database (before it was shutdown in 2002 by our state legislators over privacy concerns). California births from 1905 to 1997 revealed that my father's three sisters had over 100 descendants -- cousins I never knew of, 30 living less than an hour's drive from my home!

Eventually I located the central European villages where seven of my eight great-grandparents were born. I found microfilmed church records of their births, marriages, and deaths, leading to hundreds more ancestors and thousands of distant aunts, uncles, and cousins. Each little village had its own special story. Each peasant ancestor had a place in time and space that was lost to our family until extracted from these old church books. The German records were challenging because of the language barriers (German, Latin, and German script) and the lack of any database or centralized census before1900. The names of German birthplaces had to be found in U.S. vital or church records before the German village research could begin.

As my research progressed, I gradually contacted my "new" cousins to share discoveries and ask for information. No one could add much, but one cousin invited me over to see "a few old photographs," which turned out to be our great-grandfather's photo album, containing 30 beautiful, pristine, labeled photos dating from 1867, spanning three generations! This cousin also indicated that another cousin had the "family papers." When contacted, that cousin lamented that the papers went "missing" six months prior to my call. About a year later, an envelope arrived containing photocopies of naturalization papers, cemetery plots, birth and marriage certificates, and more dating from 1864!

My writings evolved from notes to a newsletter, to a website, and to a book, now 15 chapters, spanning four generations, dating to 1774. My 100+ cousins descend from my father's parents, whose parents emigrated from Germany to New Jersey in the mid-1800s. I wrote the book to share my research with my cousins.

My favorite part of the research was finding my father's mother's family records, reaching back to the 1620s in an area of Westphalia, Germany, known as the Bishopric of Paderborn, about the size of the upper third of the San Francisco Peninsula. Several distant cousins (beyond my grandparents' descendants) were also researching these people, adding to my research and increasing our excitement about finding even more ancestors and each other.

The family history book came about after two years of research, resulting in way too much information to keep in my head. When I gave my cousins pedigree charts and census reports, I saw their eyes glaze over with boredom. I enhanced my pedigree chart with color accents, photos, flags, a map, and little ships to indicate who immigrated and when. I also wrote a chapter each about the immigrants, their parents (who stayed in the old country), and the first American-born generation. Photos, maps, and scanned images comprise most of the content, inviting the reader into the lives of our ancestors.

Some of my research was done on my home computer through and but most of the research was done at my local Family History Center. Dedicated volunteers helped me read and understand the old German records that arrived on microfilm from the library in Salt Lake City. The book was produced on a Mac laptop and a Canon printer and scanner.

A small Family History Center is located on Grant Road at Portland Street in Los Altos, and a much larger one is in Santa Clara on Quince Street (off Homestead between Lawrence and Kiely). My family history book can be seen at

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The OMVNA Newsletter
is published by a volunteer editorial committee & distributed to some 2400 homes and businesses by volunteers.

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The opinions printed in this newsletter are not necessarily those of the OMVNA Steering Committee.

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Last updated: 9/24/04