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OMVNA Newsletter

January 2007
Volume 19, Number 1

The OMVNA Newsletter is distributed to 1900 households and 175 downtown businesses by dedicated volunteers.  The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the OMVNA Steering Committee. Let us know what you think!

Editor: Bruce Karney
Phone: (6 - 9 PM only) 964-3567
E-mail: editor@omvna.org
Mail: 833 Bush St., Mountain View 94041

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IN THIS ISSUE:
Assessor Larry Stone To Speak at OMVNA Meeting
Neighbor Margaret Abe-Koga Joins City Council
Neighbor Ronit Bryant Wins Council Seat
New Senior Center Shines
OMVNA Steering Committee Seeks At Large Member
Steering Committee Notes
Local Musician to Play at Performing Arts Center
Where do the Children Play?
OMVNA Budget for 2007
The Magic of OMVNA's Newsletter Delivery Team
New Energy Action Column: Water Heaters: Tankless, Traditional or Solar
Shout Outs and Attaboys
Become a Family Ambassador
House at 902 Villa Shares Thoughts on Past, Future
Join OMVNAtalk
Our Newsletter Sponsors


Assessor Larry Stone To Speak at OMVNA Meeting
By Ken Rosenberg, OMVNA Chair

County Assessor Larry Stone will be the featured guest at the Feb. 12 OMVNA General Meeting, which will take place in City Hall Council Chambers at 7:30 PM.  The Assessor is one of only three officials elected countywide, the other two being the District Attorney (Dolores Carr) and the Sheriff (Laurie Smith).

The meeting will allow plenty of time for questions.  If you have ever wanted to ask "the man" how your tax dollars work for your benefit, this is your chance!

You may want to ask questions like these:

  • What exactly does the County Assessor do for the County's nearly two million residents?
  • How can I pay less property tax?
  • Will my home be reassessed if I remodel?

Mr. Stone has also promised to discuss ways to avoid reassessment legally.

OMVNA is excited about sponsoring this event and will provide light desserts and coffee.

Mr. Stone is one of the longest-serving elected officials in the County.  You can learn more about his department online at www.scc-assessor.org

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Neighbor Margaret Abe-Koga Joins City Council

Margaret Abe-Koga, a 4-year resident of our neighborhood and 9-year resident of MV, was the top vote-getter in November’s Council election.

Margaret feels that many factors combine to make our neighborhood so special: proximity to downtown, our diversity, our sense of history, the family-friendly nature of Old MV, and our high level of community involvement.  “We have a little of everything,” she remarked.

She would like the City to do more to help neighborhoods organize as OMV has done, and to sponsor roundtables where neighborhood leaders can meet each other and share ideas.

Margaret said that it is important to her to make sure the upcoming General Planning process is well-funded and that it is a highly inclusive process.  There are no areas of the City budget that she feels need to be cut at present, since the City already tightened its belt during the lean years following the dot com bust.

She feels that serving on the OMVNA Steering Committee helped her learn how to run a meeting, work well with others, and be an effective and influential advocate for issues that were important to the neighborhood.

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Neighbor Ronit Bryant Wins Council Seat

Former OMVNA Chair and Newsletter Editor Ronit Bryant has long been a driving force for neighborhood improvement.

She says the biggest difference between our neighborhood and others in the city is the way our front doors and living rooms focus on the street, rather than moving family life to the rear as is common in newer home designs.  This makes it easier for us to get to know our neighbors and to develop a sense of community.

When asked what she thinks the City should do differently in working with neighborhoods, she emphasized the need for consistency and listening with respect to all neighborhoods.  She lauded the City’s efforts to coordinate CERT programs from different parts of the city and to assist new neighborhood groups in learning from more established ones.

Ronit noted that Council goal setting will precede the adoption of a budget this Spring, and says that there are currently no areas of the budget that she feels need to be cut.  However, she does favor spending more to acquire new park land, to complete the development of neighborhood parks where the land has already been acquired, and to expand community policing downtown.

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New Senior Center Shines
By Bruce Karney

The first time I was a senior was September, 1969, just a few weeks after Woodstock.  I remained a Senior for a year, until I became a freshman – in college.

But in a mere ten months, I’ll be a senior again, because age 55 is the definition of seniorhood used at Mountain View’s splendid new Senior Center.

Oddly enough, the delights and distractions offered by the Senior Center resemble the ways I managed to avoid studying the first time I was a senior.  There’s a game room with two ping pong tables and four pool tables, as well as several card tables.  There are even vending machines, in case you need a quick pick-me-up after a game of 8-ball.

Another room houses a complete gym, with ten fitness stations.  Nearby is the dance and movement studio, with two walls of floor-to-ceiling mirrors and barres for devotees of le danse.  This room was empty when I visited, but a sign on the door noted that “Flow Hatha Yoga” classes are offered twice a week.

The building’s design and materials are outstanding.  During the day, light penetrates almost every square foot of the building, and there are several stained glass windows to add splashes of color.  Two of the rooms boast fireplaces – the foyer and the stunning dining hall, which reminds me of the MacArthur Park restaurant in Palo Alto.

If you are 55 or older, all this can be yours for the price of – nothing!  The facilities are open to all seniors, no matter where you live.  All that is asked is that you sign in when you enter the building so the staff can tally the number of guest visits.

The Senior Nutrition Program offers a healthy lunch at the Center each weekday at 11:30 am.  The meal costs $2 if you are 60 or older, or $5 if you under 60.  I enjoyed my meal, while an elderly man (or, should I say a man somewhat older than me), played harmonica to entertain the crowd.

While touring the Center, I bumped into former Mayor Jim Cochran, who was there to take a memoir writing class, one of about thirty different classes that are available at the site.

The Senior Center is located at 266 Escuela Avenue, and is open 8:30 am to 9:00 pm Monday – Wednesday and from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm Thursday and Friday. 

Rooms in the Center can be rented on weekends and Thursday and Friday evenings for meetings, classes, parties, etc.  For more information, call the Senior Center staff at 903-6330.

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OMVNA Steering Committee Seeks At Large Member

Margaret Abe-Koga resigned from the OMVNA Steering Committee on Jan. 7, and thus we have an “at large” opening that we would like to fill as soon as possible.

“At large” Committee members have no specific duties other than to attend the monthly meetings.  However, the role is often seen as a stepping stone to greater involvement on the Committee and in the neighborhood.
Please call Ken Rosenberg at 969-6882 or e-mail him at chair@omnva.org by February 9 if you’re interested in this role.

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Steering Committee Notes

At its December meeting, the Steering Committee authorized the expansion of the Newsletter to 6 or 8 pages if sufficient advertising can be sold to cover the added cost and if we can find a printer who will do the insertion of the inner page for us.

It was also decided that rates for display ads would be increased 20% effective Jan. 1.

The proposed schedule for the Newsletter was approved, and General Meetings were tentatively scheduled for Feb. 12, April 29, Aug. 12, and Oct. 28.

(The new ad rates and event dates appear on our web site at www.omvna.org )

At its January meeting, the Committee approved a budget for 2007 to be presented to the membership for approval on Feb. 12 (see the Page 3 article for details).

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Local Musician to Play at Performing Arts Center

Local horn player (that’s the French horn) Daniel Wood will appear in two upcoming performances at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.  With humor and electronic gizmos galore, he will perform an original solo performance on February 28 on the horn and piano delving into issues of music and diversity in our shared community.

On March 19 he will perform ‘Brassy Dances’ with QUADRE, an ensemble of four horn players he founded in 1998.  For more information and tickets, see www.quadre.org or call the Center at 903-6000.

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Where do the Children Play?
By Ken Rosenberg, OMVNA Chair

Two months ago, my family and I were invited over to a friend’s house for brunch.  It was a lovely day and we ate in their backyard.  Our children were playing together nearby, and we began to talk about how different it is today (compared to when we were kids) from how we grew up playing with our friends.

See if your experience matches my own.  From the time I was seven, I was allowed to go over to my friend’s house and play.  I could do this just by telling my mom, “I’m going to Rusty’s” and off I’d go.  I’d knock on his door, and say “Can Rusty play,” to his mom.  We would play in his room, in his backyard, or we’d ride bikes around the many vacant fields that surrounded our house.  When my parents needed me home, they typically honked the car horn twice and I’d run home for dinner.

When I got a little older, I hung out with the kids that lived on my block.  We would simply go outside and within a few minutes, there would be a small group.  I can’t remember what we’d end up doing, but I remember swimming, “wall walking,” riding our motocross bikes, tree climbing, and just hanging out.  As I type, I’m filled with a sense of nostalgia and longing.  Ah, those were the days.

Contrast this type of experience with what many children are getting today.  After school, instead of going to a neighbor’s house, if my kids play with a friend, it is on an organized and structured “play date.”  Typically, however, we are filling the kids’ free time with activities that are supposed to be enriching or meaningful (piano lessons, ballet, soccer, ice skating, summer camps, etc).  This contributes to a frantic environment as we are invariably pressured to get to the next appointment on time.  After these activities, we are trying to bathe and feed the kids and then get them off to bed to begin it all over again the next day.

The conversation I mentioned at the beginning of this article helped me to put my finger on the primary reason why kids just don’t go outside and play anymore.  The biggest reason had to do with the perception of safety.  There seems to be a pervasive feeling that abductions are frequent and that it can (and will) happen if the adult isn’t there.

If perception equals reality, it doesn’t matter that the statistics on crime don’t support this theory.  As OMNVA Chair, I’d like to make our neighborhood more like the one I grew up in.  To do this, I need your help.  I need input on how we could improve our neighborhood so our kids can have experiences similar to the ones we had.  Would you come to our OMVNA meetings (or email me privately) and suggest ways we can, together, achieve this goal?  It’s about building community and coming together.  My e-mail is chair@omvna.org and my phone number is 969-6882.

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OMVNA Budget for 2007
By Aaron Grossman, Treasurer

At its January meeting, the Steering Committee approved the proposed budget shown below.  It will be presented to the membership for approval at the Feb. 12 meeting. (See the Page 1 article on Larry Stone for meeting details.)

REVENUE  
Newsletter ads $9,500
Grants 1,500
Other revenue           0
Total $11,000

EXPENDITURES  
Newsletter printing $6,000
Meetings & events 2,500
CERT 1,000
Operating expenses 600
Equipment purchases 300
Steering Com. discretionary        600
Total $11,000

Our checking balance on Dec. 31 was $6,864.22.  This included $1,680 of pre-paid ad revenue.

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The Magic of OMVNA's Newsletter Delivery Team
By Julie Lovins

I am proud to recognize our wonderful volunteer newsletter delivery-people, who hand-carry 17,000 newsletters every year to OMV residents and downtown businesses.  Some of them have done this since publication started in February, 1989.  That's a lot of newsletters!

These days, the following neighbors fan out across our area on the weekend following each publication, eight times a year:
Jean Anderson, Tori Atwell, Olivia Bartlett, Pat Bennett, Brad Bettman, Kathy Bettman, Ronit Bryant, June Casey, Joseph Cayot, Kim Copher, Aimee Folden, Donnie Foster, Peggy Goodman, Aaron Grossman, Tim Johnson, Bruce Karney, Robin Kuborssy, Tim Lee, Rose Lesslie, Kristen McGuire-Husky, Don McPhail, Gretchen McPhail, Jessica Millar, Robert Mullenger, Bill Nitzberg, Jennifer Parman, Russ Parman, Rita Pilkenton, Karl Pingle, Bea Pollert, Allen Price, Carol Price, Jan Proceviat, Carol Pursifull, Rhonda Radcliff, Larry Rosenberg, Eric Schweitzer, Jeff Segall, Jamil Shaikh, Maggie Sias, Monica Smith, Anne Urban, Sara Valentine, Charlie Weigle, Lisa Windes, Caroline McCormack Yarwood and Lauren Zuravleff.

Lorraine Wormald is the main force behind the counted-out "bundles", and she and Lydia Sherrill and Tim Johnson rush them to each carrier.  I have the most fun job, getting it all to work and doing some bits and pieces of everything.  My husband, Greg Fowler, helps with the count-out process and keeps me organized.

People sometimes move, or move on, and to those of you in that category who have retired from the newsletter team but are reading this, please feel appreciated, also!

Please let me know if you'd like to join us.  There's something interesting for everyone to do, usually for no more than a few hours a year, less if you "sub" occasionally.  You can reach me at 964-0368.

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New Energy Action Column:Water Heaters: Tankless, Traditional or Solar
By Bruce Karney

“Energy Action” is a new column that will provide information on ways that we can reduce the amount of energy we consume, thereby saving money and helping the environment.  We welcome reader suggestions and feedback!

Our hot water heater started leaking in September, and I quickly began exploring alternatives to simply replacing it.  Here’s what I learned about the three main alternatives: traditional, tankless, and solar.

Don’t Wait For The Leak!

Most water heater replacement decisions are made only after the old tank starts leaking.  If you wait for the leak, you won’t have time to explore the options.

I had heard good things about gas-powered tankless water heaters (TWH) as being more environmentally friendly than the much more common storage water heaters (SWH).  I also wanted to look into using a rooftop solar heater to pre-heat the water flowing into the SWH.

The first part of the article explains what I learned as I investigated the tankless option.

Gas Flow

In 20 years of home ownership I had never given a single thought to the size of our gas piping, but once I started researching TWH, I realized that I had been ignoring something important.

In order to heat water quickly, TWH burn lots more gas per minute than SWH.  For example, the Bosch AquaStar 250SX that I investigated uses 175,000 BTU per hour, compared to 40,000 BTU per hour for the old 30-gallon SWH that I needed to replace.

The gas pipe from your meter to your home must be large enough to allow all gas appliances to operate simultaneously.  For us, that means the original floor furnace, a wall heater in the family room (35,000 BTU/hour), the oven, the stovetop, the clothes drier and our water heater.

Our gas pipe size is ¾” NPS (National Pipe Standard), and our water heater is 60’ from the meter.  Sadly, the existing pipe is far too long and narrow to deliver the 175,000 BTU that would have been needed by a TWH at that location, let alone meet our other gas needs too.

We could have installed larger piping, but I dreaded the time and cost involved.  Because our heater was already leaking, I envisioned days without hot water while the new pipe was installed.

An alternative that would not have required replacing the gas line would have been to install the TWH much closer to the gas meter.   If we’d done that, the existing ¾” pipe might have been big enough to meet all our needs.

The best place would have been an exterior wall of the house.  There are TWH designed for outdoor installation, and such installations are  often less expensive because the venting requirements are less stringent and expensive than venting a TWH that is indoors.

Instant Hot Water?

If you replace a SWH with a gas TWH, you will actually get your hot water a few seconds later than you are used to.  It takes a few seconds to warm the  first bit of water, plus the same amount of time as always for the water to flow from tank to tap. Small, electric “point of use” TWHs in the kitchen or bathroom can solve this problem, but I won‘t discuss them further because they don’t provide the “whole house” solution I was looking for.  However, they make a LOT of sense in some cases. 

Energy Savings

So much for the hassles and concerns – what are the benefits?  Why are TWH so popular in Europe and Japan?  The key, of course, is energy savings.  The US Department of Energy writes that “heating water accounts for 15 to 25 percent of a home’s energy use.”  Here in California with our mild climate, we’re closer to the top end of the range. 

Our two-person household spends $150/month on gas and electricity.  During the summer, we use about 30 therms/month, costing $40.  Some of that is used for cooking and clothes drying, but if we assume that 80% of summer use is for water heating, then water heating costs us $32/month.

The DOE says TWH are 35-40% more efficient than SWH.  That means TWH would save us $12/month or $144/year.  (Calculated as 37.5% of $32/month.)

Installation Costs

TWH are more expensive to purchase than SWH, and installing them also costs more.  The price for a tankless Bosch Aqua-  Star 250SX is $1,082, tax included.  The price at Sears for the PowerMiser 9 30-gallon SWH is $368.  Installation of the Sears water heater, and disposal of the old one, cost $343.  In addition, the installer found several aspects of our old installation that didn’t meet code.  Correcting these cost an additional $323.  Bottom line total: $1,036. 

How much would it have cost in labor and permits to install a TWH at our house?  Based on information I’ve gathered from others, I think $2,000 is a reasonable estimate.  So, for the purposes of this article, I’ll assume that the total installed price of a TWH would have been $3,082.

What’s the Best Alternative?

Almost everyone expects natural gas prices to rise, but nobody knows how fast they will escalate.
I analyzed two cases.  In one, I assumed gas prices go up 5% per year for the next 20 years, and in the other I assumed a 10% rate of increase.

My other assumptions were:

  • Inflation in the price of water heaters: 3%/year
  • Discount rate: 6%/year
  • Lifetime of a SWH: 10 years (so I added the cost of replacing it again in year 11)
  • Lifetime of a TWH: 20 years
  • Current price of a SWH, including tax and installation = $1,038
  • Current price of a TWH, including tax and installation = $3,082

Table 1 shows my findings.  NPV means Net Present Value, a method that makes future costs equivalent to present costs.

Table 1

Gas Prices Rise

NPV of SWH Costs

NPV of TWH Costs

$ Saved with TWH

5%/yr.

$10,291

$9,033

$1,258

10%/yr.

$15,033

$12,487

$2,546

In both cases the TWH turns out to be the lower cost alternative.  The savings over the 20 year period ranged from $1,258 to $2,546.  On an annualized basis, that’s $63 to $127.

The reason that TWH comes out the winner is that over the lifetime of the system fuel costs are far more significant than equipment and installation costs.  The faster gas prices go up, the bigger the advantage.  That’s why Europe and Japan, where fuel is already very costly, made the switch to TWH years ago.

Solar Beats TWH

But wait, there’s more!  In California many of us also have the option of using the sun’s energy to heat our home’s water.  A solar water heater takes only 32 square feet of unshaded roof space to heat the water for a small household like ours.

I ran the numbers again, this time assuming that:

  • A solar system (after tax incentives) would cost $4,000
  • It would reduce the amount of natural gas used to heat our water by 60%
  • The solar system would include our SWH, and wouldn’t lengthen its useful life, so we would still need to replace the SWH in year 11.

Table 2 compares the costs of solar to the costs of TWH.  If gas prices increase by 6% or less, tankless costs less, but if gas prices rise by more than 6%, then solar is the lowest-cost option.

Table 2

Gas Prices Rise

NPV of TWH Costs

NPV of Solar Costs

$ Saved with Solar

5%/yr.

$9,033

$9,190

- $157

10%/yr.

$12,487

$11,164

$1,323

Increasing Your Home’s Value

My cost calculations don’t take into account any increase in the market value of our home.  It seems logical that improvements that make a home more energy-efficient should increase its eventual sales price, but local real estate professionals say they have not seen this effect – yet.  But they also say that homes with solar are so rare that have little re-sale experience to draw on.

Reducing Greenhouse Gasses

The analysis presented so far has all been about costs, but there’s another lens that should be used to think about energy issues, namely greenhouse gas emissions.

It is entirely possible to heat all the water for a home without emitting any CO2.  The greenest solution combines a rooftop solar heater (which does most of the work) augmented by electric water heating powered by a rooftop solar photovoltaic system.  Many “off-grid” homes around the world heat their water this way.

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Shout Outs and Attaboys

Jonathan Boutelle and Rashmi Sinha of Yosemite Street merited a 1-column story in the Dec. 18 Business Week for their innovative new business (SlideShare.net) that allows people to share PowerPoint files.

The Wells Fargo branch on Castro has installed a huge new montage of historical Mountain View photos on the interior wall closest to Church Street.  It’s great to see a giant global bank recognize that each branch can be as unique as the community it serves.  Hats off to branch manager Justin Geddie!

Every other Wednesday Red Rock Coffee Company offers a free Story Hour for pre-schoolers and their moms and dads.  When I visited, the 20 or so tots looked more caffeinated than their parents as they bounced around the patient storyteller sitting on the Red Rock’s tiny stage.  The next Story Hours will be Jan. 31 and Feb. 13 at 10 am.  What a nice way to reach out to the next generation of coffee drinkers!

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Become a Family Ambassador

FIRST 5 of Santa Clara County is offering free training in how to become a Family Ambassador in six bi-weekly evening sessions (6 – 8 pm) in Mountain View starting February 1.

Family Ambassadors provide valuable information for families with kids under 5, promote the well-being of families by increasing their access to services, and become community leaders who represent the needs of parents and kids.  For more info or to register call Rocio Arango at 688-3098.

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House at 902 Villa Shares Thoughts on Past, Future
Interview by G. Hohpe

When I was young I was surrounded by farmlands.  I was built by the grocery store owner Charles Pearson, and his family lived with me for many years.  My first memories are of 1888, and I recall how I liked to listen to the horse-drawn carriages clattering through the streets and the steam locomotives on the nearby Southern Pacific tracks. 

Even though I’ve never moved an inch, I’ve led an eventful life.  Over the last decade I provided room for a candle store, a women's clothing shop, and, most recently, a children's consignment boutique.  I like the children's boutique because my original layout is still in place.  We have a girls’ room, a boys’ room, and a dark hallway no one likes to enter.  I especially like it that so many children come to visit me.

However, the reason I’m writing is that more exciting times lie ahead!  I'll be moving a few feet closer to the street corner to make room for five condominiums in my backyard.  For a while I was afraid that the developer wanted to tear me down because I am not as spiffy as these new condo buildings.  Admittedly, I could use a new coat of paint and a patched roof, but just wait till those youngsters get to my age!  Fortunately, I have lots of friends in the neighborhood, and they helped make sure that I’ll be around for many more years.

I'll have to take a little break from working this spring while my foundation is moved, but it won’t be too long before I’m all gussied up and can reopen my doors to Mountain View children and their parents.

I invite all my friends to visit  me in the next month or two so they can wish me bon voyage and enjoy a great clearance sale at House of Forgotten Treasures.

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Join OMVNAtalk

OMVNAtalk is a neighborhood e-mail list with more than 250 members.  You should join if you would like to send or receive e-mail about issues of interest to Old Mountain View residents. It is a moderated list, which prevents spam and off-topic posts.
You may send requests and announcements of any kind, including commercial announcements, as long as there is a clear link to Old Mountain View.

To join OMVNAtalk, see: http://www.omvna.org/omvnatalk.html

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