News

Letters to the editor: Natural gas ban, Bullis Charter School, vandalism

 

Thanks to City Council

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you fight climate change? One vote at a time.

Thank you to the Mountain View City Council for the decision last week to ban natural gas in all new homes and ramp up electric vehicle charging space requirements for new construction ("Council backs natural gas ban for all new homes," Nov. 1). And thank you to the residents of this fine city for electing leaders willing to take the first critical and necessary steps to transition to a carbon-neutral economy.

While our local leaders take action, our federal leaders appear to need more of a nudge. Please ask your national representatives to support the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, which would place a carbon fee on producers and distribute the revenue directly to American citizens.

Each of our voices, actions and votes matter. Let's eat this elephant.

Christine Marie Opitz

Grant Road

Issues with council's natural gas ban

I think the City Council may have made a poorly thought out noble gesture in banning natural gas use in new construction. I wouldn't be sure this even decreases greenhouse gas emissions significantly.

Currently, only about 32% of California electricity comes from renewables. The rest of the electricity, produced by fossil fuels, is generated at efficiencies of 40% to 50%, and there is an additional 6% loss in transmission, so a kilowatt-hour of electricity delivered to a home, produced by burning natural gas, takes the equivalent of 2.4 kWh in natural gas at the power plant. My current condensing natural gas furnace is 95% efficient, so it would take a very efficient heat pump furnace to improve on it, and there is also the issue of lifetime — heat pumps, especially since they are also used for air conditioning, have shorter lifetimes than gas furnaces, higher initial costs and higher maintenance costs, so the overall costs are likely to be higher than a gas furnace.

Another issue is natural gas for cooking, generally preferred by serious cooks, where electric is significantly more efficient in warm weather when you're not heating your home. But in winter, when you're heating your home, heat lost in natural gas range cooking just goes to heat your home. Switching to induction cooking, the next best choice, would require replacing all of my cookware, a huge investment for someone with a large set of good pots and pans.

A last issue is the reliability of our electrical grid, with PG&E turning off electricity for many for extended periods and Mountain View's extensive system of above-ground power lines, susceptible to high winds, squirrels and tree branches. No natural gas also means no natural gas-powered electrical generators, which can run for unlimited times during electrical outages — what is a hospital or an assisted living facility or a fire station going to do for power during an outage, let alone a homeowner who can only get a gasoline-fueled generator that will run eight to 16 hours on a tank of gas?

I think a far better alternative is the carbon tax: That accounts for the greenhouse emissions of all kinds of energy and would affect a shift to renewables and electric appliances running off renewable-produced electricity.

David Lewis

Oak Street

Bullis disparity

How can Bullis Charter School and the county school board claim "equality" when it is well known that they require a $5,000 per child "gift" to attend, even though they say it is "requested." And tax-deductible at that! So much for the underserved community at San Antonio coming up with that kind of cash.

It's a "private school" that we taxpayers are paying for. I am disgusted that they keep getting away with this.

Ellen Akerlund-Gonella

Los Altos

Parcel tax or bond?

FHDA (Foothill De Anza College District) is asking residents in the district their views to decide whether to put a parcel tax or a bond measure (or both) on the ballot. Here are reasons to consider before simply supporting our higher education system.

•Student enrollment at both colleges is significantly down the past few years when jobs have been plentiful.

•Even the new buildings and classroom renovations added from Measure C (the 2006 bond program provided $490.8 million for buildings) have some empty classrooms.

•50% of every dollar going to education is not used for instruction and teaching, but administration and maintenance.

•Enrollment of international students is down 16%, though up at Mission and West Valley colleges.

•The state's ending of repeatability means that the community can take the classes they want for enrichment (art, music, physical education, dance, theater, photography, etc.) just once. We used to be able to repeat a course for a total of six times for greater education and exploration.

•The district is actively recruiting high school students and students of color from outside the district because the state pays more for these students. Essentially the communities that pay the bond or parcel taxes are being cut out of the college in favor of those living outside the district.

Aurora Filinich

Montalto Drive

Tree vandalism

For over six years, fruit, almond, walnut and oak trees have been vandalized in the Cuesta Annex natural open space. But recently, the quantity of vandalism has escalated.

Each time it happened, I hoped it would be the last, and then my hopes are dashed again. Just today, I found almost 30% of a large white walnut tree has been torn down. The tree had been gradually vandalized since January of this year. Also, the rootstocks at the base of a 100-year-old almond tree (whose fragrant pink blossoms brighten visitors' days each spring) have had the bark chopped off at its base, effectively killing one-third of the tree's canopy. Someone "girdling" the tree trunks with a sharp tool has killed 5- to 10-year-old oak trees. More than 20 trees in the annex have had their tree trunk bark chopped away, limbs broken or both. Some people suspect the culprit damages trees late during moonlit nights — so does this person live nearby the annex? How can this vandalism be stopped?

I think the city should offer a $5,000 reward for the capture of this individual, with the money coming from fines levied on this urban vandal ($5,000 for each damaged tree trunk or limb with a diameter of 6 or more). This would be about 20 infractions, or $100,000 in fines. That's only a penalty of 2 cents per annex visit over a 10-year period (assuming 50 annex visitors a day over 10 years). This may be too small of a penalty for the person who diminishes annex visitors' visual and emotional experience during their daily walks.

Robert Schick

Cuesta Drive

Mike Fischetti

My friend Mike Fischetti passed away last month. I am sad and yet so grateful for Mike. You'll undoubtedly hear of the many ways Mike has served our community through Hope's Corner, MayView Clinic, and by his tireless advocacy for students and those struggling to make it here in Silicon Valley.

Mike has been a sort of mentor for me. Mike taught me to love individuals and to advocate for those in need or crisis. I remember years ago being with Mike when someone returned to him a small amount of money. It has always stuck in mind that when Mike accepted the payment, he told us that he would be saving that money to pass on to someone else in need. It's a small memory, but one that has guided my actions as money and gift cards have passed through my hands.

Mike taught me to honor and include those I don't agree with. Mike taught me the value of making friends with those who think differently than I do. When I find myself in conflict, I often recall sitting with Mike in his backyard or on his living room couch working together to figure out the best way to advocate for those we care about. Invariably, I learned from him to lead and serve with love.

Mike, I'm so grateful that you have been my friend.

Dave Arnone

West Middlefield Road

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Comments

5 people like this
Posted by Donna Shoemaker
a resident of another community
on Nov 24, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Dear Dave Arnone,

Thank you for posting your testimonial to friendship, love, and service you learned from Mike. I don't know either of you, but was very moved by your message.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Donna Shoemaker


8 people like this
Posted by Foothill-De Anza $$$$$$$$
a resident of North Whisman
on Nov 24, 2019 at 1:10 pm

Your money is their money - more and more.


3 people like this
Posted by @Bullis disparity
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2019 at 7:17 pm

Where is the proof that they require donations from parents?


12 people like this
Posted by Not plausible
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 24, 2019 at 10:09 pm

Not plausible is a registered user.

All Bullis ever wanted was plausible deniability that their school is de facto discriminatory along ethnic, socio-economic, and geographic lines. This community is neither blind, deaf, or dumb. You can’t gaslight us.


8 people like this
Posted by Steve
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Nov 25, 2019 at 5:40 am

The gas ban is the dumbest, most intrusive unfunded mandate I can possibly imagine. What a horrible burden to place on new homeowners with so little to show for it. A bridge too far.

The hot air produced by this self absorbed council does far more damage to our environment. It is they who should be banned.


12 people like this
Posted by MogensLauritzen
a resident of Gemello
on Nov 25, 2019 at 1:50 pm

MogensLauritzen is a registered user.

Regarding Issues with council's natural gas ban;

Let's assume you want to produce 1kWh of heat for your home.

NG heating; assume your heater operates at 95%. You will need 1kWh/0.95 => 1.05kWh of NG.

Electric; The latest GE or Siemens plants operate at 60% efficiency. Add to this a RE energy component of your claimed 32%, with your 6% transmission loss. Thus, 1kWh of electricy at your local main panel require => (1kWh - 0.32kWh)/0.94/0.60 => 1.2kWh of NG at the power plant. Now; a modern heat pump has a 3x boost factor. That is, it can generate 3kWh of heat for every 1kWh electricy consumed. Thus; to produce 1kWh of heat for your home, you will need 1.2kWh/3 => 0.4kWh of NG at the power plant.

The electric solution wins, and only becomes better as you add more renewable energy to our grid.

Regarding range cooking in winter; the opposite could be said in summer where you have to remove cooking heat via an AC.

Regarding having to replace cookware; as I understand the proposed policy, it pertains to new construction only. If anything and if necessary, it affords a good opportunity to upgrade your cookware. Besides, not exactly a major expense.

Regarding reliability of energy distribution; one also has to consider earthquakes. My sense is that any damage to NG pipelines during an earthquake will require considerable more repair time than the electric network.

In an ideal world, a worldwide carbon fee (tax) would be best. But do you really think that will happen anytime soon? If anything, it doesn't hurt to be at the forefront of technology. It might even give us a competitive advantage.


13 people like this
Posted by Rob Fagen
a resident of another community
on Nov 25, 2019 at 2:12 pm

Regarding BCS donations, discrimination, plausible deniability, and the rest: I don't understand why there are some members of the community who hold on so tightly to ideas that have been proven incorrect. Yes, there is some social pressure to contribute what you can. If you're in a financial position to make up for the per-student funding shortfall resulting from LASD's decisions, then that is welcome. Nobody ever talks about those generous individuals who contribute much more than the amount that closes the funding gap for just their kids. Nobody ever talks about how the parent organization comes together to help financially disadvantaged kids participate on a even footing with all the other kids. Nobody ever talks about how BCS has ramped up outreach to families for whom English is a second language. Nobody ever talks about how with the extreme oversubscription of students who want to attend BCS, there is a random lottery that ultimately decides who attends and who is on the wait list.

I've got my third child in middle school. My two older children received an excellent preparation from BCS for where they are now (one at college and one in high school). I'm glad that LASD has adopted a number of changes to their program in response to innovations at BCS. I've also seen responses in the BCS program to ideas executed by LASD. I'm always disappointed that this sharing of teaching methods and ideas never caught with the LASD administration. I'm always even more disappointed in the LASD Trustees who spend so much time trying to squash the BCS community instead of learning and growing with them.


12 people like this
Posted by Sophey Brox
a resident of Rex Manor
on Nov 28, 2019 at 1:21 am

electric fleets are one of the best things that can happen to our planet, and to your city, of course.unfortunately, the fleets managers need to deal with a big problem - when and where should they charge the vehicles?Make My Day made a solution that could help them deal with the problem.


8 people like this
Posted by The Business Man
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2019 at 8:01 am

The Business Man is a registered user.

What I find laughable about those that oppose electric heating is again it can cost less to use it.

Another factor: most good electric hookups are 220 volts to the home, and that at least one plug is 220 volts for a clothes drier. Thus they are significantly powerful and efficient.

Another NEW factor, renewable electric generation is about to surpass coal generators in the country. Thus there is a significant shift where non carbon impact energy is becoming a reality in the country.

The water aqueducts of California can be made into electric generation systems simply by putting “paddleboards” into them and attaching a generator to them. The energy that can be captured is incredible just there. At the same time, we can erect so much more windmills for wind energy. These sources are reasonably reliable in California because we rarely have no wind, and the aqueducts are always flowing. Solar is the only weakness, but the improvement of electric storage should improve that.

The fact is that the Coal and Gas industry is significantly threatened because there are so many sources of energy that can be captured naturally without any “combustion”. And these resources can be made even better because you can design smaller, high efficient generators that can be dispersed all over, making electric distribution more reliable and safe.

This is something not even being discussed, especially regarding how critics of electric heating claim if the PG&E cannot provide safe electricity. Why only rely on a single resource where many resources can be implemented that can provide cleaner safer and more reliable energy?

The fact is that combustion based electric generation is potentially so much more expensive to build and maintain and control pollutants.

And this is where the “resistance” of renewable energy is coming from. These “combustion” based systems being made obsolete via carbon neutral energy generation will leave these investments to be losses because they can be shut down before they break even in the building process.

These are factors not being discussed.


1 person likes this
Posted by Pointing blame
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Nov 28, 2019 at 8:09 am

Pointing blame is a registered user.

@Rob Fagen — when you say “the per-student funding shortfall resulting from LASD's decisions“ do you mean to suggest that parent choice to attend BCS comes with a consequences blame card? Differential funding was always part of your bargain. Pointing blame for the consequences of your own choice is a bad look.


1 person likes this
Posted by Fuzzy Thinking
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Nov 28, 2019 at 12:46 pm

Interesting that the combined letter comments share a common influence of fuzzy logic.
One guy accuses the charter school of spending too much money; another points
out it is less than LASD spends; then someone accuses the second of complaining
he doesn't get enough money. What's up with that sequence.

Then on the electrical grid comments, some complain the grid can't handle electric
heat and another person points out most houses have 220v service (the all do). The truth
is if a house can have air conditioning it can have electric heat because the heating
uses less power.

On the charter school issue, it is worth noting that LASD has no problem asking for
$2500 per child donations between the PTA and the foundation. It doesn't get it
all either, just like the charter school. Yet LASD operates with over 50%
more revenue per student than the state funding level for its students. How
fair is that? Bullis is not quite as bad even with more of it coming from
public charitable donations (mostly by parents through a foundation). Bullis has
not PTA and it has higher expenses because it has to make up for the shoddy
facilities provided by the district and it operates its own after school programs
instead of charging still more separately to the children that attend. This
after school and between sessions program operation is something LASD doesn't
even try to do. Also Bullis has a longer school day and more hours of instruction
even before the after school stuff is added. Bullis has all credentialed teachers
but it seems to have more younger ones who haven't worked their way up the pay
ladder. Bullis has more teachers per student even if class sizes aren't as small
as in LASD. LASD has been able to markedly increase its per pupil spending
and reduce its class sizes because of all the money it saves them to pay the
lower reimbursement rate to BCS compared to what it has set as its
speding bar for all the students at its various local schools. The small
ones especially cost a lot more per student than do the larger ones like
Santa Rita. It's not so easy to make blanket objections to Bullis funding when
you compare it to the way LASD spends money.


Like this comment
Posted by Lousy Engineering
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Dec 2, 2019 at 4:42 pm

Most of the above fails to compare the true benefits from the true costs. If electric clearly provided more benefits per cost, why don't all resident switch to electric and away from gas. So the above analysis is missing something. I purchased a gas dryer because my electric dryer was taking longer and longer to dry clothes. The GD cost $75 more than electric. Hooked it up and my electricity bill went down significantly and my gas bill went up about one therm per month. Same goes for a gas cook top. Any serious cook prefers gas to electric or whatever. Same goes for heating a house. The above analysis failed to look at the costs. Electricity rates are regulated below market prices for residential use. Unclear if it costs less to heat a house with electricity and how fast.


Like this comment
Posted by 'Good' Engineering
a resident of Willowgate
on Dec 2, 2019 at 5:18 pm

wow, speaking of... Lousy Engineering:

do you have anything other than anecdotal evidence to support your claim?


> If electric clearly provided more benefits per cost, why don't all resident switch to electric and away from gas. (sic)

Perhaps because switching over is expensive - a new dryer, new wiring, etc.. The new rules apply to new construction, not existing dwellings.


1 person likes this
Posted by Lousy engineering
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Dec 2, 2019 at 9:48 pm

Anecdotal evidence is still valid evidence since everyone’s personal circumstances vary. Lousy engineering and lousy economics. Forcing new owners to adopt expensive technology just supports my contention that the costs exceed the benefits , otherwise why impose the requirement. If they were beneficial new owners would gladly accept the new technology and wouldn’t require a law to force them to choose something beneficial.


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