Monday, May 31, 2010

Sunnyvale Elementary School District Site Boundaries Map

If elementary school ranking is important to you, then be extra careful of school boundaries in western Sunnyvale because the top elementary schools (Cherry Chase, Cumberland, and Ellis) all happen to border the worst performing elementary school (Vargas).

The most critical boundary is the dividing line between Cherry Chase (the top performing elementary school with 2009 API = 943) and Vargas (the worst performing with 2009 API = 729). West of Mary Ave, the homes south of El Camino are in Cherry Chase while the homes north of El Camino are in Vargas Elementary.

The 2nd most critical boundary is between Cumberland (the 2nd best school, API 879) and Vargas. In this case, the homes southeast of the corner formed by Mary Avenue & Washington Avenue are in the desirable Cumberland Elementary school zone.

The 3rd most critical boundary is between Ellis Elementary (the 3rd best school, API 823) and its two lower performing neighbors to the north Vargas (the worst performing, API 729) and Bishop (the 2nd worst, API 736). Ellis includes the Sunnyvale Town Center neighborhood that is southeast of the corner formed by Mathilda Ave and Evelyn Ave. Northwest of Washington Ave & Mathilda Ave is Vargas Elemenary school zone. North of Evelyn Ave between Mathilda Ave & Fair Oaks Ave is the Bishop Elementary school zone.

Reference: Sunnyvale Elementary School District: Site Boundaries Map ,

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Don't leave scrap wood for termites to munch !!

Termites love to munch on scrap pieces of wood. If you leave the wood, they will come. This is exactly why termites reports warn about "cellulose debris".
Notice the termite fecal matter that looks like dirt. No that's not dirt. It's termite wasteproduct.
Normally, humans only see the "evidence of termite infestation" and rarely see the termites themselves. That's because termites don't like sun and dryness. They like dark and damp. This piece of scrap wood was inverted and soaked with water. When I flipped the board over, I caught the little munchers in action.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cupertino Union School District Lottery for Special Schools

Parents of school age kids who live anywhere within the Cupertino Union School District, can choose to apply for open enrollment or alternative education at any of the schools within the district via a lottery system.

"Alternative Education" refers to the four special schools within the district: Meyerholz Chinese (Mandarin) Language Immersion Program (CLIP), Murdoch-Portal, Faria A+, or McAuliffe.

"Open Enrollment" refers to any of the "regular" schools within the district.

Each family is only allowed to apply to ONE single open enrollment school or alternative education program. If the school district sees that you have applied to the lottery at more than one school, you will lose priority at ALL the schools you have requested. Therefore, you need to carefully weigh how desireable each school is, how suitable each school is for your particular child, how likely your child will get in through the lottery, and how much you think your child wil like that particular school.

If your child has a current or pending IEP, you must get approval from Pupil Services Department based on whether the special program your child needs is available at your requested site. If your request is approved, you give up your space in the school your child is currently registered.

The lottery for school registration priority typically takes place in late February. However, To be even eligible for the lottery, you need to complete and return transfer request forms to the school/program you desire during the open enrollment period in early February. If you are interested in applying for a special school, you will have to prepare even earlier than that. All of the four special schools require that at least one parent attend one of their mandatory information sessions before you are allowed to apply. This makes sense because parents need to decide whether schools fit their child's learning style. For example, Faria is a strict academic elementary school. If your child likes to explore and be creative, Faria may not be a great choice. Instead, McAuliffe would give your child more opportunity to flourish.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Eichler Radiant Panel Heating Systems - What to expect

Some homebuyers shy away from Eichlers because they don't know what to expect from a radiant panel heating system.

Before you buy an Eichler home, you should request an inspection of the radiant heating from a reputable radiant heating specialist. A company such as Dan Salzberg's Radiant Heating Service, located in Mountain View, charges just $275 to inspect your radiant heating system for the existence of leaks.

The radiant heating company will perform a pressure test on your radiant heating system with a pressure gauge at approximately 25-psi while the system is at cool ambient temperature. (The test would not be reliable if pressure tested at elevated temperature since the change in pressure might be due to a temperature change rather than a true leak.) If the pressure holds steady, then we know the system has no leaks. However, if the pressure drops over time, that indicates a leak somewhere in the system. For example, if the pressure drops 1-psi in 10 minutes, that indicates a slow drip of approximately 3 drops of water per 10 minutes. Somewhere in the system is a small leak. A leak of 1 drop every 3 minutes is on the small side. A leak of 1 cup every 1 minute is major. If the leak is major, then the pressure test will show the system not holding pressure at all.

The most common area for leaks is wherever the pipes cross under cracks in the concrete slab floor. The expansion and contraction of the concrete slab floor can cause a leak.

To pinpoint the exact locations of the leaks, the consumer can ask the radiant heating service to perform a Helium Leak Detection. Dan Salzberg's Radiant Heating Service charges between $500-$800 for this type of test. They might find one leak; they might find 10 leaks. This technique involves detecting and repairing each individual leak. A typical repair bill using leak detection and repair might be from $1,000 - $2,000. Keep in mind though that radiant repair quoted here does not include replacement of the floor covering. The downside of radiant heating in the Eichler slab floor is the flooring needs to be removed in order to access the heating system.

To replace an entire radiant heating system would cost anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000. Normally, homeowners do not go for this extreme. If the house has large leaks in 3 different rooms, then maybe the homeowner should consider a completely new heating system.

Another technique is to use Hydronic System Sealant to try to stop small leaks in the heating system in general. Instead of detecting each individual leak, the radiant heating company puts sealer in the system and then retests later with the whole leak detection process to check whether it worked. Sometimes the sealant stops the leaks; sometimes not. Sometimes corrosion closes the leak again. However, if a heating system has 10 leaks now, there's no guarantee that 6 months from now another pipe that crosses a crack won't start to leak.

Are leaks in radiant heating systems commonplace? When I asked Dan Salzberg, he responded that if they were to test all the Eichler radiant heating systems in the neighborhood block at any given instant, one third (33%) to one fourth (25%) of the houses would have a small leak.

I hoped I helped give you an idea of what to expect from the radiant heating system that is often found in Eichler homes. Now that you know what to expect from radiant heating systems, you do not have to worry about the heating system when buying an Eichler home.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Condo vs PUD - What's the difference?

The two most common forms of common interest developments in California are Condominiums and Planned Unit Developments (PUDs). What's the same and what's different?

The characteristics shared by both forms of ownership are:
  • Common ownership of private residential property
  • Mandatory membership of all owners in an Association which controls use of the common property
  • Governing documents (CC&Rs) which establish the rules which owners must follow in the use of their individual lots, as well as common areas.

The basic differences between ownership of a condominium and ownership of a PUD are:

  • The Condominium owner owns 100% of the unit, as defined by a recorded Condominium Plan, and also owns a fractional, or percentage, interest in all common areas.
  • The PUD owner owns the lot as shown in the recorded Tract Map or Parcel Map along with the structure and improvements. They also receive rights and easements to use in common areas.

Santa Clara County Assessor's New Tool for Estimating Supplemental Property Taxes

The Santa Clara County Assessor's Office has developed a new tax estimator to help new and prospective homeowners estimate the amount of property taxes they will owe following their purchase. Supplemental assessments and taxes are in addition to the regular assessments and taxes. The Regular assessments are prorated during escrow such that the seller and buyer each pay the portion of taxes attributed to their period of ownership. This Regular property tax is based on the old owner's current assessed value prior to the purchase transaction. The supplemental assessment is based on the difference between the prior assessed value and the new assessed value. This value is multiplied by the tax rate then the resultant tax is prorated for the number of months remaining in the fiscal year from the date of acquisition by the new owner. The sum of the regular tax bill and the supplemental tax bill results in effect to a property tax based upon the value of the property as of the new owners' date of purchase. Realtors typically provide prospective homeowners with an estimate of their taxes for future years by multiplying the purchase price by an estimate tax rate. These estimates usually don't emphasize the new property owner's responsibility to pay the supplemental tax bill that will result from their purchase. This is why the Santa Clara County Assessor's Office created the new supplemental estimator at . This site should take the mystery out of supplemental property taxes.