MV works to welcome backyard rental units

Courtesy of Tony Chan
Local developer Tony Chan builds small backyard units on existing lots that meet the 700 square-foot cap in Mountain View.

To relieve the statewide housing shortage, numerous California cities have made it easier for residents to build accessory dwelling units – also known as “granny units” – in their backyards.

Mountain View is one of those cities, according to Mayor Lenny Siegel, who spoke at a free seminar titled “Backyard Rental Units as a Means to Address the Housing Shortage” Jan. 12.

Party house: Los Altos couple's design maximizes fun, storage

Photos by Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Winnie and George Biocini remade their Los Altos rancher with fun in mind, adding chandeliers to welcome guests to entertainment areas, epic space for personal attire and a secret passageway.

When the late Winnie and George Biocini moved into their “retirement” home in Los Altos, they did anything but retire.

After living for 35 years in Menlo Park, they planned to move into a condominium at the Menlo Commons but changed their minds when George quipped, “We can’t live here – there are old ladies in the pool.”

Lilies present danger for housecats

Kristi Perez/Special to the Town Crier
Koko is allowed to play with a fake orchid. When she gets her paws on actual houseplants, she likes to bat them around and play in the potting soil.

The last time I grew African violets, a housemate’s cat visited my plant regularly and, when I wasn’t looking, ate every single flower. On the bright side, African violets are not poisonous to cats, and this particular cat was not interested in digging up my plants.

If you want both cats and houseplants to thrive, be sure to do some research before bringing a plant into your cat’s territory, because some cats like to bite plants, or even eat leaves or petals.

Glow together: Mtn. View family's holiday light display grows into tradition

Photos by Megan V. Winslow
The Horton family’s Mountain View Avenue house lights up this month with fanciful figures ranging from “Star Wars” characters to “Sesame Street” favorites and a rotund pink pig.

The Horton family’s holiday decorating scheme grew in bits and pieces over the years, as a few snowmen snowballed into a menagerie of holiday beasts upon their lawn.

The Mountain View residents moved into their Mountain View Avenue home in 2007 and have expanded their lighting schemes annually, this year adding a walkway arch spangled with 3,000 lights.

Safety measures help homeowners prepare for disasters

The recent fires in Northern California and hurricanes and floods in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico are a wake-up call reminding homeowners that it will take time for help to arrive in the wake of a major disaster.

Electricity, water, gas and telephones may not work after a fire, flood or natural disaster like an earthquake. The police and fire departments are likely to be tied up, so individuals and families should be prepared to rely on themselves for at least one week.

Curious cats: Exposing the hidden dangers of houseplants

Winston loves biting the leaves of the money plant (Pachira aquatica), which is in the mallow family and is cat-safe. “He bites and bites and bites, but never eats,” according to his owner.

People often wonder if they can have both cats and houseplants.

Much depends on your cat’s personality (and yours). Is your cat curious about every new thing that comes into the house? Are your cats diggers or climbers? Do they embrace the challenge of reaching a plant on a high shelf or behind a barrier? And can you restrict yourself to cat-safe plants, tolerate some plant damage and try different strategies to keep both cats and plants healthy?

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