Community And Culture

By Glen Kizer

Recently I was climbing over the solar panels on the roof of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California ( ) when I realized why I love my job so much.  A lot of the time I get to have fun while I am working.  Alyssa Newman and I were on the roof with Ken Maeshiro, Special Events Coordinator and Facilities Manager from the Japanese Cultural Center and they were both doing very serious work having to do with the data collection system.  I really had no reason to be on the roof except that I had gone along with them.  I had my camera with me so I guess I was the “cameraman.”  In truth, we had more professionally taken pictures so I had to honestly admit to myself that I had climbed up onto this roof in the middle of Japantown (Nihonmachi) about a mile from downtown San Francisco because I like to climb on roof tops.

The array is about 30 kW so it should generate about 50,000 kWh of clean solar electricity every year, but we will be able to confirm exact numbers when the data collection system is up and running and on line.  This is another in a series of projects done around San Francisco as part of PG&E’s “Let’s Green this City” initiative.

Everyone at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center is very nice and they have covered all of the open space on their roof to get the most solar electricity out of the space they have available.  There are several interesting things about this project that I would like to share with you.

1.    When the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 hit, there were a lot of fires that burned down many homes and businesses.  The fire stopped at the area that is now Japantown.  Because of this, many people who had lost their homes moved into Japantown.  And because of the need for businesses to replace those lost in the Great Earthquake and subsequent fire, many homes were raised and businesses were put in underneath the raised homes…creating the mixed-use neighborhoods that modern day San Francisco is famous for today.

2.    They do things at the Japanese Cultural Center that I had never anticipated.  They have a number of cultural programs to help Japanese Americans learn about Japanese cooking and martial arts and arts and crafts to help them connect with their heritage.  They have programs of general interest like teaching about computers; and they open their facilities for many non-profit organizations around the City that are looking for meeting places.  They also have a huge gym and they have lots of exercise programs for families and children.

3.    Parking is a problem, so take lots of quarters…I mean a bag of quarters if you plan to stay long inside the Center.
4.    Solar City (and Alyssa) put in the touch screen kiosk so that people can learn about solar energy, read this blog site, and see live solar data from many of the PG&E Solar School Projects.  After one of the gym classes ended, many in the class drifted out into the main hallway and started reading the kiosk information.  I then noticed a funny thing.  They were all reading a story “Me-O-My-O Cleveland Ohio,” a blog story written by my son Alex about the ASES Conference in Cleveland, Ohio in 2007.  I called him in Washington DC to tell him that a bunch of parents and their kids were reading his story in downtown San Francisco.  The world really is getting flatter…if only we had more parking.

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