Building Our Home
BCC History and the making of Beth Chaim’s Home
Prior to 2000, Beth Chaim had a dream to have a place of our own which would require buying land and building a home where our community could worship and come together with no encumbrances.
Some of us remember how hard it was living as nomads. We were blessed that for many years Danville Congregational Church and a local public school offered and provided space for worship, celebrations and religious school. Although fortunate that these options were available to us, we had to spend so much of our most precious resource, our time, making sure that we left no trace that we had been in other people’s spaces. Books, supplies, our Torahs and other items of worship had to be unpacked, distributed, then packed up and stored, schlepping over and over again. It was time. We began raising money for the land and over several years accumulated a substantial sum and raised additional funds through generous Beth Chaim members and various fundraising events. Around the year 2000 we located and purchased an ideal property for our new home and 1800 Holbrook Drive was born.
Over the next 5 years, we worked through planning and architecting a place of worship. Our members, as with many other projects, were very involved in this process.
Beth Chaim organized many committees to transform this former residence property and dirt on the hill into our beautiful home. The existing home structure had to be removed. We had to grade and level the hill. There were architectural and engineering teams formed. We searched for the most cost effective construction companies to meet our budget. It was all coming together but we were still short of what would be necessary to fund the multi-million dollar building budget. A serious capital campaign was initiated. We had some starts and stops. However in 2005, our community prevailed and together made our dream possible. One of the largest kick starters occurred when we received a challenge from Nathan Shapell’s Foundation. Mr. Shapell, a Holocaust survivor and major real estate developer in our community agreed to meet with Beth Chaim. A philanthropic offer was made… If BCC members could raise $1.5 million in six months, Mr. Shapell would match with a $1 million gift. His comment was “I will not stand behind this offer a day longer than 6 months.” We succeeded and the proof is in our beautiful building with our gorgeous sanctuary that was designed to invite nature in.
One of the most memorable days in our history was a warm June day in 2007 when we officially walked out of Danville Congregational Church and carried our two Torah scrolls all the way down Camino Tassajara to our new home. Everyone who wanted to got a chance to carry a Torah for a bit. As a community, we proudly embraced our Torahs and moved them from a Church that had been a gracious temporary home for us, to our new home on the hill.
Thanks to more individuals than we can possibly mention, we proudly stand on top of the Holbrook hill with a Beth Chaim Jewish Identity that is more important than ever. May we preserve our home and Jewish culture for generations to come.
The Patio Project
The outdoor patio area at Beth Chaim was a 2105 Fund-A-Dream project that incorporated a grand vision of a re-imagined patio area that would extend the functionality and the beauty of our sanctuary to an open space where members could sit, chat, and enjoy time together.
The project was completed in the summer of 2016. It includes two wonderful gathering spaces on our patio — an outdoor “living room” and a “dining room.” The “living room” is a beautiful and functional extension of our sanctuary, where members are able to assemble for small services, discussion groups, and various outdoor gatherings for worship and socializing. This warm and inviting space incorporates seating walls, additional concrete paving, and comfortable outdoor furniture — all surrounded by drought-tolerant planting that harmonizes the space with our beautiful, natural location in the foothills of Mount Diablo.
The other area, our “dining room,” is located directly outside the library and kitchen, where congregants find a cozy space for outdoor cooking projects, also surrounded by drought-tolerant plants. Vanity walls hide trash bins and barbeques, and seat walls provide additional seating. We enjoy many get togethers and special occasions in this beautiful space.
The Solar Initiative — A Solar-Powered Judaism
The Beth Chaim solar panel system is a complete, turnkey solar electric system that consists of 136 commercial panels (these are larger than residential panels), arrayed on the hillside of our property, facing Camino Tassajara. Each panel produces 330 watts of energy (vs. 250 for residential).
Installed in the summer of 2016, the system not only reduces our carbon footprint, but helps us realize significant savings in power costs. By going green, we paid 10-15% less than our previous monthly PG&E bill for the first five years of the project; and now pay PG&E nothing at all . The result is a savings of more than a half a million dollars in power costs over the next 20 years.
Costs and Financing
The purchase and installation of the system totaled $135,000, with an additional $15,000 for ground and other site preparation, plus a small reserve for ongoing maintenance costs. The total cost was approximately $150,000. The system was purchased, rather than leased, for a variety of reasons. The overall cost for purchasing the system outright was substantially lower than “no money down” leasing offers — even without the tax benefits of a 30% return. As it stands, we are on track to save almost twice the amount of money by purchasing over leasing. Much of the funding came from the generous Beth Chaim community, through a Fund-A-Need campaign at the 2016 Beth Chaim Gala and other zero interest loans and donations.
All ongoing maintenance estimates — in the range of a few hundred dollars — as well as some expected milestone costs, such as repairing broken panels or replacing inverters at the 10- to 15-year age, have been factored into our overall potential savings in annual electricity costs.
We estimate a cumulative savings of approximately $600,000-$800,000 over 25 years as utility rates increase as projected. Approximately
70% of our electricity needs are produced by the solar system.
The panels are located on the hillside facing south, along Camino Tassajara. The 136 panels create a footprint of approximately 25’ x 112’ on our hillside slope (mounted less than three feet off the ground), and total 45 kilowatts of potential production.