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"Enhanced Vapor" Recovery Gas Station Shutdowns

Bill from Stockton writes:

Noticed over the years gas stations closing or being bulldozed, especially the independents ... like at Del Paso & Arden in Sacto ? That used to be a refuge for people that were having problems at the light rail station, like getting a beat down. Most people don't appreciate our once dispersed gas stations were islands of civilization in both rural and urban areas. How in the hell could a 1or 2 pumper in the middle of nowhere spoil our air in any measurable way? But it would save your bacon when you were lost or running low, as well as create opportunity for so many small businessmen. These days you have carefully watch hte gauge when in unfamiliar areas - or you'll get stuck, with possible unpleasant consequences. What do we have now ...typically  4 superstations at freeway offramps- ridiculous. I remember so many of my friends pumping gas and learning how to work on cars as teens in these neighborhoods stations. What a shame this isn't the situation today.

I've tried to buy from the independent stations. Most often, Mr. P's in Milpitas. It's been open for over a century! Earthquakes, recessions, endured. I believe Mr P. lost it due to the CARB'a"enhanced vapor recovery" systems requirement. Enhanced means (per Gov. Schwarzenegger's letter to CARB)  +3% ! At $11,000 per pump with a deadline coming in the middle of a depression/credit crisis, CARB told him to make the "improvement" or they'd padlock his pumps. He struggled to get a loan to upgrade, was "successful". Lost his business some time later.

Is it another victim of CARB/the Mary "the merciless" Nichols ang(including Hien Tran - the "scientist" with a mail order degree)? Yessiree.
What an achievement- to cripple a century old business...

Spangler Brothers' Service Station


The Spangler family came from the Azores (one source asserts they were German) during the 1880s along with many other Portugese immigrants. The name of the first Spangler to come to Milpitas is not known to us.

By 1926, the year the Winsor brothers built and opened their blacksmith shop just a few hundred feet north, the Spangler Shell Station was already a thriving business. Nextdoor to the station, in the larger building seen today at the corner of Winsor and Carlo Streets, was the Overland Motor Company dealership, also owned and operated by the Spanglers. In the photo, that building is the white roofed structure in the background at right.

Eventually, the service station came to be thought of as Anthony Spangler’s while the dealership owned by his brother and was later run by Alexander Rose, Sr. as "Rose's Shell Auto Parts & Hardware."  According to local legend, Spangler enlisted in the Army during WWI and went off to war.  His Army identification tags, AKA “dog tags”, are displayed at Anthony Spangler Elementary School. Local legend has it that he left the business in the hands of his brother to keep up while he was overseas fighting in the Great War. When he returned from the war, he found it in worse shape than when he left according to old time residents.

In the 1920s, Spangler married Anne Rose, the pretty young widow of Mathew Rose, who had died tragically of blood poisoning after cutting his hand. In the days before antibiotics, infections of even a needle prick could kill. (According to Rose's grandson, Alexander Rose, Jr., Mathew Rose and his brother Alexander both died during a tuberculous epidemic.) The mountain which rises to the north and east of Milpitas is named Rose Peak after one of several families named Rose that settled around Milpitas.

Spangler’s Station was the first Milpitas rendezvous used by the kidnappers of Brooke Hart, the young man who was heir to a chain of prosperous department stores. The story of this famous 1930s crime and the subsequent lynching and mutilation in San Josť’s St. James Park of the two men accused of it, is the subject of the book Swift Justice written by Harry Farrell. 

From the gas station, the kidnappers drove east on Calaveras Road (now Calaveras Blvd.) and turned left onto Evans Road. It was on Evans Road about 200 feet south of the present Last Word Ranch, two witnesses, who were walking back from their outhouse, claimed to have seen five or six men move another man from a yellow car (Hart’s) to a black sedan (believed to have belonged to one of the kidnappers). Hart was thrown, bound, from the old San Mateo bridge onto shallow water covering the tidal mud flats then he was shot twice. His body was not recovered for several weeks. The true identities of many local Milpitas residents alive at the time and who may have participated in the events are not revealed in the book (pseudonyms were used).

Before the 1950s the water table in Milpitas was said by Milpitas’ first mayor, Tom Evatt, to have been about two feet deep. The water from local wells was often discolored and of questionable potability due to the shallow depth of the wells and the many local cesspits/outhouses which may have contaminated the local ground water. Anthony Spangler was the leader of a group of local businessmen and residents who wanted to bring a safe and reliable water system to Milpitas so that the town could support better growth. It was through his efforts the first Milpitas Water District was formed and the first water bonds were passed. However, Spangler’s untimely death in 1949 kept him from ever seeing his vision of a safe and reliable water system for downtown Milpitas come to pass. 

Today, the water system used to bring safe and deliciously cool water to Milpitas is the descendent of that early water district.

Spangler’s Station, now Main Street Gas, still fills up automobile gas tanks and looks much as it did when Anthony Spangler returned home from the First World War. It is the oldest continually operated commercial business on Main Street.

Posted Friday, Jul 17, 2009 - 3:26 PM PDT

Jeff Miller took the podium at the Capitol news conference and declared, "This is a sad day for California."

The Republican Assemblyman from Corona was joined by a dozen colleagues in a Republican revolt against today's deadline for new pollution control equipment at the gas pumps. The new nozzles are designed to trap toxic gas fumes from reaching the air.

Republican Assemblyman Cameron Smyth of Santa Clarita warned, "If this rule goes into effect in the next 48 hours as planned, we can see thousands of jobs leaving California."

The job loss has already begun. Chris Moore's gas station near Sacramento is shuttered today. Moore had to let five employees go last month, because the new regulations were too costly.

"We couldn't afford it," Moore said. "I think this store was about $85,000 to upgrade and we just didn't have that money sitting around."

The vapor recovery systems are expensive, running up to $11,000 a pump. So Chris Moore shut down his station and sold 27 others. In California, more than 2,000 gas stations, or roughly 25% of the total are considered to be in non-compliance with the new regulations. The long-time owner of a gas station on Main Street in Milpitas is also worried, saying he's facing potential fines and wondering if he can stay in business.

Governor Schwarzenegger has entered the fray, urging the Air Resources Board to give gas stations more time to comply. And today the Board backed down just a bit. Read the governor's letter to the board.

"No one will be shut down," declared Tom Cackette, the Air Board's Deputy Director. He added, "There will be no red tagging of stations on the deadline," but warned there could be thousands of dollars in fines for stations without the necessary permits.

The new nozzles, Cackette said, "will reduce emissions by 10 tons of smog-forming emissions per day and that's equivalent to taking four hundred fifty thousand cars off the road."

Assembly Republicans are demanding a one year moratorium on enforcement, hoping it will buy extra time, and give gas stations additional resources in the middle of a recession. Those Republicans are asking Democrats to join them (and so far four have done so) in declaring a one year enforcement holiday. The moratorium is part of an emergency bill now under consideration at the State Capitol.

Posted Friday, Jul 17, 2009 - 3:26 PM PDT