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Mayor Bates Touts Berkeley’s Green-City Initiatives

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday April 20, 2007

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates urged local businesses to help propel Berkeley toward becoming the greenest city in the country at the Sustainable Berkeley Commercial Property Climate Protection Luncheon gathering on Tuesday. 

The event aimed to educate property owners and managers about free and subsidized services that would help save money and increase tenant satisfaction. 

“We are going to lead the nation in reducing greenhouse gases,” Mayor Bates told an enthusiastic crowd of local business leaders and property owners. “Berkeley already has 200 green businesses. We are now on our way to getting 100 green restaurants. I urge you to join us and sign up a sustainability pledge today.” 

Mayoral Chief of Staff Cisco DeVries said that different factors, such as the percentage of residents using public transit, number of parks, zoning policies to encourage housing near transit, and environmental purchasing rules, were often used to measure how “green a city was.” 

Sustainable Berkeley—a mostly city-funded group of public and private individuals and institutions—has attracted controversy recently because it does not fall under city government oversight. 

Councilmembers Dona Spring and Kriss Worthington expressed concerns last month that the organization is not subject to open meeting laws, union oversight and civil service protections. 

Mayor Bates also announced that there would be a Berkeley Measure G Climate Action Kick-Off on May 19 at the Ashby Stage. 

Co-hosts include Bates, The Sierra Club, KyotoUSA, Sustainable Berkeley, Transportation and Land Use Coalition, The Ecology Center and 

In 2006, 80 percent of Berkeley residents voted in support of Measure G, which aims at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Berkeley by 80 percent by 2050 and directs the mayor to develop a community-based climate action plan by 2007. 

“The reason we put it on the ballot was because we realized that if we were going to make meaningful greenhouse gas reduction we need a broader community engagement,” said DeVries, who has worked extensively on the project. 

“We need residents as well as businesses to take steps to reduce emissions,” he said. “Measure G was sort of a first step in a broad community effort to show people’s commitment to making changes. We wanted people to think of this as a major focus of city government. There is no way a group of smart people can sit in a room and create policy that will work unless individual people make the right choices. We want to give people information and work with them to create a greenhouse gas reduction plan.” 

DeVries said that the next step was to put a team together that would gather community input.  

“ICLEI—Local Governments for Sustainability recently finished analyzing the city’s greenhouse gas emissions from 2000 to 2005 and the preliminary data seems to indicate that emissions are decreasing in the environment,” said DeVries, who added that the data was subject to revision. 

“This is with respect to gas, electricity and even transportation to some extent. This shows that people in Berkeley do care about issues such as global warming.” 

The April 24 City Council agenda lists a process recommendation from the Mayor asking the City Council to “adopt a framework for community and commission engagement in the development of the Measure G greenhouse gas reduction plan, including input from relevant commissions, community engagement, a kickoff event in May, and an interim report to the City Council.” 

The agenda also contains a request from City Manager Phil Kamlarz to “approve a budget recommendation of $100,000 to fund a project-based position to work on the development of the Measure G plan and the costs associated with development of a community process.” 

Ashby Stage was selected as the venue for the Measure G inaugural event because of its decision to go solar, said Mayor Bates. The theater is in the process of fund-raising for the cost of 63 solar panels and a new roof, which it estimates to be $107,000. 

“This makes us the first 100 percent solar theater in the country,” said Joanie McBrien, who handles development at the theater. “We were spending $10,000 a year in electricity bills. We realized that with solar energy we would be able to save that money and redirect it toward our artists. It seemed a smart move. Also, we are located at a very visible part of Berkeley, at the corner of Ashby and Martin Luther King Jr. As a result, the project would serve as an inspiration to others.” 

The project is scheduled to begin in September 2007 and to be completed by October. 

Laura Billings, who represented SRM Associates—the real estate developer that owns 2150 Shattuck Av. (formerly known as the PowerBar building)—at the Sustainable Berkeley event, said her company was exploring solar options within its projects. 

“We are currently working on four LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified projects,” she said. “We are looking at purchasing carbon offsets to reduce energy consumption in buildings.” 

SRM Associates is waiting to get a Silver LEED approval on its remodeling of the Peet’s Coffee and Tea building in Alameda. 

“We were able to control a lot of lighting and water usage in the building,” BIllings said. “We are also in the process of rehabbing the old Vista College building at 2020 Milvia. We want to recycle as much as we can from the existing building and implement an energy efficient heating and cooling system.” 

Billings also said they were working with new tenants—such as Cadence Design Systems, which will be taking over the PowerBar office space—on tenant improvement projects such as green interiors. 

“We are also using green janitorial supplies and diverting 75 percent more waste at the 2150 Shattuck Ave. building,” she said. 

James Monninger, who spoke at the panel on behalf of PG&E, said that they were excited to be a part of Sustainable Berkeley. 

“PG&E wants to help Berkeley residents and businesses,” he said. “The key is to get involved up front. We like to come up with a lot of acronyms and today we have come up with ACT. It stands for analyze, conserve and transfer. We have expanded support and now offer a tremendous amount of choice such as free services and cash or calculated rebates. The best way to get an audit conducted would be to call our business customer center and we will send over a person to start the process immediately.” 

The City of Berkeley’s Solid Waste department asked citizens to make use of the waste management and landfill diversion options available to them.