Council to Address Noise, Solar Financing

By Judith Scherr
Monday September 15, 2008 - 03:46:00 PM

Fresh from an almost two-month break, Berkeley City Council members will address a full agenda Tuesday, updating the noise ordinance, increasing city worker salaries, approving a 22-meeting annual council schedule, appointing a councilmember to the county Waste Authority, and doubling parking fines near campus on football days. There will be a public hearing on Mayor Tom Bates’ solar financing plan.  


For some two decades Telegraph Avenue merchants say they’ve had their ears assaulted with amplified music and preaching almost weekly from SOS Ministries of Oakland. Merchants and area residents have complained, written letters and circulated petitions to get the city to address the problem.  

(See www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-07-17/article/30588?headline=Telegraph-Merchants-Petition-Against-Amplified-Preaching.) 

Complaints about amplification have also been made at the downtown Marine Recruiting Center where pro and anti-war groups have held rallies with amplified sound and the participation of hundreds of motorcycle riders. 

An updated noise ordinance will be before the City Council Tuesday, aimed at giving the city more tools to abate loud noise. The amendments include allowing no more than nine noise permits for a particular public space over the course of one year.  

The amendments also include new provisions for complaints. Under the old ordinance, complaints could be made to the Community Health Advisory Committee, a body that has not existed for many years, according to the staff report. Appeals could be made to the City Council. 

Under the new ordinance, the city manager hears complaints. The proposed law also “allow[s] the city manager to hear and render timely decisions for appeals.” 

Telegraph area Councilmember Kriss Worthington told the Planet he was concerned with the appeals process. “Why eliminate the appeal to the council as an option?” he asked. 

Solar financing 

The city will hold a public hearing on the question of creating a special tax district for solar financing and incurring indebtedness for the project. Homeowners who opt into the district will be responsible for the debt. The bond indebtedness is capped at $80 million and is an estimate, according to the staff report, as staff does not know how many people will want to finance solar in this way. 

The “Sustainable Energy Financing District” would consist only of those homeowners who want to participate, that is, those who wish to finance solar panels over 20 years by paying the costs through property taxes. 

The cost to each homeowner will be the cost of the panels or other “energy efficiency improvements,” including the cost to administer the program and interest over 20 years. 

The staff report estimates that the cost to the average homeowner will be $28,077, less a rebate from the state of $6,108. The program costs would be $600 and the administrative charges would be at 4.5 percent. The annual special tax a property owner would pay would therefore be at the rate of about $2,089 per year or $182 per month over 20 years. 

If the council adopts the bond indebtedness, holds the public hearing and adopts the formation of the district on Tuesday, the district could begin Oct. 24 of this year.  

However, no institution has yet signed on to finance the bonds, according to the report authored by Deputy City Manager Christine Daniel. 

“As of the date of the writing of this report, staff is continuing to work through various issues related primarily to the costs of financing for the program, but is confident that an arrangement with a financial partner will be reached soon,” Daniel wrote.  

SEIU 1021 contract 

About 900 city workers will receive a 13 percent salary boost over four years, if the council approves proposed contracts for city service workers and adds part-time recreation personnel to the bargaining units. 

Salaries will be raised 5 percent the first year, 2 percent the second year, 2.5 percent the third year and 4 percent the fourth year. Effective June 28 2009, employees will get a 3 percent longevity pay differential when they have worked for the city for 25 years. 

(See also: www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-08-07/article/30763?headline=City-Workers-Vote-for-Raises-Longevity-Bonuses.) 

Council calendar 

The council is set to approve the 2009 calendar with just 22 council meetings during the year. SuperBOLD and other community organizations have called on the council to hold more meetings so that all the council business can be done in public and at times when the public (and councilmembers) are alert. 

The council will meet at 6 p.m. as the Redevelopment Agency to look at the sale of property on Fifth Street and Virginia Street to the Northern??? California Land Trust, giving tenants in the units first rights to purchase the property. 

The regular council meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Maudelle Shirek Building (Old City Hall), 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The meetings are televised on the local cable station Ch-33, can be heard on KPFB-FM, 89.3, and are streamed and archived at www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=9868.