Public Comment

Readers Sound Off on Proposed Climate Action Plan

Thursday April 23, 2009 - 06:52:00 PM

EDITOR’S NOTE: These letters were received before the April 22 City Council meeting. City Manager Phil Kamlarz’s response to the San Francisco Chronicle article about the Climate Action Plan is posted on our website, 




Editors, Daily Planet: 

I read the San Francisco Chronicle with deep alarm. Upcoming Berkeley plans to require new residential energy compliance are an outrage. Not only do they amount to the formation of an unacceptable Nanny City Government, they amount to an unprecedented invasion of individual liberty and an incredible level of misguided shortsightedness. 

The city must know better than we do how we should live our lives. Although I have detailed my house with love, care, environmental thought and code compliance, it is now time to rip it apart in the name of energy conservation.  

This is no small thing. Proper replacement dual pane windows for my house will cost at least $40,000. You see, my house was built in 1928—well before dual glazing existed. The windows, their scale and decorative mullions, are distinctive details in the building’s design. Replacing them in a historically appropriate way will require new custom built windows. If you think that my cost is high you should speak to some of our fellow neighbors. I know of one 1,800-square-foot house where new windows came to $100,000.  

But this is not all that the city wants. The city also wants all heaters, dishwashers, ovens, water heaters and roofs meet new energy compliance levels. Has the City studied how much land fill and pollution will be created by throwing out relatively new equipment and materials in favor of slightly more efficient equipment? A real life cycle study will easily show a significant net environmental loss. It’s time for Berkeley to realize that the city is once more trying to dupe everyone with the prospect of “good things.” 

That Berkeley is now considering such measures is especially galling. As jobs leave many stranded without pensions and life savings, Berkeley wants to add misery. I shudder to think what this so-called energy saving plan reveals of the city’s soul. 

Berkeley’s political process has become—like much of America—a terrible joke. I no longer trust or respect a city that has become— fairly—a laughing stock to many. The road to hell is paved with good intentions... how many more should we fund? 

Jon Alff 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

If the City Council thinks it can take my Wedgewood stove, they had damn well better be prepared to call up the National Guard. 

R. E. Baldwin 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Berkeley enjoys the most moderate climate in the United States. Any midwestern city of this size consumes several times as much energy as we do. To impose Draconian energy constraints on this city is nothing more than political grandstanding. Many of us who live in old houses are old people. Our old appliances will wear out and be replaced. As we die off, our houses will be sold and remodeled to meet energy codes. Until then, we should be allowed to enjoy what comfort our houses provide, without economic disruption. 

Few Berkeley houses have air conditioning—we don’t need it—but most do have some form of heating. So it would be more rational to favor dark roofs over white ones. It would be really rational to leave our roofs alone until they need replacement. 

My old stucco house won’t win any architectural awards. Its only visual features are the well-crafted windows with small multi-panes above larger panes. I take care to keep them protected and close-fitting. I like them. If I’m forced to rip them out and replace them with aluminum or vinyl-framed windows, I’ll be a very angry man. 

The City Council says they will assist us with the cost of these modifications. But how can they do that? Berkeley has no money—they can’t even pave our streets. Ah, yes! They’ll just tax and fine our neighbors who happen to have some money and give it to those of us who are poor. Now where have we heard ideas like that before? 

I’ve been a progressive liberal all my life, and I never thought I’d hear myself saying this, but those who make up the City Council—buffoons, cranks and crones, political misfits—imagine that they are taking Berkeley on a Great Leap Forward (with all the destructiveness that implies), but I say that they are trying to rule Berkeley like a gang of old radical commies, and I say to hell with all of them. 

Jerry Landis 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

Looks like Berkeley, in the middle of a world-wide deflationary depression—with “real” California unemployment at around 12-15 percent—wants to mandate all residents to comply with energy-savings rules that could cost a resident up to $33,000! Plus, they are going to have the Crocs Gestapo inspect all homes to enforce it! 

That’s around three years of state college savings (which was probably lost during the bank/government-inspired crash anyway). 

There are plenty of reasons why this is a bad idea: 

• People need to save, not have their money stolen by government... again. 

• Air-tight homes create mildew and mold issues. 

• Homes have the most polluted air you breathe—especially when sealed up. Average home air is akin to Los Angeles air on a bad day. Think offgassing, bathrooms, cooking, detergents and so on. 

• It’s Berkeley, not Siberia. How cold does it get? Not very. 

• A small group of people are pushing for this mandate, at the expense of taxpayers. 

• The Zoning Adjustments Board is so used to raking in piles of fees in the last 15 years that they need a new angle on the resident. 

• A white roof does the exact opposite of what they want it to do in the winter—it prevents heat storage! Berkeley residents don’t have air conditioners in the summer! It averages 75 degrees! So it doesn’t do anything for the average house. 

• Everyone else does this using tax incentives when it works with their timeline. 

• The economy alone has reduced energy consumption by millions of barrels already. 

I’m all for energy reductions. It works fine when you already have your house torn up for remodeling or upgrades. For a whole host of people this is absurd and a direct hit on the resident during the worst economic times in 100 years. 

Justin Lee 


Editors, Daily Planet: 

It is all well and fine to want to do everything to cut greenhouse gases and it is another thing to demand eco-purity from the people of Berkeley. The coming proposals by the City Council to demand that every house in Berkeley measure up to the highest green standards of a new home is financially impossible and if enforced will cause the huge number of inhabitants on fixed incomes to have to move. I know that it is impossible for me to ever rebuild my home to accommodate double-paned windows. I simply will never have the $50,000 it would require. How much of this is ideological fanaticism and how much is it another grab for more revenue from permits? I am appalled at the citizens who naively voted for this, thinking in Berkeley an “advisory” vote wouldn’t turn into the real thing. 

Carol Valk 



Editors, Daily Planet: 

The proposal before the City Council from the Climate Action Team is Draconian and is way beyond what I, as a homeowner in Berkeley, am willing to have imposed upon me. I don’t get rid of things until they are beyond repair. I thought that was being green.  

I love my old Wedgewood and rescued it from layers of grease and neglect when I purchased my Berkeley Bungalow. I wouldn’t think of giving it up. It is what makes my kitchen homey and wonderful—never mind the double oven and six burners. Do you want me to spend thousands of dollars to get some new ugly monster and then throw this one in the dump, even though it still functions well? 

One of my favorite things about my sweet house is the original wavy handmade glass that is still in most of my windows. Does the council think I want to get rid of that to put in ugly double-pane, factory-produced windows? I personally like having some air in my house. Haven’t they heard of sick building syndrome from buildings that are so locked down that no air gets in or out? 

And we just put a new roof on. It isn’t white. Maybe I could paint it. I don’t think the landfill needs another roof. 

Every one of us wants to do what we can to help with the greening of our cities and we all want to reduce our carbon footprint. But let our stuff wear out, then we can replace it with the new stuff. Councilmembers, don’t force me to spend money I don’t have for items that I don’t want or need. Don’t make Berkeley into some cookie-cutter ugly city. That’s not why we came here. 

Lisa Bullwinkel