Public Comment

Climate Action Plan Should Be a Community Effort

By Karl Reeh
Thursday May 07, 2009 - 06:02:00 PM

First and foremost, a Berkeley Climate Action Plan should be a community effort. It should not be a top-down mandate for recommendations that might be effective in other areas, but make little sense and might actually be counterproductive in Berkeley’s unusually mild climate.  

The plan was made available to the public only a few days before the April 21 City Council meeting. Many attendees report that they were unable to access the document online even up to the start of the council meeting. Why is this plan being rushed to approval? This unseemly haste is no way to “work with the community”—the exact language of the measure passed by Berkeley voters.  

Although a Resolution approving the April 2009 draft of the Berkeley Climate Action Plan as the “preferred project” for the purpose of environmental review was not adopted on April 21, the Initial Study was nonetheless issued on April 24 claiming “no impact” for all categories on the initial study checklist.  

Clearly, this plan will have far-reaching impacts on Berkeley, and nothing short of a full environmental impact report (EIR) is acceptable. For example, on page 25 of the “Sustainable Transportation and Land Use” chapter of the CAP, the policies suggested include:  

• Reduce minimum lot size for construction of an accessory dwelling unit within a quarter-mile of selected transit lines in order to encourage more construction of these units.  

• Remove some of the restrictions on accessory dwelling units near certain transit nodes. These might include reduced parking requirements, increased size limits, or increased allowed densities.  

Commanding yet more density in our already crowded flatland neighborhoods is hardly designed to have “no impact.” Traffic increases, parking issues, noise, litter, the destruction of open space and back-yard gardens, loss of solar access, all will have potentially profound impacts on the quality of life near “selected transit lines” and “certain transit nodes” (terms which should be defined or specified).  

Moreover, why are homeowners and residences being asked to carry the burden of reducing CO2 levels, while commercial buildings are being given a pass? For instance, air-conditioning is much more prevalent in office buildings than in local homes. And while potentially intrusive and costly steps are pressed upon homeowners, the DAP recently passed by the Planning Commission weakens or removes the strict environmental requirements for large developments contained in the DAPAC plan. The city seems bent on heaping expensive duties upon homeowners while providing profit opportunities to developers.  

To date, the community has been left out of this process; indeed, many people who submitted comments report that their views were never even considered. This is further reason for requiring a full EIR to enable the community to be included in the process.  

We need to severely reduce our energy consumption. It is therefore important to develop a plan that will actually work. It would be shameful if the CAP fails because it is loaded with pork for developers and overly-onerous and intrusive burdens upon homeowners. The mayor and council should allow an open and transparent public process to study the details of this plan, in which the devil resides.  


Karl Reeh is president of the LeConte Neighborhood Association.