Public Comment

New Berkeley Building Energy Saving Ordinance (BESO) doesn't respect citizens

Vivian Warkentin
Thursday December 11, 2014 - 09:33:00 AM

A new replacement energy saving ordinance is about to be enacted in our city of Berkeley, Building Energy Saving Ordinance (BESO). The current system requires upgrades only when buildings are remodeled or resold. If passed, all homeowners and building owners in Berkeley will be mandated to have an outside auditor inspect their home or building every 5 to 10 years. The law would require all building owners to hire a private firm from a city approved list to conduct the assessments. Audits will cost from $200 to $600 for a single family home, up to $10,000 for a large commercial building. A filing fee of $79 -$240, depending on building size will go to the city of Berkeley. 

City staff maintain that they have done community outreach via three workshops, implying that they have adequately informed so-called “stakeholders”, but the public has been left out of the process. If workshops are held and no one knows about them, it is not informing the citizens. 

The attitude of our city officials and staff is undemocratic and disrespectful of environmentally conscious Berkeley citizens. Are homeowners who have worked an honest living to buy a home in Berkeley to be treated as delinquents before the fact? What if a homeowner wants to live a simple life without subscribing to new technology and costly improvements and would prefer to keep their old fashioned windows and wear extra sweaters with no monitoring by a smart meter.? Why does the cure for climate change always involve increased fees, taxes and charges on the citizens, not to mention unhealthy, privacy-invading technology? 

I have been told by a Berkeley official that these audits will not require people to purchase chipped appliances and lights. The staff presenter of the ordinance, when asked at the November 18th special 6:00 session of council, what types of recommendations might be made in an audit, referred to “smart” lights and Energy Star programs. It may not be mandated now, but the final component of the smart grid is for everyone to have smart appliances that will communicate with their smart meter. These technologies are equipped with wireless transmitters. 

This new ordinance is a slippery slope of government intrusion and surveillance in our lives. There needs to be more critique of climate change mitigation measures being fed to the Council by outside corporate interests who stand to gain at the expense of the citizens of Berkeley. 

If you are concerned about our eroding democracy and citizen input in Berkeley city government, be at the City Council on Tuesday, December 16, 7:00pm, when the council will vote on the ordinance.