Category Archives: Green

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, State Senator Loni Hancock, challenge us to save as much water as them

Mayor Tom Bate's new water conservation challenge hopes to raise awareness about California's serious drought. Photo: Steve Johnson
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Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates has announced a city-wide water-conservation challenge with the chance for Berkeley residents to win “fame, appreciation, and a free lunch,” the latter with him and his wife, State Senator Loni Hancock.

Bates and Hancock issued the “Bates-Hancock Water Conservation Challenge,” on June 29. The contest pits Berkeleyan against Berkeleyan in a race to see who can reduce their water usage the most in a 2-month billing cycle.

Mayor Bates and Hancock disclosed their own personal water bill which demonstrated that they have reduced their water usage by 68.1% year-on-year in the latest billing period (April 10-June 9) — which equates to 37 gallons per day on average in comparison with 116 gallons in 2013. … Continue reading »

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Goats swarm across road, stop traffic in Berkeley Hills

Goats still
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A herd of grass-munching goats swarmed across Cyclotron Road in the Berkeley Hills last week on the way to another plant-clearing mission below Blackberry Gate.

The goats are part of Berkeley Lab’s vegetation management plan to trim abundant grasslands and reduce fire hazards.

Read more about animals in Berkeley.

Berkeley Lab posted a video of the goats on the move to its Facebook page on June 12. The video was shot by Lab employee David Stein (while he was apparently listening to KQED radio!). It proved so popular that it has been viewed more than 2 million times on Facebook since then, helped no doubt by the fact that Berkeleyside reposted it to its Facebook page, and it was then picked up by other media, including NBC, CNN and the Huffington Post. (Watch the video below the fold.) … Continue reading »

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Goats take over Berkeley hills, but what is their intent?

Goats on Centennial Drive 6-2-15 Photo: Melati Citrawireja
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Reader Eric Cotts recently shared the photo above with us. It was taken on June 1, and shows a large number of goats on a hill near the Berkeley Lab. It inspired us to send our photo intern Melati Citrawireja to capture more images of the animals everyone seems to adore (see them below the fold).

While goats are commonly used to clear brush and grass in the East Bay (Berkeleyside has written about this use of goats for fire prevention), Cotts was not convinced the cloven-hoofed herd was there for such a benign reason. “I would not be so sanguine about the intent of these agile Bovidae,” he wrote us. … Continue reading »

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New book highlights drought-tolerant garden solutions

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Now that Governor Brown has issued the first-ever statewide mandates on water use, many of us are looking at our gardens through a new lens. How can we can reduce the amount of water they use? What are the most drought-tolerant plants? Should we ditch the lawn altogether?

Sunset’s brand new Western Garden Book of Easy-Care Plantings, subtitled “The Ultimate Guide to Low-Water Beds, Border, and Containers” has come along at just the right time to answer those questions and help arm us for the dry seasons ahead. The book is edited by Sunset Magazine’s Garden Editor, Kathy Norris Brenzel. We spoke with Brenzel to learn more.

The new book couldn’t be more timely given new state-mandated water restrictions being imposed because of the drought. How seriously do you think gardeners in the West take the need to conserve water?

Most homeowners are taking the drought very seriously. I see it every day: browning lawns, lawns being removed and replaced with mulch and low, widely spaced shrubs or unthirsty perennials. The local hardware store sold out of buckets of all sizes recently — people were using them to collect shower water. Landscape designers tell me that they’re getting lots of requests for unthirsty front-yard meadows, and for succulent gardens.  … Continue reading »

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City, already cutting, digs deeper to slash its water use

A rousing game of capture the flag occupies city of Berkeley campers until their parents pick them up. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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Don’t expect lush green parks in Berkeley this summer, unless the watering is a surprise from the skies.

Already slashing its water use 26% last year, the city is taking steps to cut even more, it announced last week. Many of the cutbacks are required by Berkeley’s water supplier, the East Bay Municipal Water District (EBMUD), and/or by the state. They include:

  • No watering of street medians
  • Minimizing vehicle watering
  • Landscape watering, such as in parks and city grounds, twice a week before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m. (already in effect last year)

“The City is also . . . exploring the use of reclaimed water for irrigation and street cleaning, and researching options for converting certain landscapes to more drought-tolerant ground cover,” the city said in a recent press release.

Read more on how the drought is affecting Berkeley.

Worth noting: The city’s only water fountain at the Marin Circle uses recycled water, which means it can be kept on as it meets a new state requirement calling for a shutdown of all fresh water fountains. … Continue reading »

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Bay Area Bike Share slated to expand to East Bay in 2016

Bay Area Bike Share. Photo: Kathleen Costanza
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There may have been some bumps in the road, but Bay Area Bike Share is set to expand to Berkeley and the East Bay in 2016. In early April, officials announced the expansion of the bike share program, which has been operating in San Francisco and the peninsula since 2013, would bring over 1,300 bikes to the East Bay with 400 planned in Berkeley, 850 in Oakland and 100 in Emeryville.

The roll-out is through a public-private partnership with a bike-share company called Motivate which also runs bike share programs in New York, Chicago and several other cities. Across the whole Bay Area, Motivate’s current proposal boosts the number of bikes from 700 to 7,000.

The announcement may come as déja vu to East Bay residents, though. In April of 2014, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) voted to allocate $8.7 million for expanding the pilot program, then run by Alta Bicycle Share, to the East Bay. However, Alta Bicycle Share’s bike supplier had announced bankruptcy and went up for sale in January 2014, causing a slowdown in production until Motivate purchased Alta Bicycle Share last October, took over operation, and is now creating its own bikes and technology. … Continue reading »

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Water conservation gets serious with restrictions, fines

EBMUD employee Mark Bolton at Camanche. Photo: EBMUD
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Hosing down your driveway, watering your yard more than twice a week, or washing your car with a hose without a shutoff nozzle are forbidden in Berkeley, as the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) faces its worst water supply in nearly 40 years.

These are a few of the new mandatory conservation restrictions announced last week by the utility district, which is seeking a 20% water reduction for all of its 1.3 million customers, compared to 2013.

The yard watering must be before 9 a.m. or after 6 p.m. and not within 48 hours of a measurable rainfall, and sidewalks can’t be washed either. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: How should water be priced in Berkeley?

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What does it cost for a typical Berkeley residential customer to use 500 gallons of water a month? 5,000 gallons? 10,000 gallons?

Given the scope of the drought California is experiencing, the results may surprise you.* After you pay the service charge, water is less than a penny per gallon in Berkeley, no matter how much you use.

As you can see in the chart above, a 500-gallon customer pays about $36/month, whereas a 10,000-gallon customer pays about $140/month. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley bike festival, cycling plan open house coming up

Get your bike on with two important events coming up in Berkeley in the next week. Photo: Bikes in Berkeley
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Berkeley cycling aficionados have two big events coming up in the next week: the city’s third annual Bikes in Berkeley Festival on Sunday, followed by an open house Monday focused on a major update to the city’s Bicycle Plan.

The Bikes in Berkeley Festival is scheduled to take place Sunday at Malcolm X Elementary School, 1731 Prince St. (between Ellis and King streets), from noon to 4 p.m. It is set to kick off with a family cycling workshop (more information and a pre-registration form is here), followed by a youth bike swap (details here) and the festival itself.

The festival, called Fiesta de la Tierra — a nod in part to this week’s Earth Day (on Wednesday) — will have a bike and helmet decoration station, a “bike rodeo” to practice rules of the road, helmet fittings, bike-blended smoothies, bicycle-inspired entertainment, a cargo bike demo station, “and a whole lot more to inspire, educate and encourage bicycle riding,” according to organizers. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley residents complain about ‘horrible’ water taste

Pardee Reservoir. Photo: EBMUD
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The drinking water for 1 million customers of East Bay Municipal Utilities District had an “off” odor and taste over the weekend and, while EBMUD is fixing the issue, customers might have to get used to it.

The culprit? The drought.

EBMUD usually draws the drinking water for the majority of its customers from the bottom of Pardee Reservoir, about 100 miles east of Berkeley, according to Abby Figueroa, a spokeswoman for EBMUD. But on Thursday, the water district started taking water from the top portion of the reservoir. The water there is warmer and contains some algae, so even though it was treated before gushing into pipes in Berkeley, Oakland and elsewhere, there was a peculiar smell.

Read more about the California drought.

It takes about two days for the water to make its way to the Bay Area and when it arrived Saturday there was a flurry of emails and tweets to Berkeleyside about it. Figueroa said EBMUD has gotten about 200 emails, tweets, and phone calls about the taste as well.

Residents described the water as tasting like “raw meat,” or having a “metallic taste.” Others said it was “gross-smelling,” “horrible” or “weird.” … Continue reading »

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Hills group sues FEMA over plan to cut down trees

Thousands of the Berkeley hills eucalyptus trees may be removed with funding from FEMA. Photo: Tracey Taylor
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A neighborhood group has sued the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) following its decision to fund fire mitigation efforts in the East Bay hills.

Earlier this month, FEMA announced its decision to grant $5.67 million to the California Office of Emergency Services, which will distribute the funds to UC Berkeley, the city of Oakland, and the East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD) to remove tens of thousands of eucalyptus trees in the fire-prone hills. Immediately after, the Hills Conservation Network (HCN) filed a lawsuit against FEMA in federal court.

The HCN, a small group whose members live in Claremont Canyon, one of the areas covered by the grants, objects to the plan to “clearcut” the hills’ eucalyptus trees. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council adopts new building sustainability law; small properties exempt for now

Berkeley is not moving fast enough toward its Climate Action Plan goals, says city staff. Image: City of Berkeley
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The Berkeley City Council unanimously adopted a new law Tuesday night aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by making local buildings more sustainable, but included carve-outs — at least initially — for properties with up to four units.

Many Berkeley homeowners had expressed concern in recent months about the new law, which would have required energy audits by homeowners every 10 years, as well as the payment of new fees to the city.

The city has described the new energy law as a critical part of Berkeley’s Climate Action Plan, which the voters approved in 2006. The plan calls for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 80% below 2000 levels by 2050, and set a 33% reduction goal by 2020. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley council to decide if cannabis collective must go

Chris Smith talked to a community group on Jan. 17, 2015 about why Forty Acres should not be shut down by the city of Berkeley. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Almost four years after Berkeley first informed the Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Growers’ Collective that it was operating illegally in its San Pablo Avenue location, the Berkeley City Council will consider declaring it a public nuisance tonight.

The city has been tussling with Forty Acres and its co-founder Chris Smith for so long that the agenda packet with background information is more than 1,000 pages long. Berkeleyside has created a timeline (after the jump) with some of the highlights of the fight between Forty Acres and the city of Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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