Category Archives: Green

Local Greens: A water-smart farm in urban Berkeley

Some of the Local Greens team: (l to r): David Ceaser, Ron Mitchell, Faye Mitchell, Araab Ballard, and Jason Axt. Photo: courtesy Local Greens
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If you’ve bought Local Greens products at the new Berkeley Whole Foods, you couldn’t get any more local; they are literally grown right around the corner. But more than that, you are buying a product that its founders hope is revolutionizing how food could be grown in the future.

All of their products are grown hydroponically, which means in water, with no soil, in about 2,200 square feet of space in their Berkeley indoor warehouse. Because products are grown vertically, on racks, Local Greens is growing seven times the amount of what could be grown in the same area outside. And because they are indoors, they don’t have to worry about pests. They use LED lighting and don’t need heavy tools which rely on energy. … Continue reading »

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Floods, outages keep Berkeley busy as storm hits

Flooding closed Ashby Avenue late Thursday afternoon. Authorities say it may be open by midnight. Photo: Jennifer Lazo
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Berkeley city workers handled more than 100 requests related to flooding, and more than 30 calls for tree-related issues, Thursday during a large storm that has been sweeping the Bay Area, authorities said.

City spokesman Matthai Chakko said the city had received 127 calls about flooding as of nearly 3 p.m., and 34 calls about tree-related issues. All of those calls had been cleared by 5 p.m. Staff also gave out more than 5,000 sandbags to Berkeley residents, who were able to pick them up at locations around the city.

Malcolm X Elementary School also experienced significant flooding, and Chakko said the Berkeley Unified School District — which had shuttered all schools and offices Thursday due to the weather — was handling that issue.

See Berkeleyside’s live blog of the “Pineapple Express” storm’s local impacts.

There were several street closures, on Bolivar Drive and Bay Street, and around Ashby Avenue (which is also known as California 13). By late afternoon, Ashby around Interstate 80 had been closed in both directions due to flooding, authorities said. Ashby was expected to re-open by midnight Friday.

(Watch a playlist below of many storm-related videos shared with Berkeleyside by readers Thursday.) … Continue reading »

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Berkeley property owners to pony up for energy audits

Gunshot at Ed Roberts Campus, Nov. 29, 2012. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Later this month, the Berkeley City Council is slated to approve a new law — designed to increase building sustainability and reduce greenhouse gas emissions — that will mandate new fees and recurring energy assessments for local property owners.

The law would require payment of a $79-$240 filing fee, depending on building size, by property owners every 5-10 years. On top of that, property owners will be required to undergo building energy assessments on the same cycle, conducted by registered contractors, to the tune of an estimated $200 for a single-family home and up to $10,000 for large commercial buildings.

The goal of the new law, according to the city, is to make “building energy use information more transparent to owners and prospective renters or buyers,” and ultimately inspire more investment in energy upgrades. The law would replace existing minimum energy and water efficiency measures in Berkeley. The proposed ordinance would not require that upgrades are actually done, but will compile energy scores and summaries for city properties, and make them readily available online.

Explained city sustainability coordinator Billi Romain, “Rather than require a list of specific measures, it requires an evaluation of a building’s efficiency opportunities and identifies all available incentives and financing programs.” … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: The League of Women Voters urges a Yes vote on Measure F

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The League of Women Voters urges a YES vote on Berkeley’s Measure F, the Parks Tax. Measure F proposes a modest increase of 2.1 cents per square foot in the current parcel tax that funds maintenance and repair of 52 parks as well as trails, medians, and 35,000 street trees.

The current tax and its inflation index are inadequate to meet the needs of the parks and urban forest. The budget of the Parks, Recreation, and Waterfront is running a … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Democracy, transparency and Measure R

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Last March after Berkeley’s Downtown Area Plan received a prestigious national American Planning Association award, I wrote the following for the “Cal Planner” newsletter:

“In the end, support was overwhelming as eight of nine Council members adopted a new Downtown Area Plan … but what a long, strange trip it has been. The 2012 ‘DAP’ was forged from the crucible of Berkeley’s special style of community decision-making — fueled by passionate debate across almost 200 public meetings, … everyone … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Vote no on Measure R — it’s a misleading initiative

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Most of us want a new downtown; why are we asked over and over to keep the old one? Why do we have to fight another misleading initiative — Measure R?

After years of debate on a plan to revitalize our downtown, we had the first initiative campaign to stop it, and a subsequent election, in which the plan was approved overwhelmingly by voters in every precinct in Berkeley. It provided for a new green downtown with new housing for … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley’s Measure R is bad government

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Conceived with no public input and bewildering in detail, Berkeley’s Measure R sets a new low for proposals fostering bad government.

Measure R on the 2014 Berkeley ballot is 28 pages of complex zoning minutia, increased plan and development requirements (including some that are legally questionable), wage and other requirements, prohibitions, and a Civic Center District Overlay. It has pages of detail and tables with specifics including one six page table setting out precisely the kind of permits required for … Continue reading »

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Berkeley bans feeding of wildlife in parks, public spaces

Squirrel. Photo: Doug Mosher
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On Oct. 1, a new law went into effect in Berkeley that prohibits the feeding of wild animals in city parks and other public spaces. Enforcement brings with it minimum fines of $100 after an initial warning period, and up to $500 for multiple infractions within a year.

The ordinance applies to the feeding of all wildlife, but was conceived in response to an outcry earlier this year when the city said it would exterminate ground squirrels at César Chávez Park. This was to address Regional Water Quality Control Board concerns that squirrel burrows might be causing toxics underneath the park to leach into the bay, and thus present a threat to the landfill cap.

New ‘No Feeding Wildlife’ signs and educational brochures have been placed at César Chávez Park. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Support Measure F for care, repair of Berkeley parks

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Life sometimes comes full circle. Eighteen years ago, I jumped into public service in Berkeley as a novice member of the Parks & Recreation Commission, experiencing first hand the tremendous assets we have in our parks, paths, street trees, and recreational facilities. Now, as I approach my final days serving on the City Council, one of my top priorities and personal passions is to see that we preserve these assets, well beyond my tenure.   That is why I am supporting … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Why the 2014 Measure R is not ‘true green’

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In 2010, Berkeley voters overwhelmingly ratified a different Measure R, which gave city council the go-ahead to adopt the Downtown Area Plan, a plan created through an open and transparent process with wide community participation. It became law in 2012. The people who opposed the Downtown Area Plan in 2010 are now proposing a new measure, also Measure R, a complex bill that proposes to “fix” a wide range of supposed shortcomings in the Plan. These “fixes” will undo the … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Finding a better way to go solar in the East Bay

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I’ve been thinking about “going solar” for a few years. I even got quotes from two different companies to put panels on my roof, but never felt ready to pull the trigger. I hadn’t been able to decide if I should buy the system outright, finance it, or sign a PPA agreement. It all felt a bit complicated — even overwhelming, especially as the two companies I had bids from suggested significantly different sized systems. No wonder going solar tends … Continue reading »

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EPA settlement calls for repairs to East Bay’s faulty sewage lines; Berkeley to pay $133,500 civil penalty

Windsurfer on the bay. Photo, taken on May 28, 2014, by dogefrost
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The recent settlement of a lawsuit between the Environmental Protection Agency and several cities, including Berkeley, will lead to major repairs of the East Bay’s deteriorating sewage system — and less wastewater discharge into the bay.

The federal government had sued Berkeley, Oakland, and the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), among others, to stop sewage overflows that released hundreds of millions of gallons of raw or partially untreated sewage water in the Bay. The spillage could be particularly acute during heavy rains, as storm water enters the East Bay sewage system through flaws in the aging pipes. … Continue reading »

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Vandals target César Chávez memorial, dog park markers

The solar calendar installation at César Chávez Park has been the target of recurring vandalism over the past few months. Photo: Chris Benton
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The solar calendar installation at César Chávez Park in Berkeley is an homage to the famous activist, a peaceful waterfront vantage point and, lately, the target of multiple acts of vandalism.

Repeatedly over the last few months, stones from the installation’s retaining walls have been removed or thrown in nearby bushes, and signs with descriptions of the tribute have been smashed. … Continue reading »

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