Category Archives: Green

New book highlights drought-tolerant garden solutions

ECP_p215
Print Friendly

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 »

Tagged , , , , , , ,

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
Print Friendly

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 »

Tagged , , , , , , ,

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

Bay Area Bike Share. Photo: Kathleen Costanza
Print Friendly

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 »

Tagged , , , ,

Water conservation gets serious with restrictions, fines

EBMUD employee Mark Bolton at Camanche. Photo: EBMUD
Print Friendly

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 »

Tagged , , , , ,

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

Print Friendly

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 »

Tagged , ,

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
Print Friendly

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 »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Berkeley residents complain about ‘horrible’ water taste

Pardee Reservoir. Photo: EBMUD
Print Friendly

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 »

Tagged , , , , , , ,

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
Print Friendly

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 »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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
Print Friendly

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 »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

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
Print Friendly

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 »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Drivers say goBerkeley program made it easier to park

New parking meters with credit card payment options are part of the goBerkeley program. Photo: Steer Davies Gleave/goBerkeley
Print Friendly

Community members will have the chance next week to weigh in about changes to paid parking in three of Berkeley’s busiest commercial districts. The changes began in 2013, and have reportedly made it easier for drivers to find spots, according to data collected by the city.

The city of Berkeley’s goBerkeley parking pilot program, which adjusted meter and parking garage rates to try to increase turnover and make it easier for visitors to park near their destinations, is set to end later this year. The Berkeley City Council will consider later this month, in a special work session, how to proceed as the 18-month program winds down.

Read more about parking issues in Berkeley.

The city has posted a survey online to give community members an easy way to offer input virtually, and will also hold two workshops next week, on Jan. 21 and Jan. 22, for those who prefer to offer views in person, and want to learn more.

Next week’s workshops are scheduled to take place Wednesday, Jan. 21, from 4-6 p.m. in the central branch of the Berkeley Public Library, 2090 Kittredge St., in the third floor community room; and Thursday, Jan. 22, from 6-8 p.m. at the library’s Claremont branch, 2940 Benvenue Ave., in the children’s section. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Berkeley competes for $5M energy efficiency prize

here
Print Friendly

Berkeley is one of 50 communities across the country selected as a semifinalist for the Georgetown University Energy Prize, a national competition to reduce energy use with a $5 million prize for the winning community. Berkeley is one of six Northern California cities in the competition, with other semifinalists coming from 26 states.

“We have a legacy of innovation and leadership in energy efficiency and we’ve been making steady progress on our Climate Action Plan commitments,” said Neal De Snoo, Energy Program Officer for the City of Berkeley. “Berkeley is ready for a bit of friendly competition, and we’re ready to bring home the prize.”

The 50 cities and counties in the competition will be judged on their performance over the next two years in reducing utility-supplied energy consumption “in a manner that is likely to yield continuing improvements within their own community and replication in other communities.”  … Continue reading »

Tagged , , ,

Berkeley Zoning Board considers community benefits of proposed downtown high-rise

2211 Harold Way. Image: MVEI Architecture and Planning
Print Friendly

As Berkeley officials grappled with what the concept of “community benefits” actually means, the developer of the 18-story high rise at 2211 Harold Way announced at a Jan. 8 meeting of the Zoning Adjustments Board that he is willing to financially assist both the Habitot Children’s Museum and Boss, (Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency) as well as other organizations who must  relocate when the building is constructed.

Joseph Penner, head of Hill Street Investments of Los Angeles, also announced that Landmark Theaters had redesigned its plans for new theaters in the complex. There will now be nine theaters instead of the six theaters previously announced. Landmark has decided it will no longer include stadium seating in the theaters, which frees up room for additional theaters. (There are currently 11 theaters in the Shattuck Cinema complex.) … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,