Category Archives: Green

Berkeley rolling out electric vehicle charging stations

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Berkeley’s Whole Foods market unveiled two new, powerful charging stations for electric vehicles yesterday at its store at the intersection of Telegraph at Ashby. The move brings the total number of public stations in the city to four, and Berkeley is on track to gain at least a further seven stations in the not too distant future.

This will be welcome news to owners of Leafs, Volts and Teslas whose numbers are on the rise: the city has seen a 70% increase in electric vehicle registrations in the past six months, according to Sarah Moore, Assistant Planner in the city’s Office of Energy and Sustainable Development, who estimates there are around 350 electric vehicles currently registered to Berkeley residents and businesses.

The Whole Foods stations allow customers with electric cars to boost their power from zero to 80% in just 20-30 minutes if they choose their DC-Fast option.

Whole Foods is the first business to participate in a City of Berkeley pilot program to ease the permitting and installation of EV charging stations. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley to increase garbage collection fees by 25%

Garbage collection
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Faced with a projected shortfall of nearly $3 million for waste pick-up services, Berkeley officials voted unanimously late Tuesday night to increase residential pick-up fees by almost 25% beginning in July.

Customers will also see a new description on their tax bills, as “Zero Waste Services” will replace the category previously described as “Refuse.”

The city has not been charging enough to cover costs associated with recycling and organics pick-up, which has contributed to the problem, according to staff.

Tuesday night, council was advised either to increase fees by 24.7% come July, or phase in a 35.5% increase over three years.  … Continue reading »

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An all too black comedy of unintended consequences

Elizabeth Kohlbert
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As it turns out, only a handful of these disappearing species are “charismatic” large animals. In fact, nearly all of them are small, many of them vanishingly so; they’re plants as well as animals, few of them even with names, and they’re hidden away in tropical forests. From a scientific perspective, that’s no less serious. But the PR angle is tough to find.

A brilliant new book

In an outstanding new book, The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert tackles this challenge with considerable success. Kolbert, a science journalist on the staff of The New Yorker, spoke about the mass extinction now underway in an illuminating presentation last Wednesday to a large and attentive audience at the Hillside Club, under the auspices of Berkeley Arts & Letters. Her talk, like the book, was a sobering wake-up call. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley to kill squirrels, gophers to protect bay

A ground squirrel at Cesar Chavez Park. Photo: Bill Williams/Creative Commons
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In Berkeley, squirrels are in the cross fire.

In an attempt to make sure no toxins leak out of the old landfill under Cesar Chavez Park and leach into San Francisco Bay, Berkeley is hiring a pest control company to trap and kill hundreds of squirrels and gophers that make their home there.

It seems that when the squirrels and gophers do what comes naturally—digging holes or tunneling in the ground—they are getting perilously close to the clay cap that covers the landfill. If the rodents penetrate that barrier, dangerous toxins like gasoline, lead, iron, herbicides and pesticides, could leach into the bay. So the city needs to reduce the animal population to lessen the risk, according to city spokesman Matthai Chakko. … Continue reading »

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UC Berkeley building set for Northside comes under fire

Rendering, dated October 2013, of the planned UC Berkeley Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation building, as it will look from Ridge Road in Berkeley. Image. Berkeley Engineering
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Neighbors to a proposed new UC Berkeley building say its modern design, and the need to remove several trees in the area in order to build it, are threats to the aesthetic and value of the historic Northside neighborhood. And the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA) agrees.

The Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation, a new College of Engineering design facility, is set to replace the volleyball court at Le Roy Avenue and Ridge Road. The 20,000 gross sq ft building, funded by a $20 million gift from the Paul and Stacey Jacobs Foundation, will have three stories, with the first story being partially underground.

BAHA sent a letter to UC Berkeley in October objecting to the proposed building’s “alienating institutional look,” and suggested the planners consider a design that bears more “relation to the surrounding historic resources.” … Continue reading »

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Willard pool reopening on agenda for park bond measure

Colorful graphics welcomed swimmers to Willard Pool when it was open. Photo: Protographer 23
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After two failures to secure a pools bond measure, advocates for the reopening of Willard Pool turned out in force at Tuesday night’s Berkeley City Council meeting. Pool supporters called for including Willard in a likely parks bond measure on the November ballot.

“This is a winning coalition,” said Robert Collier, one of the leaders of the Berkeley Pools Campaign, at the council meeting. “This is our time to win not just for the pools, but for the parks as well.”  … Continue reading »

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EBMUD asks East Bay customers to cut water use by 10%

Recent storms provided 7 inches of rain for EBMUD, but xxx. Photo: Pete Rosos
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In one of the driest years ever, EBMUD is asking East Bay residents to stretch water supplies and cut their usage by 10%. Without enough rain, the utility may still have to declare a water shortage emergency this spring, it said.

The East Bay Municipal Utility District, which provides provides water and sewage treatment to customers in the East Bay, released a statement Tuesday that spelled out the severity of the current, ongoing drought.

“EBMUD relies on snowmelt and runoff for almost all of its supply. As of this weekend, the amount of snow and rain in the Mokelumne River watershed 90 miles from the East Bay is 49% of normal,” it said in a release. Recent storms provided about seven inches of rain for EBMUD. … Continue reading »

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City lauds 29 ‘energy smart’ businesses in Berkeley

Local businesses that are taking steps to track and reduce greenhouse gas emissions were recognized Thursday night. Photo: Mark Coplan
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The city of Berkeley recognized more than two dozen local businesses Thursday night for their efforts to track and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions as part of the second annual Energy Smart Awards program.

Commercial buildings make up approximately 52% of Berkeley’s overall emissions, making reductions “an essential step for Berkeley as a whole to achieve the goals of the Climate Action Plan,” according to a statement released Friday by the city.

The plan was created by the city in 2006 and sets a target of a 33% reduction in emissions by 2020, followed by an 80% reduction by 2050. … Continue reading »

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Cooking cuts loom at schools’ edible program

Washing off freshly picked asparagus at the Willard Middle School garden. Parents at the school are protesting suggested cuts to the cooking and gardening program. Photo: Kaia Diringer
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The cooking component of Berkeley schools’ highly regarded cooking and gardening program may soon be eliminated for financial reasons, and the future of the entire program in middle and high schools is also at risk.

The Berkeley Unified School District board was scheduled to hear details of the proposal in a presentation titled ‘Re-envisioning the Cooking and Gardening Program’ at its regular meeting this evening. However the item has been postponed to a future, as yet undefined date, according to director of the cooking and program, Jezra Thompson.

Under the proposal, cooking classes would be eliminated for the 2014-15 academic year. The focus of the program would then center on gardening for pre-kindergarten through third grades. Gardening programs for middle school and high school students would be eliminated.

A major reduction in funds has prompted the need to re-evaluate the program and jobs will also be lost as a result. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley plans overdue renovation of Totland playground

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Fans of Berkeley’s beloved Totland will be delighted to know that its current dilapidated state will soon be a thing of the past.

The Virginia-McGee playground will undergo renovations later this year to replace a deteriorating climbing structure and faulty drainage system.

Per community members’ requests, the preliminary design avoids major changes to Totland, a 16,000-square-foot park with a large grassy area, sand play area and recreation building decorated by a colorful mural.

“It will look fairly similar but hopefully it will be cleaned up a lot,” said principal planner Deborah Chernin. “It will be easier to maintain and it will be safer.” … Continue reading »

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Council to study $20M parks bond, 10% parks tax boost

More than 30 Berkeley residents came out Wednesday to express support to for the city to re-open Willard Pool. Photo: Emilie Taguso
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The Berkeley City Council is set to consider a potential $20 million parks bond in conjunction with a 10% increase to the existing parks tax after a unanimous vote Wednesday night by the city’s parks commission.

Over the past six months, the commission has held a series of public meetings to find a way to raise money for Berkeley parks, spurred in part by alarm at a projected lack of money in the city budget for both existing maintenance demands and new projects.

The combined bond and tax measures could cost approximately $45 extra per year on average for each Berkeley property.

“It doesn’t fix everything,” said Commission chairman Jim McGrath. “It’s not a bad start though.”

According to a draft report prepared for Wednesday’s meeting, the city is in desperate need of more money for Berkeley parks. … Continue reading »

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New $7.5M Berkeley West Branch library to open Saturday

The adult seating area has comfortable furniture and tables made by Berkeley-based Swerve. There is an abundance of natural light, too. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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When the new West Branch of the Berkeley Public Library opens on Saturday Dec. 14, officials hope that it not only becomes a place for people to take out books, but a community center that allows people to collaborate and build their businesses.

The new 9,300 square foot, $7.5 million structure at 1125 University Ave. (at San Pablo) — first net-zero library in California – will have the largest community meeting room in the branch system. It can hold up to 100 people and it can be configured for video conferences and computer coding, as well as for meetings. There are numerous electrical outlets near the tables to accommodate laptops (which are also available for use) and a long counter that faces out onto the small garden holding a newly planted cork oak tree.

“It’s really not a traditional community reading room but an extension of the library,” said Library Director Donna Corbeil as she pointed to the glass wall that separates the meeting room from the rest of the building. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley named one of 33 resilient cities in global network

Berkeley firefighters speak with residents during a community emergency response drill in April. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Berkeley has been selected as one of 33 cities worldwide in the first group of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Resilient Cities network.

The designation is for cities that, according to Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin, “have demonstrated a dedicated commitment to building their own capacities to prepare for, withstand, and bounce back rapidly from shocks and stresses.”

One-third of the inaugural group are U.S. cities — including San Francisco, Oakland and Alameda — with the other 22 distributed around the world.

The Rockefeller Foundation will now provide Berkeley and the other cities with at least two years of funding for a full-time chief resilience officer. According to City Manager Christine Daniel, the chief resilience officer will coordinate implementation of the draft Local Hazard Mitigation Plan, advancement of local climate adaptation strategies, and other efforts related to disaster preparedness and response.  … Continue reading »

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