Category Archives: Green

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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Berkeley installs first permeable pavers downtown

The construction site on Allston Way. Photo: Charles Siler
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Traffic may be rough come school season, but the construction project closing Allston Way outside Berkeley High School is significant: the city’s first major permeable pavement installation.

The block of Allston between Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Milvia Street in downtown Berkeley is shut down for construction until mid-November while the city installs new environmentally friendly pavement, according to the city.

The new permeable interlocking concrete pavement will absorb water, rather than redirecting it to a storm drain the way traditional asphalt does. This has a number of advantages, including better heat dispersal and cleaner runoff water, according to the city Public Works Commission. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley residents weigh in on new LED streetlights

Contractors replace old streetlights with new LEDs on the corner of Sonoma and Colusa Avenues. Photo:  Mary Flaherty
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The city of Berkeley’s project to convert thousands of old streetlights to LED bulbs is well underway, and the changes have not gone unnoticed by community members.

Last fall, the Berkeley City Council voted to allow the city manager to seek a $3.5 million loan from the state to swap out its old high pressure sodium and metal halide lamps with light emitting diode (LED) fixtures. Better light quality, improved energy efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions were among the project’s main goals.

The city began its investigation into the possibility of LED streetlights in 2012 with a council referral to the Public Works and Energy commissions. In 2012 and 2013, more than 100 streetlights were replaced with LED lights at the Berkeley Marina and along Telegraph Avenue. This year, the city plans to finish the job, and is slated to replace all 8,000 of its old streetlights with LEDs.

So far, roughly 25% of the lights have been replaced, according to city spokesman Matthai Chakko. The new bulbs use 65% to 85% less energy than the old high pressure sodium lights and should last 15-17 years, Chakko said. The old lights required replacement every few years. … Continue reading »

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Cal, city of Berkeley take steps to curb water use

Water runoff from one of Cal's lawns is a relatively common occurrence on campus. Photo: Patrick Hickey
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In response to the severe drought conditions that plague most of the state, Cal and the city of Berkeley have ramped up efforts to curb water use.

Runoff from several university lawns has been of particular concern to some local residents. Water from nearby sprinkler systems sometimes flows onto pathways and sidewalks around campus, but the runoff is unintentional and closely monitored, according to Sal Genito, associate director of Grounds, Custodial and Environmental Services for the University of California at Berkeley.

The university has already cut back on watering by 10 percent, as per a mandate from the governor’s office. … Continue reading »

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