Category Archives: Green

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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The man behind the Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival: Mark Baldridge, 1948-2014

markbaldridge
Print Friendly

By Sharon Coleman

For decades, Berkeley has been enriched by a vibrant literary community with poetry at its heart, as we see in downtown Berkeley’s Addison Street Poetry Walk. At the heart of the poetry community since 1972 has been Poetry Flash, a hub for reviews, articles, event listings, and presenter of many singular literary events. And at the heart of Poetry Flash since 1995 has been Mark Baldridge, in so many capacities from board member to web master, but most notably as Director of the annual Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival.

When Robert Hass was named first U. S. Poet Laureate from the West in 1995, he joined in meetings at International Rivers Network with poets and ecologists to discuss “Nature and the American Imagination,” the theme of his laureateship, and to think of ways to engage the public using poetry. Having left a corporate career and started his own small advertising agency, hungry to do something real, Mark attended these meetings. From the discussions came the idea for the first Watershed Festival that took place in April 1996 at the Bandshell of Golden Gate Park. … Continue reading »

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

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
Print Friendly

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 »

Tagged , , , ,

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
Print Friendly

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 »

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Berkeley property owners to pony up for energy audits

Gunshot at Ed Roberts Campus, Nov. 29, 2012. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Print Friendly

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.

See the January 2015 update on Berkeleyside.

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 »

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

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

Print Friendly

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 »

Tagged , , , , ,

Op-ed: Democracy, transparency and Measure R

Print Friendly

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 »

Tagged , , , , , ,

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

Print Friendly

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 »

Tagged , , , , ,