Entries categorized "Environment"

A Failure of Equity - Racist and Ableist Bike Share Returns to Davis

E6a0ce4fef1b41a4a3839f8c0e6cd132At the city council meeting tonight a pilot for e-bike and e-scooter share will likely be approved - and will start by September. 

Bike share and scooter share are great things, despite all sorts of issues. Electric assist makes these "micromobility" devices even more of a joy. More and more bike share systems offer e-bikes, sometimes exclusively. Scooter share was always electric.

But as with Jump bike share - which ended in Davis a little over two years ago - the minimum age limit for use for bikes will be 18. Once again this age limit makes it racist.
 
Why is it racist?
 
It's simple: Youth have fewer mobility choices, even more so if they're members of economically-vulnerable households. Brown and Black people are over-represented in these households. There's no minimum age for using the type of bikes supplied by Lime. There's no formal impossibility for parents and guardians to take legal responsibility for necessary contracts. Therefore... it's arbitrary... and this means it's racist. It's doesn't mean that the City Council is racist. It means that unless we change their minds they are making a racist decision tonight.
 
Once again the speed is limited to 15 mph assistance without any evidence that this has any benefits for safety. Nor only does this make the bikes less competitive with automobiles, the speed assistance limit below what state law allows is biased against less strong people who might find it harder to get their bikes over 15 mph. This is probably ableism, yes?, or something else which City documents and various statements of the current City Council would naturally disavow.
 
Many other cities have much less racist and ableist systems
 
There's no minimum age for the use of type 1 e-bikes, which will be the type supplied by Lime. The minimum required for use of an e-scooter in California is possession of a learner's permit, and being 16. However the Lime-supplied pilot requires a minimum age 18 for that as well. That's two years when kids can drive a car most of that by themselves before they can use bike share or scooter share in Davis. Bike share systems all over California and the USA allow users under age 18 (For example the system in Philadelphia allows 16 year-olds to use their e-bikes and 14 year-olds their "acoustic" bikes.) But we're the USA cycling capital! (Perhaps it's time to change our official City logo - to purge this anachronistic and anti-egalitarian high-wheeler bicycle from our community imagery?).
 
A major innovation that Davis can make here is by replacing the age cut-off with one based on peers. This is because the majority of youth have friends that are in the same grade. Not everyone in the same grade is the same age: We see this manifested when some high school students can get licensed before their friends. 14 would work - nearly everyone that age is tall enough to ride the Lime bikes - but connecting it with entrance to high school would still be much better than the current situation. See details below - this will get many on bikes at age 15.  And then on e-scooters at age 16! Voila! Bikequity!! Fairscooterism!
 
Another good - and perhaps still innovative - new feature is that the park in the street like a motorcycle thing is a clear part of the rules. (This was done spontaneously by many Jump users and almost went forward officially before the bike share system was removed from Davis and UC Davis due to COVID.) However there's still a huge amount of the contract and rules based on the idea that the bikes will need to be moved within 90 minutes if there are badly parked. (In the pilot it's allowed to park like this in Downtown, but it's not even clear that there will be a sticker on the bikes to advise people of this. It's not really intuitive.)
 
The City Council has known about this issue for years
 
In March 2019 - when I was a member of the Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety (BTSSC) -  I created a lengthy report on the one year anniversary of bike share in Davis and UC Davis. I was able to initiate what became a unanimous vote to ask the City Council to ask its partners at SACOG - and the previous operator Uber/Jump - to consider lowering the age (and raising the weight limit). This sat on the long-range calendar until shortly after Uber removed the bike share system from Davis and UC Davis.
 
The other day I confirmed with Lime and that neither the e-bikes nor the e-scooters will have a maximum weight limit. That's good - the newer e-scooters are generally considered to be more robust than those available just a couple of years ago.
 
Oh, last time the DJUSD Board of Education was asked to support an under-18 age limit.. they were not interested. This may have been in 2019 - a partly-different board.
 
What to do?
 
Thank the City of Davis City Council for bringing back bike share and introducing scooter share, BUT:
* Demand that they allow the use of Lime e-bikes from the first day of 10th grade, or even better the first day of summer before 10th grade.
* Demand that - per state law - everyone 16 years old with a learner's permit be allowed to use Lime e-scooters.

Mercury Contamination in Cache Creek: We Need More Answers

By Charles B. Salocks, PhD

 Teichert Construction is applying for a Yolo County permit to mine gravel on more than 250 acres of land in lower Cache Creek west of Woodland that is now being used for agriculture.

This proposal is problematic because the Cache Creek watershed naturally contains substantial deposits of mercury ore. It includes a US EPA Superfund site, Sulphur Bank Mercury Mine, located at the east end of Clear Lake.

According to the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), at the end of 30 years the mined property will be reclaimed: approximately two-thirds of the land area will be converted back to agricultural use and one-third will become a permanent water impoundment (or ‘pond’) and turned over to the County. The property will not be restored to its original state, at least not in the foreseeable future.  

A toxic compound called methylmercury is produced by certain types of bacteria that live in water and sediment where the concentration of dissolved oxygen is very low. This condition can occur at the bottom of ponds or lakes, such as the reclaimed water impoundments in lower Cache Creek where open pit mining has already occurred.

Continue reading "Mercury Contamination in Cache Creek: We Need More Answers" »


Restoring the Roots of Life in a New Era

Existing-gravel-mining
Existing gravel mining along Cache Creek. Photo credit: Charles Salocks

 

By Nancy Price and Don Price

Recently the Yolo County Planning Commission held two public hearings on the proposal submitted by Teichert Materials to carve a new open-pit gravel mine on the 319-acre Shifler farm, three miles west of Woodland along lower Cache Creek. If approved, the proposed gravel mine would operate six days per week for 30 years.

Climate advocates, the Yolo County Farm Bureau, neighboring residents of the Wild Wings community and others concerned about the project’s many environmental impacts spoke and submitted letters to the Planning Commissioners. After more than ten hours of discussion, the Commission voted 4-2 this month to recommend dramatically scaling back the project to protect prime farmland.  

Citizens raised concerns about formation of toxic methylmercury sediment in the wet pits already lining lower Cache Creek, risk of contaminated fish, and the potential that such deep mining could puncture holes in the groundwater table and contaminate  the water supply.

“This decision signals we are in a new era of planning for resilience and cannot ignore irreversible impacts to land, water and public health. Land that can be used to grow tomatoes and wheat to feed people should be used as if our lives depended on it – because they do,” observed Alessa Johns, a concerned citizen and retired UC Davis professor.

Many readers may not realize that gravel mining in Yolo Country goes way back to the 1870s. By the 1970s, concerns arose over the impact of open-pit mining in the main Cache Creek channel. It took until the mid-1990s for the county, the mining industry including Teichert, and a group of concerned citizens to restrict mining to outside of the main channel, create the Cache Creek Conservancy, and begin a program of remediation and restoration.

Continue reading "Restoring the Roots of Life in a New Era" »


Valley Clean Energy launches an innovative program for agricultural customers to reduce grid stress and save farmers money.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a $3.25 million, 5-megawatt pilot program that simplifies energy pricing for agricultural customers and provides lucrative automation incentives to adjust schedules to match grid conditions.

VCE(From press release) Valley Clean Energy (VCE) is excited to announce that the California Public Utilities Commission has approved a $3.25 million pilot program to deploy automation systems, mainly for irrigation, that are responsive to the power grid at subsidized or no cost to farmers.

Partnering with TeMix and Polaris Energy Services, VCE will implement the 5-megawatt program starting in the summer of 2022. TeMix invented the technology that creates and transmits dynamic electricity rates that are sensitive to grid conditions, and Polaris is the leader in agricultural demand flexibility.

Building on state-funded research and development by TeMix and Polaris, the Agricultural Flexible Irrigation Technology (AgFIT) pilot program will provide VCE agricultural customers with automation systems and software to easily purchase energy at the lowest prices possible while meeting their crop and operational requirements.

The pilot tariff gives price signals through the simplified rates to incentivize farmers to shift their electricity use. Electricity is not just cheaper when renewables are plentiful; shifting the electricity load off expensive peak times reduces carbon emissions because renewables can be relied upon more heavily, rather than using more carbon-intensive electricity due to higher demand.

As seen in the previous pilot by Polaris and TeMix, growers in the program enjoy a bill savings of 10–15% for shifting energy consumption from the hours when the grid is under the greatest stress to hours when renewable electricity is plentiful. Additionally, incentives for the automation systems of their choice save approximately 30% on labor costs while improving crop quality.

Continue reading "Valley Clean Energy launches an innovative program for agricultural customers to reduce grid stress and save farmers money." »


Valley Clean Energy Hires New Program and Community Engagement Analyst

Sierra-1(From press release) Valley Clean Energy announces the hiring of Sierra Huffman as its new program and community engagement analyst. VCE is the local electricity provider for the cities of Winters, Woodland and Davis as well as the unincorporated portions of Yolo County.

Huffman is responsible for developing and implementing programs, maintaining stakeholder relations, opening avenues for community engagement, and using analytical methodologies to educate and inform. With nearly two years of experience with community choice aggregators such as VCE, Huffman has brought relevant skill sets to the team.

Before joining VCE, she created greenhouse gas reduction measures for Humboldt County’s Climate Action Plan and established long-term planning goals for Redwood Coast Energy Authority’s Repower+. Much of her work focused on energy prices and rates, electric vehicle adoption, rooftop solar installations, and gas appliance retrofits.

She also completed an internship with Silicon Valley Clean Energy before coming to Yolo County.

Continue reading "Valley Clean Energy Hires New Program and Community Engagement Analyst " »


Diverse Group Opposes Teichert Shifler Gravel Mining Project at Dec. 9 Yolo County Planning Commission Hearing

I would like to alert you to the rapidly growing opposition to a 30-year deep pit gravel mining project proposed by Teichert, Inc. alongside lower Cache Creek in Yolo County, just three miles west of the City of Woodland.

The Yolo County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on this project as Item #12: consider a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors regarding certification of the Environmental Impact Report and approval of the Teichert Shifler Mining and Reclamation Project on a site west of Woodland, CA, including certification of the General Plan Amendment, Rezone, and other associated approvals.  The public hearing, via zoom or telephone,  will take place on December 9, beginning at 8:30 AM.

Nearby homeowners of the WildWings community, defenders of a unique Patwin-Wintun Tending and Gathering Garden, toxicologists, climate advocates and an Episcopal minister are among a diverse group urging the Yolo County Planning Commission to reject the Final EIR and oppose the rezoning of prime farmland to allow the gravel to be mined. 

Attached is a Comment Letter submitted on December 8, 2021 to the Planning Commission and signed by over 100 opponents of this ecologically destructive mining project.

Please contact the following individuals for further information and interviews:

Charles Salocks, Toxicologist, Retired, California Environmental Protection Agency, cbsalocks@gmail.com
Ann Liu, Retired CTA, UCCE Master Gardener, skip2mylew@gmail.com
Alessa Johns, Professor Emerita, University of California, Davis, alessajohns@gmail.com

Thank you,

Nancy Price

Download Memo to Commissioners and Supervisors on Teichert Shifler Issues Final

Continue reading "Diverse Group Opposes Teichert Shifler Gravel Mining Project at Dec. 9 Yolo County Planning Commission Hearing" »


Russell Sprouts Little Imagination

ReimagineInvertedDoes imagination require or at least benefit by transparency and a truly robust public process?

For a year or so the City of Davis, UC Davis and Yolo County have been working with the private consultancy Toole Design and the public to "Reimagine Russell Boulevard".  City of Davis staff plan to update the City Council at this Tuesday's Council meeting.

Following are comments I made on the survey which was planned to close on November 12th but is open as of this moment...

My comments are split into two parts: First I focus on the process, next on the design. Process, today. Design, tomorrow (or Tuesday morning).

*****

1 - The project inexplicably has two websites, one for "administrative" reasons. There's never been an explanation for this.

2 - On the admin. website there is a list of representatives of some sort from the city, the Community Steering Committee.  Two of them told me that they were not happy that it was only a sounding board and not really official - and there's no way specific way indicated to reach them. Additionally I was informed by a Committee member that they were not provided access to raw data from the first survey earlier this year. My impression is that the City learnt its lesson from the Downtown Plan process and decided to formally reduce democracy in the project. If no one visits the admin. website they won't even know about these people. At the very least the budget of nearly half a million dollars (!) didn't allow the consultants and so on to do more than a few public sessions over a year's time.

Continue reading "Russell Sprouts Little Imagination" »


Thinking like a Little Tomato

What should Davis's Climate Action and Adaptation Plan focus on?

TomatoesBy Roberta Millstein

In March 2019, Council adopted the Resolution Declaring a Climate Emergency and Proposing Mobilization Efforts to Restore a Safe Climate which states that “the City of Davis commits to taking significant action to move toward net municipal and community carbon neutrality in the short term with maximum efforts to implement carbon reduction actions by 2030; and accelerate the existing 2050 Davis carbon neutrality goal to a 2040 target. The City of Davis and City Council will…accelerate a robust update to the Davis CAAP and integration with the City’s updated General Plan.” (emphasis added). https://www.cityofdavis.org/sustainability/2020-climate-action-and-adaptation-plan-caap

The City has asked for our input into a set of 29 draft action items for the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) that City could take to achieve its Climate Emergency Resolution.  Which should our top priorities be?  Should any of the draft actions be modified, eliminated, or combined?  Should any of the proposed actions that didn't make it into the "top 29" be promoted? 

I suggest that in order to answer this question, we must "Think Like a Little Tomato."[1]  In A Sand County Almanac, conservationist (ecologist, forester, hunter, professor) Aldo Leopold famously urged us to "Think Like a Mountain." In that essay, Leopold was concerned with the consequences of focusing solely on preserving deer population numbers, something that turns out to be at the expense of everything else on the mountain (the wolves, the plants and trees, the mountain itself).  Instead, he implies, we need to think about the entire land community. 

Now in Davis and surrounding areas, deer and wolves are not so much in play, but tomatoes (and other agricultural crops) are, as well as the other plants and animals who live in and around our urban and agricultural areas, some with dwindling numbers, like burrowing owls and Swainson's hawks.  This land community – our land community, since humans are very much a part – is increasingly threatened by severe climate change impacts: hotter summers, hotter and bigger and longer-lasting fires, smoky air, drought, flood.  Arguably, ignoring our land communities and their habitats is exactly the attitude that has brought on our climate emergency, and as we address climate change, it is the attitude that needs to change.

Continue reading "Thinking like a Little Tomato" »


Mining project needs to comform to Yolo County's climate goals

By Nancy Price

On Wednesday, November 10, the Yolo County Planning Commission holds a public hearing on the Teichert Shifler Mining and Reclamation Project to make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors on the proposed 30-year Off-Channel Surface Mining Permit for industrial mining on the agricultural Shifler property. On December 14, the Board of Supervisors meets to consider final approval of the Permit.

At the time the Draft EIR was being prepared, on September 29, 2020, the Yolo County Supervisors passed Resolution 20-114 – A Resolution Declaring a Climate Crisis Requiring an Urgent and Inclusive Mobilization in Yolo County (“2030 Climate Emergency Mobilization Resolution”). This goal is stated in Yolo County’s 2011 Climate Action Plan and elements of the County’s General Plan.

A 6/31/2021 Press Release elaborates, the Supervisors “passed a resolution declaring a climate crisis requiring an urgent and inclusive mobilization of countrywide resources to initiate a just transition to an inclusive, equitable, sustainable and resilient local economy while also supporting and advocating for regional, national and international efforts necessary to reverse the climate, social justice, and economic crises. As an immediate goal, the Board voted to create a new Climate Action Plan for the County with the intent of reaching a carbon negative status by 2030.”

Given the magnitude of Teichert’s 277 acre industrial mining and reclamation project, the Supervisor’s must direct the new Yolo County Climate Action Commission to report on Teichert’s application and EIR documents, and that the ecological assessment called for in the “Climate Emergency Mobilization Resolution” be adopted and implemented.

Teichert must prioritize and commit to how they will achieve the county’s 2030 reduction goals such as solar-power generation at the Woodland Plant, conversion of vehicle fleets and other measures. The proposed carbon absorption capacity of reclaimed agricultural land on the Shifler property needs further study before this mitigation measure is considered viable. The proposed purchase of carbon credits to mitigate or offset Teichert’s GHG emissions is fraught with challenges in monitoring, reporting, and guaranteeing actual, quantifiable carbon reduction.

To conclude, the magnitude and scale of industrial mining for 30 years to 2052 runs counter to the County’s publicly stated climate actions goals and the process they have established to attain those goals by 2030.


DISC Traffic Problems and Associated Vehicular Emissions will not be Solved by the Proposed I-80 HOV Lane Expansion nor Near Term Adoption of Electric Vehicles as Proponents Claim

Myths and Facts about Impacts of Freeway Lane Expansions on Traffic Congestion and Adoption Rates of Electric Vehicles

By Alan Pryor

Executive Summary

Proponents of the proposed DISC project claim that the projected traffic congestion associated with the project will be solved soon in the future by the hoped-for I-80 freeway HOV lane expansion easing roadway congestion. The proposed freeway expansion project envisions the addition of one HOV lane on each side of the I-80 freeway freeway from from Hwy 113 on the west to the I-5/I-50 interchange in Scaramento and the I-80/Reed Ave interchange to the east.

Proponents also claim that the associated vehicular greenhouse gas (GHG) emission from the increased traffic to and from the DISC site will be substantially eliminated by the mass adoption of electric vehicles reducing tailpipe GHG emissions

Unfortunately, science shows us that the proposed addition of the two HOV lanes on the 20.8 mile stretch of the I-80 freeway expansion (one HOV lane on each side of the freeway) will actually induce further traffic and Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) on this stretch of the freeway. Methodology developed by the UC Davis National Institute of Sustainable Transportation (NIST) shows this phenomena is due to both short and long-term driver behavioral changes including taking longer and more frequent automobile trips, route shifts, and transportation mode shifts away from public transportation. The cumulative impacts will result in no relief from the current plague of I-80 freeway congestion.

Further, mass adoption of electric vehicles will take decades to substantially replace existing aging fossil fuel-powered vehicles resulting in no near term decreases of the additional GHG emissions resulting from new traffic associated with the DISC project. These emissions directly threaten the Davis goal of carbon neutrality by 2040 and Yolo County's goal of net negative carbon emissions by 2030.

Myth #1 – The Proposed I-80 Expansion will Greatly Reduce Freeway Congestion for DISC Commuters Leading to Decreased Congestion for Local Drivers on Mace and Covell Blvd.

Continue reading "DISC Traffic Problems and Associated Vehicular Emissions will not be Solved by the Proposed I-80 HOV Lane Expansion nor Near Term Adoption of Electric Vehicles as Proponents Claim" »


Activists Launch Fossil-Free UC Davis Campaign

DecarbonizetheUC
UC Davis students protest in Davis on 9/24/21 demanding an end to fossil fuel use across the UC system. Credit: Stephen Wheeler

(From press release) As the United Nations-sponsored COP26 climate conference begins in Glasgow, UC Davis faculty, staff, and student activists today announced a petition and educational campaign asking the university to commit to ending fossil fuel use by 2030. The petition also asks that specific policies for doing this be adopted by the end of 2022.

Although UC Davis has made progress in improving the energy efficiency of its operations and buying cleaner electricity from off-campus, annual on-campus emissions from Davis and Sacramento campuses have remained steady at about 150,000 metric tons of CO2 since 2008. Most of these emissions are due to the university’s large methane-fueled heating and cooling plants. 56% of campus energy use continues to be generated directly from fossil fuels, mostly fracked methane. Climate activists ask that heating and cooling systems be electrified using renewably generated electricity.

UC Davis installed a 16MW photovoltaic array in 2015 which provides about 11% of campus electricity. The university is also converting campus heating and cooling pipes from steam to hot water in a program called the “Big Shift,” a step that will make electrification easier. But the campus has yet to commit to ending fossil fuel use. In a recent message to the Chancellor, activists said “The Big Shift is just one step in the right direction. Other steps need to be identified asap, and UCD commitment to ending fossil fuel use articulated.”

UC Campus emissions
According to data released by the University of California Office of the President following a Public Records Act request, on-campus (Scope 1) greenhouse gas emissions have remained steady at most UC campuses since the late 2000s. Credit: Adam Arons and Eric Halgren

The UC system has committed to reaching carbon neutrality by 2025 for on-campus emissions and purchased power. But while purchased electricity has gotten cleaner, on-campus emissions have yet to fall at any UC. To meet the 2025 goal, campuses plan to buy carbon offsets, which claim to reduce GHG emissions elsewhere in the world.

However, there are major questions whether offsets would represent permanent and verifiable GHG reductions that would not have occurred otherwise.[1] The UC Office of the President has so far been unable to identify nearly enough offsets for UC campuses. Activists ask that campuses instead end fossil fuel use and commit to electrifying operations.

Continue reading "Activists Launch Fossil-Free UC Davis Campaign" »


Comments for the Natural Resources Commission review of DiSC 2022

TrafficThe following comments were shared with the Natural Resources Commission at its meeting last night and are reposted here with permission of the author.

This is Alan Pryor speaking as a former 12-year NRC Commissioner. I think it's telling to review a comment made by a Planning Commissioner at a hearing on this project last year.

"You want this to be the most sustainable, innovative tech campus in the United States. But you have come to us with a car-dominated, auto-centric proposal on the edge of town, far from the capitol corridor station, not linked to good transit, with huge parking lots and parking structures. Widening Mace to accommodate more traffic is not the answer. It's going to induce more traffic."

Nothing has functionally changed with this project since then except its size is been reduced by less than half but the applicant is now proposing transportation features that are even less conducive to non- automotive forms of transportation.

For instance the applicant is now refusing to construct the previously agreed upon off-grade crossing to allow arriving pedestrians and bicyclists to safely cross six lanes of Mace Boulevard during rush-hour traffic. How is that possibly welcoming to bicyclists and pedestrian employees arriving on the west side of the street or to school kids living at the project trying to get to school and back each day without a parent driving them.

Also, the original proposal was an environmental nightmare in that it projected over 83,000,000 lbs of CO2 equivalent emitted each year. The new estimate is about  45,000,000 lbs of CO2 equivalent per year - or about 4.5% of the City's current carbon footprint for this one project alone. All of these emissions would have to be later eliminated for the City to reach carbon neutrality by 2040 but the developer has not proposed how they will do this.

Continue reading "Comments for the Natural Resources Commission review of DiSC 2022" »


Use of American Rescue Plan Funds (ARP) to obtain an Urban Tree Canopy Assessment and Report

Street-treesThe following letter was shared with the Davisite this morning.

Dear City of Davis ARP Subcommittee:

The City of Davis' urban forest is comprised of trees, gardens, green spaces and other natural areas. This urban tree canopy provides a myriad of benefits making our communities cleaner, safer and healthier while reducing the costs associated with many services. Managing, monitoring, and enhancing this important resource is critical to sustained economic development and environmental health.

I am requesting that sufficient ARP funds are dedicated to allow for: (1) A complete analysis of Land Cover and Urban Tree Canopy; (2) Assess an Ecosystem Benefits Analyses, including: air quality, energy, stormwater, and carbon; (3) GIS-based and other tools to model strategic tree canopy development scenarios; and (4) Complete training for Davis Tree Canopy Partners, such as Tree Davis and the Tree Commission, on use of these tools to accomplish management objectives.

Urban Tree Canopy Assessment and Report (UTCAR) would be a onetime use of ARP Funds and benefits all living animals and humans regardless of gender and group stereotypes, including race, age, ethnicity, ability level, socioeconomic status, or sexual orientation. An UTCAR would bring data from various studies to evaluate and understand the extent and value of the region’s trees and to provide a benchmark of the urban tree population, land cover, and the value of the current and potential future urban forest.

The data and tools produced will enable planners, managers, and commissioners to develop strategies for community development, air quality enhancement, energy conservation, stormwater management, and community forest management.

The UTCAR would be conducted in a manner that defines and quantifies various environmental and economic benefits of the region’s tree canopy, known as ecosystem services, focusing on air quality, energy use, stormwater, and carbon sequestration.

The dynamic modeling tools developed for this project would allow planners and managers to envision and plan their desired future urban forest. With these tools, users identify and prioritize strategic tree planting areas based on management objectives, and create alternative designs and cost/benefit scenarios at a regional-scale or for specific sites.

Though the City of Davis' urban forest is relatively young, it nonetheless provides substantial benefits that can be quantified, monetized, forecasted and enhanced over time with proper planning and management. To maximize the function and value of the urban forest resource, it is critical to target canopy increases strategically and to educate policymakers and citizens about the benefits of urban tree canopy.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Tracy DeWit


Leeward Renewable Energy, Valley Clean Energy Sign 15-year Solar-Plus-Storage Power Purchase Agreement for Willow Springs 3 Solar Facility

Project to provide 72MW of solar power, 36MW of battery storage for Valley Clean Energy customers

(From press release) Leeward Renewable Energy (Leeward) and Valley Clean Energy (VCE) announced today that they have entered into a 15-year solar-plus-storage Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) involving Leeward’s 72-megawatt (MW) solar and 36 MW (144 megawatt-hour) battery storage Willow Springs 3 facility in Kern County, California.

VCE’s board of directors approved the PPA on October 14. The Willow Springs 3 project will supply enough reliable, clean electricity for approximately 27% of VCE’s 125,000 customers in Yolo County, California, by the end of 2023. The agreement will also support VCE in achieving its goal of having a 100 percent carbon-neutral portfolio by 2030.

As part of the agreement, Leeward will contribute to VCE’s local workforce development and sustainability efforts in Yolo and Kern counties to support local hiring and training.

Continue reading "Leeward Renewable Energy, Valley Clean Energy Sign 15-year Solar-Plus-Storage Power Purchase Agreement for Willow Springs 3 Solar Facility" »


Letter to the Tree Commission re: DiSC 2022

Red leaves
One of Davis's urban trees

To Davis Tree Commission:

In regard to the DISC proposal (Item 6B on your agenda this evening),  I support your subcommittee's recommendations and encourage you to recommend them as a "baseline feature".

Given that the size of the proposal is already known, recommendation of a specific number of trees should be achievable (as it was during the previous iteration of the proposal).

I understand that the developer is proposing to satisfy shade requirements via the use of solar panels or trees. Unfortunately, this type of "choice" will increasingly be used by developers, as we've already seen in regard to Sutter Hospital's expansion. It may be that developers generally prefer solar panels, to help them meet other requirements (and to claim that a given proposal is "green", while simultaneously eliminating "greenery" in regard to trees).

At some point, the city itself will need to come up with a clear policy regarding the use of solar panels vs. trees for given situations. While either can be used in parking lots, trees (unlike solar panels) require soil and space to survive. As such, solar panels are suitable for a wider variety of locations (such as rooftops), while trees are not.

Until/unless the city comes up with a clear policy (supported by the tree commission), I would encourage the tree commission to not be distracted by an "either/or" choice, and simply focus its efforts on recommendations regarding trees and the benefits they provide.

Sincerely,

Ron Oertel


Comments to the Tree Commission concerning DiSC 2022

Screen Shot 2021-10-19 at 9.55.57 AMThe following was emailed to members of the Tree Commission this morning.  The Tree Commission is scheduled to discuss the revised MRIC/ARC/DISC project, now dubbed DiSC 2022, at its meeting this Thursday, Oct 21.  If you wish to comment on the project yourself, see instructions on the agenda for the meeting, located here.

Dear members of the Tree Commission,

I am writing to you as a former commissioner (10+ years) and Chair of the Open Space and Habitat Commission (OSHC), having completed my term last December. I was involved in analyzing what is now being called the DiSC 2022 project in all of its iterations, so I hope you find my comments helpful in your discussions.

I think it's great that you appointed a subcommittee to review all the materials, given that the changes are more extensive than the City has stated – this is not just a project that has been cut in half, as your subcommittee's analysis shows. I endorse your subcommittee's recommendations and encourage you to adopt them as a body in the strongest possible language, remembering that the only way to guarantee that a promised feature will be in the actual project is for it to be designated as a "baseline feature." A cautious route would have you even recommend that the relevant ordinances be satisfied (this was something that the OSHC did last time), since there is a history of the City Council bending its ordinances, including ordinances concerning trees (it is my belief that they did this in the recent Sutter parking lot decision).

Continue reading "Comments to the Tree Commission concerning DiSC 2022" »


Yocha Dehe Joins The Sierra Club, Yolo County Farm Bureau, And Residents, To Demand Sensible Cannabis Land Use Policy

Tribe joins suit calling for changes to flawed Cannabis Land Use Ordinance

(From press release) In an effort to hold Yolo County accountable for developing fair and sound cannabis land use policy, the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation has partnered with the Sierra Club, Yolo County Farm Bureau, and local residents in a lawsuit to do precisely that.

The lawsuit does not seek to stop cannabis cultivation and related businesses in Yolo County, or to prevent County residents from profiting from the cannabis industry.  Rather, it would simply require the County to comply with California environmental law by evaluating the full and real impacts of cannabis cultivation, and mitigate those impacts, before adopting an ordinance regulating it.  Adhering to this process is what the California Environmental Quality Act requires, and indeed, these same requirements apply to every other regulated land use.

“The cannabis industry has a place in Yolo County, just as cannabis has a place in the medicine cabinets of many people in California,” noted the Tribal Council of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation. “But sensible cannabis permitting can’t happen until the County is clear-eyed about the problems overconcentration creates, especially in sensitive areas around schools, near cultural heritage sites, and in smaller communities like those in the Capay Valley.”

Continue reading "Yocha Dehe Joins The Sierra Club, Yolo County Farm Bureau, And Residents, To Demand Sensible Cannabis Land Use Policy " »


Report from the Open Space & Habitat meeting re: DiSC 2022

Screen Shot 2021-10-03 at 8.45.43 PM
The following was originally posted as a comment in response to the Davisite article Comments to the Open Space & Habitat Commission concerning DiSC 2022 and has been reposted here as an article with permission of the author.

By Ron O

In regard to the Open Space and Habitat Commission meeting last [Monday] night, here are some highlights:

The recommendation (from the article linked above) to request that the northern (approximately) 100 acres be established as agricultural mitigation was not discussed or considered by the commission. Two commenters reiterated this request. (The 100 acres was part of prior proposals.)

The commissioners proceeded to review and edit the recommendations made when the proposal included the northern portion of the site. The developer representative claimed that many of them no longer applied, since the northern site is not part of the current iteration. As a result, the commissioners edited and deleted large sections of the prior recommendations, on-the-spot.

As the meeting approached 9:00 p.m., the chair suggested that a second meeting be held, given the amount of work left to be done. However, several commission members were not able to attend an additional meeting prior to the October 18th deadline set by the council. The chairperson stated that the council put the commission in a "bad place", and stated that she was "very unhappy" about it. The chair stated that they had received the packet for review on the previous Friday afternoon (for this Monday meeting).

Continue reading "Report from the Open Space & Habitat meeting re: DiSC 2022" »


Comments to the Open Space & Habitat Commission concerning DiSC 2022

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The following was emailed to members of the Open Space and Habitat Commission (OSHC) on Sunday.  The OSHC is scheduled to discuss the revised MRIC/ARC/DISC project, now dubbed DiSC 2022, at its Monday Oct 4 meeting.  If you wish to comment on the project yourself, see instructions on the agenda for the meeting, located here.

Dear members of the Open Space and Habitat Commission,

I am writing to you as a former commissioner (10+ years) and Chair of the OSHC, having completed my term last December. I was involved in analyzing what is now being called the DiSC 2022 project in all of iterations, so I hope you find my comments helpful in your discussions.

To begin, I am pleased to see in the minutes from your last meeting the following: "[Ms. Reynolds] said the Commission also had the option of agendizing the Addendum to the project's Environmental Impact Report ("EIR") later this year if the Commission wanted to provide comments on the Addendum to the EIR. That meeting would have to happen before December when the project is scheduled to go before the Planning Commission, she said." I strongly urge you to do this. The OSHC has a history of productively discussing and giving comments on EIRs, as it did with earlier versions of DISC as well as Nishi and other projects, with the comments thoughtfully crafted from the Commission carrying more weight than comments from individual members. For example, you might wish to ensure that the biological surveys have been properly updated and that greater awareness of approaches to climate change are being taken into account, such as the lost opportunity for regenerative agriculture on the property if the project is built.

Another important piece of background: in the last iteration of the project, the developer kept insisting that Mace 25 was not part of project, even though it clearly was. This led to mistrust in the community. Because of that mistrust, people are now concerned that this smaller project without Mace 25 is just a foot in the door for the already rejected larger project to come later. I urge you to recommend that the developer state, as a sign of good faith, that this is not their intention — designating the ~100 acres to the north of the project as ag mitigation would be the clearest way to do that.

The rest of my remarks will focus on the Staff Report and related attachments, located online here.

Continue reading "Comments to the Open Space & Habitat Commission concerning DiSC 2022" »


Valley Clean Energy Begins Receiving Electricity From Large Central Valley Solar Project

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Installation of solar panels at the Aquamarine Solar Facility in Kings County, CA, 2021

(From press release) Valley Clean Energy (VCE) announced that it is now receiving power from a new solar park located in Kings County, CA. VCE signed a 15-year contract to purchase 50 megawatts (MW) of renewable power with Aquamarine Westside, LLC’s 250MW Solar project. This contract will replace current short-term power contracts, allowing VCE to deliver higher levels of renewable power at competitive prices.

The Aquamarine project is located in CIM Group’s Westlands Solar Park, a master-planned clean energy park with over 2GW of solar production potential.

Continue reading "Valley Clean Energy Begins Receiving Electricity From Large Central Valley Solar Project" »


Particle Wars in Davis -  What you can’t see can kill you, Part II…

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The militarization of gardening?

A conversation about the proposed - and not - restrictions on toxic micro-particle hyper-distribution -  a.k.a. “leafblowing” - by three of your favorite local activists!

(COVID is Part I)

This evening the City of Davis Natural Resources Commission (NRC) will hold the first of two hearings on possibilities for leaf blowing restrictions. Here’s the memorandum - a supplement to Council’s approval of temporary leaf blowing restrictions from last October. It includes Commission and Staff proposals and results of the surveys on leaf blowing taken which were taken in June.

In summary, they are proposing a gas LB ban, time restrictions and user restrictions. Staff and Commission (sub-committee) proposals are broadly similar. 

What’s very important, however, is that there is a strong likelihood that there will be a complete ban at the state level on gas-powered equipment such as lawn mowers, edgers and so on… including leaf blowers and vacuums, or combined units. This means that any equipment-related ban in Davis that only affects gas blowers will be nothing unique in just a couple of years. 

The meeting is at 6:30pm

 

AirNow08062021
Leaf blowing prohibited on this day?...

AIR QUALITY and wildfire fallout:

Todd Edelman: There is no explanation of why the air quality-based restriction due to wildfire fallout  is based only on official AQI according to current City policy. For example, the very popular and relatively inexpensive Purple Air system could be used.  And Purple Air isn’t only used at private residences: The UC Davis environmental engineering dept has one on its roof for experiments. Lake County Air Quality Management District (AQMD) uses them for official monitoring outside of wildfire situations. The New Jersey Transit Authority seems to also use them for official purposes. Sutter Davis Hospital has them on their roof and inside. The elementary school at Beale Air Force Base has one, as does the Yolo Solano AQMD office in south Davis - they say they use it to recognize “trends”.

But perhaps the most important use of Purple Air is to determine local impacts of leaf blowing...

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Nope... no new restrictions if the air's bad AFTER 7:30am...

Darell Dickey: I have trouble with the concept that we can only ruin our air quality when the air is otherwise pretty good. We’re going to avoid dirtying the air when it is already bad? And then there’s my favorite part: Blowing will always create a local situation of AQI over 100, which should result in an immediate ban on blowing. 

I’m thinking that a good, logical way to present this is that if we’ve all agreed that 100 AQI is “bad enough” for us to ban activities that make it worse, then we should never be allowing the use of devices that make the AQI 100+. And this circles back to local air quality vs. relying entirely on one spot of data that’s outside of town to determine what we’re breathing in our neighborhoods at any given moment. 

If AQI 100+ is bad anywhere, then stop creating AQI 100+!

TE: There is nothing about how they determine how much ash is on the ground, though this is a condition of the lift of any AQI-based restriction according to current City policy. I have voiced this concern many times.

There were several times when the official AQI went over 100 during the day but not before 9AM; this was not mentioned in the memorandum, though I brought it up repeatedly in August in emails to the NRC.

LEAF-BLOWING, WILDFIRE SMOKE AND COVID-19

The proclamation from October 2020 that resulted in temporary leaf-blower restrictions mentions “COVID-19” 10 times, yet the current memorandum only mentions it once, and not directly in relation to smoke effects on those with who have COVID. Further, the October 2020 mentions no specific research at that time on wildfire smoke and COVID, but there’s new research not mentioned in the memorandum. 


AIR QUALITY, general:

TE: As far as I can tell leaf vacuums distribute lots of dust, and as they pick up inorganic matter as mentioned in the memorandum, I don't see how they will be allowed. But still, do people think that these things work as HEPA interior vacuums?

DD: True. But “lots of dust” from a vacuum situation is still way better than any blowing. It all needs to be in perspective as we’ll never arrive at “perfect.” Same way that electric cars aren’t perfect, but are better than gas cars, etc.

TE: Well, I think at least all the most dangerous and invisible stuff comes out the back...

DD: “Most dangerous” is not easy to defend. If the crap being stirred up produces a violent health reaction (allergies, asthma, etc), then the acute “most dangerous” thing is probably coming out the front. At least for those people who are severely affected.

The only way to call any of this “better” is if less crap is being put into the air…. As compared to doing it another way. And IMO, a vacuum is better than a blower. And leaving stuff where it is, is better than all of it.  The timing of the device usage is also important. I vacuum up deep leaves to mulch them and put them where they’ll help the yard vs. choke the plants. And I do it when the leaves are not dusty. It is a relatively benign activity.

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Purple Tahoe

 

LABOR:

TE: There's no suggestions related to the labor issue except for what may eventually be affected by a ban on gas-powered blowers. What are their wages, by the way? This is a basic question for labor related actions or studies.

DD: I hate the question where they ask the company how much it will financially destroy them. Of course the answers are all opinion, but it is presented and answered as fact. 

TE: Yes they should give figures or something. Is there possible funding from AQMD to transition out of all leaf blowing?

DD: Also, a significant percentage of landscaping businesses do not use any blowers. 

TE: Why is this? How is this influenced by opinions of consumers and of workers or their managers/companies?

DD: From what I can tell, the biggest concern from the citizenry is that they may have to pay more to the poor, under-paid folks. You know… the folks that they’re really concerned about harming with…. low wages.

Asking the yard-care business owners how bad it will be if blower use is restricted is like asking El Macero drivers how bad it will be if Mace loses one of its travel lanes. It is a total guess. It is based on everything else not changing. And they simply have no idea what the result would be. Might be higher health and better hourly wages for everybody. But of course most claim that it will just be devastating to their business. I didn’t hear one response about how it would be better for the workers who might get paid more for doing healthier work.

TE: I’ve repeatedly brought up this part of the issue, not only with the NRC, but also the Social Services Commission -- it needs to agree to provide feedback. Though leaf-blowing is not a job based on sustainable practices, there are many related jobs which are, and they require a higher skill-set. Tree trimming, building on-site composting facilities, triage of soil situations? No one should lose their jobs. 

 

LABOR AND PHASE-IN:

TE; There seems to be no scientific reasons for only phasing out gas blowers in City properties except for protecting some companies. Nothing about increasing wages, etc. The proposed start date Jan 1 (2023) is after most of the "leaf season", and over two years since the temporary regulations came into effect. This seems to be about giving enough time to buy new equipment, but this seems like a tiny expense compared to labor.

 

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Purple Nation

VIBRATION (Sound):

Roberta Millstein: You two are rightly focused on the air quality. But for a broader audience, you might also mention that these things are f*cking loud. Really f*cking loud. And that is for some a big part of why they are hated.

TE: I know that traffic noise is very bad for human health. One thing that’s worse about leaf blowing noise is that it can be unpredictable, especially if one’s neighbor is doing it -- but then also who memorizes the leaf blowing schedules of their neighbors or their yard sterilization services?

While most electric leaf blowers are quieter than gas-powered ones, it’s not guaranteed. And if an electric leaf blower is less powerful than a gas one, people may use it for longer.

 

OTHER:

DD: And the main reason that some give for the “need” of leaf blowers? No other practical way of clearing large paved parking lots. 

TE: Exactly, what are uses of LB's in terms of square footage or acres, etc?

 

CULTURE: 

TE: Yard work is good exercise if the air is clean. It connects one to their yards - even in a rental property - that other exercise outside cannot.

Leaf blowers and vacuums didn't exist in significant numbers until what, the 1980's? What did people do before that? Die, in their yards, under piles of leaves?

 

EFFECT ON TREE AND SOIL HEALTH:

TE: In the Memorandum there's nothing from the Commission or Staff in the recommendations about the benefits of leaving leaves where they fall, even though it’s already recommended on sources linked from the City's Tree pages and others.

The Tree Commission will hopefully offer feedback.

 

EXAMPLES / Best Practice in Other Places:

TE: There is mention of the other jurisdictions which have done partial to full bans, but not by name. They clearly have this list. There is no indication how many suffer significant wildfire fallout, though as many are in California certainly some have, and there's an assumption about why most didn't respond. Two have complete bans… who are they?

 

EFFECT ON OTHER USERS OF ROW (street, greenbelt, or another public space):

TE: There's nothing about how use of blowers contributes to the always non-permitted piles of yard waste in bike lanes. At the October meeting of BTSSC we need to pressure them into agreeing to providing an opinion on this, especially as a related item on yard waste in bike lanes has been sitting in the long-range calendar for many months as TBD. This issue has been going on for many years.

Proposed ban during the week is only til 8AM, even though many are commuting to school or work by then, by pedal or foot. So then they will be exposed full-on as they traverse the City.