Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Aceves wants to go green


If Goleta Mayor Pro Tempore Roger Aceves has his way, one of the newest cities in California will be a little bit greener as it continues to develop a personality of its own.
And he plans to start the greening process at city hall.

Aceves’ vision for a more environmentally friendly city showed itself for the first time at the April 1 Goleta City Council meeting, where many things remained the same, including a lengthy discussion about General Plan amendments. But the plastic, disposable water bottles that had been a mainstay at council meetings since the city’s inception in 2002 were conspicuously missing in action.
It isn’t a new idea (the Santa Barbara City Council stopped using plastic water bottles more than a year ago), but it’s new for Goleta and it is a symbolically simple step in the direction Aceves plans to begin moving.
“We’re a brand new city and a lot of the stuff we do is new to us but it’s not new to other communities,” Aceves said. “I’m trying to take a lead role on this and get this moving and create a policy that our community is going to embrace.”
To spread the word throughout city hall, Aceves and the council authorized City Manager Dan Singer to form a yet-to-be-named environmental committee that would consist of several city employees from a number of departments.
Aceves said he hopes to one day see the committee members identify areas in their own departments where improvements can be made and begin implementing them from the ground up.
Singer said he has yet to form the committee, but shortly after the council approved the concept, he said a number of employees expressed interest.
Though Aceves has taken a recent lead in greening city hall, he said he has long been an advocate for bettering his and others' environmental practices.
Prior to being elected to the city council in 2006, Aceves, a former Santa Barbara police officer, served for six years on the board of directors of Earl Warren Showgrounds. During his tenure as the president of the board, Aceves helped negotiate an energy project at the Showgrounds that placed solar panels on 80 percent of the site’s barns.
According to the Showgrounds’ Web site, the solar panels generate 85 percent of the venue’s power and have shaved $95,000 from the roughly $120,000 yearly power bill.
Though large projects like this may be down the road for Goleta, Aceves said he wants the council to begin thinking about broader and greener policies sooner than later.
While the committee will begin working on drumming up new and improved practices at city hall, Aceves said he hopes to begin discussing more wide-reaching city policy during the council’s strategic plan meeting scheduled for the end of May.
At this meeting, Aceves said he hopes to initiate discussions about LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certifications, which could be used in the future when the city constructs its own city hall and other civic buildings.
Because the city currently rents its space at 130 Cremona Dr., Singer said the council is somewhat limited in what it can do by way of improving the building.
He said the city conducted an energy audit last year to help determine where improvements could be made. As a result, the city installed motion sensors throughout the building that control the lights.
But measuring the cost savings of the sensors is difficult because the city pays a lump sum at the beginning of each year for electricity. If the city doesn’t use its predetermined quota by the end of the year, Singer said the property manager reimburses the city.
He said the city has also adopted stricter purchasing practices, which among other things mandate that all paper products must be made of recycled materials. Last year the property owner allowed the city to place reflective material on the windows, which has cut down on the use of air conditioning, Singer said.
“I think there’s enthusiasm for it,” he said. “I think there’s always the opportunity for improvement and we’re no exception.”
When the committee is formed and begins looking into ways of greening city hall, Singer said he doubts they’ll find much due to the city’s relative small size and the efforts that have already been implemented.
As Goleta does grow, its immediate neighbor to the south has set a quick pace in the environmental arena, one that few are as proud of as Santa Barbara City Councilwoman Helene Schneider.
From the city’s Green Team that is made up of city employees who meet regularly to discuss the latest and greatest greening practices, to the fuel cell at the El Estero Wastewater Treatment Plant that converts methane into electricity, Santa Barbara has made a concerted effort to stay ahead of the greening ballgame.
Schneider said doing business more environmentally friendly has also impacted the city’s bottom line.
“The more and more things we’re doing that are more sustainable, [we become] more efficient in terms of labor costs and increasing productivity,” she said. “The myth that going green costs more is just that — it’s a myth.”
Schneider said the city replaced all of its traffic lights with LED bulbs, which last longer and consume less energy. She said plans are in the works to place solar panels on the roof of a parking structure at the Santa Barbara Airport — a project already completed at City Fire Station No. 2.
The city even has bins in various city lunchrooms where worms turn unused food into high-quality compost.
Schneider said a large part of Santa Barbara’s success in implementing green practices is tied to making the effort part of the annual budget process, which allows the city to look at what’s working and what isn’t on a regular basis.
“It’s interwoven between everything else we do as a city,” she said.
While Goleta may have a long way to go before it’s on the same stage as Santa Barbara, Aceves seems to have support from his fellow council members, which is more than enough to get the ball rolling.
Goleta Councilwoman Jonny Wallis said she’s all for adopting improved environmental standards, as long as they work.
“I’m all for that,” Wallis said. “We should lead by example on the environmental front but we should also do so with knowledge.
“We need to set the example.”


Anonymous said...

I'd like to know why Goleta needs to waste money on a city hall. What's so terrible about renting otherwise unused industrial space, especially when it's a "renters' market" now?

So what if you can't put in every little last "green" doo-dad into these rented spaces - do you honestly think it is greener in the long run to build an entirely new building when perfectly usable ones sit empty nearby?

David Pritchett said...

Santa Barbara is EAST of Goleta, not south.