Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Blog #49 - Town Council Actions from September 1, 2010 meeting

Fairfax Town Council Conducts First Reading for a Moratorium on Marijuana Dispensaries

After considerable discussion and public testimony the Town Council heard a first reading on an ordinance that places a moratorium on any new applications for a marijuana dispensary in the Town of Fairfax for a minimum of forty-five days. The Town Council can extend the moratorium for a period of no more than 24 months in total. Mayor Lew Tremaine explained the reason for the moratorium, “If the ballot measure legalizing and taxing marijuana passes statewide, the entire terrain is going to shift. We are going to have a whole lot to deal with in terms of how the new law is implemented in town and how it impacts the existing medical marijuana facility. So it doesn’t make sense to me to be entertaining any more of them until we know what things will look like if it comes to pass.”

Other actions taken at the Regular Meeting on September 1, 2010:

• Heard a presentation from Ross Valley Superintendent Eileen Rohan who introduced herself to the Town Council and spoke about the upcoming Ross Valley school bond initiative.

• Heard a presentation from Dave Cort, Executive Director of the San Geronimo Valley Community Center on the Marin Food Bank program.

• Heard a presentation from Mimi Newton on the Fairfax Open Space Committee annual report.

• Appointed Linda Novy to the Fairfax Open Space Committee for a four year term.

• Appointed Merrell Maschino to the Volunteer Board for a

• Awarded the low bid to Maggiora & Ghilotti for the Tennis Court Bank Stabilization Project and Peri Park Pedestrian Bridge Replacement Project in the amount of $477,774.

• Adopted a Proclamation declaring September 2010 as Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

• Authorized temporary closure to Glen Drive for a bike race fund raiser on October 16, 2010.

• Discussed the Master Fee Schedule. This item will return to the Council on October 6th for adoption of the new fees. New fee schedule begins 30 days after the adoption.

• Introduced an ordinance amending the Town’s smoking ordinance to provide clean indoor air and health protection including the regulation of the exposure to smoke in multi-unit apartment buildings. After some discussion and public input the Council agreed that the Mayor and Vice Mayor will review the ordinance with a fine tooth comb and return at the October 6th meeting with a revised
version for the first reading of the ordinance.

• Reviewed and discussed the draft conservation and housing elements of the general plan

The Council will hold a Special Meeting on September 11, 2010 from 9 AM -12 NOON to discuss the FY 2010/11 Town Budget and the Town Strategic Plan

Monday, August 23, 2010

Blog #48 - Draft Housing Element-Public Meeting August 26, 2010

The Town of Fairfax is holding a public meeting on Thursday, August 26, 2010 from 7:00 PM-9:00 PM at the Women's Club to discuss the draft Housing Element of the General Plan. The joint meeting of the Planning Commission, General Plan Advisory Committee and the Affordable Housing Committee will “roll out” the draft 2010 Housing Element.

The agenda for this meeting is up on the Town’s web page. Town staff & its consultant will be presenting the draft 2010 Housing Element document; i.e., how it is organized - along with the major opportunity sites and the strategy for meeting the Town’s fair share of 108 affordable housing units over the next five years. In addition, we will be presenting the recommendations for which zones in Town should allow emergency homeless shelters “by-right” (per SB 2).

The major opportunity sites and/or zoning changes that we will be covering at Thursday night’s public meeting are as follows:

 Rezoning the Lutheran Church property at 2626 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard from Upland Residential 7 du/acre (UR -7) to Planned District Development (PDD) and thereby making it possible to accommodate forty (40) units of “senior housing”;

 Rezoning the “Olema/Mandarin Garden” property at 2170 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard from Light Commercial (CL) to Planning District Development and thereby making it possible to accommodate twenty (20) units of “work-force” housing;

 Rezoning School Street Plaza from Light Commercial (CL) to Planned District Development (PDD); thereby making it possible to accommodate a mix of uses including housing and/or a new school at this site;

 Rezoning all Highway Commercial (CH) to Central Commercial (CC), which will allow housing on second floors “by right” instead of requiring “conditional use permits” thereby making it possible to accommodating at least twenty one (21) units of affordable housing spread out over multiple properties and acres – and within a mixed-income range of housing;

 Rolling over the Second Unit Amnesty Ordinance without the requirement of fire suppression sprinkler systems, thereby incentivizing for formalization of at least twenty seven (27) second units (i.e., the 25% maximum allowable credit for second units to be counted as part of the State mandated 108 unit share of affordable housing for the Town of Fairfax); and

 Allowing Emergency Homeless Shelters within the Central Commercial (CC) zone, and on public and quasi public properties “by right”; thereby meeting the new State requirement to specifically allow shelters “by right” in at least one zone within the Town of Fairfax (per SB 2).

Please note that in addition to the “roll out” of the draft 2010 Housing Element this Thursday evening, the public will have another chance to comment on the draft 2010 Housing Element at the Council’s September 1, 2010 meeting - as part of the General Plan update report. And likewise, the public will have still another chance to comment when the “packaged” General Plan is presented to Council for adoption (pending environmental review) – after the “Super Committee” completes its final review of the entire 2010 General Plan in the fall.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Blog #47-Marin Climate and Energy Partnership

The following article appeared in the July 2010 issue of the Institute for Local Government on-line magazine:

Climate Protection Staffing: Marin’s Collaborative Approach
County: Marin
Population: 256,500


Most local governments in the Bay Area have realized that climate protection is an important new aspect of their work to develop more livable, sustainable communities. There is, however, limited staff time and other resources, especially in small jurisdictions, to launch climate protection efforts on a scale commensurate with the challenge of climate change. The cities and County of Marin have overcome some of these challenges by forming the Marin Climate and Energy Partnership (MCEP) to share resources and expertise, and jointly hire a dedicated staff person to work with jurisdictions on building their in-house climate protection capabilities.
Program Highlights

* MCEP is a public sector partnership among the 11 Marin cities, Marin County, the Transportation Authority of Marin, and the Marin Municipal Water District.
* By working collaboratively MCEP participants have been able to leverage public resources as well as attract additional private funding from the Air District and the Marin Community Foundation.
* The Marin General Services Authority, a joint powers authority, acts as the fiscal agent for the MCEP.
* To date, the MCEP has worked on construction and demolition waste recycling ordinances, green building ordinances, an electric vehicle transition plan, and energy efficiency retrofits in government buildings.

Lessons Learned

* Be patient with GHG inventory and climate action plan development, these often progress slowly, but are none-the-less important tools in keeping the momentum behind local climate protection efforts.
* Striking a balance between fast payback measures such as energy efficiency in municipal operations, and larger scale, longer payback, community wide measures is important to move climate protection efforts forward.
* Elected level leadership is essential to drive more politically challenging efforts, like PACE programs and community choice aggregation.

Resources To Learn More

* Marin GSA page (includes MCEP progress reports)
* The City of San Rafael’s Green Initiatives Page (includes green building resources)

The Rest of the Story…

With two medium-sized cities and nine small towns, Marin jurisdictions had been struggling for several years to find adequate resources to complete GHG inventories and begin writing climate action plans. The idea of establishing a collaborative network of local governments to help move local climate protection forward in Marin was first conceived in discussions between representatives of the Marin Municipal Water District, the Marin Community Foundation and a private energy/climate consultant.

In 2007 the option of joining the MCEP was presented to Marin jurisdictions and resulted in all 11 Marin cities, Marin County, the Transportation Authority of Marin, and the Marin Municipal Water District participating in the partnership. Securing the participation of the Transportation Authority was particularly significant for the group since 62% of countywide GHG emissions in Marin come from the transportation sector, and many of the big options for reducing transportation-related emissions are best served by a regional approach.

In 2008, with the help of a $75,000 grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, MCEP took an important step forward by establishing a new dedicated Climate Protection Director position to help assess project priorities and work with partners on an as-needed basis. During the first year of the effort, MCEP participants worked with ICLEI to conduct GHG inventories and came together to develop a set of realistic priorities.

In addition to municipal energy efficiency work, the partnership decided to pursue some countywide initiatives like developing an aggressive model green building ordinance to be adopted in each Marin Community, and establishing the development of electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure as a component of Marin’s transportation planning. The group has also turned its attention to PACE financing, support of Marin Clean Energy, environmentally preferable purchasing, and construction and demolition ordinances.

The City of San Rafael led the development of the model green building ordinance for the group, and key to that work was the establishment of a high level task force, called Marin Green Building Energy Retrofit and Solar Transformation (Marin Green BERST), made up of elected and appointed officials from each of the MCEP jurisdictions. Currently three of the 11 governments have adopted the green building ordinance and the majority of the remaining jurisdictions are in the process of adopting it. The model green building ordinance is one of the most aggressive ordinances of its kind in the country, and it is significantly more comprehensive than the new statewide CALGreen building standards. Both the green building work and the EV work have led to additional funding for the MCEP from the Marin Community Foundation.

Some of the ideas that were initially discussed by the partnership, such as the electric vehicle transition plan, may have been out of reach for individual small local governments, had they not been part of a collaborative effort. Two years later however, with the multi-jurisdictional approach in place, even Marin’s small towns like Belvedere are working to install electric vehicle charging stations.

As a participant in MCEP partners agree to pay dues of $2,000 a year, and on a rotating basis provide a staff person to serve as chair of the group. The MCEP Chairperson is a 1-year position, tasked with handling logistics for the monthly meetings and other administrative tasks. Felicia Wheaton, a planner from the City of Belvedere who served as the first MCEP Chairperson, estimated that she spent on average 4-8 hours a month on these tasks in addition to her regular job duties. Ms. Wheaton further reported that participating in the partnership has helped local government staff with no previous climate protection experience gain confidence with some of the technical aspects of climate protection, like GHG accounting, making it easier to report back to council.

Currently, MCEP participants are working to complete Climate Action Plans and the group has transitioned its staff position from Climate Protection Director to Sustainability Coordinator, a part time position, with more managerial responsibilities than the previous position. MCEP continues to evolve but ultimately having this collaborative approach in place will make it easier for Marin to fast track big regional efforts that will be necessary to adequately progress in addressing climate change.

Case Story provided by BAAQMD, July 2010

Friday, August 06, 2010

Blog #46 Marin Clean Energy Recognized by the EPA

The following press release was released by Mary Simms of the U.S. EPA:

San Francisco Bay Area Municipalities Get Thumbs Up from the
Federal Government for Fighting Climate Change
U.S. EPA recognizes Marin, Santa Cruz for nearly
50 Million hours of green power use

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced that Northern California based Marin Energy Authority will for the first time appear on EPA’s Top 20 list of the largest local government green power purchasers nationwide (ranked as No. 13). Equally impressive, the City of Santa Cruz’s Wastewater Treatment Facility will for the first time appear on EPA’s Top 20 list of partners generating and consuming the most green power on-site (ranked as No. 17).

Green power is generated from a subset of renewable resources such as solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, biomass and low-impact hydro. Green power sources produce electricity with an environmental profile superior to conventional power technologies and produce no human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. Purchases of green power also help accelerate the development of new renewable energy capacity nationwide.

“EPA’s announcement underscores the vital local efforts to move beyond traditional sources of electricity generation in order to fight climate change and support clean energy alternatives,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Administrator for the Pacific Southwest region. “By using and purchasing green power, these leaders are expanding America’s renewable energy portfolio while significantly benefiting the environment.”

The Marin Energy Authority is purchasing more than 42 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually from Shell Energy North America, enough to meet 25 percent of the electricity use for its communities in Marin County. This is equivalent to avoiding the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of nearly 6,000 passenger vehicles per year or the CO2 emissions from the electricity use of nearly 4,000 average American homes annually.

The City of Santa Cruz’s wastewater treatment facility is generating nearly 5 million kWh of green power annually from an on-site solar and biogas system, which is enough green power to meet 39 percent of the organization's electricity use. On-site green power is deployed directly on energy users’ facilities rather than at central power plants. This is equivalent to avoiding the CO2 emissions of more than 600 passenger vehicles per year or the CO2 emissions from the electricity use of more than 400 average American homes annually.

The Green Power Partnership is a voluntary program that encourages organizations to buy green power as a way to reduce the environmental impacts associated with conventional electricity use. The Partnership currently has more than 1,200 Partner organizations voluntarily purchasing billions of kilowatt-hours of green power annually. Partners include a wide variety of leading organizations such as Fortune 500 companies, small and medium sized businesses, local, state, and federal governments, and colleges and universities. For additional information, please visit: www.epa.gov/greenpower.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Blog #45 Council Places One Year Moratorium on Deployment of Smart Meters

The Town Council unanimously passed an urgency ordinance on August 4, 2010 that places a one year moratorium on the deployment of smart meters in Fairfax. PG&E representatives were also present at the Council meeting and told the Council that they would voluntarily halt the deployment of the controversial smart meters in Fairfax immediately. PG&E also promised to hold several community meetings so that they could hear the concerns and questions from residents and businesses and then respond to those questions and concerns. See entire text below:

Fourteen persons addressed the Council on the smart meter ordinance and all expressed concerns about the health effects of exposure to the meters and also had concerns about the privacy of the data stored in the meters. Nearly all of the speakers requested a one year moratorium on the deployment of the meters which is in the ordinance. Other issues regarding accuracy of the meters and other forms of smart grids that could be more cost effective were also discussed. The Town and PG&E will be setting up community meetings in the near future to further discuss the smart meters.

Other actions taken at the Regular Meeting on August 4, 2010:

• Received certification as the second Cittaslow town in the United States. Cittaslow means “slow city” in Italian where the Cittaslow concept originated. Cittaslow International selected Fairfax for meeting their manifesto which states: “We are looking for towns and cities animated by people eager to rediscover the best of the past, with a wealth of squares, theaters, workshops, cafes, restaurants, places of worship, unspoiled countryside and interesting artisans, where people still live in harmony with the slow, benevolent turning of the seasons, enjoying authentic products respectful of health and local flavors, and the spontaneity of ancient custom”.

• Appointed Bruce Killen to serve a three-year term on the Volunteer Board.

• Approved the release of plans and specifications for the Tennis Court Bank Stabilization Project and Peri Park Pedestrian Bridge Replacement Project

• Adopted a Resolution honoring Senior Maintenance Worker Jack Adams on the occasion of his retirement after serving 29 years in the Public Works Department with the Town of Fairfax. Jack truly is a “jack of all trades” and will be sorely missed by the staff and the community.

• Discussed the proposed changes to the Master Fee Schedule and after some discussion voted to continue the item to the September 1, 2010 Council meeting where all five members will be present.

• Discussed the proposed Town Budget for FY 2010/11 and reviewed the staff report regarding recommendations on how to balance the budget and reviewed recommendations from the Town Manager on staff reorganization. The Council took no action as they are awaiting the financial audit for FY 2008/09 which will be available before the next Council meeting.

• Accepted the Final Report of the Parkade Area Circulation Study.

• Renamed the Solid Waste Committee the Zero Waste Committee and expressed that the focus of the committee will change to achieving our zero waste goals as previously adopted by the Council.