Outlined on Wednesday evening at a joint City Council and Planning Commission meeting were a number of seemingly strong and bold initiatives including stronger green policies for redevelopment projects and Stephen Souza’s “pre-written green manifesto ranging from cleaner air and water to environmentally sound “carpet systems” and avoiding “migratory bird collisions.”
As I say, all of this sounds good, but perhaps we ought to review a little track record of the City of Davis in this area.
One of the signature projects of a “green” Davis in the last 25 plus years was the 1980 construction of a solar panel heating complex in the Davis Community Park.
In 2004, twenty-four years after the project was built, Tim Townsend, a mechanical engineer specializing in solar power, went before the Davis City Council and informed them that in fact, the solar panels do not work and have never worked. The following is from the minutes of the March 16, 2004 City Council meeting:
“Tim Townsend questioned the usefulness of the city’s largest solar panel at Community Park pool. He alleged that the solar panel does not work and has never worked. He reported that he has spoken to city staff and has not received a satisfactory response other than a statement that it would be too costly to remove. He stated solar panels should be a matter of civic pride and everyone that visits Community Park is lead to believe that the panels actually work. He asked that Council consider removing the panels”
It was only at this point that Bob Weir began to study the problem. At the November 29, 2004 City Council Meeting Weir and Donna Silva, Parks and Community Services Director came back with a Capital Improvement Program to replace the non-functioning solar hot-water heating system at Community Park. This was projected to cost $41,000 in addition to over $100,000 (in 1980 dollars) spent on the initial project.
That report reads:
“Over time the system had several significant operational problems that facilities personnel were never able to overcome. Basically there were problems with the temperature control of the facility as well as repeated problems with leaking connections. For these reasons, many years ago, the system was taken out of service and a conventional water heating system was installed for the pool.”
Of course, what this report did not mention was the initial cost of the solar panel project nor does it mention that this project was often included on city brochures advertising the City of Davis as the progressive and environmentally friendly mecca.
I harken back to this failed project of years past, because in many ways the current proposals represent a continuation of those types of follies. The biggest example is putting the new Target in a LEED certified building.
From Thursday’s Davis Enterprise:
“The city’s Natural Resources Commission is expected to receive a report based on the nonprofit Build it Green program, a points system that tracks green and sustainable features built into a home.
Build it Green’s cousin, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a voluntary national standard for high-performance, sustainable buildings. It has focused mostly on commercial buildings, such as the Target slated to be built on Second Street near Mace Boulevard. The LEED standards also will be considered for implementation.”
The problem with the “green manifesto” is the same problem as exists with a LEED cerfied Target Building–you are doing window dressing environmentalism to cover up for city planning policies that at the whole are unstainable into the future and inherently environmentally unfriendly. Who cares if we place a Target in a LEED Building if we contribute to the carbon footprint that Target is leaving on this earth? Who cares if we are going to build with new and greener standards if we continue to grow and develop in inefficient and non-sustainable manners. If our future growth leads to the degredation of environmental resources such as water that we will have to siphon out of the Sacramento River.
The Council majority of Souza-Saylor-Asmundson are the people who bring us a LEED-cerfitied Target building and were the same people who brought us the Covell Village development project that would have put a huge strain on existing resources including water, that will increasingly be a huge issue. And yet they want us to believe they are environmentalists? Why because they can certify buildings as they build on open space, drain wetlands, and develop farm land? Because not one of them acknowledged that Covell Village would have been a mistake? That even last year, Asmundson running for reelection claimed that the problem with Covell Village was their failure to explain it properly to the voters?
If Davis wants to be a green city by actual behavior rather than by visible but overall unuseful means, then we need to start planning a city that will be environmentally responsible and not just in our own backyards, but also at the regional and a global level and none of these policies seem geared toward that realization.
—Doug Paul Davis reporting