Staff is Dancing the Wood Smoke Waltz Again

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woodburningBy Alan Pryor

On the City Council agenda consent calendar for tonight’s meeting, Staff is recommending that Council reapprove and amend last year’s expired wood burning ordinance that was effective from last November 1, 2012 through February 1, 2013.

That ordinance, the first wood burning ordinance in Davis’ history, prohibited wood burning on those days otherwise designated by the Yolo Solano Air Quality Management District as voluntary “Don’t Light Tonight” alert days. Exceptions were allowed in cases of power failure, economic hardship, and the lack of alternative gas or electric heating sources. Residents burning in EPA Phase II-approved wood or pellet stoves or burning manufactured wood logs were also exempt. Last year, there were only 16 days when burning was so restricted out of the 120-day wood burning season – or less than 10% of the days.

The surprising aspect of this consent calendar item developed and proposed by Staff is that Council had scheduled September 24th for them to consider the Natural Resource Commission’s (NRC) most recently recommended wood burning ordinance for the upcoming winter. These recommendations were unanimously approved by the NRC on July 22 and essentially propose that any future wood burning regulations in Davis instead be on a complaint-based “nuisance” basis – much like Davis’ existing noise ordinance.

So what happens if Council approves Staff’s proposed wood smoke ordinance on tonight’s consent calendar without any discussion or deliberation and then they additionally approve the NRC-recommended ordinance when it is fully agendized 2 weeks later? Well, according to Staff’s analysis, if that occurred Council would decline to have a 2nd hearing of the first ordinance passed tonight which would render it not effective. Then they would instead schedule a new 2nd hearing for the NRC-recommend ordinance after which it would then be effective 30 days later.

If at this time you are scratching your head in bewilderment as to why Staff would propose such a convoluted scheme to consider two completely different wood smoke ordinances on successive meetings, you would not be alone. Why not just consider both possible wood burning ordinances at once, as it would seemingly be the logical and most efficient way to deal with the matter?

Well, here is where Staff starts doing a dosey doe. According to Staff, “This measure is intended to ensure that wood smoke enforcement can begin with the start of the burn season. A full discussion on wood smoke and the Natural Resource Commission recommendation will be on the Council agenda on September 24. However, if an ordinance is introduced at that point, it would be November 8 at the earliest before it could take effect.”

Well, on the surface this approach certainly does seem to be proactive and protective of the good citizens of Davis. If Council approves Staff’s proposed ordinance tonight with no discussion or consideration, then Staff’s ordinance could take effect one week earlier (on November 1) than the NRC’s recommended ordinance according to Staff. Unfortunately, this is not true.

Staff is fully aware that either Staff’s or the NRC’s recommended wood-burning ordinances could be approved by Council at their September 24 meeting and still be in effect by November 1st. All that is required is for Council to designate the newly approved ordinance as an “urgency” ordinance. In fact, this was exactly what the Council did last year when they approved the prior wood burning ordinance 1 year ago.

So what is really going on here? What is Staff really trying to accomplish by proposing this complicated scheduling dance? Other members of the NRC have similar concerns.

On September 8, NRC Commissioner Ben Bourne wrote to Staff and other Commissioners protesting this attempt by Staff to pre-empt the NRC’s recommended ordinance.

In that memo, Mr. Bourne stated, “The unanimous decision among the Natural Resources Commissioners is that measures taken over the last several years to address the sensitivity of some community members to wood smoke have been largely ineffective at resolving the root cause of wood smoke related complaints. This includes the 2012/13 wood burning ordinance. The NRC Wood Smoke Subcommittee therefore put a significant amount of effort into drafting an ordinance which we feel will more effectively meet the needs of our community, and to do so before the start of the next burn season.

If the City Council accepts a staff recommendation to re-adopt the existing ordinance–in spite of the NRC’s re-draft and recommendation–then I believe we risk significant negative publicity when the ineffective ordinance is re-instated, and again when the Council takes up consideration of the NRC recommendation once the burn season is under way.

That memo was followed by another memo to Staff and NRC Commissioners written by Commissioner Matt Williams. He stated “…I concur with Ben’s original point, and believe that unless there are legal reasons that I am uninformed about, a gap with no ordinance would appear to be preferable to continuing an existing ordinance that the NRC members overwhelmingly stated was an ineffective, dare I say bad, ordinance.  The Wood Smoke Subcommittee took that clear, formalized statement by the NRC and formulated the new ordinance, which the NRC saw as a significant improvement.  Not knowing that events would play out the way they have, we didn’t take the step of formally taking a vote about whether no ordinance was preferable to the existing ordinance, but I suspect that if such a vote had actually been moved and seconded, it would have passed.”

Clearly, at least some on the NRC share a concern about Staff’s efforts in this matter.

I am personally concerned about Staff’s current proposal because in the past Staff has never, ever been supportive in any way of any of the NRC’s past efforts to investigate, develop, and promulgate meaningful, effective wood burning ordinances. Even as recently as last May, Staff recommended to the NRC that there be no wood burning restrictions at all during the upcoming 2013-2014 wood burning season. Staff made this recommendation to the NRC even before Staff had even received the 2012-2013 Analysis of Citizen Wood Smoke Complaints report from the NRC’s Wood Smoke subcommittee.

One of the means Staff has repeatedly used to delay Council consideration of matters approved by the NRC but not supported by Staff is by not forwarding recommendations and reports from the NRC to the Council in a timely manner.

Indeed, for the last 3 years Council has requested each fall that Staff get the NRC’s annual evaluation of wood smoke problems and recommendations to Council by last summer of the following year. This is so they can be considered by Council in a timely basis before the immediate onset of the wood burning season.

This specific time-based directive by Council to Staff has not yet been met by Staff even once. In fact, the reason last year’s wood smoke ordinance needed to be passed on an urgency basis last October was because Staff had failed to present materials to Council in a timely manner.

This year is now the 3rd straight year that the NRC has approved a recommendation for a wood smoke ordinance in July for forwarding to Council. Yet none of the information developed by the NRC this year has yet been forwarded to Council and the NRC’s recommendations were not initially even scheduled by Staff to be before Council at all this year.

Given this track record of Staff, I believe the interests of open government can be best served if Council does not approve Staff’s proposed wood smoke ordinance tonight without full and open discussion and deliberation. As such no action should be taken until Council can otherwise also fully consider the NRC-recommended ordinance in two weeks.

Next week an additional article will be submitted to the Vanguard that discusses the specifics of the NRC’s current recommendations for regulating wood smoke in Davis this upcoming wood burning season. It will also present the results of the Davis Wood Smoke Complaint Study conducted for the 3rd winter by the Wood Smoke Subcommittee of the NRC.

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43 thoughts on “Staff is Dancing the Wood Smoke Waltz Again”

  1. JustSaying

    You protest too much.

    Every study for years has shown minimal impact. Even the juiced up complaint report summaries reveal that a tiny number of homes are “affected.” These can be handled by simple neighbor-to-neighbor conversations and follow up letters from the city.

    Spend our money on education and notifications, not on unnecessary policing and enforcing something that can be handled voluntarily. If we just have to do something to reinforce our Progressive Cred, impose stove standards via building ordinances.

  2. alanpryor

    I agree that the number of serial burners and gross polluters is relatively small in Davis. But on the other hand, the NRC has heard from a umber of people of the years whose kids can’t play in their own backyards because their neighborhood is blanketed with smoke. Or from adults who generally cannot walk up and down their own streets at night because of a single near-by wood burner using an antiquated or inefficient fireplace.

    Occasionally, a wood burner will cooperate and reduce burning when approached by a neighbor. But more often than not as reported to the NRC, the wood burner will come up with a variety of reasons why they must or will keep burning – they need it to ward off the cold, it is someone else’s smoke being smelled, everybody else is doing it, etc., etc. and the burning continues unabated. This creates an absolutely unlivable and sometimes dangerous condition condition for some nearby neighbors – particularly those with asthma or other chronic respiratory or chronic condition.

    These people deserve clean air just like we all deserve clean water. All residents have a fundamental right to clean air free of their neighbor’s wood smoke just as we all deserve clean water without the City adding fluoride to it. And if some people just refuse to burn more cleanly, then their neighbors deserve some recourse

    I think the NRC has come up with the least onerous option possible whereby if someone is burning relatively cleanly and not adversely affecting any nearby neighbors, then that neighbor can burn anytime they like and there would be no violations under the ordinance proposed by the NRC. However, if a wood-burning neighbor is putting out visible emissions and the smoke is offensive or noxious to a nearby neighbor, then that wood burner is subject to a complaint filed by the affected neighbor. Seems reasonable to me…after all nobody would allow a old clunky car to sit running and belching exhaust smoke into a neighborhood for hours on end. Why should people be allowed to similarly pollute a neighborhood with wood smoke which is demonstrably higher in concentration of carcinogens and more immediately dangerous to health?

  3. Frankly

    I would like to propose that we ban people who work to try and ban freedoms that other people enjoy.

    This wood burning ban idea is the most asinine thing conjured up be the people owning a burning desire to control others, but lacking any skills other than political agitation.

    My wife has asthma. Our neighbor next door, and two right across the street have older-style wood-burning fireplaces. We spend time in a small mountain community where most people burn wood as their only heat source.

    My wife’s comment: “I love the smell of fireplaces in the winter.”

    The fact is that there is a lot more particulate matter in the air from surrounding farmland than there is from fireplace smoke.

    So, if we are going to agitate for all those residents that cannot spend time outside, we should start banning farming activities around us.

  4. Growth Izzue

    Frankly:
    [quote]I would like to propose that we ban people who work to try and ban freedoms that other people enjoy.
    [/quote]

    I second that. Where can I sign the petition?

  5. Matt Williams

    JS, I believe you are only hearing part of the story. NRC looked at what to do regarding wood smoke in a three step process. First, the results of the 2012-2013 season were reviewed. Second, the effectiveness of the existing ordinance was considered. In that process Staff recommended renewing the existing ordinance for the 2013-2014 burning season. Led by Chair Gene Wilson the NRC firmly and unequivocally stated that the 2012-2013 ordinance had been totally ineffective. Further, the NRC stated that the most important purpose of a wood smoke ordinance was to improve public health, and specifically the health of those citizens who have impaired respiratory health. The NRC voted 5-1 to reject Staff’s recommendation, with the reason being that the existing ordinance was worse than no ordinance at all. After that vote the wood smoke subcommittee took on the task of coming up with an alternative ordinance that is focused on exactly what you desire, that “These can be handled by simple neighbor-to-neighbor conversations and follow up letters from the city.”

    Making the process entirely voluntary ignores and abandons the public health realities of those Davis citizens who have impaired respiratory health. Therefore the revised program that NRC recommended provides a vehicle for reasonable dialogue between neighbors, and some comfort for those with impaired help that their health issues can not be simply ignored by a neighbor who is either tone deaf or a bully.

    I commend the members of the wood smoke subcommittee on their willingness to back down from an ordinance that was not working well (if at all) and come up with an alternative that is truly sensitive to the parameters of the problem.

  6. David M. Greenwald

    “My wife’s comment: “I love the smell of fireplaces in the winter.””

    Mine is, “honey close the window, I’m going to have an asthma attack.”

  7. alanpryor

    To Frankly and Growth Izzue – So it seems you’re saying that your freedom to pollute while enjoying your fireplace should trump someone else’ freedom to clean air around their house. I suppose the blessed freedoms you extol also extend to people who don’t want to drive clean burning vehicles and instead let their cars belch smoke up and down the road. Or what about the freedom of someone to light up a cigarette, pipe, or (gasp) a cigar right next to you or your kids in a restaurant? Whose freedom is more important then? Or how about someone’s freedom to just dump their trash wherever they like in toen – even if its right on the street in front of your own house. I guessing you also certainly defend a college student’s freedom to blast away their stereos or party at all hours of the night even though that would infringe on some else’s right to peace and quiet after hours.

    I find it ironic that most people who proclaim themselves to be freedom-loving really just mean they love their own freedoms. Very rarely does that love of freedom extend to others if those others’ activities infringe on the freedom-lovers ability to enjoy their own peace and quiet, clean air and water, or if someone else exercising their freedoms adversely affects the freedom-lovers lifestyle in any way. Funny how that works.

  8. alanpryor

    [quote]The fact is that there is a lot more particulate matter in the air from surrounding farmland than there is from fireplace smoke. [/quote]

    That is not true at all in the winter when people are burning their fire wood. The Sacramento, Bay Area, and Yolo Solano AQMDs and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District have all consistently found that urban wood smoke is by far the highest contributor to winter time air particulate matter and that ag dust emissions are almost nil in the winter. Of course, that ratio reverses in the summer months

  9. Frankly

    [i]Mine is, “honey close the window, I’m going to have an asthma attack.” [/i]

    The point is that the air is filled with particulate matter that is not from fireplace smoke, so why are you singling out fireplace smoke?

    One more point.

    Many of you that block growth and development, and scream that we cannot expand on ANY farm land, and demonstrate that we should all be denser and stacked on top of each other… are the same that demand they not be impacted AT ALL by the lifestyles of others.

    Do you even get the massive incongruity and hypocrisy of these positions? It is why I see them as irrational. It is like brains cannot do a full-circle analysis of cause and effect.

    Living in a super-dense living arrangement with a bunch of liberals that demand absolutely no neighbor impacts sounds like the absolute worst case.

    David, if you lived in Sacramento in a neighborhood where could afford a house on some land, your neighbor’s smoke and noise would not be an issue for you.

  10. Frankly

    JS: [i]Spend our money on education and notifications, not on unnecessary policing and enforcing something that can be handled voluntarily. If we just have to do something to reinforce our Progressive Cred, impose stove standards via building ordinances.[/i]

    Absolutely agree.

  11. JustSaying

    “Led by Chair Gene Wilson the NRC firmly and unequivocally stated that the 2012-2013 ordinance had been totally ineffective.”

    “But more often than not as reported to the NRC, the wood burner will come up with a variety of reasons why they must or will keep burning – they need it to ward off the cold, it is someone else’s smoke being smelled, everybody else is doing it, etc., etc. and the burning continues unabated.”

    I’d be interested in reading the data behind these statements. Matt and Alan, please provide the links.

  12. Matt Williams

    JS, I was absent at the May meeting where Staff presented the results. You will need to contact Staff to get the results. The Meeting Minutes text is as follows

    [i]”Receive 2012-13 Mandatory Wood Burning Season Recap

    Staff presented data from the 2012-13 Mandatory program implementation effort. YSAQMD provided overview of their 2012-13 voluntary program including burn days and program participation. Key points: Achieving Federal Air Quality Attainment with PM2.5 @25 standard is main objective, outreach helps if both City and AQMD use same 25 standard, enviro-flash enrollment flat, Davis monitoring site on UC Davis campus.

    Public Comment: None.

    Next Update: Bring 2013-14 wood burning season policy choices to NRC for consideration at June NRC meeting.” [/i]

    [url]http://city-council.cityofdavis.org/Contents/Item/Display/1228[/url]

  13. alanpryor

    [quote]I’d be interested in reading the data behind these statements. Matt and Alan, please provide the links. [/quote]

    The complete data will be provided in an article about the NRC’s wood-burning recommendations to be submitted to the Vanguard next week.

  14. Davis Enophile

    The new ordinance proposal moves the threshold of noncompliance considerably. The existing ordinance sets the threshold objectively based on regional air quality forecasts. If air quality is forecast to exceed a PM threshold (mind you, a threshold with scientific backing), no burning in certain devices. The new proposal drops that entirely, and allows a neighbor within 300 feet to define the threshold by whatever metric they desire. It’s totaly subjective – “I see smoke from my neighbors chimney while I remain indoors out of the rain, and I define that as a nuisance. I shall report my neighbor to the City, and hope the police show up this time”.

    Alan, City staff have done you a favor by prompting the Council to continue an existing ordinance.

  15. alanpryor

    [quote]The existing ordinance sets the threshold objectively based on regional air quality forecasts[/quote].

    True – But eliminating wood burning on high regional PM days does nothing for the other 90% of the days when Don’t Light Tonight alerts are not called. Further, scientifically objective dispersion modeling and analysis of complaints (all reviewed by UCD atmospheric scientists) show that regional air quality has nothing to do with whether someone’s wood burning is producing noxious and unhealthy wood smoke exposures to the closest neighbor’s. That is the nearest neighbor impacts that Council specifically instructed Staff and the NRC to try to address.

    [quote]City staff have done you a favor by prompting the Council to continue an existing ordinance[/quote]

    While I don’t fault Staff for promoting an ordinance that requires as little work as possible on their part, by Staff’s own admission it is designed only to moderate regional air quality and not address nearest neighbor impacts. There are also other problems with the old ordinance: 1)It is completely ineffective in protecting citizens from their neighbors wood smoke on the 90%+ of days on which alerts are not called, and 2) it is widely ignored by many wood-burners.

  16. Frankly

    [i]It is completely ineffective in [b]protecting citizens from their neighbors wood smoke[/b][/i]

    Here that people. We need to protect you from other’s wood smoke.

    What will you do when you go camping?

    We should outlaw forest fire too.

    No going to any restaurant where there is wood fired pizza ovens.

    That is the new narrative from these environmental do-gooders. Wood smoke is bad for you… just like second-hand cigarette smoke.

    Tree pollen about kills me every year. I want to ban all trees in my neighborhood. Especially any trees in my neighbor’s yard.

    I get the sense that Davis has to deal with a larger percentage of these types of issues because we have a higher percentage of residents with a lot of time on their hands for one reason or another, and they stopped attending their Al-Anon meetings to deal with their obsession problems.

  17. JustSaying

    “”Led by Chair Gene Wilson the NRC firmly and unequivocally stated that the 2012-2013 ordinance had been totally ineffective.”

    Matt, the link you provided says the same thing as you noted (just an agenda item). I’m interested in how you’ve quoted Gene Wilson and the NRC “firmly and unequivocally stated…(the ordinance) had been totally ineffective.”

    The NRC is notorious for exaggeration and overstatement and for beating a dead horse–discounting all conflicting science and other arguments–until the dead horse weakly breathes again.

    So, here we are, back again, saying don’t pay attention to carefully drawn regional air quality district actions, claiming the existing ordinance was “totally ineffective” and arguing that most of the few residents targeted by the tiny number of complainers are uncaring liars and, therefore, we should criminalize wood burning.

    So, I await some detail attempting to back up these obvious exaggerations.

  18. David M. Greenwald

    “The NRC is notorious for exaggeration and overstatement and for beating a dead horse”

    JS, Can you provide me an example where the [b]NRC[/b] has exaggerated or overstaed a claim?

  19. alanpryor

    [quote]What will you do when you go camping? We should outlaw forest fire too[/quote]

    It sounds like you’ll be unpleasantly surprised to know that almost all National Parks (including Yosemite) already prohibit campfires in campgrounds because of wood smoke pollution. They are otherwise prohibited in most other National Park wilderness areas because idiots start forest fires with them. You have heard that the Yosemite fire was started by a hunter’s illegal fire, right?

    [quote]No going to any restaurant where there is wood fired pizza ovens.[/quote]

    Most restaurants with grills already have to install smoke capture devices to cut down on pollution whether it bothers anyone or not. The NRC-recommended ordinance only addresses residential wood burning if it causes grief to a nearby neighbor. And it exempts all EPA Phase II wood and pellet stoves. Would you otherwise prefer that we require all residential wood burners to have to install smoke capture devices like restaurants?

    [quote]That is the new narrative from these environmental do-gooders. Wood smoke is bad for you… just like second-hand cigarette smoke.[/quote]

    The toxicity and carcinogenicity of wood smoke has already been conclusively and objectively proven to be far worse than 2nd hand smoke.

    [quote]…we have a higher percentage of residents with a lot of time on their hands for one reason or another, and they stopped attending their Al-Anon meetings to deal with their obsession problems. [/quote]

    Wow…this seems way over the top…even for you…Moderator, please!

  20. Frankly

    [i]It sounds like you’ll be unpleasantly surprised to know that almost all National Parks (including Yosemite) already prohibit campfires in campgrounds because of wood smoke pollution.[/i]

    No, some do because of fire concerns, and this increases in dry times, but few do because of “wood smoke pollution”. Don’t be silly.

    [i]Most restaurants with grills already have to install smoke capture devices[/i]

    Most? How about some. Certainly not all.

    [i]The toxicity and carcinogenicity of wood smoke has already been conclusively and objectively proven to be far worse than 2nd hand smoke. [/i]

    Here we go. People, fear the wood smoke. It will kill you if it even touches you.

    [i]Wow…this seems way over the top…even for you…Moderator, please! [/i]

    See previous.

    And please no personal attacks! Do like me and attack generally.

    Honestly and seriously though… it really does seem like an obsession problem. Really? Wood smoke? That is a problem worth spending all this time and effort on? In consideration of a long list of problems and opportunities we should be addressing, are you really serious that this should be anywhere near the top of the list? I don’t even think it belongs on the list, but it is certainly very small potatoes in consideration of everything else. Same with plastic bags.

  21. David M. Greenwald

    Frankly: I really wish you would at least understand that for some people it’s a huge problem. We can disagree on the best way to solve it. BTW, this isn’t a ban on wood burning, it’s a few days a year where there are restrictions – that kind of negates your peripheral analogical arguments.

  22. Frankly

    Sure David, but it is a step in the direction of a complete ban… something that those on this crusade will never stop until it is achieved.

    I do get that it is a problem for some people. But their problems are in direct conflict with others that would have a problem not being able to have a wood burning fire. We are talking about two conflicting rights. One is the assumed right to breath smoke free air, and other is the assumed right to have a wood burning fire in a fireplace on cold days.

    You can live in Arizona and Southern CA where there are few days you would ever want/need a fire. You could live in Woodland or West Sacramento where you would have much greater separation between homes so that fireplace smoke would not concentrate as much. You could live in a city that already bans wood fires. If you are that asthmatic, living in this valley is already problematic given the low air quality numbers.

    But, here is how a real progressive city might handle this. Come up with a local fund and program to help residents retrofit all existing wood-burning fireplaces to EPA Phase II alternatives. Wait… we can’t do that. We have given away all of our progressive cause money to the public employee unions to keep those Democrats in power.

    So, instead we take the stupid, poor and lazy approach to just start banning days… and then more days… and eventually all days.

    My real reason for pushing back on this is that backyard BBQs and smokers are next.

    Come on David… that is why we call you a progressive. You will always want your brand of progress. We will ban a few days, and then you will be back demanding more.

    Since Davis progressives seem to laud those northern Europeans for everything they do, I thought you might be interested in the following:
    [quote]Now two Danish studies add a couple of nuances to the debate about how dangerous wood smoke actually is.

    The new studies show that if people are exposed to large amounts of wood smoke for three hours, it is certainly uncomfortable and it irritates the lungs, but it has no long-term effect on the lungs’ ability to function, or on our cells or any of our other bodily functions.

    “We only observed some very subtle changes in the airways after three hours’ exposure, and the otherwise high concentration we used was not enough to trigger severe symptoms in healthy people. Perhaps the smoke would trigger symptoms in asthmatics, but this was outside the scope of this particular study,” says Torben Sigsgaard, a professor at Aarhus University’s Department of Public Health – Institute of Environmental and Occupational Medicine.

    Short-term exposure has no effect on the body
    Sigsgaard and his colleagues have studied the airways in 20 people, who were exposed to either clean air, a few particles or many particles from wood smoke, while in sitting in an enclosed room.

    According to Loft, the high concentration of particles used in the study is higher than what you would be exposed to if you went for a walk on a cold day and your neighbours are firing up their wood-burning stoves.

    “The concentration we used can certainly be felt in the airways. The concentration is higher than what you would normally come across, unless your oven is broken, the chimney is malfunctioning or you have an open fireplace indoors,” he says.[/quote]
    Note that these Nordic countries burn a lot of wood, and there is often a gray haze of wood smoke surrounding entire towns during the winter.

  23. David M. Greenwald

    “Sure David, but it is a step in the direction of a complete ban… something that those on this crusade will never stop until it is achieved.”

    I’m not sure there is data to support the need for doing so. The wind is really a critical factor at least in the literature I have read. I’m not reluctant to support the belief that we should not enact smart policies decisions out of fear that someone will push them too far in the future.

  24. JustSaying

    [quote]“JS, Can you provide me an example where the NRC has exaggerated or overstated a claim?”[/quote]Are you serious? Please check my post just above yours for a couple, although Alan and Matt still have an opportunity to back up their most recent claims.

    allanpryor has been called for his exaggerations (and worse) on your own site many times, including by a distinguished UCD professor who actually had data in a field which he was an expert.

    I don’t have time to go back over the many posts regarding NRC recommendations to the council in the last two years. I’ll bet you have a better access to refresh your memory with a few exaggerations. If not, just accept my “in my opinion” amendment.

    Better that you do a summary of the ordinances and policies that have been adopted thanks to the NRC recently. That way, you might forestall calls to reconstitute or eliminate the NRC.

  25. Davis Enophile

    Just Saying

    Some of the information you are looking for is in the woodsmoke subcommitte report found in the NRC July Agenda.

    [url]http://city-council.cityofdavis.org/commissions/natural-resources-commission/agenda—july-2013[/url]

    This is what the NRC is proposing:

    Delete the objective threshold (PM 2.5 forecast from the AQMD) for when wood can be burned during the wood burning season. Replace this objective threshold with a totally subjective threshold of what an individual considers a nuisance or annoyance.

    The NRC report states in its justification section:

    [quote]In summary,
     If a Davis citizen in the place of their normal habitation is within 300 ft of a non-EPA compliant or pellet wood burning smoke source; and
     That citizen complains that they are adversely affected by wood smoke and can identify that wood burning source by visible smoke emissions from an identified chimney, then
     Then wood smoke source is considered to constitute a public nuisance or health hazard and in violation of this proposed municipal code.[/quote]

    This threshold is totally rediculous. One doesn’t even have to breath wood smoke to find it a nuisance and determine their neighbor in violation of the ordinance. There is nothing objective about this.

  26. Davis Enophile

    [quote]BTW, this isn’t a ban on wood burning, it’s a few days a year where there are restrictions [/quote]

    David. I think you are confusing last years ordinance with what the NRC is proposing. This is a ban on wood burning for anyone living next to a neigbor that subjectively and individually judges their neighbors burning to be a nuisance. This subjective threshold is in effect for the entire wood burning season – November to March.

    It was last years ordinance that limited the days of no burning to when objective modeling forecast ambient particulate levels to exceed an actual regulatory threshold.

  27. Davis Enophile

    Anyone so annoyed with their neighbor, and feels they have a justifiable nuisance condition at their doorstep, should just hire a lawyer to sue their neighbor over the nuisance. Eight individuals in a city of over 60,000 do not require an ordinance to settle their disputes with their neighbors.

    [url]http://public-works.cityofdavis.org/city-of-davis-wood-burning-program/wood-burning-season-2012-13-policy-data-summary[/url]

  28. JustSaying

    [quote]“Yes, I’m serious. First of all, Alan Pryor is not the NRC. Second, he wasn’t even on the NRC until the last year or so.”[/quote] I’m talking about Alan Pryor and his role speaking for and advancing causes through the NRC for the last couple years, even before he became a member. Of course, he’s not “the NRC.”

    I’m sure you’re not just quibbling about the expression, “the NRC.” The NRC is made up of people, some of whom express opinions about bag bans, wood-burning bans, and other environmental issues.

    The people on the NRC also are responsible for the information the NRC reports to the council. If you haven’t seen hyperbole and selective information coming out of the NRC and its members, I can’t help you by quoting the [i]Vanguard[/i].

    I think you might be a little generous when you agree with NRC proposals, just as I might be a little intolerant when I disagree with their approach.

    I just think more environmental improvement would be accomplished if the NRC would be less strident and prone to police actions and look for voluntary, less expensive solutions and education.

    “Think Globally, Act Locally” principally was a call to voluntary individual actions–not an endorsement of a mini police [s]state[/s] city.

  29. JustSaying

    Before I give up on this topic, let me assure you that I believe that everyone on the NRC is dedicated, knowledgeable and well-meaning and thinks they’re right and acting appropriately. Nothing personal, Alan or your colleagues. And, I appreciate the time and effort offered by those who serve in our city government, whether I agree with individual actions or not.

  30. Matt Williams

    Frankly said . . .

    [i]”Sure David, but it is a step in the direction of a complete ban… something that those on this crusade will never stop until it is achieved.”[/i]

    Actually Frankly you need to look at the historical timeline of this issue over the past two years. The NRC recommendation is a significant step [u]in the opposite direction from a complete ban[/u]. After review of the prior burning season data it was clear to five of the six voting members of the NRC present, that the ban approach of the existing ordinance had not worked, and that a less invasive approach that is specifically targeted at public health consequences is appropriate. I don’t see how a complete ban is even vaguely on the horizon.

  31. JustSaying

    “Actually Frankly you need to look at the historical timeline of this issue over the past two years.”

    The reason the NRC is backing away is due to continuing blowback from its own original proposals. The only history that is informative is the first try. I don’t think you can give too much credit to the NRC for its more moderate attempt now. “Not working” should be reason enough to dump this entirely.

    I have little doubt that the present NRC would be going the other direction if the members thought it were possible politically. And, the nose will be under the tent until it’s chopped off.

  32. Matt Williams

    JustSaying said . . .

    [I]”Matt, the link you provided says the same thing as you noted (just an agenda item). I’m interested in how you’ve quoted Gene Wilson and the NRC “firmly and unequivocally stated…(the ordinance) had been totally ineffective.”

    The NRC is notorious for exaggeration and overstatement and for beating a dead horse–discounting all conflicting science and other arguments–until the dead horse weakly breathes again.

    So, here we are, back again, saying don’t pay attention to carefully drawn regional air quality district actions, claiming the existing ordinance was “totally ineffective” and arguing that most of the few residents targeted by the tiny number of complainers are uncaring liars and, therefore, we should criminalize wood burning.

    So, I await some detail attempting to back up these obvious exaggerations.”[/i]

    JS, you and I appear to be talking past one another. So rather than continue that, let me ask you, “What do you see as the ideal solution?” Based on your answer to that question we may be able to connect in our comments.

  33. davisite2

    In summary,
     If a Davis citizen in the place of their normal habitation is within 300 ft of a non-EPA compliant or pellet wood burning smoke source; and
     That citizen complains that they are adversely affected by wood smoke and can identify that wood burning source by visible smoke emissions from an identified chimney, then
     Then wood smoke source is considered to constitute a public nuisance or health hazard and in violation of this proposed municipal code.

    As summarized above, this is am untenable, subjective determination, declaring the “wood-burner” in violation of the ordinance. Likening this to the noise nuisance ordinance, as I remember it, decibel levels are needed when the complaint is vigorously challenged by the accused. While a complaint can be subjective, ordinance violation must be based on non-subjective facts. Sorting out these subjectively determined potential ordinance violations will be a “nightmare” for the city,

  34. JustSaying

    Matt, here’s my proposal. Continue with the regional programs and notifications. Augment these with city education and coordination programs. Deal with the minuscule number of citizens who are unable to successfully deal with their own neighbor on a case by case basis. None of these approaches requires any additional city ordinances that would increase days covered, provide policing, etc. I also would support added building ordinance standards requiring EPA’s best fireplaces and stoves as part of new construction just as we do for other state of the art environmental advances.

  35. Matt Williams

    JS, serious question, “Have you seen the NRC recommended ordinance?” The reason I ask is that my understanding of what we passed as a replacement of the current ordinance is very much in alignment with what you have laid out.

    The only real difference between what you propose and what NRC proposed is the formalization of what you described with the words, [i]”Deal with the minuscule number of citizens who are unable to successfully deal with their own neighbor on a case by case basis.”[/i]

    davisite2’s post does a pretty good job of describing what has been laid out as the criteria for neighbors to police themselves. The absolute only time that the City would get involved would be in situations where one neighbor has pointed out to the other neighbor that they are contributing to the compromising of public health. If the neighbors can’t work things out amongst themselves, then the aggrieved party will reach out to the City to help mediate the dispute, with the criteria for evaluating the dispute clearly defined.

    davisite2 has complained that the criteria are an untenable, subjective determination for declaring the “wood-burner” in violation of the public health. The question I pose to davisite2 is, “How do you expect a person with compromised health who is being adversely affected by wood smoke to come up with a tenable, non-subjective determination? It is all welol and good to complain about a situation, but much harder to come up with a better alternative solution. So davisite2, what is your “better solution?”

  36. JustSaying

    “The absolute only time that the City would get involved would be in situations where one neighbor has pointed out to the other neighbor that they are contributing to the compromising of public health. If the neighbors can’t work things out amongst themselves, then the aggrieved party will reach out to the City to help mediate the dispute, with the criteria for evaluating the dispute clearly defined..

    Of course, this is what it comes down to. You’ve set up an unnecessary avenue for the city to join in on one side by making the other a violator of a new, unneeded law of broad application.

    As long as the the city does not make up rules that makes one party in violation of a new ordinance in order to establish that one of the parties is a winner because the other is “compromising public health” by “clearly defining” some contested criteria, I’m okay. A “better alternative” solution is to leave the the issue as it is.

    I suspect we’ll go through the same NRC strategy of rehashing and renaming the “ban” something more pleasant until a dozen CALPRIG students show up at council to parrot questionable assertions and the council finally gives in.

  37. davisite2

    ” Then wood smoke source is considered to constitute a public nuisance or health hazard and in violation of this proposed municipal code.”

    If this summary statement is accurate, the “violator” is violating a municipal code based solely on the subjective claims of the “victim” and this is untenable. My recommendation.. keep the code as is and add the opportunity for involving the city, much like the noise ordinance, if the issue cannot be resolved between the parties. This would require that the city gather data on the smoke pollution and come up with some objective criteria that declares the wood-burner in violation. An added “wrinkle” would be what responsibility a party,if suffering from an intense smoke sensitivity, has to know what the neighbor is doing,with regard to wood-burning, when they make their decision to move next to a “wood-burner”.

  38. Matt Williams

    davisite2, the way the restructured/reworded/refocused ordinance was presented to the members of the NRC was exactly what you have described, a parallel to the noise ordinance, where if a citizen/resident’s healt was being compromised and the two involved parties couldn’t come to a mutual resolution, then the opportunity for involving the city is there with dispute resolution criteria that are not any more subjective than the noise nuisance ordinance criteria.

    BTW, do you think that there should be an added “wrinkle” to the noise nuisance ordinance that addresses the responsibility a party,if suffering from an aversion to noise, has to know what the neighbor is doing, with regard to noise-making, when they make their decision to move next to a “noise-maker”?

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