Happy New Year

Councilmember Susan Wengraf   
Councilmember Susan Wengraf

Newsletter #42


January, 2015  

Dear Friends and Neighbors,


    I tend to be an optimist, so with the start of the new year, I am looking forward to many good things happening here in Berkeley.  For starters I predict we will see more streets paved than in 2014, the first phase of rehabilitating our parks (thanks to voters for passing Measure F), the start of a discussion about undergrounding utilities on our major streets throughout the city, a new bookstore at the corner of Shattuck and Vine, and major resources coming into our downtown, as well as a new and exciting commercial district blossoming on Gilman Street.


    I will be focusing my attention on making Berkeley a safer place: reducing property crimes, reducing wildfire and earthquake hazards, and ways to make it safer to bicycle, walk and drive.   


    I look forward to serving as your representative on the City Council for at least another two years.  I welcome your ideas and suggestions for how to help Berkeley be a safer, more vibrant and healthy community.

    My very best wishes for health and happiness in the coming year.






Susan Wengraf


Included in this newsletter is information about:


Recycle Xmas trees  

    Please dispose of your holiday tree in a timely manner.  Keeping dry trees in your home can become a serious fire hazard.  If possible, cut up your holiday tree to fit in your green cart for your normal weekly compost collection.  If that is not possible, you can place your holiday tree at the curb on your normal collection day during the month of January.
    Trees left at the curb must be cut to a maximum of 5 feet tall.  Trees left at the curb may be picked-up by a separate truck, during the week they are set out.  If we do not collect your tree during the week it was set out, call 311 to report a holiday tree at the curb.
    You may also choose to drop your holiday tree off at the City's Transfer Station (1201 2nd St.) at no charge during the month of January.  Businesses and residents who normally don't have compost collection can call 311 (or 510-981-7270) to schedule a tree pick-up at the curb.  After January you can cut up your tree to fit in your plant debris cart, or you can bring it to the Berkeley Transfer Station for the minimum compost fee of $23.

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    The City Council will hold a Town Hall meeting on Saturday, January 17, 2015 from 10:00a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Ed Roberts Campus (opposite the Ashby BART station) in Berkeley to address the issues that underlie the recent tragic events in Ferguson, Mo. and Staten Island, N.Y.


    The meeting will include several panel discussions and forums of community leaders and experts, with the goal of gaining a deeper understanding of the problems and positive ways to address the issues of police-community relationships and the systemic problems of institutional racism in our society.  We are hopeful that we might be able to come up with some strategies that we could pursue at the local, state and national levels as a result of these discussions.


    As more details become available, I will pass them on to you.


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    The City Office of Energy and Sustainable Development, in conjunction with the Energy Commission, has developed an updated Building Energy Saving Ordinance (BESO).  BESO will affect all buildings in Berkeley and will replace RECO and CECO, the current regulations that are required at point of sale.

BESO building sizes

    The City Council held a worksession on this on Tuesday, November 18, 2014. See the Worksession Presentation. The first reading of the proposed ordinance was on November 18th, see the City Council BESO Report 11/18/14.  The second reading will be held on January 20, 2015.


    Although I believe that the goal of energy efficiency in our homes and commercial buildings is a worthy one, after a lot of thought, I find that I am concerned about several aspects of the ordinance.

  • First, under the current proposal, Energy Audits are mandated.  Failure to comply can result in a misdemeanor charge.
  • Second, the implementation of the findings of the audit is not required and is totally voluntary.  The cost of the audit is paid by the homeowner (several hundred dollars), and the suggested time frame for the audit is once every ten years for most single family homes.  In addition there is a fee of about $80 paid to the City.
  • Third, the thinking behind this well meaning proposal is that the information from the audit will motivate homeowners to improve their energy efficiency.  But is there data to support this line of thought?

     If people have the resources to pay for an energy audit AND implement what they discover as a result, that would be great.  But many of my constituents are retired, living on fixed incomes and may not want to put a lot of money into making significant changes to their homes.  Many of my constituents are knowledgeable enough to know exactly what they have to do to improve their energy efficiency.


    After you read the proposed ordinance, I would like to know what you think.  Perhaps there is a way that we can work together to amend the language of the ordinance and preserve its good intentions.  Please write to me at: swengraf@cityofberkeley.info and share your thoughts. 


LED Lightbulb
    I have always found education to be more effective than mandates.  In that vein, I will share with you some easy, cost effective energy efficiency tips in each newsletter.  
    Buy LED light bulbs and trade your ordinary light bulbs for energy saving ones.  Costing about $6, energy saving LED light bulbs last 12 times longer than incandescents, and for each bulb you fit, you could save up to $20 on your annual electricity bill or $200 over the bulb's lifetime.



Home Safety     Did you know that paper towels made from recycled materials can be a home hazard?  Some recycled products, including paper towels and even waxed paper, may contain minute metal flecks.  When a microwave oven is operating, the interaction between microwaves and the metal can cause sparks and even kitchen fires. Please check and never use recycled paper products in microwave ovens unless they are specifically approved for microwave use.


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Summit reservoir

    EBMUD is replacing the Summit Reservoir at the top of Spruce near Grizzly Peak Blvd. with a partially buried, earthquake safe, tank.  A new pumping plant will also be constructed.  Landscaping and a walking path along Grizzly Peak will be added.  The project is scheduled to begin this January and be completed in early 2017.  During the next several months we can expect large trucks, noise and construction traffic around the site and down Spruce Street.  Standard work hours are Monday - Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.


    If you have any concerns or questions, please call Michelle Blackwell at EBMUD Community Affairs at (510) 287-2053 or mblackwe@ebmud.com.


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Susan Wengraf
Berkeley City Council District 6
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