City tweaking green building code

Planners address issues with local, state requirements

Pleasanton was in the forefront of going green, with requirements for new commercial buildings enacted in 2002 and expanded four years later to include residential. Now the city is planning to change the requirements, at least slightly, in light of the state's new standards.

The Planning Commission held a hearing last week to discuss amending the city's code with reference to the California Green Building Standards Code, known as CALGreen, before it goes into effect Jan. 1. If the city does not adopt its amendment by then, developers will be required to show they are in compliance with both sets of green building regulations.

CALGreen requires the following of new building construction:

* Reduce water consumption by 20%

* Divert 50% of construction waste from landfills

* Install low pollutant-emitting materials

* Separate water submeters for indoor and outdoor water in nonresidential buildings

* Moisture-sensing irrigations systems for large landscape projects

* Mandatory inspections of systems

CALGreen also has additional voluntary measures known as Tier 1 and Tier 2. City planning staff recommended adopting CALGreen Tier 1, which is similar to Pleasanton's current standard.

"The easiest thing would be to adopt the basic but that would be a step backwards," said Director of Community Development Brian Dolan at the Sept. 29 meeting.

Staff noted that CALGreen provides for greater uniformity of checklists, definitions and procedures throughout the state.

Downtown land use lawyer Peter MacDonald asked that the city "depoliticize green building" by keeping a level playing field for all applicants, being clear with the requirements, and making extra conditions incentive-based.

He said the city started out with a good set of requirements but then planners began to make changes to each project with "conditions creep."

"The biggest cost is dealing with bureaucracy," agreed contractor Michael Callahan, who said builders are going green on their own. "It's all farmed lumber -- why does it need to be certified?"

Pam Hardy of Ponderosa Homes told the commission that she never supported required photovoltaic wiring at $400 per unit. It costs $30,000-$40,000 per house to meet green requirements, she said, including site preparation, inspections, third-party reviews and design costs.

The commissioners discussed dropping the photovoltaic wiring regulation since it might not ever be used in individual houses.

"I'm not interested in making it mandatory," said Commissioner Jerry Pentin.

Commissioner Kathy Narum noted that it is easier to add the wiring initially, when the building is under construction.

The Planning Commission recommended the approval, 3-2. Commissioners Narum and Phil Blank voted against it because they wanted the motion to require buildings to be photovoltaic-ready rather than including it as an option. The City Council is scheduled to address the green building amendment at its Oct. 19 meeting.

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Like this comment
Posted by West Side Observer
a resident of Oak Hill
on Oct 8, 2010 at 8:51 am

So, let’s see. $40,000 for Green and $125,000 for permits. That makes $165,000 for Pleasanton homes without buying the land or sinking a nail. Not very affordable by state and ABAG standards.

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Birdland
on Oct 8, 2010 at 9:49 am

We can only hope that voters figure out that businesses and people can and are leaving California. In fact businesses have and continue to leave the USA. It may make some people feel good to have all these restrictive regualtions. But they are killing our economy and jobs. Need proof, look at the numbers.

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