Jun 18 2016
The Piedmont Planning Commission made a recommendation to the City Council that the proposed Building Energy Savings Ordinance (BESO) not be adopted.
The online survey yielded considerable opposition to the ordinance from residents.
Voluntary rather than mandatory….
A new ordinance proposed by the City Planning Department to require an energy audit of Piedmont homes and properties prior to being sold did not receive approval by the Planning Commission on June 13. The ordinance, intended to support Piedmont’s Climate Action Plan, was considered by the Commission for approximately an hour and half at the Planning Commission meeting as the Commission listened to public testimony and deliberated on the matter.
An online survey that had been conducted by the Piedmont Planning Department showed overwhelming opposition to the proposed ordinance.
Most of the public participants at the meeting supported the ordinance. Former Council member Garrett Keating and members of Piedmont CONNECT, including Margaret Ovendeen spoke in favor of the ordinance indicating a desire to make the ordinance even broader, more comprehensive and rigorous.* Debbie Fitzgerald, a real estate agent, argued that when properties are sold many reports are done – termite, roof, chimney, etc. – and adding another report would not be burdensome to home sellers.
Speaking against the ordinance was Piedmont real estate agent Nancy Lehrkind, who detailed her negative experiences with Berkeley’s BESO law. She explained that energy information from PG&E can readily be provided on properties without a new law requiring the added expense and complications of a consultant.
A letter from Piedmont resident Rick Schiller pointed to another cost being placed on seniors who were already heavily burdened with local taxes.
Commissioners opposing the law and the use of energy consultants preferred audits on a voluntary basis for individual homes, further noting that information can be obtained through PG&E, which actively provides not only energy usage information but information on ways to reduce energy consumption. Mentioned was that reports prepared prior to the sale of property are voluntary rather than required by law making the ordinance contrary to market driven practices.
Heat source replacement, caulking, solar panels, double pane windows, insulation, roofing, etc.
The proposed ordinance requires energy consultants to complete an energy audit paid for by property owners prior to the sale of property. The consultant would inventory an entire home or building looking for ways to reduce energy use. Projects identified in the professional audit could range from heat source replacement, to caulking, to solar panels, to double pane windows, to insulation, etc. An energy grade would then be assigned to the building accompanied by a list of projects and qualified contractors to do the work. The audit itself would cost approximately $300 to $500. The completed audit would then be filed for a fee with the City and become public information.
The State of California establishes building construction requirements to reduce energy use.
Commissioners pointed out that when remodels are permitted by the City, they are required to reduce energy usage through the permitting process. Since only approximately 150 of the 3,800 Piedmont homes sell each year, to accomplish a change in energy usage by the proposed sales method would not meet the 2020 goals in the Climate Action Plan.
The Planning staff was asked about the actions already taken through the more prevalent remodeling permit process and the impact on achieving energy goals. Statistics have not been kept by the Building and Planning Departments regarding the ongoing achievements made through the course of the permitting process.
The Planning staff was encouraged by Commissioners to come up with ways to promote energy reduction through information services, perhaps at festivals or other public information methods.
Preferring market driven, voluntary actions, Commissioner Tony Theophilos, an attorney, was vigorous in his opposition to the proposed law to be imposed on homeowners as being ineffective and problematic. He was joined by Commissioners Tom Zhang and Aradhana Jajodia both of whom are architects, who felt the approach would yield few results towards reducing Piedmont’s carbon footprint, while imposing more costs on home sellers by an unproductive law. The three Commissioners voted to not recommend adoption by the City Council.
Supporting the proposed ordinance were Commissioners Eric Behrens and Tom Ramsey, who wanted to work towards meeting Piedmont’s Climate Action Plan goals and saw the requirement as a small way to encourage reduced energy usage. Although supporting the ordinance as a first step, Ramsey, an architect, wanted a stronger ordinance that was more comprehensive.* The two Commissioners voted against the motion.
The proposed ordinance and Commission recommendation to not adopt the ordinance will be agendized at a future Council meeting.
Read Piedmont’s Climate Action Plan > here.
Read the staff report and proposed ordinance > here.
Click the link below to send an email to the City Council via the City Clerk, John Tulloch at > firstname.lastname@example.org
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