Jun 14 2012

COMMUNITY COMMENT on Proposed StopWaste Ordinance

 Editors’ Note:  The following are comments from the community on the proposed StopWaste ordinance.  Note that revisions to the proposal were posted on June 14.  View the revisions here.


Nancy Lehrkind

I think this [PCA Inconsistency and Confusion Article] is a good and fair analysis which points out a large area (and potentially larger) of applicability of this Proposed Ordinance to residential re-landscaping projects in Piedmont. I would also take issue with many of the “Findings” which are stated as reasons why this Proposed Ordinance is needed. In particular, Finding Number 3 does not apply to Piedmont (It “finds” that we in Piedmont are responsible for 5.4% of the Alameda County landfill containing gardening debris.). We have actually taken extraordinary steps to ensure that we, as a community, are practicing green recycling of our gardening debris. In addition, I personally am very shocked that our town Council can be openly bribed to pass legislation. I have received offers of up to $11,000 to pay the City to NOT pass this law. Is this really the way we operate here? Really? I think those of us who care about any aspect of this proposed legislation or its process should show up Monday night to register his/her protest.

Garrett Keating

The applicability of the Proposed Ordinance to re-landscaping projects is very likely less than that of new developments. To apply, re- landscaping needs to be 2500 sq ft of an existing 5000 sq ft of irrigated landscape of a commercial, multi-family or public property in conjunction with a building application. The number of commercial and multi-family properties that even have 5000 sq ft to re-landscape is probably zero. Public projects of this size and nature seem rare in Piedmont. Take the recent Tea House as an example – that was a building project yet does not meet the sq area requirements. Likewise, the Ronada-Ramona triangle or Linda Tot lot would not be affected by the ordinance. Civic projects that exceed $100000 are already subject to the city’s Civic Bay Friendly Ordinance so it seems the public provisions of this ordinance will apply in very few circumstances. 

Nancy Jacobs

As the great philosopher and writer Voltaire pointed out in his novel, Candide, in reality most of us have very little influence over what happens in the world.  On the other hand, he gives his readers a means of gaining a sense of control over a small part of our lives: lower our expectations and “cultivate our gardens”.

So please, allow us to sow some grass for our kids and animals; plant some flowers for intrinsic beauty; grow some veggies for safe, organic food; and even build a hot tub or swimming pool for exercise and family fun — all of this in our little patch of backyard space without the potential of rules and encumbrances to come.

Mike Savage
It is interesting that the proponents of this ordinance are going to great lengths to argue that the ordinance, even though essential, will not actually apply to anyone.

The milder interpretation is that our City Council, as they so often do, are intending only to make a meaningless and toothless “gesture” in response to pressure from , and in order to placate, region-wide activists and nannies who, though themselves small in number, are successfully pressuring local municipalities, one by one, to adopt “bay-friendly” ordinances, or to “stop-waste”, or whatever is the Orwellian phrase of the day.

My own interpretation is that the proposed ordinance is the first step (soon to be followed by others) to take another bite out of property rights, ceding control of my back yard to unnamed and unaccountable activists; and that the ordinance will over the near term be modified so that it will no longer “apply to nobody” but rather apply to everybody, and will govern landscaping to the last detail, with government employees and fees and exactions to follow commensurate with the City’s increased burden of running everybody’s lives.

If you disagree, go ahead and try to trim a branch off the tree in front of your house.

Anne Weinberger

Editors’ Note: Piedmont’s current City code contains the language at issue in the editorial (which the following comment’s author appears to agree should not be in our code). In four different sections, Chapter 17 refers to the “most recent version” of “guidelines, the Landscaping Point system, Bay Friendly Landscaping Scorecard,” all specifically as developed by “Stopwaste.org”. This language was inserted several years ago at the request of Stopwaste.org. (http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/html/city_code/pdf/chapter17.pdf) The proposed language for Bay Friendly Landscaping alterations to Chapter 17 will be revised prior to the June 18 City Council meeting. PCA will alert readers when it is available.

Editors’ Note:  PCA Editors discourage the use of inflammatory terminology during discussions of policy, appreciate corrections, and urge that any factual errors be specifically identified.

What’s more frightening, Piedmont gardens making strides toward reducing waste . . . or editorials riddled with falsehoods and scare tactics?

The author of this editorial, if he or she listened to the conversation between the City Council and Bay-Friendly Senior Program Manager Teresa Eade at the June 4 meeting, would clearly understand these FACTS:

In future years, the rules could NOT be broadened in scope without the proposal of an entirely new ordinance. Ms. Eade repeatedly encouraged the city to amend the proposed ordinance to address residents’ concerns about being required to adopt “the most recent” BF requirements. Instead she suggested it adopt the “current” policy, thereby eliminating the possibility of more stringent requirements being imposed. Piedmont keeps its Local Control.

When residents voiced (unfounded) concerns about BF requirements banning lawns and sheared hedges, Ms. Eade assuaged those worries. “Bay-Friendly is not anti-lawn,” she said, continuing that if a family wishes to install a lawn large enough for a volleyball net, Bay-Friendly would support that active use of turf. Acknowledging the common use of sheared hedges in the Piedmont landscape aesthetic, Ms. Eade suggested the city rewrite the ordinance to eliminate language that restricted shearing. Piedmont keeps its Local Control.

The suggestion that other East Bay cities have rejected adopting the ordinance due to staff time costs is apples to oranges. The city of Newark has a steady flow of newly constructed homes on large lots, which would require added staff time to monitor. Piedmont, on the other hand, has virtually none. (Note: Piedmont’s staff report states “StopWaste.Org has landscape architects on contract who provide design review and Bay-Friendly assessment for free.” Ms. Eade also reported that all other Alameda Counties cities but two have adopted the ordinance, and several chose to lower the threshold for residences to which it would apply.

But why should Piedmont adopt any level of Bay-Friendly landscaping policy? Because it is incumbent upon the city to reduce its impact on the waste stream . . . and to set standards toward which its residents can strive. More than just conserving water, Bay-Friendly landscaping reduces the air and noise pollution of power tools; keeps pesticides, insecticides, synthetic fertilizers and plastics out of Lake Merritt and the Bay; and reduces the number of garbage truck trips carrying green waste across the county.

So, Piedmont, stop fretting! Bay-Friendly gardens can:
– have a lawn
– have sheared hedges
– have 25% water-loving plants (plus the lawn)
– have the remaining 75% of plants from ANYWHERE in the world, as long as they’re happy with occasional water in the summer

Just work in some compost, lay down 3″ of mulch, have a good irrigation controller and use drip irrigation on areas narrower than 8 feet. That’s it! You’re officially Bay Friendly!

And what about those plants? Could a Bay-Friendly Piedmont still have beautiful green gardens? Let me just say that, with the 9,000 plants in the new Sunset Western Garden Book, the possibilities are endless.

Garrett Keating
PCA, Your link to the Stop Wast proposal is innacurate. Staff distributed a “redline” version of the ordinance at the meeting on June 9 that will be the basis of the discussion on June 18. There are changes in that version that address several of your criticisms and it contains the correct version of the Bay Area Basics Checklist, the landscape guidelines that will apply to new landscapes in excess of 5000 sq ft in Piedmont. Existing landscapes are not covered by the ordinance.

The updated ordinance can be obtained from Jennifer Feeley of the Piedmont Planning Department and should be posted on the city’s website by Thursday evening.

Editors’ Note: Readers are welcome to use “Comments” to add links to relevant new information. PCA often updates articles, as well. A link to the “redline revision” will be added when it becomes available online.


Mike Savage
I would think that tiered pricing from the water district would be adequate to encourage appropriate levels of water usage. If someone wants a tropical oasis in their backyard let them have it and pay the price.

On another level, what is it about folks being elected to local or other government and being all excited about having carte blanche to regulate, tax, and control as many aspects of residents’ lives as they can dream up? The zone of regulation always expands, never contracts….

Garrett Keating
The ordinance is being proposed to fulfill Piedmont’s responsibility as a member of StopWaste, the joint powers authority of 14 Alameda County municipalities that oversees waste disposal in the county. Under this authority, Piedmont has adopted other ordinances – C&D, 75% waste reduction goal, civic Bay Friendly. Adopting these and the proposed ordinance does enable Piedmont to receive some funding but for those most part are intended to support county-wide efforts of waste reduction. Adopting Bay Friendly landscape policies is a stated goal of Piedmont’s General Plan, Climate Action Plan and Environmental Task Force.

The proposed ordinance will apply if large, new single or multi-family developments are proposed in Piedmont. Water conservation of such large developments is currently regulated by a state-wide code requirement (WELO). In addition, by applying the BF ordinance to these projects, waste reduction is achieved in that BF landscaping practices are designed to reduce the volume of green waste generated. Transportation of green waste of county is large energy consumer.

In Piedmont, the proposed BF ordinance applies only to new construction that also includes landscapes plans of 5000 sq ft or more. Other East Bay communities have set the landscape size for new development at 2500 sq ft. Stand-alone landscape projects of any size are not regulated by the ordinance. The current version of the ordinance does not prohibit shearing of vegetation.

The ordinance does makes Piedmont “walk the walk” but starts that trip with a very small step. I think everyone agrees that water conservation and waste reduction are goals Piedmont must achieve and adopting regulations to that end seems to me the one way to start. Off hand, I can’t think of any environmental improvement that was achieved otherwise.

Tom Gandesbery
I support ways for the City to encourage residents to use environmentally friendly landscaping so perhaps those that raised objections to this ordinance can come up with some better ways to get that goal accomplished? It is really a change in culture aesthetic values that is at the core of this issue.

But Garrett Keating’s description of how the requirements won’t apply hardly EVER….leads me to ask: why bother then?
If this criteria were tightened up to apply more broadly, I too would be concerned that it would be yet another “hoop” to jump through when trying to improve one’s property. It seems like the City is trying to adopt this ordinance so that it can say it has a model ordinance on the books.

I think we’d all agree that a non=regulatory approach is better than government rules and regulations. So perhaps civic boosters can start native garden tours and parties? More could be done to conserve water in some of the City’s parks. And what about making use of that obscure piece of unused City property up in Moraga Canyon as a demonstration garden?

Linda C. Roodhouse
Staff is correct on the general scope of the Council’s legislative authority. I was the deputy City Attorney for Piedmont for many years and advised the planning department. I was also the City Attorney in Orinda for 11 years, until 2006. In both cities, I had a major role in the creation of new zoning codes. In Piedmont, the boundaries of a zone and the general land use within the zone are subject to voter approval. The City Council decides the specific rules and regulations within any zone, but the rules and regulations must be consistent with the charter description of authorized uses in a zone.

Michael Henn
As a professional city planner, I am generally supportive of water conserving measures but preferably through incentives rather than a stick. If the critics are not misstating their objections, then it would seem that someone subject to the new regulations could not plant a plant that requires shearing. I cannot see any possible water-saving advantage to such a requirement, as long as the plant itself is reasonably water-conserving. Planting Cal natives or Mediterranean climate plants sounds fairly sensible but do the supporters mean that one could not plant, say, an orange tree, or even a rose bush? Councilmember Keatings comment that most people won’t actually be subject to it is not an answer as to whether it is a sensible policy. The cost of having to hire a landscape architect or similar professional to attest to conformance could easily cost who knows what, probably at least $500.

I suspect this measure is only being put forward to qualify for a grant, but then most property owners will have the good sense to not ask the city what to plant.

Garrett Keating
Good question – it seems that text could be stricken from the ordinance.

If you were just doing just a landscape project, the ordinance would not apply – only new landscapes that are part of a building project are covered. And I think the applicable threshold is 5000 sq ft – that is the minimum for “home-owner” projects. The 2500 sq ft refers to public agencies and developers.

Letter Received from the City of Newark
From: CLAY COLVIN [mailto:CLAY.COLVIN@newark.org]
Sent: Mon 6/4/2012 9:21 AM
To: Nancy Lehrkind
Subject: RE: Looking for Minutes, reports, any

Ms. Lehrkind:

Sheila Harrington asked me to respond to your email regarding the
adoption of the new Bay Friendly requirements.

Just to clarify, the new regulations were not rejected by the City
Council as they were never brought forward for their review. The
adoption of the new regulations was one of the items required in order
to obtain the final year of funding from the Import Mitigation Funding
from StopWaste.Org. The City of Newark made the determination that it
wasn’t economically sound for us to adopt new regulations for a year’s
worth of funding and then be subject to the ordinance requirements for
the foreseeable future.

We didn’t see any problem with the standards themselves other than the
impact they will have on our Public Works Department. The new standards
will require additional man-hours that we simply do not have the budget
to support on an on-going basis. We absolutely support Bay Friendly
Landscaping but we have to do it within the constraints of our budget.

If you have any questions, please contact me at (510) 578-4242.

Clay Colvin
Planning Manager
City of Newark

Garrett Keating
Why adopt it? For the funding and to get Piedmont started on water conservation, one of the stated goals of our GP, CAP and ETF. Our Planning and Park Commissions support this first step. Very large projects that require high water usage is one place to start.

For your project, a simple lot size/FAR calculation will quickly tell you if ordinance even applies. Staff cannot recall of any applicable projects. And if you do not need a building permit, you won’t even be going to Planning. You can do any type of landscaping of any size as long as you are not applying for a building permit at the same time. By all means improve away but consider Bay Friendly landscape – that is essentially how the ordinance will apply to Piedmont.

BF landscaping has several benefits – waste reduction and water conservation. WMA adopted it as a waste reduction measure. And there are some beautiful BF gardens out there, especially in Piedmont.

Nancy Lehrkind
The application of this proposed ordinance is broader than that of our recently enacted Model Water Conservation Ordinance. Under the new proposed ordinance, and I quote from it: “(iii) The following projects shall meet the most recent minimum Bay-Friendly Basics Checklist requirements, initiated on or after the effective date of this Ordinance, as recommended by StopWaste.Org or its designee: (1) new. . .rehabilitated landscapes and private development projects with a landscape area equal to or greater than 2500 square feet.. .” So then if you go to the Proposed Ordinance DEFINITION of “Landscape” (as just used in the above section), it reads: “Landscape” means the parcel area less the building pad and includes all irrigated planted areas and hardscape surfaces (i.e. driveway, parking, paths and other paved areas).”

So I measure my “landscape area” which includes my driveway (28′x32′), my brick lawn banding (45 sq.ft.) and my front walk (175 sq.ft) and my small patch of landscaping around my garbage enclosure (27′x50′). That adds up to 2500+ sq. ft. and thus, under this Proposed Ordinance, my landscaping renovation of this little area will have to be planted with 75% native California and Mediterranean plants (an aesthetic which does not go with either my house or the rest of my landscaping). I would love to hear from anyone about how I went wrong on this calculation to determine if the new Proposed Ordinance would apply to me.

Patty White
Hmm, I’ll have to re-read the ordinance.

Yes, it does allow hedges but you have to plant them where you want them to be when they are fully grown:  you’re not allowed to shear them!  Of my 2500 sq. ft., WMA wants Piedmont to tell me I can have 625 ft of grass?!
How absurd!

Piedmont’s goal should be to GET people to improve their property; not put up “gates” that stand in the way of beautification!

Garrett, you say this hardly impacts Piedmont at all.  Then why adopt it?
The ordinance is just one more piece of bureaucratic baloney that Piedmonters will have to deal with when they’re trying to get their project done.

How many people do we have working in the Planning Department now?
When I was on the Planning Commission it was two.  What are there now, four, five?  We’re a small town.  One of the wonderful things about us is that as a rule, we’re not complicated.  You need an answer you can usually get it from Marietta.   We don’t need WMA telling us how to run things:   we’ve been doing quite well on our own for 105 years, thank you very much!

Piedmont already gets it’s green waste out of the waste stream by having green waste pick-up that is then composted.  It is NOT WMA’s mandate to regulate anybody’s water.  They should stick to their charge and stay out our business.  Piedmont is the most beautiful city in the county.  Please vote “NO” on this ordinance and help keep it that way.

Thank you,
Patty White

Garrett Keating
Since your time on Council, Piedmont has adopted several policies that call for water conservation. The General Plan, Climate Action Plan, and Environmental Task Force all ads specific recommendations about water conservation and the adoption of Bay Friendly Landscape practices. The ordinance has had hearings at apart and Planning. Both Commissions purported and commented on how very little applicability it will have in Piedmont. But I agree that those meetings could have been spaced out over more time to give time for the community to understand the ordinance.

You will be able to trim your hedge, reseed your lawn, install irrigation under this ordinance. As the staff report indicates, the ordinance will apply to very few applicants.

Can you explain how you believe it is too broad for Piedmont?

Editors Note: The ordinance applies to all property owners and automatically accepts any new rules chosen by StopWaste.org.

Garrett Keating
I have always appreciated Nancy’s fervor on issues in town but I think she is overstating the impact of the proposed ordinance. First as background, The Bay Friendly Landscape ordinance was developed by the Alameda County Solid Waste Authority (now known as StopWaste.org), a joint powers authority of 14 Alameda County municipalities organized to coordinate county-wide solid waste disposal. The intent of the ordinance is to facilitate water-wise landscape policies as a way to reduce green waste from going to landfills and to conserve water. If passed, the ordinance will have little impact on Piedmont.

To have the ordinance apply to the development of your property, you must:

1. Submit an application for a building permit or design review. That is, the ordinance only applies if you are undertaking a structural change to your property – home addition, remodel or fence installation. A stand-alone landscape project of any size that does not require a permit (almost all don’t) will not be subject to the ordinance.

2. As part of that building project, propose a landscape plan that is 2500 sq ft or greater. As a point of reference, if your lot is 5000 sq ft and covered by more than 50% with structure, the ordinance cannot apply to you – you have less than 2500 sq ft for landscaping. If your 10,000 sq ft lot is covered 50% by structure, you have 5000 sq ft for landscaping. If you are not adding structure, you will not need a permit and the ordinance will not apply. Knowing your lot size and FAR, you can quickly determined if the ordinance can apply to your property. Do the remodel this year and the 2500 sq ft landscape project next year, the ordinance will not apply.

3. The proposed landscape must be irrigated. If not all of the 2500 sg ft is irrigated, the ordinance does not apply.

The ordinance does allow hedges and grass. 25% of the 2500 sq ft can be “non” Bay Friendly plants, so grass areas and hedges can be accommodated in the landscape.

If you want to learn more about how the ordinance applies to Piedmont, read the staff report for Monday’s Council meeting at http://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us.

Patty White
Nancy, WOW! Thanks for alerting us. This is unreal! I was the city’s rep to the Waste Management Authority (referred to as stopwaste.org in your letter and the proposed regulations) and if this kind of baloney had been going on when I was there I would have made sure the residents knew about it!

As far as I can tell, Piedmont doesn’t have a problem with landscaping. This is just government forcing its citizens to spend money that they would rather spend on their building project than on a landscape architect, permits etc. Piedmont is unique. We don’t belong in a “one size fits all”. Why can’t I trim my hedge if I want to? Someone at WMA has decided it isn’t right?!

Piedmont did great on recycling before recycling was even required in the county. Then after it was required, the amount of trash Piedmont put in the waste stream became remarkably smaller and smaller every year.

I urge all of you to read the proposed ordinance. It is unbelievably too broad for Piedmont. If the Council feels Piedmont does have a landscaping issue, I think they should specify EXACTLY what the issue(s) is/are and adopt an ordinance that addresses that.

Thank you,
Patty White



Leave a Comment