Aug 29 2020

Covid- 19 has brought a change to the usual Piedmont Harvest Festival, but there are many ways to have fun and participate in this years festival.  Click below for full details.

2020-08-24 Virtual Harvest Festival to Replace In Person Event for 2020

Aug 19 2020

Most Dangerous Particulates Are Not the Obvious Eye Irritants –

Many Piedmonters avoid air conditioning and follow the advice of the State and PG&E to open windows overnight to cool their homes.  This natural cooling method has worked for months, but on the morning of August 19, they found the air flow had admitted unwanted pollution into their homes and scurried to close their houses against the dangerous smoke.
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Piedmonters woke up on August 19 to very smoky air from regional fires.
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Local Piedmont indoor measurements at 7am on Wednesday were between 099 & 102 μg/m3 particulates less than 2.5 microns.  (Normally, it is 000 to 005.)
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EPA established Particulate Matter (PM) standards that specifically addressed particles smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5). The annual standard was set 2012 at 12 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3), based on the 3-year average of annual mean PM2.5 concentrations.
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The size of particles is directly linked to their potential for causing health problems. Fine particles (PM2.5) pose the greatest health risk. These fine particles can get deep into lungs and some may even get into the bloodstream. Exposure to these particles can affect a person’s lungs and cardiovascular effects including cardiac arrhythmias. Children, people with asthma, and older adults are the most likely to adverse health effects.  The California Air Resources Board reported: “children and infants are susceptible to harm from inhaling pollutants such as PM because they inhale more air per pound of body weight than do adults – they breathe faster, spend more time outdoors and have smaller body sizes. In addition, children’s immature immune systems may cause them to be more susceptible to PM than healthy adults.”

Obvious smoke irritation to eyes, etc. is from the less dangerous larger pollution particles.

Coarse particles (PM10-2.5) are of less concern, although they can irritate a person’s eyes, nose, and throat.  Air purifiers with HEPA filters capture coarse particles (but may not reduce the most dangerous smaller particles) and can relieve obvious eye and throat irritation.
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On Wednesday, August 19 at 8:30 pm the 10 minute average PM2.5 at EPA’s central Piedmont monitor was 154.

See current outdoor EPA AQI graph from central Piedmont monitor here.

Aug 18 2020
The ultimate goal of the Reach Codes is to force mandatory 100% electrification of homes. As we are in the midst of rolling electrical blackouts because the State power grid has insufficient capacity and rotating outages are a not uncommon disruption, let’s reflect on what a 100% electric home means during a blackout. No cooking, no cooling (or heating in winter), no lights, no charging your Tesla, no internet; those in 100% electric homes will be back to the Stone Age.
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Going to 100% electricity will stress the State grid further. Except for black swan events like PG&E’s 2010 San Bruno explosion, rolling natural gas outages are unknown. There is a glut of natural gas. Forcing 100% electricity on homes is too much, both from practical and economic perspectives. Electricity is a much more expensive power source than natural gas. Exacerbating this is that Californians pay electric rates 56% higher than the average of other states (source: Center For Jobs and the Economy) on top of our sky high housing costs and nationally second highest gasoline costs. On top of the high costs of the Bay Area, increases are coming as PG&E exits from bankruptcy and will sharply increase rates to comply with court orders to secure its power grid from causing future fires.

The goal of Reach Codes is commonly accepted, of “doing the right thing” by the environment. We all agree with that, however, the Reach Codes are a blanket solution that has many pitfalls and should be rejected in favor of an incentive based system in Piedmont.

Rick Schiller, Piedmont Resident

Aug 17 2020

Voluntary Electricity Conservation to Reduce Blackouts

The California Independent System Operator (ISO) issued a statewide Flex Alert, a call for voluntary electricity conservation through Wednesday, August 19, 3-10 p.m. each day.

ISO suggests simple actions to reduce energy consumption:

  • Set your thermostat to 78° or higher between 3 and 10 P.M.
  • Do not use major electric appliances between 3 and 10 P.M.
  • Turn off unnecessary lights and electric appliances

The California Independent System Operator.manages 80% of California’s electric flow.  High temperatures have resulted in spikes related to air-conditioning demand.

Check the ISO current power outlook here.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) is highlighting ways Californians can conserve energy this week to avoid temporary energy service interruptions. Cal OES is also encouraging all Californians to take steps now to prepare themselves and their families should a temporary service disruption occur.

Aug 16 2020

“Weeds, grass, vines, leaves, brush, diseased or dead trees, combustible growth, debris, or rubbish….

The second reading of the proposed stricter Piedmont Fire Code ordinance includes and broadens enforcement to all privately-held Piedmont property with expansive new regulations designed for Piedmont’s approximately 20% high fire hazard area.

Standards for vegetation management described herein shall be applicable to and within private property located within the City bounds..”  Ordinance language

A second reading of the proposed ordinance for vegetation controls on all Piedmont private properties will be considered on:

Monday, August 17, 2020, 6:00 p.m., by the Piedmont City Council.

 California state law requires property owners in specific high fire hazard, wildland-urban border areas to maintain a 30 feet of open space cleared of vegetable fuel surrounding their homes, barns, garages and other structures. Most of Piedmont is not in the state defined high fire hazard zone, however the 30 foot distance will also be required by the ordinance of all Piedmont residential properties. See link in staff report below. 

The vast majority of Piedmont dwellings do not have a 30 foot open space perimeter between their homes, so it is not possible to have 30 feet of defensible space as specified in the ordinance. The City policy of allowing reductions in distances between neighboring structures presents a fire safety threat unaddressed in the ordinance. 

“In many cases in Piedmont, dwellings are situated less than 8 feet apart, and fires can easily spread from house to house and are more readily spread upslope in the direction of prevailing winds.”  Ordinance language

Landscaping, plant choices, site planning, fencing, and safety are regularly considered by the Planning and Park Commissions and Public Safety Committee. Piedmont’s applicable Commissions and Committee have not been asked to consider the ordinance.  

Removal is required of hazardous vegetation or combustible materials including, but not limited to weeds, grass, vines, leaves, brush, diseased or dead trees, combustible growth, debris, or rubbish capable of being ignited and endangering property. 

Currently, the Fire Department notifies property owners of identified fire safety threats. The proposed ordinance will subject violators to penalty fines. Decisions regarding compliance are made by the Fire Code Official, who will have “discretion in their enforcement, so as to be reasonable in their implementation.”  Exceptions are not noted within the ordinance.

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3. Penalties. Violations of this section shall be subject to penalties. Penalty amount may be established by resolution of the City Council. If penalty amounts have not been established by resolution of the City Council, violations of this section shall be punishable by fine in the amounts specified in Government Code section 51185.”

Items included in the proposed new ordinance:

“B. Vegetation management requirements.

Standards for vegetation management described herein shall be applicable to and within private property located within the City bounds, unless stricter requirements apply under section 8.14.050 due to being located in a designated very high fire hazard zone, and failure to maintain property in accordance with such standards shall subject the responsible person to fine and/or abatement in accordance with chapter 1 or chapter 6 of this code.

1. Developed parcels.

For any parcel developed with a dwelling unit, or developed with any other structure or structures required to obtain a building permit prior to construction, each responsible person for such parcel shall ensure that vegetation on Attachment A the parcel is maintained in accordance with the requirements below. Each responsible person shall:

a. Cut down, remove, or reduce any hazardous vegetation or combustible material. Hazardous vegetation or combustible materials include, but are not limited to weeds, grass, vines, leaves, brush, diseased or dead trees, combustible growth, debris, or rubbish capable of being ignited and endangering property.

[The following has been noted as impossible in most of Piedmont.]

b. Maintain a defensible space of at least 30 feet from the perimeter of each building or structure located on a parcel. The size of the defensible space area may be increased or decreased by the fire code official based on site-specific analysis of local conditions, which include, but are not limited to, considerations of: the size of the property, whether the property is located on a steep slope, whether property located in an exposed windswept location, the fire risk that the vegetation surrounding the property poses, the proximity of adjacent structures and risk to such adjacent structures, and whether the vegetation surrounding the property is regularly maintained or pruned. A responsible person is not required to manage vegetation located beyond the property line of the subject parcel.

c. Maintain any space that is within 3 feet from a roadway clear of any flammable vegetation, and maintain a 15-foot vertical clearance, free of vegetation, above roadways including streets, driveways and rights-of-way.

d. Remove or trim any vegetation that is deemed by the Fire Marshal to impede emergency vehicle access.

e. Remove all portions of trees within 10 feet of functioning chimneys or stovepipe outlets.

f. Maintain the roof and gutters free of leaves, needles, or other dead/dying wood.

g. Remove brush and tree limbs that are within six feet of the ground from mature trees.

h. Remove flammable vegetation and limbs from trees that may pose a fire and/or safety hazard to the home or property.

i. Install a spark arrestor on functioning chimneys or stovepipe outlets.

2. Vacant parcels.

For any vacant parcel in the city, each responsible person for such parcel shall ensure that vegetation on the parcel is maintained in accordance with the requirements below. Each responsible person shall:

a. For parcels with an acreage that is 0.5 acres or less, the responsible person shall clear the entire lot of flammable vegetation and maintain it to a height of 6 inches or less.

b. For parcels with an acreage that is greater than 0.5 acres, clear the area that is one hundred feet along the perimeter of the property line of flammable vegetation and maintain such vegetation to a height of 6 inches or less. A responsible person is not required to manage vegetation located beyond the property line.

c. Maintain any space that is within 3 feet from a roadway clear of any flammable vegetation, and maintain a 15 foot vertical clearance, free of vegetation above roadways including streets, driveways and rights-of-way.

d. Remove flammable vegetation and limbs from trees that may pose a fire and/or safety hazard from the property.

e. Remove brush and tree limbs that are within six feet of the ground from mature trees.

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8.14.060 Definitions. In this division:

Defensible Space means the area adjacent to a structure or dwelling where wildfire prevention or protection practices are implemented to provide defense from an approaching wildfire or to minimize the spread of a structure fire to wildlands or surrounding areas, as provided in Government Code section 51177(a).

Flammable vegetation means: (1) vegetation, brush, or grasses, which is dry, dead, or dying and which is over six inches in height; or (2) vegetation which has a high resin or sap content including but not limited to Arborvitae, California Bay, Cedar, Cypress, Douglas Fir, Eucalyptus, Fir, Juniper, Palm, Pine, Spruce, Yew, California buckwheat, California sagebrush, Chamise or greasewood, Laurel sumac, Manzanita, Pampas grass, Rosemary, Scotch broom, Spanish Broom, Sugar bush, and Toyon and which is over six inches in height.

Responsible person means any natural person or a corporate entity that is the owner, occupant, lessor, lessee, manager, licensee, or other person having physical or legal control over a structure or parcel of land.

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To READ the proposed Piedmont ordinance and staff report, click below:

2nd Reading of Ord. 755 N.S. Designating Very High Fire Severity Zones and Adding Additional Fuel Reduction and Vegetation Management Requirements to the City Code
AGENDA and participation information:
https://www.ci.piedmont.ca.us/UserFiles/Servers/Server_13659739/File/Government/City%20Council/Agenda/council-current-agenda.pdf
Aug 14 2020

Confirmed Covid-19 Positive Test Results Stand at 27* for Piedmont as of August 13, 2020 –  

*Updated to 29 positive results – August 19, 2020 – 

While the current figure appears to reflect a sudden August surge, that may not be the case.  In a Zoom presentation to supporters of San Francisco Opera on Wednesday evening, August 12, Piedmont Epidemiologist George Rutherford pointed out that the virus tracker system had broken and the data was being corrected.  Catching up with the figures can create the appearance of a surge that is actually a correction covering longer periods. Rutherford indicated there were surges in April and again in June.

Aug 12 2020

– Council Consideration of Building and Remodeling Reach Codes Deferred –

Additional Public Outreach to be Conducted –

The Piedmont City Council will NOT consider the second reading of ordinances implementing building Reach Codes at its August 17th meeting.

Staff will conduct additional public outreach to better educate members of the community on the purpose and scope of these important measures before Council considers them again.

The proposed building code amendments were drafted following extensive public outreach – including two public surveys and five public outreach forums – significant research, and collaboration with East Bay Community Energy and several cost-effectiveness analysts. However, it has become clear since the Council’s first consideration of these ordinances that additional outreach would be beneficial to the community.

“The proposed Reach Codes are too important to Piedmont’s climate action goals to be considered without additional public education and outreach,” said City Administrator Sara Lillevand. “As a residential community, Piedmont has limited options for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Though many residents participated in the year-long process to develop the proposed Reach Codes, it is important that the community have more time to understand and comment on these proposals before they are brought back to Council.”

“Planning & Building staff has received a significant amount of input from the community over the past year to help develop the proposed Reach Codes,” said Planning & Building Director Kevin Jackson. “We want to clarify any misconceptions residents may have about the proposals before Council takes them up again.”

City of Piedmont Press Release August 12, 2020

For additional information, contact City Clerk John O. Tullock at 510/420-3040.

Aug 12 2020

Electric heat pump, water heater, and furnace make sense from a state-wide CO2 accounting viewpoint.

First, let us be clear that the proposed codes address only new constructions or large renovations. Of course, once adopted they will set the direction for future expansions of their applicability.
The CO2 emission impact of installing electric heat pumps in place of natural gas heaters (whether for new structures or as replacement for existing natural gas installations) is positive. Note that I am addressing only CO2 emission, not capital or gas/electricity costs.
At the State of California level, the sources of electrical energy fluctuates during the day as shown in the figure below for May 24, 2018. Note the large drop in available renewable energy (wind and solar) at night, in the morning, and in the evening.
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Today there is a lack of storage facility for electricity generated by renewable energy to enable shifting that energy from the time it is produced during the day to the time it is needed that same day in homes. So potentially an electric heat pump will be fed by electricity generated by a natural gas power plant because of the unavailability of any of the other sources at the time the pump is running. However as a first approximation, the amount of CO2 emitted by the plant is the same as from burning natural gas at the home to generate the same amount of heat. This is because an electric heat pump furnace has a coefficient of performance (COP) of 3 in our Bay Area climate (meaning one watt hour of electrical energy generates three watt hours of heat) and natural gas power plants have an efficiency between 30% and 38% in generating electricity.

The proposed Reach Codes may want to favor the installation of heat pump water heaters over heat pump furnaces because the hot water in the tank can be a store for renewable energy, provided that the heater is well insulated and equipped to draw electricity mainly during daytime. Such policy has the added advantage of soaking up the excess renewable electricity that is curtailed many days during the year, as documented by the California Independent System Operator (CAISO).
The COP of a heat pump may drop below 3 during cold winter nights, but this is compensated on average by better performance in the summer. Utilities charge about three times more per unit of energy for electricity than for natural gas, because electrical energy can be put to work without increasing entropy (disorder). This rate ensures the same operating cost for both heat pump and natural gas furnaces in the Bay Area climate. The capital cost on new installations is higher but can be mitigated when combined with solar panels.
Bernard Pech, Piedmont Resident
Aug 9 2020

Special Civil Service Commission Meeting Monday, August 10, 4 pm

There is one agenda item, New Job Classification for a Sustainability Program Manager, for which there is no staff report.

Civil Service Commissioners:

  • Claudia Harrison
  • David Hobstetter
  • Scott Lawson
  • Sandra Rappaport
  • Michael Reese

Council Liaison: Robert McBain | rmcbain@piedmont.ca.gov |(510) 420-3048
Staff Liaison: Stacy Jennings | sjennings@piedmont.ca.gov | (510) 420-3047

Agenda
1. Consideration of a New Job Classification for Sustainability Program Manager

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The Civil Service Commission members will attend the meeting via ZOOM Teleconference.

Members of the public can observe and participate in the meeting in the following ways:
– Computer or smartphone: Click on https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88407286316
– Telephone: Dial (669) 900-9128 and enter webinar/meeting number 884-0728-6316

Aug 6 2020

“…less disruptive than the recently proposed City ordinances (aka Reach Codes) to disband natural-gas appliances.”

A simple way for the City of Piedmont to reduce greenhouse gases (GNG) would be to enforce its existing ordinance that bans gasoline-powered leaf blowers, voluntarily direct city workers to cease using gasoline-powered leaf blowers, and to implement hefty fines for failure to abide.   According to the California Air Resource Board (CARB) 1 hour of gas powered leaf blower use is equivalent to 1,100 auto miles.  Gasoline powered lawn mowers produce about 25% of the GNG that leaf blowers do.

This approach to reducing GNG is far easier and much less disruptive than the recently proposed City ordinances (aka Reach Codes) to disband natural-gas appliances.   And it would greatly reduce Piedmont’s noise pollution as well.

Dai Meagher, Piedmont Resident