Community Environmental Advisory Commission discusses efforts to make Berkeley ‘bee-friendly’

Ashley Cole/Staff

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The city of Berkeley’s Community Environmental Advisory Commission heard updates on the city’s climate mobilization plan and efforts to make Berkeley more “bee-friendly” at its regular meeting Thursday.

Commissioners Carla Ticconi and Liz Varnhagen have been collaborating with the California Public Interest Research Group, or CalPIRG, to make Berkeley a designated “bee city” by Bee City USA. The commission suggested modifications to current landscaping, such as taking out vegetation that is taller than 2 feet, in order to increase Berkeley’s native bee population.

Ticconi said during the meeting that it was “unbelievable” how energetic students were about this initiative.

“They’ve have been meeting with everybody; they are ready to do it,” Ticconi said during the meeting. “We’re going to harness this student energy and send them out into the world and hope to get stuff done.”

She added that there are very few people who don’t support the initiative. Commissioner Michael Goldhaber said during the meeting that he is considering proposing state legislation concerning California’s bee population.

Also during the meeting, the commission discussed a draft of a “technical implementation plan” intended to mobilize Berkeley and Alameda County to participate in an eight-year rapid emissions reduction program. The drafted plan — written by John Mitchell, a consultant to electric power and water utility sectors — recommends that the city of Berkeley implement a “No Emissions Left Behind” policy to replace all fossil fuel-powered equipment with lithium-ion battery-powered systems, and negotiate purchase agreements for electric-powered industrial vehicles, among other recommendations.

If all of the draft’s recommendations are successfully implemented, Berkeley could achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, according to the draft’s conclusion.

The commissioners agreed that some of the draft’s recommendations seemed reasonable, including implementing solar retrofits to large parking facilities to increase vehicle charging during “solar peak hours.” Commissioner Robb Kapla raised concerns about the recommendation to develop an autonomous electric shuttle and on-call taxi fleets, as he was not sure how the city could create its own private transportation agency outside of Alameda County’s agency.

“There does not seem to be the passion in the population at large for that to happen,” Goldhaber said of the report.

The commission also discussed proceeding with a proposal requiring Berkeley gas stations to place warning labels on fuel nozzles regarding the dangers of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The proposal, passed by City Council in 2014, has yet to be implemented. Goldhaber, in a recommendation letter addressed to City Council members and mayor Jesse Arreguín, alleged that the city has not moved forward with this proposal because a trade association filed a lawsuit against the city for a similar ordinance in 2015.

The “right to know” ordinance requires cellphone retailers to disclose to their customers that carrying cellphones can expose them to levels of radiofrequency radiation that exceeds federal guidelines, and the trade association CTIA claimed that this regulation violated the First Amendment.

“The science behind the gasoline labelling requirement is much better accepted than that behind the cell phone warnings, and the harms are clearly greater to humanity in the gasoline case,” the letter said. “It is foolish to wait any longer.”

Contact Andreana Chou and Anjali Shrivastava at [email protected].