Council on board for strong green building standards

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If adopted, new residential buildings would be required to exceed the state’s energy code by 15 percent. Also, the city considers creating an official Malibu song.

By Jonathan Friedman / Associate Editor

The City Council on Monday supported in concept the adoption of strong energy efficiency standards for new developments as part of a Green Building Program. The council also supported city staff’s proposal for a pilot program that will fast track a handful of “high-level” green projects through the permit review process.

Also at the meeting, the council added concerns of Councilmember Pamela Conley Ulich to the list of topics for a city communications subcommittee to address. But the council did not vote to modify the group’s membership as Conley Ulich had wanted to do. The council also set up the process for a possible contest to develop an official Malibu song.

City staff and consultant Global Green USA presented the council with research and analysis regarding green development. They recommended the city require that “typical new residences” (up to 5,499 square feet) exceed the California Building Efficiency Energy Standards, or Energy Code, by 15 percent. Larger homes would need to exceed the Energy Code more than that so they would consume the same amount of energy as the typical home.

Walker Wells of Global Green USA told the council increased energy efficiency could be achieved with “no or very little changes to design.”

“The main changes are actually in the quality of the windows, off-the-shelf technologies [such as] tank-less water heater[s] and field verification [including inspection for correct insulation],” Wells said.

According to the staff report for the meeting, multifamily and commercial structures could achieve 15 percent higher efficiency than the Energy Code “with relatively minor changes such as incorporating better performing equipment, insulation, and windows and adding overhangs.”

While working on a draft ordinance to present to the council, staff will also finalize a cost-effectiveness analysis regarding meeting the high efficiency standards. Preliminary research estimated the cost of adding these features to “typical” homes would cost in the range of $3,000 to $5,000. The cost would be more for larger homes.

These regulations would only apply to new structures and additions to existing developments. The fast-tracking pilot program for “high-level” green projects was proposed by staff as a response to interest from council members, planning commissioners and project applicants about expediting green projects through the permitting process as an incentive for doing environmentally friendly development.

Statewide, the California Green Building Standards, or CALgreen, Code will go into effect on Jan. 1. It sets minimum mandatory standards for new residential and commercial structures in the areas of site planning, water conservation, material conservation and indoor environmental quality. But it does not make demands for energy efficiency beyond the Energy Code.

Partial Victory for Conley Ulich

Councilmember Conley Ulich wanted to remove at least one of the two members from the recently formed Emergency Communication/Public Relations Ad Hoc Committee because it includes the two newest council members, Laura Rosenthal and Lou La Monte. She said this is because they do not have experience as city officials in emergency situations.

“I appreciate what Lou and Laura are doing, but I would like to see somebody else on it that has more years for the city, just so we’re better prepared,” Conley Ulich said.

She listed several grievances she had with how certain issues were handled during the October 2007 Canyon Fire, including that a council member was not the primary source of information for the media and public and that the council was never briefed as a whole on the latest happenings. Conley Ulich said the subcommittee members did not know about these issues, and would not discuss them during their meetings.

Although Conley Ulich did not specify she should be on the subcommittee, and even said it should probably include either Mayor Jefferson Wagner or Mayor Pro Tem John Sibert (who will soon be mayor), she is the only current council member who was on the governing body during the fire.

Sibert said he would support replacing one subcommittee member with Conley Ulich. But City Attorney Christi Hogin said this was not legal. A council subcommittee that has private meetings cannot have more than two members because of public meeting regulations. And replacing a member would in theory be creating a three-member subcommittee. The only way to allow a new member would be to force the subcommittee to start its work from scratch.

Conley Ulich accepted a compromise that her ideas voiced at Monday’s council meeting would be included in the subcommittee discussions. Rosenthal said the subcommittee was formed to discuss more than emergency communications. She said its purpose is to develop an overall strategic communications plan for the city. Rosenthal and La Monte have been meeting with various officials from Malibu and other areas to gain ideas for this. The subcommittee will soon form recommendations that will be presented to the entire council for possible adoption.

Rosenthal also defended her experience with city emergencies.

“I’ve only been on the council for three months, but I’ve lived here for 21 years,” she said. “And I’ve been through a lot of emergencies here. And while I wasn’t part of the city [government], I was someone who people would call because I did seem like somebody who knew what was going on a lot as a leader in the education community and in other areas of Malibu.”

Malibu Idol

At least two families recently presented Malibu officials with proposals for a city song. These songs could be entered into a contest, with the winner revealed in time for Malibu’s 20th anniversary celebration in March.

The council voted for the Parks and Recreation staff to come up with a recommendation for how to choose an official song. Several council members favored doing a contest. They joked that it would be called Malibu Idol. Rosenthal noted that American Idol director Bruce Gowers (she did not mention him by name) is a Malibu resident, and that he might be interested in being part of such an event.

An agenda item on creating an ordinance regarding roadside field stands advertising agricultural products was delayed for a “couple months” so city staff can study the options.