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Goleta Delays Decision on Green Building Program to Allow for More Public Input

Members of the City Council and Planning Commission don't want to rush the initiative, despite an October deadline for a $200,000 grant

Citing a need for more public involvement, the Goleta City Council has decided to spend more time analyzing and discussing whether the city should enforce its green building program.

At a City Hall workshop Thursday night, members of the council and the Planning Commission agreed that it’s best to include more community members than to act too soon.

“There’s something missing,” commission member Jonny Wallis said. “There are no residents involved. Not one person spoke from the point of view of a resident who might want to do a remodel. The cost for them is just as high as it is for a larger developer.”

To receive a $200,000 grant from Southern California Edison, the council must act by October, according to staff. Wallis said that while that’s a significant amount of money, the deadline shouldn’t rush the decision.

“I’m worried about our timing; $200,000 is a lot of money, but I wouldn’t want to see this grant money drive us to take action that’s not prudent,” she said. “We know there will be an update from the state in 2014. We know that manufacturers are putting out product lines that will increase energy efficiencies. We know that we have a reach code.”

About 18 months ago, the council adopted a “reach code,” or energy-efficiency standards that exceed the existing Title 24 California Building Standards Code minimums.

The ordinance established energy-efficiency standards for new building construction, large-scale remodeling, improvements such as lighting, and new heaters or circulation pumps for pools, spas and water features.

New residential buildings and additions of more than 500 square feet are required to exceed Title 24 standards by 15 percent in energy efficiency; nonresidential buildings must exceed them by 10 percent to 15 percent. The reach code also will satisfy the greenhouse gas emission reductions set by Assembly Bill 32.

Now, the council and commission are deciding whether the city should enforce the green building program, an initiative that’s currently voluntary and exceeds reach code standards.

Councilwoman Margaret Connell, along with other members, questioned the program’s need for costly third-party verification such as LEED. There’s a 2 percent to 5 percent increase in hard costs, for things such as materials and skilled labor. The soft costs, such as design time, certification and consultants, range from $10,000 to $100,000 based on building size, according to Walker Wells, green urbanism program director at Global Green USA.

“As I understand, we have CALGreen and reach standards to meet,” Connell said. “Beyond that, I think we’re looking at something that’s desirable. I’m sorry, but I find these consultant fees very concerning.”

Some argued that the green building program adoption would put Goleta at a competitive disadvantage. Steve Fedde, vice president of Sares-Regis Group, said there will be a statewide CALGreen update in 2014 that will duplicate many of the green building program’s standards.

City staff will now discuss planning community meetings and an attractive incentive package.

“I hear one common theme — that we slow down, take our time and attempt to, maybe as (Sares-Regis president Russ) Goodman had said, bring us together with a consensus picture that maybe not everyone likes but we can get there,” said Steve Chase, director of planning and environmental services.

“We will work with the city manager and mayor to see if we have another joint workshop before we head to the Planning Commission. The second thing is to keep working on it, and incentives in particular.”

Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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