Green Acres

May 21, 2009

Oliver Bock, a member of the Town’s Conservation and Environmental Health Committee and also the General Plan update task force, spoke to the COWncil during the Communications section of the April 14th meeting urging a “green” building ordinance be a part of Woodside’s response to climate change. He said it was fortunate that our Director of Planning and Building, Jackie Young, was involved with a similar effort when she worked for the City of Campbell, and took part in a Green Building Collaborative with other Santa Clara County cities.

Oliver said Woodside could start with suggestions and best practices guidelines, but eventually requiring greener buildings. COWncilwoman Hodges asked Jackie what that might mean, and was told that in Phase 1 of the Santa Clara project started with a recognition of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a green building standard) guidelines, required submittal of a green checklist from builders, and required that municipal buildings of a certain size be LEED Silver or above. Phase 2, which was starting when she left Campbell, was supposed to begin six to eight months after a Phase 1 and would start requiring green standards in residential building. Oliver pointed out that similar initiatives are beginning throughout San Mateo County, and referenced a County green ordinance enacted last year.

The COWncil seemed interested. Town Manager Susan George said that the General Plan Update Task Force could look at incorporating green standards. She also said that she would look into preparing a staff report, but expressed concerned about Woodside staff being too ‘green’ to do a report on ‘green development’ – i.e. suggesting that they lacked the knowledge to do a proper job on crafting recommendations to the COWncil.

COWncilmember Hodges asked whether the new Portola Valley Town Hall was certified and was told that it has Platinum status. But Oliver pointed out that they started from scratch, which makes it easier to design in green elements. It was mentioned however that ‘recycling’ Woodside’s old Scout Hall building by moving and renovating it to make it part of the new Town Hall a number of years ago was a green act.

Mayor Pro Tem Burow broke with Susan’s advice on placing the green building discussion within the General Plan Update Task Force, saying the Town “shouldn’t use the General Plan as a reason to deny or stop progress on the projects we all agree on.” Susan responded, “No, but it [the General Plan update meetings] are coming up first” and it would be “a slap in the face” to “ignore them” by debating it in the COWncil first.

So while even the idea of considering green building requirements is already proving to be a bit thorny, the COWncil appears ready to learn more and possibly move on developing a green building ordinance. We hope that Susan does not bury the request as she so frequently does (here and here).

With so many counties, cities, and towns already taking action, there is a wealth of information out there on best practices and reasonable requirements. COWs choose to live in Woodside because we care about our environment. We also believe that our Town needs to act responsibly. The first step of providing the COWmunity with best practice guidelines and encouraging green building should begin without delay.

More information on LEED certification here.

The Campbell Phase 1 Ordinance is here.

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