City Manager's Updates

Monthly updates from El Cerrito City Manager Karen Pinkos.

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Jun 11

Environmental Services Update - May 23, 2012

Posted on June 11, 2012 at 3:16 PM by Suzanne Iarla

Recycling and Environmental Resource Center Update
The first three weeks of operation for the recently re-opened Recycling and Environmental Resource Center have been a resounding success. Daily visitor counts have been in the range of 300 – 500 (compared to a previous 250 – 350), with a peak of 575 on a recent Saturday! Staff is getting used to new operational norms (e.g. handling fluorescent bulbs and tubes, used building materials, etc.), and is thrilled that the main customer comments are generally that the facility is “beautiful” and “thank you!” Back-in parking is still a challenge for some visitors, and staff is planning to revisit the site traffic and parking plan shortly in order to ensure public and staff safety while preserving operational efficiency. The Exchange Zone is also a hit, with many of the complaints about the previous “book exchange” having been resolved via the posting of on-site rules, including a limit on what patrons can take and a “no loitering” rule. In the coming weeks and months, staff is focusing on improving a few on-site educational and way-finding elements, establishing new operating procedures and practices, and establishing a constant presence in the drop-off area to assist patrons with their recyclables and ensure excellent customer service.

The Recycling Center Receives First Award
The Design Build Institute of America (DBIA) Western Pacific Region Awards Committee has selected the El Cerrito Recycling Center as a winner in its 2012 Awards Competition. The Center has won either Project of the Year, Regional Excellence, Distinction or Merit. The specific award will be announced at the Design/Build Awards Banquet in Newport Beach on May 24, 2012. All award winning projects will be highlighted in a special slideshow and the awards program book presented at the Awards Banquet. More information is available at

Tipping Wall Transfer Station
One not-so-visible component of the new Recycling and Environmental Resource Center project is the newly permitted “tipping wall” solid waste transfer station, at the eastern end of the facility. As a joint operation of the Environmental Services Division and the Public Works Maintenance Division, the tipping wall zone serves as a safe, efficient, and clean facility for consolidation and transfer of materials collected from El Cerrito’s public spaces and roadways. The tipping wall has three main bays for green waste, street sweeping spoils, and trash, as well as an extra bay for extra materials or emergency operations. As a County and State permitted transfer facility, the facility is self-inspected daily and is inspected by the County monthly.

Earth Day 2012: Celebration of Environmental Stewardship
The City’s annual Earth Day Celebration was held on April 21, and was as successful as ever! There were over two dozen work parties throughout the City, including the construction of a demonstration community garden at Fairmount Park, two separate broom pulling parties in the Hillside Natural Area and the PG&E right-of-way off of Moeser Lane, and many more valuable community projects. Over 300 volunteers were fed at the Volunteer Appreciation Lunch at the Community Center. Many thanks to 20 regular donors for supporting the cost of the volunteer lunch, to The El Cerrito Natural Grocery for over 300 copies of the local Chinook Book, and to the El Cerrito Community Garden network for dozens of vegetable seedlings.

Eco Film Series: Still Rolling
The Environmental Quality Committee’s Eco Film Series, which has recently featured well, received films such as “Bag It” and “The New Metropolis” at the Rialto Cerrito is now hosting monthly film showings in the City Council Chambers. The Committee hosted “The Economics of Happiness” in March, “Mad City Chickens” (a film about urban animal husbandry in Madison Wisconsin) in April, and will be hosting “Green Fire” on May 22 at 7 p.m. All films have been well attended (ranging from 25 to 140 viewers) and usually incorporate energetic group discussion after the films. For more details, see the Eco Film Series webpage at

Urban Sustainability Leaders Academy
Environmental Services Division Manager Melanie Mintz has been invited to participate in the 3rd National Urban Sustainability Leadership Academy (USLA 3.0) on Creating, Leading and Managing Change in Denver, Colorado June 6-8. The purpose of the Academy is to strengthen the leadership of local government sustainability directors so that sustainability programs can be better institutionalized and accelerated. The Academy focuses on showcasing effective leadership tools, frameworks and strategies towards the goal of creating more sustainable communities. Participation in the Academy is funded by the Institute for Sustainable Communities whose mission is to provide tools and skills to inspire active citizenship, protect the environment and take on climate change.  

Ohlone Greenway Natural Area and Raingarden Project:
Community Meeting #2: May 31
The second community workshop on the Proposition 84 funded Ohlone Greenway Urban Greening project will be held May 31, 6:30-8pm at Castro Clubhouse. Interested residents are invited to review and common on the final design concept which includes creek and riparian improvements, recreational and interpretive amenities, a rain garden, lighting and safety enhancements between Brighton (in Albany) and Fairmont. The project will be constructed after the completion of BART’s Earthquake Safety Retrofit in the project area. For more information, visit:  or call 215-4350

Bike to Work Day Wrap Up
Approximately 290 cyclists visited the City’s Energizer Station at the El Cerrito Plaza BART-Ohlone Greenway bicycle lockers between 7-9 a.m. This year’s Energizer Station featured a “bike through” photo arch, bike repairs by the Common Wheel Bicycles, and refreshments provided by WCCTAC, El Cerrito Natural Grocery, Well Grounded Coffee & Tea, and Noah’s Bagels (Telegraph/Berkeley). View photos of the City's Energizer Station at For a full recap of the East Bay’s Bike to Work Day, visit Many thanks to the East Bay Bicycle Coalition and regional sponsors and all who rode and volunteered!

City Awarded Funding for El Cerrito: Green Vision 2035
At its May 10 Council meeting, the Strategic Growth Council awarded the City $238,498 to complete an Urban Greening Plan, titled “El Cerrito: Green Vision 2035”. City Council approved application for this award at its June 6, 2011 meeting (Resolution 2011-38). The grant application was also supported by the Environmental Quality Committee and the Parks and Recreation Commission at their April 12 and April 26 meetings. Staff will begin to coordinate interdepartmentally on this effort and convene a community-based Advisory Group in the coming months. The state received 37 Planning applications; 18 were awarded.

Kids for the Bay Watershed Action Program Progress Report
As in past years, the City’s NPDES program is a sponsor of Kids for the Bay’s Watershed Action Program in El Cerrito. The activity helps the City comply with C.7.h. of the Municipal Regional Permit which requires that permittees (cities/counties) implement outreach activities to increase awareness of stormwater and/or watersheds in school age children. Since 2004, the program has involved teachers and students at Fairmont, Harding, Madera, Castro and Windrush elementary schools. This year’s program is in two third grade classes at Madera Elementary.  The progress report is available for review at City Hall during regular business hours.

Residential and Commercial Energy Efficiency Rebates
Through $25,000 in funding from the EPA Climate Showcase Communities grant, El Cerrito was able to provide additional rebates and assistance to help El Cerrito residents and businesses become more energy efficient. Through a rebate offered by El Cerrito, a total of 42 residents got professional home comfort and energy reports. The reports qualified residents to participate in EnergyUpgrade California -- a larger ARRA-funded rebate program which provided substantial rebates towards energy efficiency retrofits. Twenty-seven El Cerrito households implemented the improvements recommended in their reports. While El Cerrito only has 2% of the households in Contra Costa County, the City represented 14% of the households taking advantage of the program in the County – one of the highest participation rates countywide.

The EPA funds also provided rebates to small businesses in El Cerrito to help them retrofit their lighting. Using the program infrastructure of an existing small commercial energy efficiency program provided by PG&E, the commercial rebate program utilized a door-to-door energy auditing campaign. Fifteen businesses participated, saving approximately $10,000 per year on their energy bill and creating approximately 58,000 in kilowatt hour savings. The savings generated by both these programs is estimated to reduce GHG emissions by 42 tons per year.

Municipal Energy Savings
Using a combination of funds from the EPA Climate Showcase grant and Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block (EECBG) grants, PG&E rebates, and the City’s Energy and Water Efficiency Program, the City has implemented approximately $180,000 in energy efficiency improvements in municipal facilities. The EECBG grant provided funds for the installation of new LED lamps along the Ohlone Greenway, realizing a goal of the Ohlone Greenway Master Plan (2009), in which the public requested that lighting be improved along the Greenway to increase safety and pedestrian use. Comments have been unanimously positive about the increase in light levels. That grant also provided funds to retrofit lighting at the Library, the Senior Center, and 14 park clubhouses and childcare centers. This also enabled the City to improve the lighting quality at the effected facilities, in many cases repairing lights that had been inoperable. Electricity use in these facilities is down 26% since the same time last year.
The EPA grant has provided funds to retro-commission the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAAC) system in City Hall, allowing staff to isolate a problem that was causing the HVAC system to simultaneously cool and heat the building for long periods of time. Correcting the problem is saving approximately $6500 per year. Additional projects are being planned through the EPA project, including installation of lighting controls at 3 facilities and pool pump controls at the City’s swim center.