Saturday, March 17, 2018

New Approach to Homelessness in Marin

I think I need to apologize about the earlier Marinwood Fire Department posts

Pointless Picture designed to get your attention.

I think I need to apologize.  I may have caused some  confusion. Early posts reference "prevailing wage contracts" which should have been labeled "DIR contractor contracts"   I have since corrected the posts.  While I believe the law is clear that DIR Contractor procedures are not required for Small projects under $25,000,  the Marinwood CSD IS REQUIRED to pay prevailing wages on contracts above $1000.   The Marinwood Fire Department has a bid for less than $8000 for wood cabinets, granite countertops and installation.  Only if they desire to put in new lighting and move plumbing, will they need to hire an electrician and plumber. Still with the savings, the Marinwood CSD can do this, buy a new $6500 Wolf Range* to replace their current one and still the project is less than $25,000. 

Please see the official press release from the Department of Industrial Relations HERE

*I am not certain that any appliances will count towards the remodeling project $25,000 maximum value since I believe they will be considered separately.

The Triumph of WIMBYs

Zev Yaroslavsky on Scott Wiener’s SB 827: The Triumph of WIMBYs

In introducing Senate Bill 827 this January, Senator Scott Wiener, a champion of dense housing development, has initiated a heated and complex debate about the future of local zoning and community plan governance throughout the state. In response to Sen. Wiener’s comments at a recent community hearing in Los Angeles organized by Assemblymember Laura Friedman, Zev Yaroslavsky, former Los Angeles County Supervisor and City Councilmember and presently Director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs opines on how the Weiner bill would radically change Southern California by “eviscerating decades of planning.” Yaroslavsky, deeply critical of SB 827, provides context for how this state legislation—touted as promoting transit-oriented development—would in fact undermine the region’s existing affordable housing stock and ability to chart its own future.

Zev Yaroslavsky
"SB 827 is not a transit-oriented development bill; it’s a real estate play of the worst kind." - Zev Yaroslavsky
At a recent community hearing in Los Angeles, State Senator Scott Wiener promoted his bill, SB 827, with the argument that the state ought to address the housing crisis by facilitating greater density in cities throughout California. Having spent decades adjudicating land-use and transit issues while serving in LA’s local government, what are your thoughts on the bill?
Zev Yaroslavsky: SB 827 is not a housing bill; it’s a real-estate bill. It is intended to monetize real estate. This bill is not about YIMBYs vs. NIMBYs; it’s about WIMBYS: Wall Street in My Backyard. With one stroke of the pen, the State Legislature could totally transform the economics of real-estate development in Los Angeles—while totally eviscerating decades of planning.
I admit some of that planning has not been good. But on the whole, it has been the result of give-and-take from the stakeholders who live and work in these communities.
As Senator Wiener would have it, the legislation is about transit-oriented development that creates added zoning near transit stops. At the town hall, for example, he spoke about subway and light-rail stops. But that’s not all that this bill is about.
Wiener’s definition of a “transit corridor” is not simply subways and light rail. It’s every bus line in the state that runs at least once every 15 minutes during the morning and evening rush hours. In Los Angeles, that’s almost every bus route on almost every commercial street from Boyle Heights to Brentwood, and from the San Fernando Valley to south Los Angeles.
Moreover, his definition of a “major transit stop” includes any bus stop at the intersection of two transit corridors—e.g. Melrose and Fairfax Avenues, Soto Street and Cesar Chavez Boulevard, Ventura and Van Nuys Boulevards, and hundreds of similar intersections throughout most of the LA basin and a good part of the San Fernando Valley.
Under SB 827, a developer would have the right to build, at minimum: 1) an eight-story-high apartment building within a quarter-mile of a major transit stop or transit corridor, or 2) a building of four to five stories within a half-mile of a major transit stop or a transit corridor.
What does this all mean? Think of the corner of Melrose and Fairfax. Under this bill, the bus stop at that corner qualifies as a “major transit stop.” That means that if a developer bought the commercial properties on those two streets, and/or any residential properties within a quarter-mile radius of that corner, they would have the right to build eight-story apartment buildings there—with no parking and no limit on density.
That’s right: Wiener would prohibit the city from requiring a single parking space in an eight-story, 100-unit apartment building. A “brilliant” idea for LA.
That would impact the shops on Melrose—one of LA’s most unique shopping streets—as well as all the rent-controlled apartments and single-family homes within a quarter-mile radius. The same can be said for the corner of Exposition and Crenshaw in Leimert Park, the corner of Nordhoff and Reseda in Northridge, the corner of Pico and Westwood in southern Westwood, and so forth.
What’s more, historic preservation zones—such as Angelino Heights, which is within a quarter-mile of the Sunset transit corridor, and South Carthay Circle, which is within a quarter-mile from the Pico, Olympic, and La Cienega transit corridors—could be razed in favor of five-to-eight-story, market-rate apartment buildings.
Is that what we want to do to these neighborhoods? Does Scott Wiener want to take a wrecking ball to most of the retail villages and residential communities in Los Angeles? It’s nuts. Every responsible planner with whom I’ve spoken about this bill speak of it with great disdain. It is classic overreach—a “one-size-fits-all” approach to the planning of the largest city in California. That’s why I say this is not a transit-oriented development bill; it’s a real-estate play of the worst kind.
A San Francisco state senator cannot possibly understand the complexities and nuances of a city the size of LA—and he really shouldn’t try. Maybe he should use his own city as a guinea pig; let’s see how this brilliant idea works out in his hometown.
This bill has accomplished one thing: It has united tenants’ rights organizations with small businesses and homeowners, all of whom are rising up against this broad-brush approach.
In an effort to gain the support of tenants’ groups, Wiener has amended his bill, with great fanfare, to appear to address their concerns about the demolition of what’s left of our affordable housing stock, especially rent-controlled apartments. He has failed to do so.
After the new clause prohibiting the demolition of rent-controlled units, the bill goes on to add, “…unless the local government passes a resolution explicitly authorizing a review process for demolition permit applications.”
If you can’t trust your local city council, by gosh, who can you trust?
You were a longtime advocate of public transit, and a Metro Board member who fiercely supported increasing sales-tax for the buildout of our public transit system. Why do you say SB 827 is not a transit bill? 
We didn’t pass two sales-tax measures over the last 10 years in order to raze the city to make it look like New York. We didn’t promote Measures R and M as growth machines that would densify every linear foot along the new rail lines and existing bus routes. If we had, they would not have passed.
That is not to say that there aren’t many areas along the new fixed guideway lines that are appropriate for densification. Hollywood, the Wilshire corridor, the Vermont corridor, Van Nuys, NoHo, and many areas along the Expo, Gold, and Crenshaw light-rail lines—among others—lend themselves to densification. However, we have to be smart about where along these corridors we densify, and where we preserve neighborhood character. There is room for both.
While it’s more difficult to go through a consensus-building process community by community, it’s far better than letting the bulldozers loose on most of the LA basin.
Some criticism of the bill has come from the perspective that achieving equity requires localized solutions. Blogger John Perry recently wrote:
"'Local control' is a term that has been tainted in Southern California by its association with Beverly Hills or Santa Monica homeowners who wielded it to keep out low-income residents and people of color. But in South L.A. and Boyle Heights, residents have struggled for years to gain some degree of control over their futures, and their efforts have finally begun to bear fruit with accomplishments like the People’s Plan and Metro’s revised plans for Mariachi Plaza."
How would SB 827 affect different communities differently?  
That’s precisely the problem with Wiener’s bill: It is oblivious to the uniqueness of the communities that make up Los Angeles and every other city in California. He treats them all equally—abrogating local zoning laws and giving the real-estate industry a gift horse of increased property values, increased building, and increased profits. In other words, put a bull’s eye on every community in our city, and let the developers have at it.
This is an arrogant and wrong-headed approach. Land-use policies, and their impacts on a community, must be left to local government—not the State Legislature—to determine. The Legislature cannot possibly know the unintended consequences of a broad-brush bill. And there are hundreds of unintended consequences.
Every member of every community cares deeply about where they live and work. Whether you live in Echo Park or Beverly Hills, in Chatsworth or Wilmington, your community is your community.  Businesses, residents, and other stakeholders fight to maintain a community’s values—and its value. That doesn’t make them NIMBYs; it makes them the responsible citizen stakeholders who make a city what it is.
It’s been my experience that political leadership can bring about a large degree of consensus on where to build low-rise, mid-rise, or high-rise buildings, and on where to build permanent supportive housing for the homeless. Indeed, when I served on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, my office funded more than a half-dozen permanent housing projects for chronically mentally ill homeless persons, and I never had a so-called NIMBY testify against them. On the contrary, communities from Santa Monica to Hollywood to Van Nuys to West Hollywood to Culver City embraced them. 
Let’s take a step back and assess the impacts of the last few decades of state legislation on local housing supply.
The State Legislature and the city of Los Angeles have approved myriad pieces of legislation over the last two decades. First, the Resident Auxiliary Zone (RAS) essentially doubled the FAR for residential buildings on commercial streets—from 1.5:1 to 3:1. Then there’s SB 1818, another density bonus bill.
The recent granny flats ordinance now allows any single-family homeowner to build an auxiliary unit on their property, essentially doubling R-1 density. And in the last legislative session, just a few months ago, Governor Brown signed no fewer than15 housing bills.
A lot has been legislated recently! Let’s give those laws a chance to work.
It’s also worth noting that there is ample capacity under LA’s current zoning code to build hundreds of thousands of new apartment units, without a single zone change or plan amendment. The problem is that residential developers prefer to have zoning doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled because it allows them to realize a much bigger profit. And they have a compliant city, which has approved over 90 percent of developer requests for increased zoning.
I don’t blame developers for trying to change the rules rather than playing by them; it’s much more lucrative to do the former. But that effort has driven up land values, ultimately resulting in prevailing rents that fewer and fewer people can afford. It’s part of the reason we’re in the mess we’re in—and it’s dead wrong.
At the same hearing, in response to hostile questions, Senator Wiener said, “I do not advocate a state takeover of housing policy. I’m advocating looking at a balance, where the state sets basic standards that are enforceable, and local communities [have] control within those standards—just like public education.”
Scott Wiener has said a lot of things, but this one made me laugh. Of course he’s advocating a state takeover of local housing policy!
He’s willing to leave it to the city to permit demolition of rent controlled apartment buildings—but not to determine which retail villages or single-family neighborhoods live or die. He’s advocating the destruction of what’s left of our affordable housing stock.
Wiener’s bill is the most audacious takeover of local zoning powers in the state’s history. If he’s going to propose it, he shouldn’t be afraid to accurately describe what it does. 
Wiener also said that the LA region has downzoned much of its housing capacity, such that the vast majority of the region today is zoned for single-family homes—which, in places where prices are rising, are inefficient uses of land. Your thoughts?
In the 1980s, LA was forced to downzone much of the city as a result of state legislation (AB 283) and a law suit. However, I am not aware of any community plan in which the city changed multi-family zoning to single-family zoning. That is simply not true. 
Many sections of the city were downzoned from R-4 (multifamily zoning at 100 units to the acre) to R-3 (50 units to the acre), and even some lesser multiple-dwelling densities—but not to single-family zones. It would be fair for the city to revisit some of those 40-year-old decisions, but not with a broad brush, and not from Sacramento.
The affordable housing crisis is not simply a matter of zoning, and it’s not simply a matter of supply and demand. Wiener’s bill doesn’t require developers to set aside a significant percentage of units for affordable housing. All it will induce is the development of market-rate rentals that will command rents that are unaffordable to a large percentage of our population.
If the Senator wants to do something about affordable housing, he might work a little harder to repeal the Costa-Hawkins Act, which prevents cities from enacting meaningful rent stabilization laws that protect our affordable housing stock.
Metro is about to engage in an effort to reconfigure all of its bus lines countywide. Given the definition of transit corridor in SB 827, is it possible to truly know what tracts in the city will be subject to state legislative exception to local zoning? As writer Bob Silvestri asked:
"What happens when bus frequency suddenly rises above or falls below SB 827’s frequency criteria? Will cities then be required to immediately up-zone or down-zone large swaths of land as bus intervals rise and fall? And, how will a city or a developer deal with zoning that is in constant flux and essentially unpredictable? What if a street is “transit rich” one year but not the next, and in the interim a developer has broken ground on a housing project? Does that neighborhood then end up with high density housing but no public transit?" 
Given these possibilities, are you concerned that the buildout of public transit is evolving into the vehicle for land-use changes?
That’s one of the most insidious features of this bill: It determines the size, height, and density of allowable development based on how often a bus comes down the local business street during peak hours. If a bus runs every 15 minutes, you get to build eight-story apartments in the Melrose/Fairfax neighborhood—destroying businesses, rent controlled units and single-family homes. If it runs every 16 minutes, the neighborhood is saved.
I suggest we all get to know the chief bus scheduler at Metro, because he or she will determine what gets built and where. Who’s the genius who thought that scheme up?

Friday, March 16, 2018

Marinwood CSD Meeting March 2018 More Melodrama and Financial Mismangement

Marinwood Fire Department still doesn't have a kitchen.  Chief Roach cites that John Pope has not submitted bid and "he had no other bids" ignoring the written bid from The Granite Expo that will save Marinwood CSD at least $50k.   Former CSD Director Bill Hansell has been hired as the architect to design plans for a maintenance shed which is situated in the stream conservation setback of 100 feet.  Neighbors stood loudly in protest of the project in 2017 when the CSD presented "ideas for feedback".  The CSD directors have chosen to ignore the feedback and bulldoze ahead despite legal, environmental and citizen opposition.  And then there is the ridiculous expenditure for a custom design vs.low cost architect designed prefab structures used by government agencies worldwide..  Tax Revenues are up significantly due to the recovering real estate market yet the pace of expeditures by the CSD is even faster.  Serious overhaul of financial management is necessary to tame the out of control beast.

Powerpoint Presentation to RWQCB about Toxic Pollution at Marinwood Plaza on March 14, 2018

Thursday, March 15, 2018

MCE Shell Games -- V.2018

MCE Shell Games -- V.2018

The history of MCE is marked by consumer deception and false advertising about the true cleanliness of the energy it delivers in the fight against global warming. In 2015, in response to public criticism, MCE claimed it would sever ties with Shell Oil: that by 2017 it would be free of Royal Dutch Shell’s subsidiary Shell Energy North America.
Following mounting public criticism, MCE also promised to cease its use of renewable energy certificates, known as RECs. This latter commitment garnered the support of the Sierra Club, whose attorney’s referred to the use of RECs as "deceptive marketing" when PG&E proposed using these instruments in its now-abandoned “Green Option” that was proposed to compete with MCE.
2018 Slide1.jpg#asset:9378
Out with Shell...
In 2017, without fanfare, MCE’s full services contract with Shell expired. Long-time critics and environmentalists watched in anticipation for this new day to arrive, when the misdeeds and misdirections of MCE and its CEO, Dawn Weisz, might cease along with MCE’s exports of cash to Royal Dutch Shell in the Netherlands -- which, to date, top one-half billion dollars.
However, with MCE there is frequently a caveat.
Even though MCE announced it would no longer engage Shell with a “full-services” contract, a pipeline of energy purchases continued to flow to the oil giant. Those contracts ranged from $10,000 to a $27.3 million contract that Weisz executed last month.
In a curious twist, MCE Chair Kate Sears was embroiled in a conflict of interest charge in late 2017, because she held Royal Dutch Shell stock while voting on MCE contracts with Shell. According to Supervisor Sears’ Form 700 filings with the County of Marin, she also holds stock in Exxon-Mobil, Phillips 66, Occidental Petroleum, BP, Total (French oil company), Conoco Phillips, Chevron, and oilfield services company Schlumberger.
Nevertheless, with Shell’s departure as manager of MCE’s energy portfolio and energy scheduling, MCE was in immediate need of expertise to fill that void.
… in with conflicts of interest and investigations
MCE received six bids from firms that proposed managing MCE’s energy portfolio and scheduling energy deliveries. MCE awarded a contract to ZGlobalby unanimous vote of the board, in June 2016. Part of the justification for selecting ZGlobal was that it offered what’s known as “shadow settlement” services, which is a parallel reconciliation of the myriad of charges accrued during the delivery of electric power.
Ironically, Weisz ducked a public question about shadow settlements in 2009, when she brought her MCE entourage to Novato, seeking support for the pending launch of her fledgling enterprise.
MCE presumably conducted due diligence on ZGlobal, but it failed to identify that the company had caught the eye of investigators who were zeroing in on its conflicts of interest and double-dealing with southern California’s Imperial Irrigation District (IID). The Desert Sun, which was central to exposing financial improprieties, identified nearly $100 million in billings and now-cancelled contracts involving ZGlobal. Those issues remain open.
ZGlobal will have a close relationship with MCE, particularly as pressure mounts for MCE to deliver on California’s growing requirement for increased energy volumes starting in 2021. These needs will include solar development, engineering, and procurement of energy from new renewable resources. Many of these areas are similar to those at IID.
Birds of a feather?
MCE’s selection of ZGlobal is telling of its decision-making and its peculiar attraction to companies embroiled in controversy. Previously, MCE became involved in a 120 acre solar development that failed, due in large part to less than competent management by MCE.
North American Power Group (NAPG) was to construct a 15 megawatt solar farm outside Sacramento, in Rocklin, California. MCE’s technical consultant, Kirby Dusel (Pacific Energy Advisors, located in Folsom, California, where ZGlobal is also located) referred to the contract with NAPG as a “fleeting” opportunity when recommending Rio Solar to MCE’s board.
In reality, Rio Solar existed only as a concept. While MCE’s technical consultants failed to grasp the multi-year time requirement for environmental reviews, MCE’s board believed Rio Solar was just months away from commercial production.
After coming to terms with NAPG’s zero-progress, including a sudden announcement to relocate the planned solar farm 300 miles south to Bakersfield, Rio Solar was quietly cancelled by Weisz.
The absence of Rio Solar’s energy was the equivalent of Marin County’s entireresidential electric load for three months. Contrary to its prior assurances, MCE covered the clean energy shortfall with RECs.
NAPG itself subsequently came under Department of Justice investigation (eighteen months ago NAPG settled charges involving its carbon sequestration project with the Department of Energy). The DOJ found NAPG’s owner “fraudulently transferred millions of dollars of award monies into his personal bank account and used the award monies to fund an extravagant lifestyle.”
MCE’s controversy was not limited to NAPG.
MCE entered into a $190 million solar contract with a San Diego company by the name of enXco. MCE selected the firm over California’s SunPower and domestic supplier LSPower. Weisz was careful to refer to “enXco,” ignoring the identity of the company that actually owned enXco, when trumpeting the solar contract to Marin cities, during MCE’s update tour about MCE’s success.
A firestorm ignited when Marin residents discovered that enXco was a subsidiary of √Člectricit√© de France (EDF), the world’s largest nuclear power company, headquartered in Paris.
The uncovering of EDF, which should have been an embarrassment for Weisz, who also touted MCE’s rejection of nuclear power and calls for the closure of PG&E’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, only galvanized her resolve about retaining her rightful place as MCE’s leader.
MCE went on to execute a 20-year contract valued at $200 million for energy from "Desert Harvest." MCE's website, which identifies the 2016 agreement asResolution T2016-01 takes viewers to some other agreement. According to a table in MCE's 2018 Integrated Resource Plan, Desert Harvest is owned by EDF.
To most public administrators, MCE's behavior would have been awkward for an agency that claimed transparency and community allegiance as justification for its existence compared to PG&E.
None of it mattered
For Weisz, a former county Planner earning $54,000 per year and now making $320,000 at the helm of MCE, all of this was simply noise as Shell faded from the headlines. ZGlobal marked the close to a public relations fiasco.
With Shell’s departure, Weisz & company wiped their hands and declared they had delivered on what was promised to the public. Shell was gone. That box was checked… in pencil.
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Now it was time for Weisz to get back to work.
There were issues involving MCE’s shifting positions on RECs; and operating costs that MCE and other CCAs had, for the time being, off-loaded onto PG&E. And, most urgent of all a looming threat to CCA independence and its “self-regulated” existence from the utilities commission that was beginning to piece together energy problems in California that were caused by CCAs.
But first things, first. Weisz’s immediate priority was the continued shaping and controlling of the public narrative in order to better vanquish MCE’s critics. To achieve that, Weisz invoked a familiar posture that compelled her onlookers to take up a rallying cry, that caused local media to come to MCE’s defense, that compelled MCE’s board to circle the wagons around the MCE enterprise and cede its judgment to her.
The "Victim" -- Take 1:
When MCE launched into business in May 2010, PG&E sent a letter alerting customers to be aware of a coming energy change, that they would be switched into a program known as Community Choice Aggregation. PG&E’s letter was information only -- neutral on the merits of CCA. Compared to MCE’s Opt-Out notice, the primary difference was that PG&E’s font size was large and easier to read, whereas MCE’s notice was small and had the appearance of junk mail.
In response, Weisz acted as if she couldn’t believe PG&E’s egregious behavior. How dare the big utility company engage in these anti-CCA practices by sending such a letter. PG&E was acting contrary to AB 117, the law that created CCAs. Could the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) please help her reign in PG&E's anti-competitive actions?
That plea prompted the CPUC to shut down PG&E’s conversation about the advent of CCA with its customers. If PG&E protested, the Commission was ready to levy heavy fines. And if any customers called PG&E with questions, the utility was to remain neutral while those customers were switched into MCE.
Ironically, at the same time that the CPUC shut down PG&E’s voice, Marin consumers, who lacked an arbitrator, were complaining about MCE’s unfair Opt-Out practices.
Victim of the Unions & Sacramento – Take 2:
California legislators reacted to the shortcomings of CCAs, by introducing AB 2145. The legislation would change the Opt-Out mechanism to Opt-In, meaning consumers would have to take action and elect to sign up for the program, rather than automatically being enrolled, thereby eliminating concerns of gaming and manipulating the Opt-Out enrollment system.
AB 2145 created an instant backlash in the CCA community, who feared that they would not be able to build their businesses without the automatic enrollment feature. MCE claimed that AB 2145 was part of grand scheme that threatened jobs, cost savings, renewable energy, and of course, “choice.”
Of note, with the exception of three solar jobs that MCE claims, MCE has not created any on-going, full-time jobs in Marin, except those of its staff. MCE’s last cost savings compared to PG&E was six-hundreds of 1%, and its contribution to the renewable energy through the solar farms constructed through its "feed-in tariff program" is one-tenth of 1% of its total energy load.
A feed-in tariff is where a developer funds the complete construction of a solar farm and then receives a guaranteed fixed-payment for each megawatt-hour of energy that is delivered to MCE for resale. Except for public relations, MCE’s feed-in tariff program has been a financial loss – MCE pays more than twicecurrent market prices for its feed-in tariff energy.
To combat AB 2145 legislative efforts, Weisz again set up MCE as a victim to the CPUC and with State Senators in the Energy, Utilities, and Communications Committee.
MCE claimed that private parties, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), were distributing “very inaccurate and misleading information” about Shell and AB 2145. MCE also claimed that this writer, critical of MCE since it began green-washing dirty energy with RECs in 2011, was part of a scheme that threatened MCE’s growth.
MCE asked the CPUC to shut down public discourse about MCE – a government agency-- and Shell and, most importantly, AB 2145.
The IBEW’s letter responding to MCE is included here.
Even though the CPUC did not act on MCE’s request, MCE successfully set the foundation for its showdown in Sacramento. CCA proponents packed the legislative chambers for a final vote on AB 2145.
MCE told legislators that the Opt-Out mechanism was its birthright, and that MCE could not survive without it when everyone was spreading rumors and bad news about MCE.
Besides, MCE claimed, communities everywhere were benefitting by its significant reductions of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to PG&E in the fight against global warming. (MCE averages 43% higher GHG emissions per megawatt-hour than PG&E from 2011 through 2015, the last year of available data).
State Senators took the temperature of the room and determined their re-elections were better assured if they didn’t alienate voters. AB 2145 was defeated, preserving CCA’s Opt-Out / automatic enrollment program.
Shaping the MCE Board’s perception
MCE’s board is comprised of municipal councilmembers from each city or town that MCE serves. None of the members are energy professionals and so they rely on MCE staff for technical guidance. Competent boards require a rudimentary understanding of the business they govern.
According to MCE’s board meeting minutes from June 2014, the board did not understand even the basic component of renewable energy, known as “Bucket 1.” This was after four years of operations.
This meeting occurred after MCE was exposed for doctoring its annual greenhouse gas emission rates after PG&E’s unexpectedly lower number was published. Two years later, MCE was again exposed for importing coal-fired power that it rebranded as “clean” energy.
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In both cases, Weisz authored letters that obfuscated the truth and kept her board of non-energy professionals in the dark.
If there was any hope of someone directing MCE to begin operating with integrity, it wasn’t going to come from a board that took its cue from its CEO.
In her first letter, regarding MCE’s altering its annual GHG emission rate numbers, Weisz wrote that “MCE made a commitment to deliver a lower emission factor than PG&E, and that commitment was honored.” MCE’s revision-after-PG&E-announced-its-numbers was merely a “true up.”
MCE board meeting minutes, dated the same day as Weisz’s true up letter, identify that “Ms. Weisz responded to questions from the board specifically related to the correspondence received from Mr. Phelps.”
It is doubtful that Weisz shared thoughts with her board that were similar to those of California Air Resources Board Chair, who, five days later, wondered if MCE was engaged in consumer fraud.
In her second letter, Weisz denied that MCE’s import of “clean” coal-fired power had occurred, then claimed it was all “unexpected and unfortunate” misunderstanding before blaming Shell and the California legislature for her problem.
It remains unclear whether Weisz fully grasps what occurred involving coal imports and associated Bucket 2 e-tagging issues, because even though she signed the September 2015 letter, according to invoice records, it was authored by her consultant at Pacific Energy Advisors.
Ceding its authority
All agenda items and the vision of MCE fall to Weisz. Of the thousands of agenda items that board has considered since MCE’s May 2010 business launch, not a single “no” vote has been cast by any single member on any single item. The odds of this occurring in a company that is fully disclosing all aspects of its operations and decisions is probably zero.
Of note, MCE’s board is now 28 strong, 10 more than the largest corporate board on record – General Electric Company, which recently announced its board is downsizing to 12 members (the most recent enterprise value of GE is $243 billion).

Part 2 of this series will address (1) MCE’s cash horde; (2) MCE’s public rejection of RECs and its concurrent use of a front organization that lobbies for their continued use; and (3) MCE’s quid pro quo outreach where jobs are promised in exchange for favorable public relations in its coming fight with legislators and utility companies.

About the Author:
Jim Phelps is retired after serving the power, petrochemical, and geothermal industries for nearly 35 years as a power contractor and utility rate analyst. He is not now, nor has he ever been, employed by PG&E. He has not received any money from PG&E for his work tracking Community Choice Aggregation and Community Choice Energy activities. He has also completed consulting and thermal performance test work for Shell Oil, one of MCE's energy providers, at one of Shell's Gulf Coast refineries.
Mr. Phelps operates one of Marin's largest residential solar electric systems at his home in Novato. He also operates a solar electric system at another house in Placer County. Several years ago he initiated contact with PG&E about its carbon emission practices and with MCE about its emission practices. He also requested clarification from MCE and other CCAs about several business conduct issues, however, those CCAs declined to provide help. To this time, MCE’s only input about its business is to respond to Public Records Act requests identifying the costs for copies of public documents, or denying the existence of basic information, such as its procured volumes of system power.

California to Take Over Housing Market

California to Take Over Housing Market

Bruce Bialosky
Posted: Mar 11, 2018 12:01 AM
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The California Legislature passed many bills this past session that were signed into law which gave the government greater control of the housing market. This is a perfect example of invasive government creating a problem, blaming others for the problem and then creating even more rules to destroy the market even further.

The cost of housing in California is certainly a problem. The Business Insider identified that 18 of the top 25 most-costly housing markets in the U.S. are in California, with all of the top 10 being in the state. In a recent study by UC Berkeley, 56% of residents are looking at relocating due to the costs of housing, many moving to another state. Today just 28% of California households can afford a new home versus 56% in 2012 per a study by the California Association of Realtors.

Governor Brown signed 15 bills related to housing that were passed through the Legislature. These included a bill which would put a $4 billion bond initiative on the 2018 ballot. There is also a new fee of up to $225 on the sale of a property that would drive up the cost of housing, but be used to lower the cost of housing. One bill signed by Gov. Brown would revise the Housing Accountability Act and subject local governments to a $10,000 fine per housing unit if they do not meet the new rules and build affordable housing.

State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon (a candidate for the U.S. Senate) stated he was privately informed by members of the Los Angeles City Council that “We have been strangled, we have been handcuffed by NIMBYism and the threats from Neighborhood Councils.” This started a firestorm of outcry from the 2,000 members of local neighborhood councils who themselves are elected officials. This is all part of the fight over the interests wanting further housing development and others wanting preservation of neighborhoods. De Leon was characterized as bigoted and anti-diversity by some.

Many of the bills countered the mission of lower cost for housing. One bill signed requires that any private housing project that receives any public funding and is under agreement with a government agency pay union wages. The legislature got so detailed they passed another law which required union wages be paid to remove a tree – yes, a tree. Now the people who cannot afford housing in the first place cannot work on many of the projects that would enable them to live in that housing.

I spoke to Roger Davila, an Orange County housing developer, who told me that after 20 years he has gotten out of the low-income market. He said between the requirements placed on low-income housing by California and the local governments, together with the negative attitude of local residents toward the housing, it became impossible to build anything affordable. Davila said the bill to have the prevailing wage on private projects will drive the cost of development out of sight. He stated “They may be well intentioned, but they really don’t understand the effects of their legislation.”

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) study showed the regulations add just shy of $85,000 per unit of housing nationally. You can be assured those costs are even higher in California. But none of these bills addressed those costs.The bills just created more invasive government involvement in the housing market.

This is a patented process by the Left to take over an area of the economy. First, they see a problem; then they express outrage at the problem and suggest governmental solutions to the problem. When the governmental solutions fail, they suggest more governmental solutions and then more governmental solutions until they have nearly completely destroyed the free market. When that happens they completely take over that area of the economy and point fingers at the free market and say it is their fault.

Two prime examples of this are in California (and many other states’ legislatures) which loaded up health insurance -- adding minimum requirements like covering pre-natal care and chiropractors -- that the cost of health insurance became unaffordable to most. They then declare a crisis and further interceded in the market by passing Obamacare. Now that market is falling apart because their solutions have driven costs out of sight. The other example was when the federal government took over the housing loan market through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They kept on layering the program with requirements for ridiculous loans. The market collapsed and they pointed fingers at the bankers instead of the laws.

Joel Kotkin, the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange, CA, stated in a recent column “At the heart of the problem lie ‘urban containment’ policies that impose ‘urban growth boundaries’ to restrict — or even prohibit — new suburban detached housing tracts from being built on greenfield land. Given the strong demand for single-family homes, it is no surprise that prices have soared.”

You can believe that these 15 laws will further destroy the free market for housing and do next to nothing to resolve the homeless crisis in California which has to do with the cost of housing and other factors such as mental illness.

In five years, they will be back addressing the newly-branded crisis that these 15 laws did nothing to resolve with 15 new laws further taking over the housing market until there is no affordable housing in California. And then we will become Venezuela.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A misunderstanding about the Marinwood Fire Department Kitchen is Corrected.

From Marinwood CSD Director, Eric Dreikosen  on 3/14/2018

Dear Stephen,

With all sincerity, I would genuinely like to know why you feel the threshold for paying prevailing wages on public works projects is $25,000?  Please cite the specific government code you believe supports this and I will gladly research it further.


From Stephen Nestel on 3/14/ 2018:

Dear Eric, Chief Roach, Marinwood CSD board members, Marin IJ staff and Marinwood Taxpayers:

You are correct to be concerned about following government contracting law, especially after so many missteps during the kitchen bidding process. When the problem with Kitchen arose in February 2017, you did not know that Governor Brown had changed DIR law to allow small projects under $25,000 on January 10, 2017 to take effect on July 1, 2017.  

Keeping current on changing laws can be challenging, however in May 2017,  I believe you acknowledged the law would be changing on July 2017.  You have persisted with a misunderstanding of the law insisting that the contract could only be satisfied with a DIR approved contractor at a great cost to the district .Only ONE CONTRACTOR, who coincidentally a personal friend of the Chief and Marinwood CSD member was considered qualified.  

This is false.  Contractors on small public works projects DO NOT have to be DIR contractors but they need to pay prevailing wages and keep records.  That is quite a different interpretation than the one reported to the board.  It seems to me that reason the small projects exception was created was to allow small districts to get projects done without a cumbersome DIR contracting process.  The DIR contractors are not interested in these small projects either.  

All the law says is that if the project is less than $25,000 is we do not have to adhere to the DIR process.  If we pay more than $1000 in wages, we must pay "prevailing wage".  This seems fair to me.  We will pay union wages and get the job done quickly by contracting this directly.  The electrician and plumber will likely charge union wages anyhow.  The cabinets are manufactured in a factory (just like the one's that DIR contractor would provide) and are not a factor and the only other labor is the delivery and installation by Granite Expo.  

I have no idea if Granite Expo is a union shop.  My guess is that it is not.  In this case,  I suggest we get a bid from them on labor and recalculate it for "union rates" and offer to pay them a higher wage rate if you feel this is necessary.

Marinwood CSD and FD will comply with the DIR law by paying fair wages and will also get a good price from the granite expo, get the kitchen installed by April 15, 2018 and save taxpayers thousands .

Lastly, I hasten to point out that the district regularly employs/contracts people at "non union" wages all the time.  Pool maintenance, delivery sales people, air conditioner repair, grounds, cleaning, etc.  I personally don't think this project is exceptionally different.

So let's make this project happen. Go to  today and pick out the exact cabinets and countertops and sign the order.  The firemen will be happy, you'll save money and make the Marinwood CSD district proud.


Stephen Nestel


From California Department of Industrial Relations Website HERE

Are there any exceptions to the registration requirement?
Contractors who work exclusively on small public works projects are not required to register as a public works contractor or file electronic certified payroll reports for those projects. Contractors are still required to maintain certified payroll records on a continuous basis, and provide them to the Labor Commissioner’s Office upon request. Additionally, awarding agencies are not required to submit the notice of contract award through DIR’s PWC-100 system on projects that fall within the small project exemption. The small project exemption applies for all public works projects that do not exceed:
  • $25,000 for new construction, alteration, installation, demolition or repair  
  • $15,000 for maintenance

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Here is why the Marinwood Fire Department Kitchen is not required to register as a public works contract.

From California Department of Industrial Relations Website HERE

Are there any exceptions to the registration requirement?
Contractors who work exclusively on small public works projects are not required to register as a public works contractor or file electronic certified payroll reports for those projects. Contractors are still required to maintain certified payroll records on a continuous basis, and provide them to the Labor Commissioner’s Office upon request. Additionally, awarding agencies are not required to submit the notice of contract award through DIR’s PWC-100 system on projects that fall within the small project exemption. The small project exemption applies for all public works projects that do not exceed:
  • $25,000 for new construction, alteration, installation, demolition or repair  
  • $15,000 for maintenance
Even the Marinwood CSD is allowed to save money on small contracts as of July 1, 2017.

An Open Letter Presented to the Marinwood CSD and taxpayers on March 13, 2018

Dear Chief Roach, Erick Driekosen ,  Marinwood CSD Board members and Marinwood CSD taxpayers:

As promised, here is a quote for the Marinwood Firehouse Kitchen with all wood cabinets, granite countertops and an all stainless steel Frigidaire appliances.  Installations are generally booked 30 days in advance. The Marinwood Firefighters could have their new kitchen as early as tax day, April 15th.

Cabinets & Delivery $3599.26
Garnet Tops              $564.82
Installation Labor      $3800.88
Appliance Bundle     $1944.18

Total Cabinets, Granite Countertops with All New Appliances including installation $9909.14

Price does not include incidental electric and plumbing and wallboard repair.

This quote is under the DIR limit of $25,000  and  leaves over $15,000 for plumbing, electrical and/or savings for other Marinwood CSD projects

Quotes received on 3/13/2018 from    They have a massive showroom with many choices. The quotes are for midrange all wood cabinetry and granite.  A personal visit to their showroom  can provide you with first hand experience with their quality.  They are the number one wholesale/retail provider of kitchens in Northern California.

1368 40th Street
Emeryville, CA 94608


The district can save over $50,000 in taxpayer funds  from the previous DIR proposal and invest the savings in new playground equipment, an outdoor stage, a new maintenance shed,  or add to our cash reserves.

Its easy, inexpensive and a popular choice for contractors and homeowners.  Why not save the taxpayers money?


Stephen Nestel
Marinwood, CA

P.S.  As a special bonus, I am including a quote for a 24' steel maintenance shed for $11,520. that is used by municipal parks departments the world over.  There is no need for a custom shed when serviceable sheds can be had for a fraction of the cost of an architect designed shed.  No need to spend $100,000s on a utility structure. It can be hidden behind a berm and planting next to the fire house.

The firefighters will get their "Martha Stewart" kitchen makeover at a fraction of the previous estimates.