Ventura City Council Meeting
April 11, 2011
Ventura City Hall - 501 Poli Street
City Council and Staff deliberated trade-offs inherent in considering approval of a Solar Power Purchase (SPP) program for City Hall. The proposal is based on a 20-year lease – extendable after 20 years – which is an agreement to purchase electricity from the system just as currently purchased from Cal-Ed. Project Benefits, described as: (1) Reduced cost for electricity, $20,000 in year 1 alone – (2) Establishes known rates for 20 years – (3) Creates jobs, 25 minimum – (4) Promotes environmental sustainability/public education – (4.1) Supports the renewable energy industry – (4.2) 210 metric tons reduction in carbon emissions – (4.3) Cooler parking lot
Staff said that the system would begin producing at a rate of 11.6 cents/kW-h, increasing yearly by 2%, and would create 1 full-time job for each $90,000 of capital investment in the system. The city has a two-tier design goal to reduce electrical usage by 2% per year, with the proposed installation expected to reduce consumption in all city buildings by 17% beginning immediately.
To View a listing of the agenda items for this council meeting, go to www.cityofventura.net/meeting/city-council-meeting-42.
Mayor Fulton brought the meeting to order with the call of the roll – Council Member Brennan was not present, and the mayor asked Council Member Andrews to lead the council in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Special Presentations – the Ventura Cougars basketball team with Coach Don Larsen was asked to come forward before Council. The school had 29 victories in the current season, with the previous high being in the year 1953. The team was undefeated in their league. The mayor presented a certificate of recognition to Coach Larsen and the team. The coach praised the team for their great spirit and integrity, along with their pride in serving both their school and the community.
Closed Session Report – the city attorney said that 5 items – labor negotiations which the council continued, MTE and underground versus the city which took no action, with a vote of 6 to 0
Council Communications – Carolyn Levens was suggested for the remembrance at the end of the meeting by Council Member Monahan.
Council Member Andrews wished to remember Carolyn Levens as the driving force that she was behind the establishment of Channel Islands State University. Calling all cyclists – The Ventura Rotary Club is sponsoring the Gold Coast Ride for Literacy on April 16. One may register online or by writing, P.O. Box 7386, Ventura, 93006. The Gold Coast Ride for Literacy raises funds for literacy programs. The NAMI walk – The National Alliance on Mental Illness on April 30, starts at the beach Promenade with check-in at 9 a.m., and with the walk beginning at 10:30. Jeff Dean is the honorary Chairperson, which raises funds to help families living with various forms of mental illness.
Council Member Weir announced that Tuesday. April 12, 2011, is Equal Pay Day. On the behalf of the American Association of University Women, the councilwoman was asked to announce the purpose behind this special recognition, which is to strengthen and ensure the special and significant value of women's skills in the labor force, and to help ensure that women in the workforce are being paid fairly.
The mayor congratulated the Ventura Chamber of Commerce and its Young Professionals group for the Taste of Ventura event held last Friday night at the Ventura County Fairgrounds. Between 10 and 15 participants were on hand. Jason Collins was one of eight contestants – and judged the winner – in a wine tasting. Ventura celebrates Earth Day this coming Saturday, with two events – the annual beach cleanup at nine o'clock at the harbor – and Eco-Fest with activities that are of the green nature – from 10 o'clock to 5:00 p.m. at the Promenade on the same day.
Regional Boards, Commissions and Committees – Council Member Morehouse noted, just in passing, that Passover is next Monday. The Southern California Association of Governments meeting was skipped last month because of the Policy Committee position held by the councilman on the California League of Cities Regional Board. The league’s redevelopment agency positions are not always in line with the mayor’s thinking on the subject, according to the councilman, based on his various positions taken as a member of the council. The league is aligning itself with the pro-redevelopment agency position in asking the governor to rethink the position paper sent to organizations. In backing the CRA, the redevelopment agency issue has not disappeared entirely, but on the councilman's policy committee it is not felt that there are significant abuses taking place, nor are there drastic problems.
Council Member Andrews serves on two of the state policy committees, the Labor Relations and the Taxation committees – both redevelopment agencies work strongly to support maintenance and redevelopment. There have been a few abuses in redevelopment but not of the sort, according to the councilman, that bothered him intensely. The Employee Relations Committee on Pension and Compensation issues was on the table, with the league sharing information such as the efforts of others across the state in pension program handling, with many of the councilman's conversations indicating that others are far ahead of us in Ventura. All cities are trying to reduce their compensation obligations, according to Mr. Andrews. The governor has put out a 12-point plan, which the Senate Republican Caucus has endorsed. There are four additional items that the Republicans have backed, but that the governor has not come forward upon. The most controversial is the proposal that would allow cities to adjust their current contracts for current employees, not just the two-tier system. It was also stated that changing the fundamental relationship with existing employees would affect contract negotiations. The councilman said this is controversial. The revenue issue and taxation were brought to the fore mainly because of the history in the City of Bell California. In most cases audit arrangements are sufficient. In the City of Bell’s case it wasn't due to error but rather a case of conspiracy, the councilman said.
[Comment] There is no longer any sense of shame in the issue of balancing budgets on the backs of those who work the hardest, take the largest risks, and are least able to bear the public evisceration taking place as engineered by the unholy alliance between government and the oligarchy it serves. It is true that there are those who labor in both the public and private sectors who are only interested in working for top pay – top dollar. Corporatists who see nothing but payroll shrinkage as the answer to budgetary problems will lose many of these short sighted individuals, only to be replaced by a new crop. The smart worker, however, like many of our fire fighters and police officers, realize the true value of a great benefits package – something many “jackrabbits” eschew as they hop from job to job. Are there that many dullards in local government who don’t understand that a great benefit package attracts and holds those who see long range and embrace the big picture? Could it be that local government officials do not themselves think or see long range? Here is a councilman who just last week said, “there is still a lot of work to do” in negotiations with labor – a statement which must seem Divinely inspired now that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has begun the latest Crusade against the unclean. Well they may be unclean, but they are definitely not un-smart. They’ll soon have this governor back in the laundry room washing their clothes. Et tu, Brute? [Ed.]
Council Member Monahan wished to announce that his daughter and two granddaughters are visiting from the Bay Area and were present in Council Chambers.
Council Member Weir noted that as Council’s representative on the Community Council Commission, its Project 211 has produced a pocket-sized “calling card” of 211 assistance services. 211 is a phone number clearinghouse of information for help in many areas including referrals for counseling services, food distribution, domestic violence, housing and substance abuse. The councilwoman indicated the availability of this service by displaying a stack of business cards that may be passed out to friends and to those who may need assistance.
City Manager's Report and the Tsunami-Ready program – Fire Chief Kevin Rennie and Fire Marshal Brian Clark took up Staff’s position at the table. This being Tsunami Month, the fire chief, the fire marshal and Scott Miller were all present, with Brian beginning his address to the council.Examples of damaging tsunamis, showing: (1) a table showing the history of tsunamis in the local area. These included the March, 2011 earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Northern Japan which was felt along the Ventura County coastline.
Local Versus Distant Source, showing: (1) Typically generated by large, local earthquakes or submarine landslides – (2) Emergency management has no time for public warning – (3) An initial wave may arrive within ten to twenty minutes of the earthquake or landslide – (4) Typically generated by an earthquake, 8.0M or higher, that occurs hundeds of miles away (on Pacific Rim) – (5) Emergency Management has time for public warning and implementation of evacuation plans – (6) Initial wave may not arrive for 4-5 hours but the event can last for hours
Tsunami Warning Methods, showing: (1) Local Source Tsunamis – (1.1) No formal notification only warnings are those provided by nature – (1.1.1) Intense ground shaking for 20 seconds or more – (1.1.2) Rise or fall of the water levels – (1.1.3) Strange bubbling in tidal areas – (1.2) Emergency management has no time for public warning – (1.3) Signage for those visiting the coastal areas – (2) Distant Source Tsunamis – (2.1) Utilize Code Red for those residents within the inundation area – (2.2) Emergency personnel may travel the coastal areas with loud speakers asking residents to evacuate – (2.3) Sign up for EDIS by email messages – (2.4) NOAA Weather radio – (2.5) EAS television, radio – (2.6) Internet, West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center
Tsunami warning signs, showing: (1) A selection of signs was shown. Seeing these signs posted in the county’s tsunami areas are designed to inform visitors of potential hazard.
Criteria for sign placement, showing: (1) Place hazard zone signs that direct foot traffic to go to high ground after an earthquake at coastal access points, on restroom facilities, and lifeguard towers – (2) Place hazard zone signs where drivers will be accessing the beach – (3) Begin to place route signs directing traffic out of the inundation area
The proposal for what is being proposed in the harbor area was shown in an aerial map. These are inundation zones up and down the County. It is possible to go online and click the Google maps in order to view the hazard zones and the location of signs in the areas that are appropriate. 8,000 letters have been dispatched to local residents informing them of steps that can be taken to obtain more information. Return comments are encouraged with the comment period remaining open until April 29th.
Budget for Signs, showing: Chart information highlighted with – (1) Signs being funded by the California Emergency Management Agency – (2) Costs for installation of signs is NOT allowable on any of the FEMA grants.
Private foundations will be sought in order to assist with the burdens general fund.
The session was turned over to council members for questions to be asked of the fire marshal. There were no questions as the speakers vacated the staff position.
CONSENT ITEMS – Minutes from March 21st and 24th – City Council Meeting Schedule – Change Orders for Surfer’s Point – Agreement for Lifeguard Services – Quitclaim Deed for Lowe's Properties – Renewed Contract with CAPS-TV – Changes in the Solicitation Ordinance – on the Solicitation Ordinance there were no public speakers on the Consent Calendar – the council was asked for any action. Deputy Mayor Tracy moved that the Consent Calendar be approved with the motion seconded. Council Member Morehouse noted an error in item 6 according to the city attorney. On the Community Access Partners pages 12 and 13 there were phantom references to section 14-2 and 14-3. Those will be corrected according to the city attorney. The roll was called with all members voting yes.
Council Member Morehouse began saying that any additional information not previously seen was asked of the city attorney, most notably the response to Mr. Evans on the legal issues, and that there is a continuing disagreement according to the city attorney, meaning that there is nothing to suggest the attorney's advice would be changed. The mayor articulated for the public two issues highlighted by Circle K's Council, issue one being that Staff incorrectly advised the planning commission on the deemed approved permit, saying that such permit could not be performed in the same measure as would be a conditional use permit. Issue two according to Circle K meant that Circle K never reneged on a promise, and would let the planning commission decide on the way forward with this issue.
Council Member Morehouse said that on alcohol and use permits, Ventura has a high number of such licenses, and that because of this higher percentage the potential for abuse does occur. This has become a land-use issue or a component thereof, with the councilman saying that he was in line with following the planning commission's recommendations.
Deputy Mayor Tracy moved that based on information received at the last hearing, along with the further review, it was said that the report and testimony revealed the sale of three instances of sale to minors, yet with July 21 representing only one instance, this to him met the one-time standard, moving that the resolution be approved as put forth by the planning commission to sustain the revocation of the deemed approved license – Circle K, 3506 Main in Ventura on the basis of an employee selling to minors and that the establishment is the subject of disproportionate use of police time to mitigate incidents on or near the establishment. Seconded and with Council Member Andrews responding.
Council Member Andrews spoke to the motion saying that if the deemed approved permit is voided, it was his question whether the appellant had the right to apply for a new conditional use permit. City attorney agreed that it does. The mayor asked for a called the roll – all members voted yes.
Brian Randle spoke from the staff's position presenting a PowerPoint – the tattoo ordinance brought to the council last year with a review. The city designates tattoo parlor operations as a personal service along with those of hair and nail salons. Nine new parlors have opened in the past 2 or 3 years. Two parlors have opened next to Buena and Ventura High schools. Then on November 9, 2009, City Council issued a policy direction to consider restricting tattoo parlors via use permit or zoning regulations.
Establish New Definition – (to personal services restricted) showing: (1) Use types consisting of establishments that due to their nature may have a blighting and/or deteriorating effect upon surrounding areas, and may need to be dispersed to mitigate their adverse impact. Examples of these types include tattoo and body piercing services – (2) Allow new tattoo parlors only in the C-1, C-1A, C-2 and CPD zones – (3) Prohibited within 500 feet of schools or similar uses
It was felt that because foot traffic and after hours problems are associated with such establishments, residential designation should be discouraged.
Based on the recommendation (1) Existing tattoo parlors in approved zones would not be impacted – (2) Existing tattoo parlors outside of approved zones would be classified non-conforming, meaning – (2.1) Current operations continue without impact – (2.2) Future alterations or expansions to increase size of existing business not allowed
A detailed map was shown with dots showing existing parlors. Green dots were parlors not located within approved zones outlined in red. Two parlors out of the 11 are within the proposed zone – the remaining are not.
School Buffers – A 500-foot zone buffered around all schools was shown on a map. Most were not within the buffered zones around schools – green +1 shown as a black dot.
Recommended Action, showing: (1) Establish personal services restricted definition – (2) Allow new tattoo parlors on in the C-1, C-1A, C-2 and CPD zones – (3) Prohibit within 500 feet of schools or similar uses
Deputy Mayor Tracy asked if there was a line of other restrictive measures that can be put to use, and if we do any evaluation of further commercial zones. With input from the Police Department it was determined there might be a few commercial zones that fit better in the scheme than others. The staff replied that all the zones have similar characteristics. C-1 and C-2 have tended to contain a mix of commercial uses.
The city attorney joined in saying that there are additional zones and the answer is yes as long as ample alternative channels of communication have been performed. It was as though newsracks should be restricted but that this would impinge on First Amendment rights as would apply to restrictions on tattooing. Good existing businesses could be shut down, (amortization of land use) and yes it could be done but Staff economic analysis would be needed to see if existing businesses could recover their investment in a reasonable length of time.
Council Member Monahan wondered if there was anything in the recommendation that would address hours of operation. The councilman wished to know if a school moved in alongside an existing business whether this would preclude business operations. The city attorney responded, saying, “not as currently drafted.
Council Member Weir noted that according to the staff report a Directors Permit by the Ninth Circuit Court might restrict this recommendation. The city attorney said that this could be an over statement, but whether to issue a directors permit could give rise to “prior restraint” or a form of censorship, and could result in giving cities broad discretion as a way of hiding censorship. We must be explicit in order to get approval for first amendment activities. This would include newsracks and sexually oriented materials in the same way. The councilwoman suggested that not being able to issue CUPs, the question became how would we regulate hours of operation.
The development standard within the zoning ordinance would work separate from a conditional use permit, according to Ariel.
The mayor asked to go back to a map in the western end of the city. Certain areas were shown where the business would be allowed on this map, saying that T-zones like the property on the South side of Thompson and Brown in the Midtown corridor were not shown, possibly because they are not T-zoned. With this being questioned, Staff said no that they were not.
Council Member Andrews wished to ask about hours of operation. Would it not have to apply to all classes of businesses within the zone was the question. Ariel said that that was a good question and that city attorney would need to analyze that further. Hours of operation would also need to be run through the planning commission a second time.
Public Communications – with no speaker cards on the issue for public hearing was closed and turned back to the council for discussion.
Council Member Weir was supportive of Staff’s recommendation but wished to look into hours of operation if it didn't affect other personal services restricted. The councilwoman moved that they approve Staff recommendations A and B with a return to Council with recommendations on extended hours of operation. The motion was seconded.
Council Member Andrews had reservations about extending the motion into regulating hours of operation. According to the councilman, issues requiring the consideration of public order meant that the case before them didn't rise to that level. If someone wants to have a (butt) tattoo done at two in the morning it's between them and their tattoo artist, using Mr. Andrews’ phraseology.
Council Member Tracy said he might lean towards Mr. Andrews sentiments. New ordinances might be better than nothing, and that the Ninth Appellate Court might overturn the ordinance anyway. Approving Staff’s recommendation “as is” would be acceptable.
The mayor noted that he would support the motion, but with no further lights the mayor asked for a call of the roll – Council Member Andrews voted no and Deputy Mayor Tracy voted no. The motion passed four to two.
The speaker, Norman Cantor with the Regal Lodge in Oxnard, stated that the paperwork describes a special district requiring an annual assessment. The contradiction however may exist where it says an annual assessment with a monthly collection schedule that would include penalties and interest for late payments. It said that cities will collect on a monthly basis including delinquencies or interest from each lodging in its jurisdiction. Each city shall take efforts to collect. The speaker said it was confusing as to whether there was a yearly or a monthly collection, with fines being assessed for late payment on a monthly basis.
The mayor asked if the city attorney had an immediate response to this particular question. The city attorney thought that based on the complexity of the question he would be prepared to respond. Ariel went forward saying it might smack of sophistry to say that it is an annual assessment but that it will be collected monthly with potential penalties incurred for delinquency. It is expressed as an annual assessment collected monthly.
City Manager Cole commented saying that this year he paid his annual property tax but also the second installment of the tax. It was his feeling that other instances of an annual assessment are possible.
No action was required on the part of the council, allowing the meeting to move forward with the next item.
Staff's presentation included the amount of electricity that would be produced through a power purchase agreement – PPA – with a design and maintenance of system that would not necessarily be performed by the city. Council was told they have received a bid from a PPA vendor, saving general operating funds and providing major environmental benefits to the city. Staff met with Botanical Gardens for potential conflicts within the plans. The gardens has been discussing a vision plan which may be the location for an amphitheater on the upper reservoir, with staff hoping that shared use of some method for coexistence on the site could be worked out. Joe McDermott is the Project Manager on this issue and was to speak further.
Solar Power Purchase Program for City Hall, showing: Solar Power Partners, A Mill Valley, California, solar design firm working with Solar World in Camarillo and West Coast Power Solutions as the installation team located in Oxnard. Bids were received based on the lowest average rate that would be paid to the provider over a 20 year period. SPP’s proposal was reviewed by California Edison along with comparison of rates with other projects in the area. The project with SPP was determined to be cash positive.
Project Description, showing: (1) Install 425 kW solar panel system in parking lots behind city hall – (2) Materials/Equipment made in America, a requirement of the federal grant – (3) 80% of City Hall electricity needs – (4) Power Purchase Agreement, PPA
The system is approximately four times the size of the solar installation at the San Jon Maintenance yard. The Grant Park reservoir was determined not to be feasible and will not be considered. The monthly checks issued by the city to the solar provider would “lock in” a utility rate that over time would escalate at a much lower rate than that of the overall energy market, essentially paying for the system even though the city would never actually own it.
The proposal is based on a 20-year lease – extendable after 20 years – which is an agreement to purchase electricity from the system just as currently purchased from Cal-Ed. $200,000 in capital funds are intended to be used along with $280,500 from the ARRA Federal Block Grant program helping to buy-down the initial rates and provide more immediate savings to the General Fund.
Project Benefits, showing: (1) Reduced cost for electricity, $20,000 in year 1 alone – (2) Establishes known rates for 20 years – (3) Create jobs, 25 minimum – (4) promote environmental sustainability/public education – (4.1) Support the renewable energy industry – (4.2) 210 metric tons reduction in carbon emissions – (4.3) Cooler parking lot
Staff said that the system would begin producing at a rate of 11.6 cents/kW-h, increasing yearly by 2%, and would create 1 full-time job for each $90,000 of capital investment in the system – 25 total. The city has a two-tier design goal to reduce electrical usage by 2% per year, with the proposed installation expected to reduce consumption in all city buildings by 17% beginning immediately.
Cost/Benefit Analysis, showing: (1) SPP’s proposal, $632,000 savings over 20 years – (1.1) with corrections $779,000 – (2) City staff, between $600,000 and $1.4 million – (3) Edison, $700,000
[Note] Most escalation rates for Edison power over the coming years, according to Staff, is assumed to be 3% and above, going as high as 6%. SPP used a 4% figure in their analysis, before discovering an erroneous computation which included sales tax in the final product. [EndNote]
[Comment] – Are we just being naïve, or is this vendor not doing business in California on a daily, monthly and yearly basis – intimately involved in the electrical power generation business – and somehow doesn’t know that sales tax (according to Staff) is not assessed on electricity in the State of California? [Ed.]
Staff’s Analysis, showing: (The Electricity Savings with Solar Power at City Hall). The chart was shown with dollar savings graphed against years showing a 3% , 4% and 6% Edison escalation over the next 30 years. These represented savings over time (and assuming a $20,000 savings in year 1) showed 20 years, continuing out to 30 years. The panels are warranty for 25 years but are known to last for 30. The savings should be used for other city projects. 6% would average out to $3.7 million gross savings.
Edison’s Analysis, showing: (City of Ventura, City Hall Photovoltaic Generation, 425 kW d.c. System Annual PPA Cash Flow). Further analysis from Edison showed savings in year 20 of about $700,000. Edison believed these figures to be conservative.
Preliminary Site Plan, showing: (It was determined that the upper parking lot would be needed. Shadows from tall buildings may dictate the necessity for use of the upper parking lot.)
Support Structure Style, showing: (Sheltered parking was shown with none of the project being visible from visitors’ vantage point downtown. The design review committee will have the opportunity to pass judgment on the support structure.)
Timeline, Showing: (1) Return to city Council in early June to award contract and authorize execution of the PPA and site lease agreement – (2) Begin design in June/July – (3) Begin installation as early as autumn 2011 – (3) Complete installation as early as January, 2012
Recommendation, showing (Authorize staff to proceed with negotiations with Solar Power Partners SBP Inc. for the solar power purchase program for City Hall, specification number 2010-037 and finalize a power purchase agreement PPA and accompanying site lease agreement).
Alternatives may be available in consultation with Staff, according to the speaker. It was hoped to have a representative from SPP available, but is not in Chambers tonight. Nancy Williams from Edison may be available from Edison.
The city attorney wished to add to the Ventura Botanical Gardens issue – an option to lease includes potential VBG lease areas including the upper parking lot. It is possible that we are talking about entering into a lease agreement this evening in an arrangement where others have already have obtained an option to lease, according to the attorney. Because of any rights accumulating to VBG, Council may wish to create a master site plan first in order to discuss the upper parking lot.
Council Member Andrews asked about the structure showing the panels on the roof, wishing to know whether the system was fixed or tracking. It was determined that the system was fixed. Another question says that we will give them up-front money which they will build and we will obtain reduced-rate advantage from the electricity after it has been produced. This would be a buy-down of the cost of future electrical consumption. The question was, are not the ARRA initial buy-in funds restricted to capital investment uses only?
This was brought up during the solicitation for proposals, according to Staff, with the requirement that it has to be used toward capital improvement with the loophole being that it must show actual new construction being performed in order to build the facility.
The councilman continued by asking who owns the equipment. Staff said that SPP owns the equipment, but after 20 years options will be spelled out such as extending the agreement where fixed rates could be negotiated along with the city buying the system out at fair market value. Or they have to remove the system at their expense.
Council Member Weir asked about the criteria for the grant. Realizing that it had to be for capital projects, there seemed to be other alternatives and how broad can they be, was the question. Staff said that the criteria is through an ARRA Energy Block Grant taken out in a program that provides energy savings. A $1 million grant has been received which is to be spread among various other qualifying programs, according to the councilwoman.
The councilwoman also wished to know whether they (the panels) were reflective or non-reflective. Staff said they could be considered reflective because of a clear glass layer with black underneath. The councilwoman thought that a reflective surface could be directed towards nearby buildings, creating unwanted heat and thus competing with other energy needs which she then termed “counterproductive.”
When will the buy-down analysis be completed, was the councilwoman's question, wishing to know so that it would be possible for the council to make determinations before voting. Staff said that if we don't use $200,000 as the initial figure, “what does this do to the rates?” was just recently brought up at Staff meetings. By not assuming any initial savings, the initial 11.6 cents/kW-hr. works out to $.15/kW-hr. with the system becoming almost a general “wash” after 20 years with 20-year savings amounting to only $236,000. The councilwoman referenced a chart is that showed costs with solar and costs without solar, page 32. The forecasted savings are $6,000. This number did not seem consistent with other numbers, according to Ms. Weir.
Staff said that sales tax of 8.25% was added (inadvertently) by SPP to the cost benefit analysis figures (again, inadvertently) so that when you subtract out the sales tax, this creates a new figure. Some of the other ongoing energy savings projects taking place at City Hall were added in along with others energy savings, making the yield of $6,920 closer to the $20,000 figure according to Staff.
Staff was asked explicitly if it were true that some of the energy savings numbers are not solely dependent on the solar project but with others included. Staff did not agree with that statement. Staff is not taking credit for other projects such as the chiller project, but that SPP did not have knowledge of other projects were in work. It was their assumption that the city would continue to use energy consistent with history, and that this would not be true by adding in figures derived from areas like the chiller replacement project. Another $10,000 savings as a result of the earlier project increases the $20,000 savings from the solar installation up to $30,000, according to Staff.
Council Member Monahan asked whether the expected lifetime of 20 to 30 years may need some substantiation. A one and a half percent degradation rate was included on the panels according to Staff in the analysis, along with conversations with Ryan Hamilton of SPP and others saying that of 49 PPAs, each one has met or exceeded expectations. The councilman wished to know if they would replace panels to keep them working, with Staff agreeing that SPP has a vested interest in having the system generate as much power as possible. The councilman also raised the question of how the system works during cloudy days, with Staff saying that we are still connected to the grid while at the same time paying less but at a slightly higher rate.
Staff continued by saying that on weekends where facilities are closed means basically selling electricity back to the grid. When City Hall opens on Monday we will be begin pulling back in from the grid. The councilman felt that 20 years was not near-term enough to be of interest to residents, stating also that any project which might interfere with the VBG project could “cause a problem.”
Council Member Morehouse wished to clarify the essential nature of incorporating SPP’s use of the upper parking lot and it was determined that the use of that structure is considered essential. The councilman wished to know about height considerations for tall vehicles and delivery, with VCTC having turned a very similar project. The councilman also asked about reducing the PPA rate by 1/2%.
SPP has said they could come down on their rate somewhere between a half cent and one-and-a-half cents per kilowatt hour by the city taking on some of the risk—specifically insurance by self-insuring the system. As part of the negotiations the city's management team would negotiate whether additional issues might be dealt with. The council member wished to know if that was going to be due to earthquake or storm. Staff replied that all the possibilities are open, but that acceptable risk would be determined at that time.
Council Member Morehouse continued saying that it's better to under promise and over deliver, with some of this being asked seeming like inflated savings. They're not always met. The recommendation is to proceed with negotiations, and that at some point the negotiations could fall apart according to the councilman. This turned out to be affirmative.
City Manager Cole said that new ideas must be held up to the light, and a public-private partnership arrangement is not something we deal with every day. We take out insurance and we live or die by the consequences. Power requirements have not been discussed since the yard project, so as a new project Staff welcomes questions. Issues such as insurance will always come back, addressing the council saying that this can be brought back to the council. It is clear that inflation over the next 20 years is going to make this “a fantastic deal” for the citizens of Ventura. There is also the possibility of deflation, though not in this country since the 1930s. It remains a possibility given what has happened to our current economy.
Mr. Cole said that the history of advanced economies over the past 50 years along with debt that most of the world’s consuming nations have incurred, the only feasible way out of these problems is through inflation. Fixing in these kinds of rates for energy in the future represents a great opportunity, according to the city manager, who insisted that neither coal, nuclear nor a long list of other energy sources stands ready to challenge our future needs in terms of cost and availability beyond solar and other renewables.
[Comment] There is a surprise in store for the city manager. In his list of energy sources, he left out (as does almost everyone) the biggest game changer of all – hydrogen. This is not an isolated occurrence in the annals of history. Eventual winners, chosen through the natural course of events, are rarely picked early. Windmills have been used for centuries. The electric car was one of the first. Hydrogen, of course – having appeared at nearly the same time in airships – still has a bad reputation. So also did early steam power with boilers that tended to blow up and cause tremendous damage to life and limb. Forget at your peril, then, that hydrogen is right now in the same infant stage as was steam and battery technology in olden times. The good news is (or the bad, depending upon your worldview) that by early next decade there will be safe and 100% pollution free hydrogen cogeneration stations independently powering cities, municipalities, city halls (and cars) all across this country. When this issue came before the council earlier, one public speaker (Carla Bonney) stated that small-to-medium scale photovoltaic systems like these are already dated, and, not unlike the photovoltaic calculator, attractive only to the ill-informed. One good hailstorm, you see, and it could all be over. What is being considered here is Ventura’s second big ripoff, following its first integrated computer system debacle a decade earlier which soaked city taxpayers for several-odd $million. City Council needs to run from this proposal, and the faster, the better. [Ed.]
Deputy Mayor Tracy wanted to know about the $250,000 worth of existing city money. It was wondered whether or not this general fund, redevelopment agency line of credit, could be used for any type of capital project. Staff agreed. The $281,000 worth of federal money can only be used for environmental purposes, staff said, including energy projects. The councilman wished to know if we have considered other expenditures tagging portions of $1 million worth existing in that fund. One other project worth $700,000 is a traffic signal program with solar panels on the signal poles, along with use of LED lamps amounting to $20,000 savings to the street lighting budget. If we didn't move forward with this PPA program, other city lighting projects could be considered as a method for using this money, according to Staff. Deputy Mayor Tracy emphasized the fact that there may be other solutions perhaps lower tech such as changing old pumps and acquiring more efficient operating machinery. The biggest thing we might do would be the HVAC system, along with other operations that might not be as speculative, said the deputy mayor.
Ric Raives said that we need to spend this money quickly. The grant money by switching to another project might mean losing the funds which are available now. The Department of Energy would need to be consulted but that it would have to be given the amount of time for evaluation and we might still not get the bang for the buck.
Mr. Cole said that we have already harvested the low hanging fruit. Our energy usage has not gone down 20% but with added facilities such as the community pool our overall usage is not in lock step with our savings. A cogeneration project has been used at the community pool, along swapping out lights and adding efficiencies to systems. The energy efficiency grant that we are proceeding on will be directed toward our fire stations. It's not necessarily public private partnership but Deputy Mayor Tracy interjected also saying that we might be in disagreement but that in his view there are available low hanging fruits and that possibly it's necessary to investigate further.
New solar panels at the yard, said Mr. Tracy -- Are they at the projected savings and maintainability levels that we were led to expect? Staff replied that the panels have performed up to expectations, and above, for the last four years. Five years has put us past the warranty with no maintenance beyond occasional cleaning.
Council Member Monahan asked Mr. Raives to recall the fact that Edison has been replacing lighting fixtures with the new style bulbs. His question was – have we replaced the system in City Hall. Ric said that all the new ballasts have been put in and all of the new advancements have been installed. Mr. Monahan said he was not aware that the work of been done. He also wished to know whether the slope had been considered as a geographical feature. Staff said that this had been considered, not wishing to install panels on the top of the slope where there is instability due to surface erosion.
The councilman pressed the issue wondering about the erosion. The councilman thought that such erosion problems could easily be fixed before proceeding with the project such as this.
Council Member Morehouse wished to echo the city attorney's comments noting the cross purposes that may be affected with the Grant Park/VBG status.
Public Communications – Doug Nelson, Architect and Senior Principal with Main Street Architects, claiming not to represent Main Street, but rather as the Ventura County Regional Energy Alliance Co-chairperson attached to its Technical Advisory Council, spoke in support of what is being proposed. It was his feeling that quintessential energy projects of this type should be considered by other cities as well. At least three cities in the county in concert with the Public Works Yard Project means that Ventura would be taking the leadership in the area of energy renewables. Reading through the staff report, Mr. Nelson felt that the numbers really spoke for themselves. He called it a win-win, even taking a conservative view. With a 20-year lease there would be built in flexibility, thus addressing some issues being brought forward by the VBG issue. As a proponent of sustainability programs it was the speaker’s feeling that there would be synergism between the PPA proposal and the Botanical Gardens master plan.
Council Member Morehouse moved that Council follow Staff’s recommendation with a second being received. Council Member Weir spoke, saying that she cannot support the motion, for two reasons – one being a general fund reason and the other – with the general fund costs meaning that by not spending the funds we’ve created an essential wash throughout. This could also mean spending the general fund money with risk. The VBG interference was another expressed concerned of the councilwoman. She wished to support the alternative while taking advantage of the grant in some way, which would be used in a plan B. It was her thinking that we would save as much money taking alternate routes as we would with the PPA proposal on the table.
Council Member Andrews assumed that Staff when going forward with negotiations would take heed of the discussion taking place. The councilman thought that an investment of a quarter of $1 million would pay off – and energy cost savings would be realized over the life of the plan. It didn't concern him about the dismantling costs, thinking that it would be the vendor’s responsibility.
The city attorney wished to remind Council that we need to resolve all issues with VBG.. In his advisory position Ariel said that if he were in as SPP’s shoes, he would not take a site lease from a parcel that has already been leased to someone else.
Deputy Mayor Tracy indicated that he has personal experience with solar systems that have not panned out, although noting also that based on our experience with a similar system now four years old, the deputy mayor noted that we should be able to move forward and that he will support the motion.
The mayor asked for a call of the roll – Weir, no; Morehouse, yes; Andrews, yes; Monahan, no; Tracy, yes; Fulton, yes – the measure passed four to two.
Public Communications – speaking on any matter not on the agenda. With none forthcoming the mayor introduced City Council Communications – Mr. Andrews wished to make a final statement noting the upcoming Ventura Music Festival, April 28 – May 7 with tickets available at venturamusicfestival.org. Also that next Monday is the first night of Passover, reminding all that the next meeting will be on Tuesday evening. Finally, in memory of Carolyn Levens, the mayor adjourned to the closed meeting session and labor negotiations which were to follow.