News

Park 'undedication' heads to Palo Alto ballot

Santa Clara County registrar confirms signature count for initiative to make 10-acre site in Byxbee Park eligible for new waste-to-energy facility

A proposal to "undedicate" a 10-acre parcel of parkland in Byxbee Park to enable the construction of a waste-to-energy plant is now officially in the hands of Palo Alto voters.

The Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters confirmed this week that a petition by a coalition of environmentalists who support the new plant had more than enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The group, called the Palo Alto Green Energy and Compost Initiative, needed 4,356 signatures to put the land-use issue on the ballot. The county registrar confirmed that the group collected 5,128 valid signatures.

Carolyn Curtis, who coordinated the signature-gathering drive, said the group was "excited but not surprised" by the county's confirmation.

"We had a tremendous team of more than 60 volunteers who dedicated hundreds of hours to collecting signatures, and we got great results," Curtis said in a statement. "Only 2 percent of respondents refused to sign our petition because they disagreed with it."

If voters approve the proposed measure, they would make it possible for the City Council to consider the Byxbee Park site for a new anaerobic digestion facility that would convert local yard trimmings, food scraps and possibly sewage sludge into electricity. The site is part of a 126-acre landfill that is slated to close next year, after which time local yard trimmings and food scraps are slated to get trucked to regional facilities in Gilroy and San Jose, respectively.

Former Mayor Peter Drekmeier and other leaders of the citizen initiative have argued that the new plant is the best way to take care of local waste and support the city's climate-change goals. Other local conservationists, including former Councilwomen Emily Renzel and Enid Pearson, oppose any plan to convert dedicated parkland to an industrial waste-treatment site.

Earlier this month, Drekmeier's group submitted more than 6,000 signatures to the City Clerk's office. The signatures were forwarded to the county and verified Wednesday.

The measure will require the city to hold a special election in November. The City Council was scheduled to hold elections this fall, but the city changed its council elections to even years last fall, when voters approved Measure S.

If the land-use measure remains the only initiative on the ballot, the initiative would cost the city about $304,000, Assistant City Clerk Beth Minor told the council Monday night.

Meanwhile, the council is still trying to determine if the new compost facility would be economically feasible. The council discussed the preliminary results of a feasibility study for a local anaerobic digester on Monday and is scheduled to continue the discussion on April 11.

Comments

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Posted by Bruce Li
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 24, 2011 at 7:43 pm

Okay I know only a little bit about the initiative and did decline to sign the petition when approached at a past neighborhood event. On the face it sounds like a good idea and I would consider voting for the measure but can somebody please explain to me the urgency in having a special election that could potentially cost the City 300K. Would other initiatives on the ballot negate the cost to the City? If it turns out to be the only initiative can the organization withdraw the petition in the interest of fiscal responsibility? Can anybody help clarify? Thanks.....


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Posted by Bob Wenzlau
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 24, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Bob Wenzlau is a registered user.

The urgency is defined by the closing of the refuse area at the end of Embarcadero next year. At about that time the local compost center would close, and yard trimmings would begin their drive 55+ miles south of Gilroy to a commercial compost facility. Working to minimize the gap between a new local solution was one inspiration for the timing of this initiative.

A separate cause for a citizen initiative (as opposed to one the council could put on the ballot) is the benefit of avoiding 2 separate environmental impact reports. As citizens when we put an initiative the separate EIRS can be consolidated. EIRs are very expensive, and some of the cost of this initiative is offset by avoiding the need for a second EIR.

Another reason that the initiative is so important is the ability to ask for government funding. Both the federal and state government with high probability support renewable energy projects -- 30 to 60% of the capital would not come from Palo Alto. We cannot ask for the funding unless we have the land. As such the initiative resolves a "chicken-and-egg" dilemma by putting the land on the table to potential state and federal grants. We know that commitments cannot be won without the ability to show there is a site.

So, the fees for the initiative are a down-payment on a good investment. At this time there is not fiscal motivation to withdrawal. Again, this is actually a good moment for our city - and in light of many of the global issues - a time to show how renewable energy projects can move forward.

Consider becoming a fan at FaceBook and helping us move forward with the campaign.

Web Link


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Posted by Voting-No!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 24, 2011 at 9:58 pm

> Consider becoming a fan at FaceBook and helping us move forward
> with the campaign.

No thanks. This is a bad idea.


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Posted by Bruce L.
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2011 at 5:02 am

Thanks Bob, will look into this further.....


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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 25, 2011 at 7:42 am

Vote no on this ballot measure. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] This measure is a waste of money and comes at a time when the city is in financial difficulty. It is on the ballot due to the actions of a group of selfish, out of control "environmentalists" who are pushing their "pie in the sky" agenda on everyone.


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Posted by Richard Burt
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Mar 25, 2011 at 9:05 am

According to Carolyn Curtis, "Only 2 percent of respondents refused to sign our petition because they disagreed with it."

And how does she know that? Even assuming that the petition-gathering group kept accurate records of reasons for refusal, how do you know when someone looks at a petition and says "No, thanks" and keeps on walking why they refused? It could be that they thought "what a crackpot idea" but were too polite (or too busy) to say what they thought.

Bob Wenzlau claims that there is urgency because next year the local compost center would close, and yard trimmings would be driven 55+ miles south of Gilroy to a commercial compost facility. (He doesn't mention San Jose, which is mentioned in the article.) So? The expense of driving trucks either to San Jose or Gilroy until a *regular* election is a fraction of the cost of a special election.

He also claims that a special election will avoid 2 separate environmental impact reports. It's odd that a group dedicated to preserving the environment wants to avoid a fuller study of the impact on the environment of their proposal. It is not clear that avoiding a report to determine the environmental impact of replacing a park with a waste-to-energy plant is a good thing.

The "very expensive" claim is in the eye of the beholder. In reality, the cost of an environmental impact report is a small fraction of the cost of voting on this (even if a regular election is held). Can the real reason be that the group promoting this plan is afraid that having an additional report will result in blocking their plan?

He also says that "the fees for the initiative are a down-payment on a good investment." Really? When I buy an investment, I acquire something I can sell. What will Palo Alto buy with its expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars on a special election? Answer: "the ability to ask for government funding"! That's not an investment.

The suggestion that "30 to 60% of the capital would not come from Palo Alto" does not mean that we would actually get that funding, and in any event, tax dollars are tax dollars, and it does not matter to a taxpayer where they come from.

The notion here appears to be that the project could be shown to be feasible because the land is free. But park land is not free. Converting it to industrial use means that the city suffers a loss. Maybe it won't be a loss in dollar terms on a balance sheet since the city will still have the land on its books (assuming that the city doesn't donate it), but a loss to the people of Palo Alto who will be deprived of the use of the park. Is Palo Alto's problem that we have too much parkland?

The special election sounds like an attempt to grab public land for the benefit of a local group that wants to push its pet idea of how to address global climate change. It's undesirable that the city be put to the expense of holding a special election for this purpose.


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Posted by Really?
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2011 at 11:10 am

Do we really want to "undedicate" park land, of which there is a very limited amount, when in the years ahead the population base is only going to grow, more buildings will be built, etc.?

Neither the economics nor the value of parkland to our human condition suggest that this proposal makes sense...


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 25, 2011 at 11:35 am

The leader of this anti-park campaign, Peter Drekmeier, was also the 'leader' of the campaign to stop the improvement and rebuilding of Sand Hill Road from El Camino to the Foothill Expressway/Alameda - a delay that reportedly cost mega $$$ to Stanford and everyone else involved. The finally contested stretch along the Stanford Golf Course was finally completed after the rest was finished due to interminable delays engineered by Peter and his followers. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 25, 2011 at 11:41 am

Bob--thanks for the history lesson regarding Peter. I think people need to know who is behind this measure and his previous history of obstruction. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
I also assume that there will be no mailings in favor of this campaign--after all a "green" campaign led by Peter would not waste trees!!!


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Posted by RadioGuy
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2011 at 12:28 pm

RadioGuy is a registered user.

I plan on voting "YES" for this initiative. None of Richard Burt's arguments resonate with me. Calling that area "parkland" is silly. It's a landfill. And yes, it is free because we don't have to buy it. It's land that can put placed into useful service and save us money.

How much rent does the Palo Airport pay to the City? Palo Alto spent nearly $200,000 dollars on a study so that it could spend $350,000 more to come up with a plan to take over the management of the airport from the County. The "great" airport plan depends upon receiving millions of dollars from the FAA in airport improvement plan (AIP) grants. Where's everyone's outrage over that plan?

Let's face it, people against the initiative hate Peter Drekmeier. So, your agenda is "crush the plan, so you can crush the man"? Seems pretty shortsighted to me.


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Posted by Carroll Harrington
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 25, 2011 at 12:35 pm

I think it is time to quit putting the onus on Peter. I have never seen such a dedicated and active group with greater representation of the whole community than any other ballot measure I have worked on,and there have been many of them. In fact, I supported the extension of Sand Hill Road, and while I disagreed with Peter, I admired his ability to lead.

Another campaign in the late '60s was to form the Midpeninsula Regional Open 'Space District whereby citizens would be taxed to buy open space, and it was a huge challenge to inform the voters about this issue. And now the District has saved more than 60,000 acres in 26 open space preserves. Web Link

I have been an environmentalist since the '60s and worked to preserve the Baylands; however, I think we are in a different era with the challenge of climate change and its impacts. We must work as individuals and collectively to act upon these challenges. I see this project as a repurposing the 10 acres. I urge you to check out our website Web Link and Facebook page.

Please let's talk about the issues, which are complicated enough, instead of being negative about individuals. I also urge you to read the first item in Around Town today about Monday night's City Council meeting. Green gigabytes of gratitude for the many citizens who have worked hard to get us to this step...many of them involved in their first political campaign..


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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 25, 2011 at 12:37 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 25, 2011 at 12:55 pm

We are talking about less than 10% of the proposed land-fill park. And, as I have pointed out in another thread, the 10 acres is situated right next to the sewage treatment center, across the street from the airport and near office buildings and the golf complex.

Honestly, it's not like the plant will be dropped down in the middle of Yosemite Valley.

I'm not on the design committee - but I would certainly suggest that part of the project would be a thought towards how they can camouflage the site to mitigate any visual or audible distractions.


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Posted by The Peter Issue
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 25, 2011 at 1:15 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by The Peter Issue
a resident of Stanford
on Mar 25, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Editor--you are wrong, I have not broken the rules.
Your terms of use clearly state:
"You agree not to post comments under multiple names. Postings within a single topic from the same IP address made under different names will be deleted."

I have not done the above, so please restore my last posting.


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Posted by Bryan Long
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 25, 2011 at 1:56 pm

Ok, a few clarifying remarks in case anyone is reading this thread who hasn't already made up their mind on this initiative.

First: The initiative is to undedicate some of the Palo Alto landfill land that is currently dedicated to become "designated parkland," in order to give the City the OPTION to build an organic waste recycling facility, if such a facility would be of environmental and economic benefit. Yes, the sponsors of the initiative, including myself, have proposed a specific kind of facility, and we believe that such a facility would save many millions of dollars over its useful lifetime, but our belief has to get tested against other alternatives and the comparison of actual construction bids against actual alternative long-term contracts. Neither of those have happened. But the City wasn't able to even begin the process without some indication that the land would be available. So a vote for the initiative is a vote for allowing the best fiscal and environmental solution, not mandating a particular solution.

Second, the "parkland" we are talking about is ten acres out of 126 acres of the heavily impacted landfill land. The ten acres in question is adjacent to the existing water treatment plant -- essentially we would be expanding the footprint of that facility. Best case, the existing landfill land will be converted into open space planted with native grasses, with some trails, as an extension to the existing Byxbee park. Even that, however, will take money the City doesn't have, so more likely this land will be planted with grass cover and left otherwise as is. Building a facility on that land will not take away any wetlands, will not take away any existing parkland, and will not fundamentally change the experience of anyone visiting Byxbee park.

Third, this isn't Peter Dreckmeier's initiative. He has chaired the initiative, but the core campaign team includes four members of the 2009 City Council's Blue Ribbon Task Force on Composting, highly regarded community activists such as Carrol Harrington, Carolyn Curtis others. The broader steering committee had over 40 additional Palo Alto citizens volunteering their ideas and time in promoting the initiative.

I think most of us involved in the initiative would agree that what we want is a fiscally responsible investment that offers a significant reduction in our City's greenhouse gas footprint. We think our proposal of an anaerobic digestion facility will, when all the analysis has be done, satisfy both those that prioritize fiscal responsibility, and those that prioritize environmental responsibility.


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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 25, 2011 at 2:00 pm

And I say Bryan, that instead of wasting $200K on a vote to undedicate parkland for something,we should know exactly what that something is. And if, as some people say, the vote could not be bundled together, then once a decision of what to build has been made, we can have two ballot measures at the same time. I realize money is no object to some people.
It may not be Peter Drekmeier's initiative, but heis the front man for it--so the campaign will have to carry the baggage for him.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 25, 2011 at 2:06 pm

This entire anaerobic digestion (AD) craze is an offshoot of the "zero waste" movement. It is not a rational basis for actually delivering a green result (waste to energy, with almost no toxic residue left to distribute, and a relatively clean syngas, compared to methane, that can be combusted to produce electricity), but it is part of a true-believing movement to change society, according to the ture-beliver's view of what is right and what is wrong.

For example, Bob Wenzlau calls it incineration, when he knows better. Then others try to scare people off, by claiming that it would be dangerous to live downwind of a plasma arc facility...it would not. Then there are those who claim that plasma arc is too efficient, and that it would obviate the incentive to recycle...complete nonsense...just look at the Salinas Valley Solid WAste Authority, which is doing both.

AD is very inefficient. That is why it takes such a large industrial footprint. AD only, partially, addresses the organic trimming/sewage sludge problem. For example, AD does not break down lignin, which a major component of woody plants. AD does not eliminate toxins, such as heavy metals and pharmaceuticals, which are present in sewage sludge...these toxins simply get redistributed as compost to our gardens and yards, where they can build up over time. Plasma arc, on the other hand, eliminates all these problems.

AD is not a rational solution to our waste stream. It is, in reality, a political power play to capture park land, in order to push a social/political agenda.

It would be refreshing to see Peter Drekmeier try to defend AD versus plasma arc, on this forum. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Bob Wenzlau
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 25, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Bob Wenzlau is a registered user.

Craig,

Here is some information that is a basis of my concerns with Plasma Arc. I am very concerned about high temperature technologies involving waste -a concern that carries over to our incinerator and extends to new methods like plasma arc. (This discussion about plasma arc is a bit of a side show to our campaign, but your comments invited that I develop some backup.)

I also sat through presentations where the considerable air pollution controls on plasma arc were described, and the relatively poor performance of Plasma Arc that would be anticipated on high moisture streams typical of the organics we target (e.g. food waste, biosolids). I recall saying that they needed to actually dry the incoming stream when it is as wet as ours to make it viable.

Here are a few articles expressing concern -- I find very little literature on health studies saying -- but when they do show up, typically they are around issues of concern. Ultimately, it would not be a viable approach as many more than I would turn against this type of a device turning up in our town.

"Plasma-Arc Technology for Waste Treatment: A Proven Technology or Incinerator in Disguise?

Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice researched and produced this report as a public service to educate and alert residents, government officials and other members of the public to the toxic threat posed by the plasma-arc gasification facility proposed in Sacramento, California for the processing of municipal solid waste and a wide variety of waste materials.

As there has never been a commercial plasma-arc facility in the U.S. that processes garbage, and since there are only a few small ones in the world, it is vital that the public and government decision-makers become aware of the documented facts that demonstrate the dangers and problems of this technology. Greenaction has researched the proposal and claims made by companies promoting a plasma-arc facility in Sacramento. We have also researched existing and proposed plasma-arc and gasification facilities in the U.S. and worldwide, and we have evaluated the implications on health, the environment and the economy.This report evaluates the plasma-arc facility proposed in Sacramento and answers the question: “Is plasma-arc a proven technology or an incinerator in disguise that threatens the health, environment and economy of the community?”

The facts are clear: a plasma-arc waste treatment facility would be an incinerator in disguise that would pollute the air, undermine renewable energy, recycling and zero waste programs, and potentially be a financial disaster for Sacramento. Using garbage as a fuel source is not renewable energy. A plasma-arc facility would pollute the air and would also undermine Sacramento’s stated commitment and mandate to pursue maximum recycling and waste reduction efforts and goals, as the City would have to commit to send large amounts of garbage to this facility for years to come. Committing to a problem-plagued technology for years to come poses a financial risk to the City and taxpayers as well."

Now it may be very well that Salinas wishes to pursue this method. This is not being met with great support in Salinas either, as I tried to find any discussion at length. I am not certain that the technology and its impact have been fully vetted by the community. The only was a letter to the editor:

"How many readers and residents of the Salinas Valley are aware that the Salinas Valley Solid Waste Authority is pushing a plan to have a potentially dangerous type of garbage incineration technology built in Gonzales? Without a real public or transparent process, relying almost exclusively on industry public relations claims, the SVSWA is on the verge of moving forward with permit applications for a questionable and polluting technology improperly disguised as “renewable energy.” They are considering treating garbage using plasma arc, gasification and/or autoclave technology. Two companies being considered, Plasco and Urbaser, both use technologies that have many documented problems. Santa Cruz County officials tried pushing plasma arc incineration technology, claiming it was safe yet trying to site a facility next to a Spanish-speaking migrant labor camp in Watsonville without informing residents. Fortunately a community coalition defeated that dirty plan, yet the government official who pushed the project in Santa Cruz County then took a job with the SVSWA and is pushing similar technologies in the Salinas Valley. I was surprised to receive an email from SVSWA late on December 30th to inform me that the Conversion Technology Commission was having an important decisionmaking meeting a few days later on January 5th, right after the New Year’s holiday. A few days notice, given right before a holiday, for a meeting right after a holiday, for such an important issue is clearly not appropriate or adequate to inform the public. Of course most residents were probably not notified so it is likely a moot point. We call on the SVSWA to allow organizations and entities with information different than the mostly one-sided information they have shared with the SVSWA Board and other elected officials to have an opportunity to do so prior to a decision being made. This is an important issue that impacts the health and economy of the Salinas Valley, and there must be a legitimate decisionmaking process. Greenaction will continue working with our constituents in the Salinas Valley to get the truth about these dangerous projects out and to demand transparency from government officials. Bradley Angel | San Francisco (Mr. Angel is the executive director of Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice.)"

There are some other resources that express these concerns, but I have to turn back to my day job:
Web Link


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

1)
In further response to Bruce Li's opening question:
When we officially launched our initiative signature gathering campaign (with certain legal procedures required for such an action), we then had a 6 month deadline to gather the required signatures. At that time, our target election date was November 2011, a regular city election for council members.
1 month into our signature drive, Palo Alto voters approved Measure S, which changed palo council elections to even-numbered years, and thus outside our control changed Nov 2011 into a special election year.
Having gathered the required number of signatures, Council is required by law to acknowledge this accomplishment within a certain deadline and to place it on the ballot. Therefore, Council can not simply delay the election until 2012.
I do not know whether the petition sponsors can legally retract the initiative, given that 5000+ valid people have signed it saying "yes, we want this election". But even if we could retract the initiative, we have zero incentive to do this: A) we'd have to restart our laborious signature drive next year, and it would be a lot harder to get signers because those who had signed before wouldn't understand the need to sign it again. B) Financially it makes no sense to delay: even though the election may cost $300K, the project is projected to save the city and rate payers an average of between $200K and $2M per year, over the course of 20 years.

2)
Council was split on this issue and didn't feel entirely comfortable proceeding with a project without even knowing if the voters would approve making the land available. By doing the citizens' initiative, we have taken that burden off council, and eliminated their need and cost to do a program-level EIR before they could put it on the ballot on their own. Before the project can be built, there will still be a project-level EIR, so there will be the proper vetting of Environmental Impacts. Richard Burt's conspiracy theory is way off the mark, and uninformed of the many-years long process and interactions which has gotten us to this milestone.

3)
As others have stated above, there are many dedicated volunteers supporting this initiative, and I am among them. It is nobody's "pet project". We are committed to this because we seek the long-term best interests of Palo Alto, both fiscally and environmentally. This is not an "anti park" campaign. Many of the supporters of this initiative are staunch supporters of open space. Peter himself fought the Sand Hill Road extension to protect the creek side habitat from further urban encroachement. He also lead an initiative to protect large swaths of agricultural land in southern Santa Clara County from being replaced by sprawling office space. I supported and leant a hand to both of those campaigns.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] I've known Peter for a dozen years, and throughout that time he has successfully supported himself through his hard work, dedication, and smarts. Just like the rest of us, he gets up everyday to go to work and make ends meet. But rather than contenting himself with just getting by or amassing vast personal wealth, he has successfully applied himself towards socially and ecologically beneficial service. We are lucky in Palo Alto to have people like Peter who care and act not just for themselves but for the rest of us and the planet as well.

4)
To those who style themselves as fiscal conservatives, would you demand that the city pay between $4M to $40M (and millions more 20 years later) for 10 acres of former landfill to turn it into a treeless park next to the sewage treatment plant? Because that's what it amounts to if you reject this local green energy initiative.

For more details on how this project saves between $4 million and $38 million dollars, I refer you to my analysis of the preliminary feasibility study at Web Link


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Posted by Svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 25, 2011 at 5:40 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] Peter is the front man and the "face" of this issue. Voters should be able to judge their choice partially on whether they consider the people involved to be trustworthy or not.


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Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 25, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Bob,

"Here is some information that is a basis of my concerns with Plasma Arc"

You are making my case, even if you don't know it! There is nothing more than ideological invective in your missive. Bradley Angel is a well-known social agitator, who is always looking for a cause (look him up on Google). He has no credibility in a rational debate, especially about waste-to-energy issues.

Once again, Bob, plasma arc is not incineration, even in disguise. You simply do not understand the issue, Bob.

Please ask Peter Drekmeier to enter this debate. You are not capable, and I hope that he is.

Peter: Where are you?


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 25, 2011 at 6:03 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Like this comment
Posted by Svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 25, 2011 at 6:13 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Not Enough Info
a resident of Southgate
on Mar 25, 2011 at 7:47 pm

So, this is an election to decide whether to have waste (yard trimmings and food scraps) trucked to facilities in Gilroy and San Jose (as stated in the article) versus having a facility here in Palo Alto? It sounds to me as if the present facility can't be used so that means a new one has to be built, plus the land secured? What's the bottom line? What are all the costs of creating the new facility including salaries, EIR etc. versus trucking it?

I don't have enough info to vote and I'm not getting any solid information from all the back-biting.

Could each side just state the pros and cons, so the rest of us can make an informed decision.


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Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 26, 2011 at 8:44 am

From the Mercury News:

Web Link

"The county registrar estimated it would cost about $305,100 to hold a special election with just one measure in Palo Alto in November, Grider said. The cost of validating the signatures was not included in the estimate."

As I have stated, money is no object to some people.


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Posted by Pelagic
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 26, 2011 at 12:48 pm

As an environmentalist, I'm voting yes for this measure when it hits the ballot. There are other places within Palo Alto to fight for as parkland (and we should), but there are no other places to put a compost facility. It's rare that a "win-win-win" solution like this is found. I just can't stomach the thought of Palo Alto not saving $35M over the course of the next 20 years, and even more after that, because we were afraid to be bold in our vision. I suggest that folks educate themselves at the following links when Council comes back on June 6th with updated analyses:

1) Web Link

2) Web Link


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Posted by Cedric de La Beaujardiere
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 26, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Cedric de La Beaujardiere is a registered user.

As I have stated before, this option is likely to save us millions of dollars in the long run, so investing less than one million dollars today to save tens of millions later is a good investment.
.
To "Not Enough Info": watch out, you may be about to transition to information overload.

Pelagic's first link is to my analysis of the financial feasibility study, and you can find other advocacy for this project at that site.

I don't know if the study includes the cost of the EIR, but staff estimated that to be $200K.

Note that any waste management option will cost the city money, but we believe AD will:
- save $4M to $40M over 20 years and millions more on a longer time frame
- generate 1,100kWh of net electricity for sale (enough to power 1,100 homes or to keep the sewage treatment plant running through an emergency)
- reduce our Green House Gas emissions by ~20,000 tons per year compared to our current practice, and by 12,000 tons relative to the studied future alternatives. That's like eliminating the emissions of over 1000 Californians, and equals 50% of the City's 2012 GHG Reduction Goal or ~20% of its 2020 Goal.

.

You can check out for yourself the preliminary feasibility study (both economic and GHG) at the city's website Web Link, where there are a set of spreadsheets, each with multiple tabs. A good place to start is at "Energy/Compost Preliminary Cost Analysis Summary", on the "Data" tab, which gives you preliminary figures for the tipping fees in the first year and last year of the study period, as well as the total cost over twenty years. One would think that a "Data" tab would have too much of it, but in fact it is pretty concise and more relevant than the "Summary" tab which only gives year-one tipping fees.

You would come to opposite conclusions if you only looked at the year-one versus year-twenty fees, so you really need to look at the total 20-year figures.

The price estimates include total costs and income, including capital costs, debt financing, inflation, rent, salaries, operations, maintenance, energy purchases and sales, etc. The NPV Total Costs are the total of all these over twenty years, and then brought back to 2010 dollars pre-future-inflation. Tipping fees are basically total annual costs divided by the tons of inputs received.

.

As you look at these figures, you'll see "Low Cost Range Electricity" and "High Cost Range Electricity". Note that the study consultant has clarified that Palo Alto would choose something in the low cost range, as being more appropriate to the size of facility we need. The high-cost options are for much larger facilities which need to quickly move enormous quantities through their plants, which is not Palo Alto's need. The high-cost options are very high per ton for Palo Alto because they are over-sized. It would be like driving a semi-truck to the corner store, when your family car or bike would suffice: it will get you there, but at enormous cost.

In particular, scroll down to the "SENSITIVITY ANALYSIS #3 - - PUBLIC OWNERSHIP & FINANCING, PRIVATE OPERATION" where we see that public financing is hugely more affordable than the private financing base case.

This study is preliminary, and Staff will be coming back to Council in April with their list of policy directives needed in order to tweak and finalize the study. For instance, does Council give them permission to look at using Wet AD instead of Dry AD for both sewage and food waste, with composting of the digestate using yard trimmings.

I'll let the opponents speak for themselves. Unless they don't in which case I'll try to come back and give my understanding of their key objections (with my rebuttals, of course).


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