Supervisors promote solar energy development in rural areas, parking lots, freeway cloverleafs

Forgive $5.8 million in library book late fees dating back to 1995; Honor Choice in Aging’s Debbie Toth who serves Antioch’s Bedford Center as Board Chair Recipient

By Daniel Borsuk

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors flashed the green light for Contra Costa County Development and Conservation Department (DCD) officials to conduct additional studies on how solar power can be expanded, especially in the Far East environmentally sensitive Delta areas of Bethel Island and Jersey Island.

Supervisors also allowed county planners to study the feasibility of identifying underutilized parking lots countywide that could be used as solar farms in partnership with MCE, the main electricity provider for unincorporated Contra Costa County and the cities of Concord, Danville, Martinez, Oakley, Pinole, Pittsburg, and San Ramon.

Freeway cloverleafs are also on the DCD’s list of potential new sites for renewable energy.

“Fifty to eighty percent of the county could be used for renewable energy,” Jody London, a DCD official, told supervisors.  London said solar energy represents 85 percent of the renewable energy that could be developed on rural land.  The remaining 15 percent would be energy generated from wind power or biomass.

London said the county could also expand solar energy by issuing more permits to homeowners to install solar panels on roofs.

The house rooftop option drew the support of District 3 Supervisor Dianne Burgis of Brentwood, whose district also covers Bethel Island and Jersey Island.  “I’d be open to option one,” she said.  “We have so many rooftops in Contra Costa County.  I’d like to work with MCE.”

Board chair Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill cautioned DCD staff that she was uncertain the DCD recommendation concerning 450-acre Jersey Island as a potential solar power farm might run into opposition from the island’s owner, the Ironhouse Sanitary District.

London said she would look into that issue.

“We support development of solar energy on brownfield sites, parking lots and infill areas such as freeway cloverleafs,” Bill Chilson of the Mount Diablo Audubon Society wrote in a letter to the supervisors.  The environmental organization opposes wind and solar development in the Delta agricultural and wildlife areas, Chilson wrote.

Juan Pablo Galwan, Save Mt. Diablo Land Use Manager, criticized the plan, writing:

“Advances in solar technology may increase the frequency of collocation or allow an area of land to concurrently be farmed and produce solar energy without negatively impacting or perhaps even increasing crop productivity.  However, currently the most likely scenario is that solar development removes land from most or all ties of agricultural production for the duration of lease which may last several decades.  Therefore, the county renewable energy policies should not encourage solar development on viable agricultural land.”

A $47,000 grant from the California Strategic Growth Council developed the energy study for the County.

Supervisors Approve $362,505 State Grant for 2020 Census

The county is getting ready for the 2020 census and took its first step when supervisors unanimously accepted a $362,505 County-Option Outreach Agreement grant from the state.

The grant will aid the county in developing communications and outreach strategies that will target both geographic and demographic populations who are least likely to respond to the 2020 census.

Barbara Rivera of the Contra Costa County Administrators Office said the upcoming census will be the first one where Californians can respond by going online, but this raised cyber security issues from Julia Marks of the Asian Law Caucus.  “There is a lot fear over confidentiality,” said Marks.

Choice in Aging’s Debbie Toth Honored as Board Chair Recipient

Debbie Toth, the Chief Executive Officer of Choice in Aging, was honored by the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors Chair Karen Mitchoff, as Board Chair Recipient for 2018.

Mitchoff, of Pleasant Hill, selected Toth, who was named CEO of Choice in Aging in 2012 that serves 600 senior citizens in residential facilities at the Bedford Center in Antioch and the Mt. Diablo Center in Pleasant Hill, for being an advocate for senior access to housing, health and transit.

Mitchoff, who was re-elected to the District 3 supervisorial seat in June, cited her personal experience with her mother as a key factor in nominating the CIA’s Chief Executive Officer for the award.

After Tuesday’s meeting, it is expected District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond will be elected as Chair of the Board   when supervisors reconvene at their next regular meeting slated for January 15, 2019.

Supervisors Forgive $5.8 Million in Library Book Late Fees Dating Back to 1995

A week after the Board of Supervisors made the historic move to eliminate the practice of collecting overdue book and material fees, they approved on a 5-0 vote to discharge about $5,800,100 from public library patron accounts.

The agenda consent item did not attract public comment.

The bookkeeping item covers uncollected fees dating back to 1995 to the present, County Librarian Melinda Cervantes wrote in a report to the Board.  “Of this amount, 73 percent is the value of materials, not cash outstanding.”  There is no financial impact on the county general fund.

Last week supervisors adopted the library commission’s recommendation to cease the collection of overdue book fines beginning Jan. 1, 2019 based on the recommendations in a policy titled Project Equitable Access with the goal of ensuring everyone has access to library materials.

To view the entire meeting agenda, click here.

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