Atherton's City Council made two moves toward becoming a more environmentally friendly town on Nov. 18 when it eliminated the fees for installing solar panels and agreed to spend more money to look at the ramifications of a proposed climate action plan.
The vote was unanimous to eliminate the existing $526 fee for solar installation permits. Council members said they hope to increase the number of permits from the current average of only 27 a year.
"I think it's a step in the right direction," said council member Bill Widmer, noting that the town has so many trees it can be hard to make a solar system work in Atherton.
The town had considered, and rejected, making solar a requirement for new construction.
The council also voted unanimously to spend about $15,000 researching the ramifications of the Environmental Program Committee's proposed plan to reduce Atherton's greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020 and by 50 percent by 2030. The recommendations go far beyond a 2007 state law that requires each municipality to reduce emissions by at least 15 percent from 2005 levels by 2020.
The town will look at the greenhouse gas savings for each component of the suggested plan, including the effects of making actions mandatory or voluntary. In addition to a "zero net energy" requirement for new residential and commercial buildings that would call for a project to create as much energy as it uses, the plan calls for electric vehicle charging spaces, recapturing rain water, and composting yard waste and other organics.
The council also:
● Awarded contracts for two previously approved projects installing a pedestrian-controlled stoplight on El Camino Real at Almendral Avenue, and painting and signs for a network of shared car/bicycle routes.
● Approved changes to garbage and recycling rates, including establishing a minimum flat service fee of $25 per month even if no service is provided. The rate for 64-gallon garbage containers will go down by $8 and the 96-gallon container rate will go down by $12. The cost of a pickup of more than two green waste containers will go up by $4 for the third and fourth containers and by $2 for carts five and above. All other rates will remain the same.