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City Invests in Green, Despite Cash Shortage

Investments in LED lighting and LEED certified buildings are two of the ways City Council hopes to recoup expenses in the long run.

Manhattan Beach is sticking with its plans to grow its environmentally friendly standards, while keeping an eye on a severely strained city budget that has little or no room for extras.

The city had seen significant growth in introducing new green practices in recent years, but City Council decided to review whether some of those practices were "frivolous" in light of this year's $2.5 million budget shortfall, said Councilwoman Portia Cohen.

"We want to see if these these economic decisions are frivolous in the face of one of the worst economic recessions since the Great Depression," she said. 

Although there has been an initial investment in replacing products that were not environmentally sound, Councilman Wayne Powell believes the strides taken by the city to conserve energy and take care of the environment will not only save money in the long run, but will also allow the city to take care of limited resources.

"We are considering using LED bulbs on our street lights, and permeable pavement on our streets," said Powell. "We are looking at storm water retention and having a more permeable landscape."

According to the city's Web site, the Manhattan Beach Environmental Task Force (ETF) has recommended an increased use of energy-efficient lighting, and retrofitting existing light ballasts to accommodate modern T-5 fluorescent fixtures. In addition to being more energy efficient, the newer products offer better color rendering and have a longer life than the T-8 fixtures currently used.

The progress made by the ETF has allowed for strategical investments by the city, said Cohen, who initiated the Environmental Stewardship Task Force three years ago upon becoming a council member.

"Going greener" would also impact how city government functions, according to interim City Manager Richard Thompson.

Several changes have already been implemented, he said. The city requires developers to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified, requiring upgrades on residential standards in energy efficiency.

"We are incorporating various departments and the way they function," Thompson said. "For example, we are improving the method (by) which we collect trash. By not spending extra money, we are, in actuality, making money." 

According to Cohen, the ETF has recommended an ordinance that would require all large commercial buildings and medium-sized government buildings to be built according to LEED guidelines.

She believes the investments being made by the city to become energy efficient and environmentally friendly are not in vain.

"It is critical to be energy efficient," she said. "We need to have a strategy to save energy in the short and long run."

At a February 23 council meeting, officials began discussing which energy efficient plans could be put into focus without a timeline. City workers have been asked to research amendments related to solar energy, wind turbines, green roofs and gray water, as well as allowing more flexibility in the location, height and placement of their related structures or equipment.

"These would be items we can do when there is money available for them," said Cohen. "We are finding that there is a quicker return on an investment made in conservation, and that the price of conserving is going down."

Proposed changes in efficiency plans would also benefit consumers, said Cohen. 

"We are looking at offering an incentive in water conservation," she said. "We will begin charging individuals by their water usage with our new water ordinance."

"Being environmentally or energy conservative isn't a trend," she continued. "These are not infinite resources; they are limited resources that we rely on." 

Ultimately, she focused her appeal for more eco-friendly city practices on a different kind of green.

"Manhattan Beach is known for its beaches," she said, "but if we allowed it to become trashed, it would have a direct impact on us economically. The decision to be environmentally friendly isn't frivolous; we have economic reasons as well."

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