Speak out: The City is Listening!

There are a number of public meetings set for the City to take input on new proposals for building a downtown Walnut Creek library, all leading up to a Feb. 27 community forum 7 p.m. at Las Lomas High School. … We’re on board with the alternative of a smaller underground parking lot after arguing from early on that putting a multi-story garage in Civic Park would be a disaster that would shadow the park and its environs for a whole generation. Things are looking up, though, and it’s time for action. …

Good News on Library Compromise Proposal

It’s hard to argue that Walnut Creek doesn’t need a new library. If the misguided plans for a large bond measure and multi-story garage are off the table, we don’t have to. … Walnut Creek needs a new library – and the City has come up with sound alternatives and the means to pay for them. … To qualify for possible state bond funds and to generate “legacy” donations from private citizens, the new library has to be a good deal larger than the one we have now. But the City is looking to shave several million dollars off the cost by cutting down on the parking (much of which would have served surrounding businesses at a cost to all Walnut Creek property owners). … These proposals are hardly set in stone, but they are similar to the path some of us have argued for from early on (see my Aug. 21 post, “In a Perfect World”). A tentative alternative that would put about 170 parking spaces in a single-story below-ground lot and a small surface parking area is perfect. The library could stretch out to the corner of Lincoln and Broadway, greatly enhancing the area and a new civic plaza near the senior center would magically turn into an ice rink in the winter. Should state bond money not come through (and that could easily happen, judging on the way things are going with bond funds up in Sacramento these days), the library could be financed through a modest increase in parking fees. These proposals are exactly the compromises many folks were looking for early last year and here at SaveCivicPark.com we’re ready to encourage city leaders wholeheartedly that this is the right way to go. … Please join us. …

Arcadis: A Lot to Like

Before a pdf bug swallowed my work, I was musing on why every Enviroinvestor should be familiar with Dutch environment and development consulting firm Arcadis (ARCAF). This firm has decent financials and has tripled in share price in the last three years. Since it’s getting close to my bedtime, check out Arcadis’ “Sustainability by Design” principle here and tell me what you think. …

Carbon-Neutral Filmaking: Syriana


Peak oil thriller “Syriana” will become the first major film to go carbon neutral, according to a new release from BusinessWire (smart move, Warren). … Producers Warner Bros. (TWX) and Participant Productions plan to invest in wind and methane power to offset an estimated 2,040 tons of emissions generated by the production. Targeted investments include financing for a methane generator on a family dairy farm, and a wind farm on a Native American reservation. … Another thought: One privately held company I wish I could buy into. Zippers, anyone? …

Being an EnviroInvestor at Home

Being an EnviroInvestor is about more than stock picking. It means conscious decisions to adapt one’s consumer lifestyle in a manner that promotes sustainability and healthy wealth creation. In that line, my family has recently done some shopping at two great sustainability-focused companies: Smith & Hawken and Whole Foods (WFMI). … Through a disposal-service program, we bought a cut-rate Smith & Hawken Biostack composting bin (getting a slight reduction on our garbage bill as a bonus). At Whole Foods, we picked up two reusable grocery bags (just $1.59 each, made by The Green Bag Co.). Using the bags will earn a $.05 rebate each at many retailers. (Whole Foods is also predicted by the Motley Fool newsletter to be the “next American super brand.” Think green Wal-Mart.)… Like many sustainability-focused corporate decisions, these purchases are more about reducing our impact on the environment than saving money – but like those larger corporate choices, they’ll pay financial dividends as well. … And speaking of dividends, one of the best financial choices you can make (assuming you’re already living within a reasonable budget) is to use a dividend credit card to make grocery and gas purchases. Many of the popular cards now pay 5 percent back on such purchases, meaning hundreds of dollars a year in cash back on the average family budget. Just make sure to pay off the balance each month! …

PETA Comes to Praise Safeway

With its short-term labor woes behind and trading near its 52-week high, Safeway Inc. (SWY) has been honored by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for the retailer’s cruelty-free line of household products marketed under the “Select” house brand. … PETA is also hoping to see follow-through its shareholder proposal urging the retailer to adopt a humane chicken slaughtering process. … All talk of chicken slaughtering aside, I would rank Safeway as one of my all-time favorite retail stores. As an E-Trade (ET)and Starbucks (SBUX) customer, I go to Safeway almost daily to get cash, food and household goods and coffee – and I know I’m not alone. … In the face of pressure from soulless giants like Wal-Mart (WMT) – Go Target! (TGT) – Nor Cal-based Safeway deserves to be rewarded for its healthy business practices despite a slightly inflated P/E ratio. …

My Thoughts on the General Plan

I sent the following comments to the planning commissioners on the General Plan Committee (their e-mail addresses can be found on the redesigned City Web site):
“Thank you for all your hard work on the new General Plan. As an interested resident (Carmel Drive renter with a young family) who hopes to live in Walnut Creek for the duration of the new plan, I hope you will take a few of my thoughts into consideration. I am generally supportive of the draft general plan and favor high-density downtown development. I believe, though, that mixed-use near the BART station should be heavily weighted towards housing, since the BART is primarily a commuter vehicle not used heavily for day trips or retail visits (I am a daily BART commuter with a single family car). … Housing near BART and in the downtown and along key bus corridors should have reduced parking (less than 1-for1) and incorporate car-sharing programs. I believe such language should be written into the plan. I also believe section 4 of the plan should clearly state that housing developments should have mixed unit types (studios through three-bedrooms, for example) to encourage a diverse resident base. … In section 4, goals 10.1.2, 12 and 23 could incorporate brief additional language favoring lower parking rations in transit hubs and use of car-share programs with designated parking spaces in new developments. Language in goal 11 regarding affordable housing could be strengthened. … Goal 10.1 should be changed to cut out “local-serving retail” which should not be near the Walnut Creek BART station and its primary use as a housing, business and commuter-serving district. … I strongly support goal 6.2.1, as well as goals 16, 18, 20 (particularly 20.1.3),24, 25, and 28. The language in 25.1.1 could be strengthened to add even further support for green building standards, perhaps by stating commission preference for developers using LEED standards or the like. … Thank you for your attention and service to the City. Good luck with Thursday night’s meeting – I know we can be demanding. …”

Potlatch Corp. Goes for Biofuels

Potlatch CP (PCH) has announced a collaboration for a biorefinery pilot project for converting forest and agricultural waste to biofuels and other chemicals at its Cypress Bend, Arkansas, mill. … According the company’s BusinessWire press release, company officials are touting a potential to “reduce natural gas usage by 1,600,000 MMBTU per year and purchased electricity by 80,000 MWH per year.” … We can’t quite recommend this stock, though, since at above $50 a share it trades at far too high a multiple. Still, good on ’em. …