Pleasanton Weekly

Column - January 28, 2011

Downsizing for the good of Pleasanton

by Jeb Bing

In Pleasanton's push for more "green" building and energy and water consumption savings, long-time environmentalist and civic leader Jonathan Harvey is already there -- or soon will be. Harvey, his wife Kitty and their two children have sold their spacious Kottinger Ranch home and are living temporarily in a rental until their new home, now under construction at Third and Neal streets, is finished sometime this summer. Local architect Charles Huff, who's not involved in the construction, believes the house will be the "greenest home" in the Valley. With solar roof panels, special insulation and energy efficient appliances, lights and heating, the Harvey's electric bill will be next to nothing compared to the triple digits PG&E charged them in Kottinger Ranch. Plants, fruit trees, shrubs and grasses that need little water will cut the family's water and sewer bill significantly. Even the location of the new house -- on a city lot close to downtown -- would rack up points on an environmental scorecard with work, restaurants, the public library, even Amador Valley High where the Harveys' son is a junior, within walking distance.

The Harveys are making the move to be friendlier to earth's shrinking resources. With a daughter in college, they'll soon be empty nesters and their smaller two-bedroom home will work just fine. They're adding a second floor, which mostly will become a "granny" unit that the Harveys plan to lease. They own a cabin in the mountains where they spend part of the winter when Jon serves on his ski patrol. The tenant will watch the house while they're gone and provide them with a bit of income as well.

To those who know Jon Harvey, the new house is an extension of his commitment to the environment. For the past six years, he has served on the Alameda County Board of Zoning Adjustments, which has the responsibility for handling conditional use and land use permits. In that role, he was part of the permitting process for windmills we see as we cross the Altamont Pass. Just last week, the board approved a solar farm in eastern Alameda County north of I-580. With 14 acres of solar collectors on the 20-acre site, it will be the largest in the region, producing solar power for the nearby PG&E electric grid and needed revenue for the county.

Harvey also serves on the board of the Greenbelt Alliance, which works with cities such as Pleasanton to make better use of infill sites instead of allowing development on the fringes, such as where Kottinger Ranch was built at the time it received permits from Pleasanton. The Alliance is working with Pleasanton's Housing Element task force to find suitable sites for higher density, market rate and low-income housing. With the city's housing cap now ruled illegal and the state requiring more of this type of housing in Pleasanton, we can expect to see Harvey even more active locally in his effort to make our town more energy efficient and environmentally friendly.

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