Torrance Enviro Commish – From Curious to CringeWorthy

The most recognizeable symbol of Torrance Environmental Quality
The most recognizable symbol of Torrance Environmental Quality

I spent another two and a half hours last night (time, like my 401k I’ll never get back) in the always delightful West Wing Commission Room attending the monthly Torrance Environmental Quality and Energy Saving Commission meeting.

My friends, let me tell you right now that we’ve got trouble.

clueless-excuseOh we got trouble,
Right here in Torrance!
With a capital “T”
That rhymes with “C”
And that stands for Clueless…

Come on, sing along with me after the jump –

The meeting started out well with a terrific presentation by Fred Koch, owner of Koch Development of Torrance.

Fred has recently completed the first BuildIt Green certified homes in Torrance and is being recognized by the Torrance City Council with a “Green Pride in Torrance” award.


Fred gave a very informative PowerPoint on his green building philosophy and practices and educated the Commissioners on the BuildIt Green process.  He also had some good, practical advice for the Commish on better practices for the planning and inspection departments when interacting with green builders in the future.

Click to find out what GreenPoint Rated means

I was especially impressed with Mr. Yung Oey, the homeowner who purchased the first certified green house in Torrance, who was there with his happy family to testify about how much he appreciated his new home’s green features.  You can read his letter about his home’s impressive insulation features here.

Unfortunately, once Mr. Koch was finished, it was all down hill from there.

It was obvious from the comments and questions the Commissioners had that they didn’t have much experience or knowledge about BuildIt Green’s program, or know the difference between BuildIt Green and LEED certification.

Nor did the Commissioners have any ideas for incentives or fast tracking possibilities to encourage more green building in Torrance.  They basically asked Mr. Koch to write something up for them.  Fred graciously said he would.

It was telling that Commissioner McCabe noted that the presentation Koch gave was something the Commission has “been talking about for years.”  They have all the time in the world…

Noting that they would be having an Environmental “Fair” on June 13 at Madrona March the Commissioners asked Koch if he might like to have a booth at the Fair to promote his green building business and potentially get more clients for Koch Development.

cluelessLike everything else that was said from the dais last night that request sounded very seat-of-the-pants and unplanned.  It wasn’t part of any strategic or well-thought out approach.

That’s also the best way to describe the Commissioners’ review of the presentations they’ll each be giving next Tuesday night in their joint session with the Torrance City Council.  As they each breezed through their own handful of spare and uninspired slides, several complained of being unfamiliar with their own material and unprepared to discuss their topic.

It was clear to this observer that they don’t take this responsibility very seriously or put the necessary time into understanding or mastering any of the subject matter they’re tasked with advising the City Council on.  If any of them do any homework beyond the time they spend at the meeting they hide it well.

Commissioner Reilly, who will be talking about solar, doesn’t seem to know the big efficiency differences between PV modules, thin film solar or integrated solar roof tiles.  She seemed unaware of AB811 and has no recommendation in her advice to the City Council regarding our participation in Torrance with the program.

She talked about the ability of a Torrance solar co-op to sell excess solar power back to the grid – even though that kind of feed in tariff doesn’t exist in Torrance and in fact exists in only one city in the United States – Gainsville Florida. She isn’t aware of current state laws on solar shading either.  She has no sense of urgency so she plans on calling for a five year plan to come up with a program.  If we have to rely on this Commissioner to help improve the adoption rates of solar energy in Torrance we’re in big trouble on that front.

Oh we got trouble,
Right here in Torrance!
With a capital “T”
That rhymes with “G”
And that stands for Gobble…

When the Commissioners were presented with a video by Torrance staff promoting the upcoming Earth Hour event on March 28, they didn’t endorse the idea and call for the participation of the city of Torrance.  That’s what the Manhattan Beach Environmental Task Force did last month when I attended their last meeting.

But here in Torrance they approach things differently.

3271594370_147ee3558eCommissioner Gobble, who makes frequent reminders that he works with Southern California Edison, said that from his “industry professional standpoint” that he wouldn’t want to see Earth Hour get too successful because if we all turn out our lights for an hour we could suffer a devastating blackout that would crash the power grid.

Yes, he actually said that.  I don’t make this stuff up, folks.

“That’s an industry knowledgeable comment,” he told us.  He said there “will be no turning back on” if everyone turned out their lights for an hour.

Me?  I think that sounds Looney Tunes.

I don’t believe it for a minute.

Especially since no one is talking about shutting off every electrical appliance or turning off your circuit breakers for an hour.  But then again, I’m not an expert on all things electricity related – like Commissioner Gobble.

None of the other other Commissioners was any better in reviewing their presentations and they actually rejected bringing up energy conservation as part of their presentations or making any case on its behalf.

The entire process was a rambling, vague, unstructured discussion among a group of people who seemed very pleasant and very out of touch with their own commissions goals, strategic direction or specific action items that will achieve anything concrete.

That all might be okay if we weren’t in a climate crisis and our city and state hadn’t made serious commitments to reduce greenhouse gases very quickly.

But we ARE in a serious climate crisis and we have made those commitments.  Too bad none of the people on the Torrance Environmental Quality and Energy Saving Commission seemed to have gotten that memo.

Your Creative Greenius says, the lights may be on once a month at this commission’s meeting room, but nobody is really home.

That’s the last first Thursday of the month I waste watching a group of well-meaning but ineffective people dick around and accomplish nothing.  Next first Thursday I’ll attend the monthly Environmental Priorities Network meeting with people who know what they’re talking about and who understand that our environmental situation here in the South Bay is a real priority and not something to just talk away for years on end.

But don’t worry.  I’ll be there next Tuesday night, March 10, to watch how well they represent our environment and the citizens of Torrance.

I expect to cringe quite a bit.

6 thoughts on “Torrance Enviro Commish – From Curious to CringeWorthy

  1. LOL!
    I see your city isn’t much different from mine,
    A group of well-meaning but ineffective people
    who sit around and accomplish nothing.

    Actually Jack, your city of Redondo Beach just elected Bill Brand to your city council and he’s a true local environmentalist. So you’ve at least got one in your government. I’m still looking for a Torrance elected official who recognizes the environment as a priority.

    And it’s not like the Commissioners accomplish nothing – they managed to inspire me to take greater responsibility on these green issues in order to pick up the slack they’ve left.


    Found you on AI – interesting blog. Come visit us, some time, too.

    Thanks for stopping by all the way from Australia, Lesley. I’ve read your blog piece on whales and thought it was terrific. I left a comment for you and your readers too. Looks like we both have politicians representing industries first and people last. Let’s keep trying to stop them and reverse the damage they do.

  3. Great job Fred Koch for a fine presentation to the City of Torrance. His green building reputation around the So. Bay is 2nd to none. A trusted eco builder and innovative “breath of fresh air” for Torrance.

    Thanks Andreas,
    You have every right to be proud of Fred and the great job he’s doing trying to bring green building standards to Torrance. Keep up the green work and we’ll look forward to reporting on Fred’s latest BuildIt Green development here in my own Hollywood Riviera neighborhood on Via La Soledad
    It looks like a winner to me!

  4. Seriously, “Torrance Environmental Quality and Energy Saving Commission”? This is a Lewis Carroll tale…

    My friend if only it were. Then I’d at least have a choice between the red pill and the blue pill instead of the bitter pill we’re offered instead…

  5. I’m happy to report that despite Goofy Gobble’s worries about the entire electrical grid being sent to a crashing blackout, the City of Torrance last night approved the city’s participation in Earth Hour 2009.

    Apparently the City Council thought their Commissioner was as Loony Tunes as I think he was on this subject.

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