By Tim Hunt
Another bad idea from the air boardUploaded: Mar 26, 2015
If you are looking for a classic case of bureaucratic over-reach, consider the Bay Area air board's latest brain child to forbid the sale of a home with a wood-burning fireplace or stove (yes, you can cook on some wood-burners).
The air board staff is floating a proposal that would require both homeowners and property owners to retrofit their homes or rentals before completing transactions to sell or rent their property. Owners would have the option of retrofitting fireplaces to burn natural gas or bricking over the chimney. It would effect about 1.4 million units.
Their goal is to further reduce airborne particulate matter during the winter cold season from Nov.1 to Feb. 28. The board has established its power to ban burning wood during the winter if they predict a temperature inversion in some areas. Notably, the number of unhealthy days has plummeted over the last 15 years from a high of 39 to 6 this year with just one "unhealthy: day in two of the last five years.
Across Bay Area counties, there were 3,739 complaints this year and just 155 violations.
We have an issue?
My friend David Stark, wearing his Bay East Realtor Association hat, had it right when he termed it as a "bad solution looking for a problem."
The more important issue is a policy one. Too often legislators, state and national, are passing laws and then leaving unelected bureaucrats to devise the regulations and implement the laws. The disaster that is Obamacare is a federal example, while the wide authority given to the air boards (state and regional) are state examples.
The governor appoints the state air board, while the regional boards are made up of elected officials from counties and cities.
In short, they serve, but do not face voters in their regional roles. It provides relative anonymity and virtually no accountability to the electorate. When did we see a local mayor or supervisor defeated for re-election because of their votes on a regional board?
Remember it is the regional transit board that is responsible for the $6 billion new Bay Bridge and what is shaping up as a real estate fiasco with the ill-advised purchase of an office building in San Francisco. So happens that one of the valley's supervisors, Scott Haggerty, serves on both the transportation and air boards, while Supervisor Nate Miley, who represents Pleasanton, is an air board member along with San Ramon Councilman Dave Hudson.
Fresh and Easy, the small food market firm owned by a giant British supermarket chain, is realigning its business plan and closing seven Bay Area stores.
What interested me is that it is pulling out of several communities with demographics that retailers love. Among the stores closing are those in Danville, Pleasanton, and Walnut Creek. There is plenty of competition in these communities to be sure, but there's also an abundance of money for the right retail concepts.