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Chick takes a dim view of wasteful lightbulbs

June 04, 2008|Margot Roosevelt | Times Staff Writer

How many city officials does it take to change the lightbulbs?

Too few, apparently, have dedicated themselves to the task.

Los Angeles Controller Laura Chick issued an audit Monday of energy conservation -- or the lack thereof -- in the city's offices, police and fire stations, libraries and senior citizens centers, and declared that the city's 12-year-old program to cut back on electricity use needs "a complete overhaul."

Of 958 buildings managed by the city's General Services Department, only 102 have installed energy-efficient fluorescent lighting, which cost about $5 million, according to Chick.

Given that changing just those bulbs sliced $1.5 million off the city's annual $27-million electricity bill, Chick called on Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the City Council to make "greening our own house" a priority. "This isn't rocket science. . . . They're not doing it fast enough."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday, June 06, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 83 words Type of Material: Correction
Energy efficiency: An article in Tuesday's California section about an audit of green-building initiatives in Los Angeles reported the mayor's office as saying that the mayor's conservation plan would allocate $38.7 million over the next six months to place efficient lighting in the 497 municipal buildings that use the most energy. A city spokeswoman said later that the money would be spent over five years. In the first six months, about 14 of the 497 buildings are to be retrofitted, the spokeswoman said.

City officials agreed with the thrust of the audit. "We see the need to re-energize this program," said Nancy Sutley, deputy mayor for energy and environment.

Replacing a building's lights with compact fluorescent bulbs and high-efficiency fluorescent tubes can save more than 33% and up to 85% in electricity use, depending on the design of facilities, according to city officials.

Council President Eric Garcetti, who led the city's recent imposition of green building standards on new private construction, issued a statement noting the city's "ongoing work on comprehensive retrofit policies," adding that "we look forward to incorporating [Chick's] suggestions into these efforts."

According to Deputy Mayor Sally Choi, who oversees the General Services Department, the mayor will issue a conservation plan in two weeks to spend $38.7 million over the next six months to place efficient lighting in the 497 municipal buildings that use the most energy.

The money would come from a Department of Water and Power energy conservation loan and would be recouped through an estimated savings of $6 million per year.

The DWP conducted energy audits on the buildings last year and submitted 14 binders to the city in January with specific energy and water conservation recommendations for each of the 497 buildings.

In a letter to the mayor, the council and the city attorney that accompanied her 55-page audit, Chick asserted that "the problem does not lie with the General Services Department, as it has not been given the resources nor the mandate to effectively manage our energy programs. Reducing energy usage in city buildings has never been included in the greening L.A. priorities set by our elected leadership."

But Chick did fault the General Services Department for failing to submit quarterly energy conservation reports to the council. Only one report has been submitted in the last seven years -- a fact that Choi confirmed.

"The reporting system has not been in place and was not considered a priority," Choi said. "That is something we are changing."

As evidence of the lack of attention, Chick said that only five part-time maintenance employees have been installing efficient lighting citywide. Her audit found that "no one city department or agency has any oversight and accountability for coordinating the energy conservation efforts."

But according to Choi, the lighting program has been managed part time by three general service employees who employed five or six union workers to perform the retrofits, which include replacing light ballasts and fixtures as well as changing bulbs.

Choi said the new retrofit program for city buildings would include replacing fixtures, installing motion sensors, converting exit signs with LEDs, replacing incandescent lights with compact fluorescent bulbs and installing time-controlled shut-off switches.

The plan, she said, is only the first phase of eventual retrofitting that will include insulation, double-pane windows and a program to paint roofs white to reflect light and heat.


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