Developer Needs Lesson on Environment

Developer Needs Lesson on Environment


Not far from the Alameda Landing Safeway is notice on the bioswale saying, “Help us to help the environment.” The “us” referred to in the sign is Vestar that developed Alameda Landing. Vestar has-made some effort to fulfill this message. It placed put in the bioswales, which help clean rainwater. Not very useful in drought unfortunately. What else is there? There are lots of trees. There are bike racks. 

While these are all very nice, there are things that Vestar did which do not help the environment. A major example of this is the installation of thousands of “string lights” along the tops of almost all shopping center buildings. These lights go on in the evening and many stay on until midnight or even later- well after most businesses in the center have closed. These lights serve no purpose in terms of security. Target, open till 11 p.m., doesn’t have them. So the power these thousands of lights are using is wasted. This is not helping the environment.

Next to Safeway is an outside sitting area with about 1,000 string-lights, and nearly 20 bigger ground lights shining up at palm trees. A lot of power is being used to illuminate this area every evening and night. Unfortunately it was placed right next to the busiest street corner in the area, which may be why hardly anybody sits there. So all that light, all that power, is serving very little function.

There are many other areas in the shopping center where this extravagant use of lighting is evident. Drive over there one night and see for yourself.  All the building designs and lighting systems were approved by the Permits Department of the city council. Evidently conservation was not a priority when the permits were granted.

Turning off string lights and some of the other lighting would be simple and would certainly help the environment.

How else could things be improved?  I urge the two largest businesses at Alameda Landing, Safeway and Target, to examine the possibility of installing solar panels on the tops of their buildings. This is now quite common practice in America. For example, Costco, Walmart, Kmart, IKEA, Koh’ls and Macey’s and even other Target stories have all installed rooftop solar panels. This reduces their electricity bills by as much as 42 percent for an annual saving of over $8 billion. And of course these panels help the environment. 

One wonders why this financially sensible and environmentally positive step was not taken at Alameda Landing shopping center. According to a recent report by the Environment America Research & Policy Center, officials at all levels of government should implement solar-friendly policies that help to accelerate adoption of solar energy by America’s businesses.

Stores that leave their lights burning all night are clearly not helping the environment. I urge owners/managers of medium-sized and small businesses in the shopping center to contact the California Green Business Program, which has helped California businesses cut over 800,000 tons of Co2 emissions and save over $3 million in electricity costs over the past year. For details check out their website.

Lastly, big developments like the Alameda Landing shopping center convey an implicit message in their design and operation, a kind of hidden curriculum.  The message sent by extravagant lighting displays is that we can carry on as normal, that there’s no problem. Two-thirds of Americans, however, are concerned about global warming.

Here’s what Vestar claims on its website: “Vestar is responsible for creating many of the largest and most successful open-air retail centers with a conscientious approach to developing community oriented and environmentally sensitive properties.” 

Here’s a response from a Vestar manager to my raising the issue of string lights, my point being that they shouldn’t be there at all. 

“ I do agree that these string lights in the plaza do not need to remain on all night and they shouldn’t be on all night. I will double check on these,” the manager said.  “I had confirmed with our lighting maintenance company that these string lights and all the roof perimeter lights go off at midnight seven days a week. Our ice cream tenant, Cream, stays open until midnight and so we must keep the center lit while the stores and restaurants are open.”

Cream closed at 11 p.m.