Tom Butt
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  Richmond's Interactive Resources Organized California's First Statewide Solar Energy Conference
August 13, 2021

In 1975, Richmond architecture-engineering firm Interactive Resources held the first statewide solar energy conference, a two-day affair at the Oakland Museum.  See “Two-day Conference on Solar Energy Slated,” Daily Pacific Builder, August 21, 1975. Speakers included Tom Butt, president of Interactive Resources; Marshall Hunt from University of California, Davis, and co-author of a Davis energy conservation and solar utilization ordinance; Charles Baldwin, principal consultant to the State Governmental Organization Committee; Michael and Judy Corbett, developers of Village Homes, a subdivision utilizing solar heating and builders of Northern California’s first low cost solar heated house; Dr. Larry Anderson, technical director for the Lockheed palo Alto Research laboratory; Dr,. Ronald Moon, research scientist for Varian Associates and currently engaged in studies involving photovoltaic gallium arsenide solar cells; and Ridgway banks, technical associate at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and inventor of the Nitinol (sold state) heat engine.

Sponsors of the 1975 conference included the Construction Industry Advancement Fund, Northern California and East Bay Chapters of the American institute of Architects, California Association of Realtors, Energy Conservation Institute and Institute of Financial education.

In 1976, the Second Annual Solar Energy (Applications for Buildings) Conference was expanded to four days.  See “Solar Energy Meet Slated in Oakland,” Independent & Gazette, August 11, 1976. Speakers included California State Senator Jerry Smith: George Bush of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory; Dale Sartor of Interactive Resources; Doug Daniels of the Berkeley Solar Group; Dr. Larry Anderson of Lockheed; Jonathan Hammond of Living Systems, Inc.; Dr. Klaus Heineman of Alten Associates; Robert Hughey pf ERDA; Alec Jenkins of the State Energy Commission; Francis DeWinter of Altas Corporation; and many others.

The sponsor list expanded to include all those from the 1975 list plus U.S Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA), the Golden Gate and East Bay Chapters of the Society of Real Estate Appraisers, the Associated General Contractors of California, and the East Bay Chapter of the Construction Specifications Institute.

The keynote speaker at the 1976 event was Tom Hayden, only eight years after he was one of the Chicago Eight, four years after he was acquitted on appeal and two years after he married Jane Fonda. We were hoping he would bring Jane, but he didn’t. During that same year, Hayden made a primary election challenge to California U.S. Senator John V. Tunney. "The radicalism of the 1960s is fast becoming the common sense of the 1970s", The New York Times reported him saying at the time. Starting far behind, Hayden mounted a spirited campaign and finished a surprisingly close second in the Democratic primary. He and Fonda later initiated the Campaign for Economic Democracy (CED), which formed a close alliance with then-Governor Jerry Brown and promoted solar energy, environmental protection and renters' rights policies, as well as candidates for local office throughout California, more than 50 of whom would go on to be elected.

In the early 1990’s Hayden was contemplating running for governor. He visted me at my Point Richmond home

I was there, and I started a chronicle ( Click on A 25-Year Journey from Saigon to Richmond City Hall) as a summary, from my point of view, of Richmond politics from the early 1970s to 1995, when I was elected to the City Council. But those years were so intertwined with personal and business affairs that this turned into much more. There are three intertwined themes in this chronicle: Richmond government and politics, the Butt Family in Richmond and the architecture-engineering firm of  Interactive Resources.