Tom Butt
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  CivicWell Policymakers Conference at Asilomar
March 23, 2023

Shirley and I attended the CivicWell Policymakers Conference at Asilomar last week. CivicWell was formerly the Local Government Commission (LGC), and the Policymakers Conference at Asilomar was formerly the Ahwahnee Conference at Yosemite. Yosemite was not available this year, which turned out to be a blessing because it was closed by snow. Remaining on the board of directors as an emeritus member for a year after leaving elected office is an opportunity given to former chairs (I served as chair or two years back about 15 years ago).

To provide a taste of the subjects covered at the conference, I offer the following programs and speakers:

  • How to Build More Housing in Your Town
    • Stacy Atkins-Salazar, Council Member City of Arcata
    • Alexander Casey, Director, Housing Affordability data lab at the Terner center for Housing Innovation
    • Julia Kingsley, Senior Consultant, California State Assembly Transportation Committee
    • Anu Natarajan, Lead, Meta Housing Initiative
  • Effectively Influencing State Climate Policy from a Local Level
    • Catherine Blakespear, California State Senator
    • Das Williams, Santa barbara County Supervisor
    • Roger Dickinson, Policy Director, CivicWell
  • Building Decarbonization: What Local Governments Can Do
    • Cindy Chavez, Santa barbara County Supervisor
    • Bill hayward, CEO and Chief Sustainability Officer, Hayward Lumber
    • Garrett Wong, Board Member, Local Government Sustainability Coalition
    • Wendy Root Askew Monterey County Supervisor
  • The Challenges and Promises of Offshore Wind
    • Eddie Ahn, Executive Director, Brightline Defense
    • Siva Gunda, Vice-chair, California energy Commission
    • Arne Jacobson, Director, Shatz Energy Research Center
    • Mike Wilson, Humboldt County Supervisor
  • Keynote Address; State Senator John Laird
  • Solar, Battery Storage and grid Reliability
    • Jan Pepper, CEO, Peninsula Clean Energy
    • Heidi Sanborn, Board President, SMUD
    • Genevieve Shiroma, Commissioner, California Public Utilities Commission
    • Pam O’Conner, Vice-chair, Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission
  • The Remote Workforce: Environmental and equity Implications
    • Alberto Ayala, Executive Director, Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District
    • Darcy Totten, Director of Communications, California commission on the Status of Women and Girls
    • Mitch Weiss, Executive Director, California Transportation commission
    • Carl Guardino, Vice-president for Global Government Affairs, Tarana Wireless

Soheila Bana was the only Richmond City Council member to attend. From El Cerrito, Mayor Lisa Motoyama and Councilmember Gabriel Quinto attended.

A few takeaways:

  • Senator John Laird reminded us that most climate-related actions start with cities doing innovative work, and implementation of state polices is almost all at the local level.
  • Heidi Sanborn told us that SMUD delivers electricity at 47% cost than PG&E.
  • Alberto Ayala told us that remote workers may not drive to commute, but they drive even more just running errands, shopping, etc.

It has been decades since Shirley and I were at Asilomar, and we had forgotten what a magical place it is, located next to the beach on Monterey Bay. It was built in the second and third decade of the 20th Century by the YWCA as a conference center with a mission of training young women for leadership. The architect was Julia Morgan. It is now a state park. We got a tour led by a state park docent focusing on Julia Morgan, who was not only a great architect but a pioneer woman architect. She was the first licensed female architect in California.

Figure 1 – Asilomar Buildings by Julia Morgan
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Figure 2 - Julia Morgan designed more building than Frank Lloyd Wright

We stayed in a building called the “Stuck Up Inn,” originally a dorm for college girls working as staff at Asilomar. The story goes that when Asilomar first opened, some of the girls complained about the drudge work they were assigned. Their supervisor reportedly said, “They’re just a bunch of stuck ups.” Instead of resenting it, the girls embraced it, and identified themselves as the “stuck ups.’

Figure 3 - The Stuck Ups

Figure 4 – Merrill Hall

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Figure 5 – Dinner at Roy’s

Figure 6 – Shirley and Soheila Bana at Merrill Hall

Figure 6 – Senator Catherine Blakespear

Figure 7 – new CivicWell Executive Director Bernadette Austin

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Figure 9 – Senator John Laird Presentation