In less than 24 hours from last night’s debacle, I have
received over 50 comments from E-FORUM readers criticizing the vote of
the Viramontes 5 on operable windows in City Hall. The one I liked best
was, “Why not compromise: operable windows in most of City Hall, and
sealed windows in the Viramontes group's office.”
The comments are copied below. Only names have been
removed to protect the privacy of those who responded.
This irrational and bizarre power grab by the Viramontes
Five is the worst and most dangerous schism I have seen on my 12 years
on this City Council, exceeding even that of the legendary Darrell Reese
Five of a decade ago.
Dear Council Members Bates, Marquez, Viramontes, Lopez
and Sandhu, Please provide a rational for voting to seal the building.
It seems based on the expert testimony it would be both better for the
health of the workforce members in the building and in the long run save
money. Is there some reason you chose to disregard this information?
Thank you for your time,
Hi, Tom... Since I can't compose a more telling
indictment than you submit below, I'll express my reaction via
annotations and emphasis of points you have already made. I can only
surmise that the "Viramontes
Five" have, by some strange intellectual contagion,
contracted the disease that has formerly been confined to Washington,
DC, and our current Federal Administration. The syndrome is
recognizable by primarily one symptom: denial of reality, truth and
Dear Mayor and Council, It seems once again the City is
going down a path to disaster. You seem to be disregarding the
presentation on the economic and health advantages of operable windows
by Gail Brager, a highly regarded professor from U.C. Berkeley with a
Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and notwithstanding her presentation,
you have inexplicably voted to seal the rehabilitated City Hall. Get
with it! Enter the 21st Century. The public demands you think green!
Hundreds if not thousands of sites use operable windows in their
designs. Maybe you should read what other public institutions have to
say about operable windows:
see quote below:
The mechanical system design began by first analyzing the
natural ventilation potential for the building spaces, considering the
site, privacy issues, security, and noise breakout between spaces. The
Demonstration Commons Building is a prime candidate for natural
ventilation due to favorable climate, shape of buildings, and large
number of operable windows and doors. The Classroom and Commons spaces
have operable windows on both north and south faces and operable windows
within the clerestory facilitating natural ventilation and air change
effectiveness. Good cross ventilation through the spaces can raise the
comfort temperature sensed by humans allowing natural ventilation to
maintain indoor comfort on mild days and eliminating the need for
cooling and air handling equipment. The natural ventilation system will
shut down the mechanical air systems automatically when windows are
Operable windows, thermal mass, and thermal chimneys are
common elements found in passive design. Operable windows are simply
windows that can be opened. Thermal mass refers to materials such as
masonry and water that can store heat energy for extended time. Thermal
mass will prevent rapid temperature fluctuations. Thermal chimneys
create or reinforce the effect hot air rising to induce air movement for
cooling purposes. Wing walls are vertical exterior wall partitions
placed perpendicular to adjoining windows to enhance ventilation through
Give occupants some control of their environment with
features like operable windows, task lighting, and temperature controls.
Cost implications: Most of these measures will increase construction
costs, but they often are easily justified based on the increased
health, well-being, and productivity of building occupants. Failure to
pursue these measures can lead to expensive “sick-building” lawsuits.
What about operable windows? Surely, they go against the
grain of commercial and institutional building design of the last few
decades. We think of these buildings as being sealed boxes. Heating and
cooling costs can increase if windows are open, depressurizing spaces
and allowing additional volumes of unconditioned outside air to enter.
But operable windows provide ventilation, a sense of
control for occupants, and a way of getting in contact with outside-all
qualities of a healthy building. Green design asks designers to
reconsider operable windows and mechanical air conditioning for
commercial and institutional buildings. In some regions, operable
windows and passive cooling strategies may be able to replace mechanical
air conditioning entirely-especially if building cooling loads are
In other regions, operable windows may be part of an
efficient building cooling strategy that relies on windows (and other
passive ventilation) for cooling during mild parts of the cooling season
and mechanical air conditioning when it gets really hot and humid.
Operable windows and energy efficiency need not be
incompatible. Window frame switches can be used to shut off mechanical
air conditioning to rooms with open windows. The challenge is to design
a system that keeps windows closed during cold weather and permits them
to be open when the enthalpy of outside air is acceptable for indoor
I really don't understand this decision to seal the
windows in this building, and would appreciate an explanation.
is very important for the health of people who have to spend a lot
of time in the building. It would be very unfortunate if we lost
some of our excellent employees due to lack of fresh air. Sealed up
areas trap germs and pollution and make it more difficult to
breathe. Richmond already has one of the highest rates of asthma in
the area, due to pollution from refineries and diesel engines.
Oakland is the only place with worse rates of asthma, due to
pollution generated by diesel engines used in port operations there.
Diesel engines are so much dirtier than other engines that they
probably generate more air pollution than all the cars passing
through our area. The main culprits I have identified so far are
ship engines, train engines, truck engines, and diesel engines used
by heavy equipment. As an ideal we need to aim for replacing those
engines with cleaner engines. Richmond potentially could have very
good air quality, due to winds from the bay bringing in fresh air to
our area, but the air is being fouled by heavy industries, such as
refineries, and the diesel engines mentioned above.
was this even voted on ? don’t we pay the architect to design the
whole building-which certainly includes the air-flow window size etc
what else will be voted on?
listen to the experts and make the windows operable in city hall.
It is a much healthier option, and as for going outside for fresh
air which one so-called expert suggested, that is out of the
question when city employees are paid to do their jobs inside.
want to say the health of our City employees is a priority. We have
a lot of needs in our city, but we also should be mindful of the
needs of all our citizens. I am concerned about how on one hand we
can spend City dollars with no expert input at all, but when we do
have expert opinion and we don't listen. We should be looking
towards the future. These buildings that we spend hours in are not
healthy and just taking a walk on your break is not good enough.
Please value all of the lives of our residents. From the city
employee to the homeless on the street. They are all Gods people.
I have been hearing the craziest things about what I
guess is called the Viramontes 5. Voting to have one person on the
design review board almost guarantees that bad design under the
cover of progress and more money will prevail. Why would anyone who
lives near the Bay EVER want to have non-operable windows. The
breeze from the Bay is one of the bonuses of living here. Two bad
Who are the Viramotes Five?
Viramontes and her sheep, You are making a big mistake concerning
your sealed building decision. As past Maintenance Manager, I
oversaw the construction of two 3 story 30,000sq ft office building
that were constructed with no opening windows. These buildings rely
on two large HVAC systems which are programmed to run 12hrs per day
5 days a week. If someone needs to work in his office on a weekend,
night or holiday he or she can turn on the system by using a 2hr
timer. (He would need to reset it every 2hrs.) Problem: My
employer has to pay to heat or cool the entire 30,000sq ft for one
small office. The “Economy Mode” regulates how much fresh air
(outside air) and how much recycle air to use. Depending on the
computer it will range from 15% fresh /85% recycle to 100% fresh.
Problem: Since recycled air was the cause of Legionnaire’s
disease, all closed systems have to be treated with chemicals and
tested at a lab once a month. These chemicals are deemed safe but
don’t you think that most people, including yourselves, prefer fresh
air. The fresh air intake is located in an area that is vulnerable
to foul or unpleasant odors emitted nearby the intake such as fresh
paint, car exhaust, cigarette smoke, etc. These outside odors
quickly spread through the building and without open windows and
doors take over an hour to dissipate. Cigarette smoke or a nearby
BBQ can trigger the smoke detector located in the intake duct thus
setting off the fire alarm. The foregoing have been a few of my
experiences from which I hope you can learn. One added note: The
tenant who leased 700 sq ft of the top floor insisted we replace the
sealed windows with ones that opened and closed. That also made it
much easier for us to wash the outside of these 4 story windows. My
Father always said “When in doubt, falling back on your common-sense
is never a bad idea”.
Greetings. My name is Sidney Sweeney and I am the Executive Director
of The American Institute of Architects, East Bay. I am sending more
information to back up Dr. Brager's testimony re: the economic and
health advantages of operable windows in public buildings.
Certainly, operable windows are key elements in LEED-certified
buildings, are recommended as features of all CHPS (Center for High
Performance Schools) facilities, and as mainstays of healthy-living
environments. I would be happy to collate more information regarding
the efficacy and cost-benefits of operable windows in rehabilitation
projects for the Richmond City Council. In addition, we can also
provide information on the benefits of a mix of operable and closed
(fixed) windows in buildings. The following presentation was
developed by Vivian Loftness, FAIA, Professor of Architecture at
Carnegie Mellon University. In it, she discusses the fact that
access to operable windows reduces absenteeism, energy use, and
In addition, screened operable windows are recommended to optimize
cross ventilation in "Advanced Energy Design Guide for Small Office
Buildings" as prescribed by ANSI/ASHRAE/IESNA Standard 90.1-1999.
Please feel free to contact me at any time.
City Council: What part of the presentations didn't you get? With
the windows closed you have to have a system running constantly to
control the environment that opening a window could take care of,
for the most part, by it's self and use a lot less energy! You five
had better get your acts together...we citizens are not quite as
stupid as you seem to think we are and I, for one, will remember
come campaign & election time!
Councilmembers: The item to which Tom refers is not just an
embarrassment of process, but it makes no health or safety sense
either. It makes me wonder who is really benefiting financially from
this. Harpreet, I would hope that you will demonstrate more
independence from the usual cabal. Your acquiesence to the
Bates/Viramontes bloc on several issues, e.g. Police and Plannning
Commission appointments, as well as the open building issue, is not
what many of us who advocated for your appointment expect from you.
I would expect a bonehead comment from Nat Bates about science just
like his comment a couple of years back that Richmond had too much
park space and we should sell land off, but Ludmyrna you are too
educated and your comment about going outside for fresh air in
Richmond is just insensative and sounds as idiotic as a Batesism.
Viramontes, Bates, Marquez, Lopez, and Sanhu City Councils, Having
operable windows is a good thing for the staff and the buildings.
Also, it would allow fresh air instead of the same old stale air
circulating germs and dust. I suffer from allergies and I would
love some fresh air inside the build, but the State of California
building in Richmond where I work doesn't have operable windows. I
don't understand why you are making such a fuss, you should be will
to satisfy the staff of Richmond and even the new City Manager, Bill
Lindsay who is doing a great job. Since new, and or
rebuilt/remodeled structures for the city offices are needed what
harm would it be to allow such a small request. Please reconsider
and allow operable windows and vote Yes for Windows. Thank you,
action is unbelievably disappointing and demonstrates Council's
complete disregard for the work you expect out of your staff. Our
City staff needs all of the physical support available to perform
their jobs and deal with the incredible workload available. A small
investment in operable windows generates a huge return in
productivity and staff quality of life. You've buried your common
sense and intelligent decision making under their need to exercise
political power. At least that's the perception you've left.
Please reconsider operable windows for City Hall.
I am very
disappointed that the City Council believes that the investment in
the employee's health is not a worthy investment.
of ignorant arrogance is what most residents of Richmond are tired
of. We thought we would have a progressive council when we voted
most of these goofs into office. Lopez, saying the employees should
"go outside and take a walk" sounds ridiculous. Bates, worried
about the cost of operable windows, should have chastised Lopez for
the employee time and production lost on "walks outside to get fresh
air" would cost the city. Of course, given the history of the
Richmond City Council, it is rare that sunshine and fresh air is
allowed anywhere in the decision-making process, so this should not
be a surprise. I agree that this vote, against all good sense and
expert testimony and examples, was one that was done "just because
they could." It also sends a very clear message about the current
voting majority on the Richmond City Council. We are back to an
arrogant cabal who care more about their own egos than they do about
the welfare of the residents, business of the city, and city
employees. What the hell happens to people when they get elected?
It's that extra gene, I swear, that comes to the top and robs them
of good sense and care for the citizens and of the city they say the
want to serve. Via this type of vote they might as well stand on
their chairs and yell "ME FIRST, ME FIRST, I AM IMPORTANT. I AM A
CITY COUNCIL MEMBER AND I HAVE POWER. I DO NOT HAVE TO LISTEN OR
CONSIDER THE OPINIONS OF EXPERTS OR ANYONE ELSE. I AM IMPORTANT."
Maybe those five council members should go outside and talk a walk
and get some air. And keep walking........
City Council: I wish to voice to you my disappointment in your votes
for sealing the city hall building rather than installing operable
windows. Such short-sighted, penny-safe/pound-poor decisions are
characteristic of Richmond's leaders in the past and have added to
our reputation as a poorly run city. Ignoring testimony by experts
who have nothing to gain by their opinions shows a lack of openness
and rational decision making based on facts. I have seen this so
many times with the Richmond City Council that it's become
expected. It is why the city is always back-tracking, paying for
its previous mistakes, and why it has lost the respect and trust of
its citizens. I hope the subject of operable windows can be
re-visited. It may not be the most important issue facing Richmond
but it is symbolic of the way the City Council could and should
approach the subject of environmentalism and economy in the future.
is surprising to me that Mr. Bates feels qualified to tell a Ph.D.
in mechanical engineering that her research is hogwash. I am sure
that in some disciplines, Mr. Bates is more knowledgeable than Dr.
Brager. Does he know more about the benefits of operable windows
than she does? Even if he does, what is served by being so rude?
For how many years has Ms. Lopez worked in sealed buildings? It can
not be very many, if she believes that stepping outside a few times
a day outweighs the problems associated with working in a sealed
building. It takes only one sick person in such a building to
contaminate everyone. Stepping outside does not stop you from
catching an illness in the hours you spend at your desk. Was this
nothing but arrogance? Surely, none of the five council members
actually felt qualified to ignore Dr. Brager's research. I simply
don't believe that any of those five is stupid. Perhaps this was
just politics -- favors given for favors received. Under any
circumstances, this was a terrible disappointment. The most recent
election looked like an opportunity for a new beginning in Richmond.
And yes, I supported Ms. Lopez enthusiastically.
engage in some tsk, tsking, what was the actual cost for installing
operable windows? If the rehab budget is $10m, and operable windows
would have added a hundred thousand dollars or less to the budget,
it should have been a no-brainer. If the cost would have been $1m
for operable windows, I might still disagree, but I'm not sure I'd
take anyone to task over the matter. An increase of 1% ($10m/$.1m)
in any building project should already be budgeted in under
contingency. Is it possible that the building rehab is already over
budget, and these idiots are merely trying to keep the "wish lists"
under control? Lacking some critical info to take the "5" to task.
Council Members: It was discouraging to read Councilmember Butt's
e-mail regarding the apparently irrational decision on the part of
five councilmembers to seal off City Hall despite expert testimony
that would surely have influenced any sensible person to decide
otherwise. Honestly, who in their right mind would opt to seal off
a building and breathe canned air, when provided the option of
breathing the (relatively)fresh and clean Richmond air? According to
Mr. Butt's correspondence, this was the move of a bunch of
well-informed contrarians, who made a decision based not in the
interest of anything other than an irresponsible display of power.
I really hope Mr. Butt is wrong, and that there is some point I am
missing. There are two sides to every story, but I fail to see your
side in this issue. This is utterly disillusioning, and I fear it
may reflect upon other decisions made on behalf of your
constituents, and your attitude toward those you represent in
general. Please let me know why I am wrong.
Council Persons: Bates, Marquez, Viramontes, Lopez and Sandhu I hope
these comments are a simple misunderstanding, but I request that you
please clarify the reasoning behind your voting position on this
Tom-- I don't always agree with you, but I think
you're dead right in your evaluation of
the mechanics behind this. Lopez so much as admitted that a breath
of fresh air in City Hall is not something that group wants.
However, operable windows just makes sense. We live in a place that
has great weather and comfortable ambient temperatures. Why not
compromise: operable windows in most of City Hall, and sealed
windows in the Viramontes group's office.
evident that our city council does not have a clue about the cities
workforce and is either politicking, or has never visited worksites
where there are no open windows in place. Ask those poor people at
the library who have been so ill and yes even died from poor
environmental quality if they wouldn't want open windows. Instead of
thinking about their own, they should begin to think about the
people who truly run this city. THE WORKERS.
the lengthy debate last night involving the choices of operable
windows over contained air conditioning in the retrofitted new city
hall. Given the authorative presentation by the U.C. Berkeley
professor and supporting testimony by a fair representation of
community voices -- I was stunned by the negative vote with little
applied reasoning by those opposed. It simply made no sense, and
appeared to be a pure display of power. This morning I'm still
finding it difficult to understand and justify except when viewed as
a creeping dominance (for reasons unknown) led by a newly-formed
council coalition. It will be interesting to watch how this power
will be applied in the months to come when the city will be facing
monumental decisions involving a variety of critical issues as we
climb out of the financial meltdown and try to sort out pathways
through what promises to be a period of major growth and change. I'm
hoping that "We, the people," are watching closely enough to keep
our recovery from being derailed by political ambition and/or
local political candidate I ever donated money to was Maria. Please
forgive me if I do not donate again. I have been a Democrat all my
life, but have recently re-registered. No, I'm not a Republican,
now, but I am certainly no longer a member of a party that does not
represent my ideals locally, statewide, or nationally. But, as Jean
would say, "I've got my eye on you." (Despite the above, I'll
always love Bob Campbell. Those were the days!)
Yes, I am
concerned that some of the City Council members do not have their
priorities very well thought out. You are against measures that
would improve the health of your city workers and save energy costs
in the long run. You are for spending money for high priced police
officers with funds the city doesn't have, but appear to have given
little thought to what would actually work. As a person who lives in
the Iron Triangle, I can appreciate having an adequate police force.
However, I call your attention to the advice of Oakland's head of
the juvenile and family unit: "You can't arrest your way out of the
problem...you really have to invest in prevention. Otherwise you are
just going to have more criminals." The state of California has a
fund with $48 million available to help stop street gangs with a mix
of social and law enforcement programs. What is Richmond doing to
get some of this money? How about hiring a grant writer or setting
up a taskforce on youth violence as other communities have done? How
about looking into what other communities have done that has
actually reduced crime? Source: "Anti-violence efforts need 'street
cred' legislators told" SF Chronicle, B3, June 2, 2007
Booze should have been on the council! I find the shenaigans being
played out for the new planning scenario despicable. The planning
department already operates in such a disoriented fashion I can't
imagine how they will ever become a cohesive group under the
Council: Please listen to the experts. Please rescind your prior
vote and get Richmond some openable windows.
Viramontes Five councilmembers: You gotta be kidding. You are not
doing the job for me. I am not happy about the Design Board
elimination or the fact that you seem to be in a coalition against
the best interests of the people of Richmond. Mandatory monies for
new police hires, when there are no applicants? Please get real;
let's spend some money on the infrastructure. Let's beautify
Richmond, not squirrel our money away. Let's use the money for those
things that are part of reality, not a pipe dream. What are you
Marquez, Viramontes, Lopez and Sandhu, What is wrong with you
Thanks for keeping the folks informed about how our local government
is not working. This is insane! I thought this City was more
"up-to-date" than this. During the design review stage of the
process, we were told that the buildings were to be "green". Why
hire all of these expensive consultants and then not take their
advice? When is the next election?
couldn't believe that the City Council ignored all the experts and
voted to have a sealed building instead of operable windows. WHAT
WERE YOU THINKING??? The citizens of Richmond deserve better
representation than we are getting!!!!!.
but pound foolish.
I'm not impressed by the City Council vote against operable
windows. I have to stay in way too many "sealed" hotel rooms, so I
suffer the health consequences of which your experts speak. I voted
for Viramontes thinking she showed signs of independent thinking.
My husband voted for Lopez thinking at least she wasn't the status
quo. Guess we were both wrong. Thank you,
Thanks for this and the other information about moves by the
Viramontes axis. Can anything be done to reverse this and their
other deals? Can the issue be put back on the table? Can these
members be impeached? The Viramontes people show all the earmarks of
having made back room deals with Chevron and certain factions of the
Richmond cops. I grew up in L.A. where blatant collusion between the
city council, the police and large developers was common. it's
tragic to see that happening here.
show of arrogance! As a frequent traveler for work, one of my
criteria for hotels is to stay in one with opening windows. Short
of installing HEPA filters and several air exchanges per hour in the
A/C system, it is a known health hazard to seal windows (I am a
Pharm.D. with a degree from Cal Berkeley and UCSF and help build
clean rooms). That is an added expense. I find it arrogant that
folks do not listen to the experts with the proper credentials to
help make a decision and environmentally sound ideas. Shame on the
5 of you! A few years from now, the community will incur yet another
expense retrofitting the building with opening windows once you are
all gone but what do you care? You are acting like all of the
republican politicians in Washington only interested in the
present. I bet the 5 of you do not believe in global warming
Council members, By what ratianal, and for what reason did
Councilmembers Bates, Marquez, Viramontes, Lopez and Sandhu, vote
down the operable window option recommended by the real experts and
instruct that the new City Hall building be permanently sealed. I
really whould like to hear from you. Long time Richmond resident and
"Councilmember Lopez said that if employees want fresh air, they
should go outside and take a walk." So, the employees can walk
around outside for the whole shift on pay status?!!! I didn't vote
for any of you slugs and believe me I won't next time around either!
Way to go team!
hall window vote is appallng. If there's an explanation, I'd love
to hear it from any council member.
reply to all because I am shocked at sickened by the choice made to
seal the building. This going against scientific information,
employee preference, experience, common sense, puts these Richmond
City Council members squarely in the ranks of the short-sighted,
self-serving officials who are brings our country to ruin with their
disastrous decisions regarding foreign policy and environment. Wait
a sec! Maybe Viramontes et al think that if the new city hall
building is sealed that, when global warming gets bad, they can just
stay inside with the air conditioning turned up.
I'm sure glad I don't have to work there!!!
the cost difference and percentage difference in the windows,
installation, cost of maintenance, etc? This piece sounds slanted to
you. I assume you will be emailing an addendum. It would explain
your intensity. Will it be efficient to your ends to name them as a
cabal? Is it that far out of control already? I fear you might
shatter the information exchange that might solve the problem.
Tom, I wasn't arguing about the accuracy of the description, but the
necessity of bringing it up in preference to any others; the sense
of urgency to communicate the evil rather tha the crossed
communication. What is your take on their reasons they are doing
these seemingly reckless things? Have they not given any idea of
that? They gave no reason for having the windows closed? Expense?
Dust, pollution, noise, danger, theft? Control of space? Ease of
handing a laptop to a conspirator outside?
Dear City Councilmemebers, Please reconsider your choice
of sealed buildings for Richmond workers. Fresh air is a demonstrably
better approach. You can easily seal a building later. You cannot easily
un-seal one. Thank you,
you ignore all the expert advice and further your own agenda
regarding the windows? You are all a disgrace!
In a day and age of increasingly less interaction with the
elements...such as fresh air...I do believe it would be in the best
interests of all concerned to have operable windows.
Your vote is a disgrace to the City of Richmond.
city's Stationary Engineers maintain and operate the city's HVAC
systems and are strong advocates of operable windows. A few years
ago, when we had the legionaires(sic) outbreak in the Social
Security building, prompted us to have our building assessed and the
overwhelming difference between old City Hall and the SSA building
was that City Hall had operable windows and of course, no cooling
Council members, If Tom Butt is correct, and all the experts, the
city manager, the architect, and the city employees recommended and
preferred the operable windows, and they would save energy and
employee health Why did you vote for the sealed windows?
one ask for the reasons the Miramontes 5 gave for their action? Did
they only say "hogwash" and "I don't want to spend the money"? I did
not vote for Miramontes; i did not like her looks. i guess i have
surprised by your votes regarding operable windows for the new City
Hall complex. You're like our President-you can't do anything right,
and like him, we have to pay for it. You' all make me sick!
Review What the
heck is going on? When the experts suggest something how can you
vote to do otherwise. I'm stunned and disappointed. You are
letting us all down. I'm out of town now working on the East Coast
and I have firsthand experience with buildings where the windows
can't be opened. It's a health compromise where no one
benefits....no one. One of the things I'm most proud of is telling
people that when I return home and it's too hot inside, we just open
the windows and the fresh air refreshes us all. Think it over-make a
decision that benefits people not one where you are stepping over
the $5 bills to pick up the quarters.