By Executive Director Glenn Phillips
On the evening of Wednesday March 1, after nearly three hours of testimony and lively discussion, the City of Berkeley’s Planning Commission unanimously referred the Bird Safe Berkeley Requirements ordinance to the City Council for their approval. Thank you to the 30+ members and friends who turned out to support the stronger version provided by Golden Gate Bird Alliance. The final ordinance, substantially based on that version, will be among the most effective bird-safe building ordinances in the country if approved in its current form by the City Council.
The referred ordinance calls ultimately for all buildings, including residential, to use 100% bird-safe glass for new and replacement glass occupying the first 100 feet of the building from the ground. A phase-in period over the coming three to five years, depending on the project type, will allow time for local suppliers to meet the demand for smaller projects and renovations in buildings with less than 30% glass coverage across every facade. After January 1, 2028, every piece of glass installed below 100 feet on all buildings must be bird-safe.
The ordinance defines “bird-safe” in three ways. Material tested for bird-collision reduction and given a bird-threat factor below 30 in the American Bird Conservancy’s database of bird-safe materials qualifies, as well as any material with prescriptive standard markings spaced two inches apart so that the glass is made visible to birds (such materials are assumed to have a threat factor of 20 though many will be significantly lower.). By defining “bird-safe” by threat factors, new materials will automatically be acceptable as long as they meet the threat factor threshold. A final pathway to bird safety is to provide an exterior barrier such as screens or louvers.
We are grateful for the support and thoughtful comments from all members of the Planning Commission, and especially from commissioners Twu and Oatfield who served on the Bird Safe Berkeley Subcommittee. None of this would have happened without the ongoing persistence of Berkeley residents Erin Diehm and Kelly Hammargren, who have consistently shown up at Planning Commission meetings for more than five years to advocate for birds. Noreen Weeden’s leadership helped the Environment and Climate Action Commission draft the original request. A huge thank you to the entire Environment and Climate Action Commission who so eloquently made the case that Berkeley needed to address the issue.
This ordinance meets the American Bird Conservancy’s model ordinance standard.