Belmont drivers can save more than gas

If you live in Belmont and you buy a hybrid car this year, you might just get free belly-dancing lessons out of the bargain.

The Belmont City Council last month adopted a Green Vehicle Initiative, which gives residents who buy low-emission cars $250 vouchers. The vouchers can be spent on any city service or fee, including Park and Recreation program such as wine tasting groups, tennis classes or piano lessons.

Though federal and state governments have for years used financial incentives to motivate people to buy low-emissions vehicles, the federal government is now phasing those out. Belmont is the first city on the Peninsula to create its own financial incentive to motivate residents buying those cars, Public Works Director Ray Davis said.

The idea for the program arose at a public hearing last year when a resident asked why the city isn’t doing more to make the air cleaner, Davis said. The City Council decided a voucher program would be a positive step toward that goal, he said.

The city has committed $5,000 for the program this year, though they haven’t had any applications for the money since the initiative was adopted a few weeks ago, Davis said.

Belmont is not alone in the nation in trying to motivate its residents to go greener, said Annie Strickler, spokeswoman for the nonprofit ICLEA — Local Governments for Sustainability, which has an office in Oakland.

Cities across the nation are experimenting with such policies, she said: Berkeley has a popular tax rebate program for solar panels, for example, and Boulder, Colo., recently implemented the first city tax on carbon emissions.

Though a $250 voucher is unlikely to motivate someone to buy the $98,000 Tesla electric car, that company’s director of corporate development lauded Belmont for its efforts.

“I think if more municipalities were as progressive as the city of Belmont in this respect, we’d all be moving at an accelerated pace toward a desirable future,”Diarmuild O’Connell said.

San Mateo resident Mitch Franklin, 34, bought his Honda Civic hybrid late last year. He hadn’t heard about Belmont’s new voucher program, but thought it was a good idea and said he’d like to see more such financial incentives.

“Maybe I should move to Belmont,” he joked.

kworth@examiner.com

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