Peninsula cities enter the green-loan business

Gene Klein, CEO of Barker Blue Digital Imaging in San Mateo, said his company wanted to install $1.5 million worth of solar panels two years ago — roughly 17,000 square feet — but finding funding proved difficult.

He said not all banks understood the business investment, making it difficult for his company to do the project.

“Some wanted to give us a real estate loan,” he said. “They couldn’t get their heads wrapped around an energy investment.”

Several Peninsula cities are deciding whether to take part in a pilot program that would help companies and homeowners who want to install solar or green energy projects on their properties.

South San Francisco and Daly City already approved participation in what is known as California Communities, or California First, a bond program that will allow cities to help finance green projects.

South San Francisco Redevelopment Agency Manager Norma Fragoso said the programs will allow property owners to secure loans to make their homes or businesses environmentally conscious.

“That means they could do solar panels or tankless water heaters,” Fragoso said. “[Usually] it’s a higher-cost home improvement than homeowners have the cash to do. This lets them do it.”

Loans given to residents or businesses will be repaid through property taxes, according to South City documents.

Amounts of loans will vary depending on the project that needs to be funded. An estimated $16.5 million in bonds will be available to cities in 14 participating counties statewide, according to the documents.

Sacramento County will be the lead agency on the bond, Fragoso said.

She said South City has yet to receive requests for projects, but expects it to take off when the funding becomes available.

The city intends to participate in “development and implementation of countywide energy efficiency programs” and “respond to
opportunities as they arise for the benefit of community residents,” according to documents from city staff recommending participation.


Help going green

The statewide pilot program, California First, provides funds for environmentally conscious retrofits on homes and businesses.

$16.5 million Available for projects statewide

14 Participating counties

$12,500 Initial sign-up fee

Source: South San Francisco

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