Energy-efficient measures may be added to the Oak View neighborhood in 2018, but residents are voicing concerns about the proposed pilot program.
The Advanced Power and Energy Program at UC Irvine has partnered with with the city of Huntington Beach, environmental technology developer Altura Associates and utility companies to study adding solar panels, natural gas infrastructure, renewable gas sources and zero-emissions backup generators to the neighborhood.
The proposed project, if approved, would cost about $3.2 million, with grant funding from the California Energy Commission, Southern California Edison, the Southern California Gas and other entities.
The plan is to begin studying the suitability of the community next month and gather feedback from residents, said Jack Brouwer, associate director for the Advanced Power and Energy Program at UCI.
If the district is found to be an acceptable location, improvements could start being added after the study period ends in March 2018, he said.
Oak View, which is generally bounded by Slater and Warner avenues and Beach Boulevard and Nichols Lane, will serve as the pilot area to see whether the technology can be adopted citywide.
Brouwer said the neighborhood was chosen after the UCI program partnered with the city to identify a disadvantaged neighborhood that could benefit from the renewable energy technology.
The goal, he said, is to identify the needs of the community.
None of the proposed advancements are binding, and the organizations would only implement what was deemed necessary, he said.
"This is all just a simulation and a study," he said. "We want to understand the community status, build a model and simulate what might happen if new improvements were added."
Electric vehicle charging and rental stations have also been proposed for the one-square-mile neighborhood.
Resident Victor Valladares, co-founder of Oak View ComUNIDAD, questioned why the stations would be needed in an area where family incomes average $15,000 to $20,000.
Most residents, he said, cannot afford electric vehicles.
The lowest-priced, mainstream electric car on the market is the Mitsubishi i-Miev, which retails for just under $24,000, according to Green Car Reports, but most cost considerably more.
Brouwer said residents might be able to rent EVs for free but did not immediately know where they could be located or how they would be funded.
"The idea is using what we call a shared-use station car model," he said. "The idea is that the charging stations would be owned by the neighborhood somehow, not by individual people in the community."
Valladares believes problems with infrastructure, like deteriorating buildings, should be addressed first and ComUNIDAD leadership hopes to work with the partners to educate the community.
He said many residents are fearful of being priced out of their homes, if the additions are made.
"We want to be 100% part of the whole process," he said. "Right now, this just doesn't make any sense, but it could end up being a good thing. Who knows?"
Brouwer said infrastructure improvements would likely need to be done first before the additions were installed to guarantee the buildings can support them.
His organization also plans to draft an agreement with interested property owners to guarantee they will not raise rents because of any improvements.
He did not immediately know if the additions could raise property values.
"There is a goal to have the tenants be the primary beneficiaries," Bouwer said. "I don't think it can be 100%. There will probably be some benefits to the landlords but we want to make sure there is not a single tenant displaced."
Bouwer said while the study session is in place, his organization plans to meet with residents at town hall meetings, gather information through surveys and see residents' homes first-hand to see what improvements should be made.
Brittany Woolsey, email@example.com