Gov. Jerry Brown Thursday in San Leandro.

ENVIRONMENT | Gov. Jerry Brown, in San Leandro Thursday afternoon for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Zero Net Energy Center, said the first of its kind building is the wave of the future.

The commercial building’s design relies on renewables to produce only as much energy as it can consume. While other energy neutral buildings exist in the nation, the San Leandro site is the first to be retrofitted from an existing structure.

“We need thousands of these buildings,” Brown said at the event near San Leandro’s Marina Faire neighborhood. Brown said the building which will combines wind and solar, among other energy efficient techniques, to lower the building’s consumption of electricity by 75 percent represents a nexus where environmental policy dovetails with opportunities for well-paying jobs. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 595 and NorCal NECA use the facility as a training center for workers.

“This is really big,” said Brown of the center and its possibilities across the state, “It will create million jobs. This is where we got to go.”

Brown was also philosophical about global warming and the meaning of life. “We have a senator in Oklahoma that says [global warming is] a big hoax. Global warming is happening,” he said. “It’s measured, scientific. No doubt about it.”

Rep. Barbara Lee speaking at the Zero
Net Energy Center in San Leandro.

At times Brown skewered this generation for relying on 140-character messages on Twitter, although he admitted using the service himself (“I Twitter,” he said), Brown asked what happens when after all the “fun things” have passed? “After all the fun,” Brown said, “What is the task?”

The site of the Zero Net Energy Center at 14600 Catalina Street is in some ways the epicenter of a long-running battle between Heaven and saving Earth. Seven years ago, the ever-expanding Faith Fellowship Church, a San Leandro Christian mega church, attempted to purchase the building from its former tenant. The city however, blocked the deal citing a zoning code prohibiting use of the industrial park property for religious assembly. Church leaders sued the city, which the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately declined to hear. The city settled the lawsuit last year, at a cost of $2.3 million.

Rep. Barbara Lee, Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett and San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy also addressed the heavily-attended afternoon event. The opening of the Zero Net Energy Center is part of a city-wide strategy in San Leandro to transform the former factory town into a regional hub of green tech firms. It already boasts a well-reported public-private partnership that brought a high-speed fiber-optic loop to its downtown.