SONOMA COUNTY ? When Bobby Sariaslani, managing partner of Global Financing Online, wanted to make his building in Railroad Square even greener than it already is, he looked into improvements, including wind turbines, but eventually settled on solar. However, he has not installed solar yet on 205 Fifth St. He has been waiting for the launch of the Sonoma County Energy Independence Program, set to roll out this month.
The program is a financing structure put together by the county of Sonoma and the Sonoma County Water Agency allowed by the passage of Assembly Bill 811. The bill allowed for counties and cities to create financing districts to lend money to property owners for environmental upgrades to the buildings payable over the course of 20 years on their property tax bills.
Mr. Sariaslani, is excited about the opportunity the program provides to make upgrades to the small shopping center and multi-use building, which houses the restaurant Syrah, City 205, Elle Lui and offices.
?I am in the finance business myself, funding solar in global and the United States markets,? he said. ?This is a fantastic product because you don?t have to have equity to borrow this money to make improvements. We are fortunate to be in Sonoma County in an area where people are so much more conscious about climate change.?
While Mr. Sariaslani is interested in participating in the program, he is concerned about the interest rate.
Rod Dole, the auditor-controller and treasurer-tax collector for the county, has worked on the financing for the program with the water agency since Assembly Bill 811 was signed last year. He said the money will be lent at an interest rate of about 7 percent. ?We borrow the money at 3 percent and lend it out at between 7 and 7.5 percent,? he said. The 4 percentage-point difference will cover administration costs, he said.
Though Mr. Sariaslani expressed some concern about the interest cost, he is excited by the program and the possibilities it will provide people to add value to their properties. ?In today?s market the only area any investor can gain in property is by cutting costs. You can?t buy real estate and gain value because it is depreciating all the time, ?he said.
Mr. Dole also is excited about the program, the first for a county in the state, and marketing the Sonoma County?s Energy Independence Program will be a cinch, he said. It?s ?as easy as stuffing envelopes that already go out to 176,000 people,? he said, referring to the tax bills he sends out twice a year to property owners ? the same people the program is targeting.
On March 24, the Board of Supervisors is expected to approve the program, after which it will go live. In addition, the program Web site will launch with applications for prospective borrowers.
Along with the online application, the site will have extensive information for borrowers including a program report, a question-and-answer sheet, information about energy audits and the program itself.
Applicants will be able to request funds through the site, at the storefront, which will be located in the water agency offices at 404 Aviation Drive or through the municipality where the building is located.
On March 25, the day after the program is expected to go live, there will be an open house at Aviation Boulevard at 9 a.m. where the members of the Board of Supervisors, the water agency and other interested parties will welcome the public to the program.