Sierra Club Yolano Group – Davis City Council Candidate Questionnaire

Candidates Forum on March 12/ Photo by Eunah Cho of Davis Media Access
Candidates Forum on March 12/ Photo by Eunah Cho of Davis Media Access

The Sierra Club will not be making a Davis City Council endorsement this year “since all candidates were perceived by our management committee as being equally qualified and all did very well in responding to our series of questions.”

The Sierra Club assessment of the Davis City Council candidates is as follows:

The Sierra Club Yolano Group has carefully assessed all of the answers submitted by the four Davis City Council candidates in response to our questionnaire. Although there are some minor differences of opinions between candidates and we do not agree with all candidates on all issues, we find all of the candidates are equally worthy of receiving Sierra Club endorsement for this elective office. All demonstrated a remarkable understanding of the general environmental pressures facing the City and our planet and all seemed genuinely cognizant of the necessary urgency in responding to this challenge. Indeed, in our opinion this is the most environmentally knowledgeable and committed slate of candidates to ever run for City Council in Davis. Unfortunately, Sierra Club rules prevent endorsement of more candidates than there are available open seats in an election so the Sierra Club Yolano Group must take a “no endorsement” in this Council race.

The Vanguard will break the responses into a four part series.

1. Recently, the Richards Blvd Conference Center and the Nishi housing/R&D park were approved by the City Council with only the City’s minimum commercial building standards (CalGreen Tier 1) or the equivalent minimum LEED-certification standard (Silver). Meanwhile, of the last 9 major buildings constructed by UC Davis, 7 were LEED-Platinum and 2 were LEED-Gold.

Do you support increasing the City’s minimum commercial building standards to LEED-Platinum or the equivalent and why or why not?

WillArnold2016Will Arnold:

I believe we should take the first, important step of setting a minimum standard of LEED Gold with a goal of Platinum, and with an overall goal of finding ways to make Platinum our minimum standard in the near future. I was disappointed that the Nishi project set the standard at Silver for its buildings, as I believe they could have done better. In fact, the Nishi developer committed to doing better with its neighborhood design, leading me to believe they could have hit the “Gold standard” with their individual buildings as well.

However, it should be noted that this question itself exposes some uncertainty in the green building world. I would be interested in hearing more community conversation about what exactly constitutes “or the equivalent” and how Climate Action measures should be considered as a part of an overall environmental sustainability program.

Frerichs-Announce-2016-5Lucas Frerichs:

Yes. We should set a minimum higher standard.

I’m not sure that LEED Platinum is the end all, be all.

There are other standards….Living Buildings Challenge, etc. which may be even more stringent that LEED.

There are sometimes trade-offs when constructing, however. If LEED Platinum is met, sometimes there is not enough $ to accomplish ZNE, etc.

It’s time for us to have a larger community conversation about this issue, not just on a project by project basis, as is currently the case.

Lee-Brett-HSBrett Lee:

I support the city requiring LEED Gold for all new commercial buildings built in Davis as the basic default expectation.

For larger projects requiring special council actions (zoning changes, etc.) I am open to requiring higher levels of LEED certification.

As we saw with the Embassy Suites proposal, we were hampered by not having some basic fundamental requirements when we evaluated the project.

For the the larger projects, I would expect them to be reviewed by the appropriate city commissions early in the concept phase and also later once the specifics have been proposed.  I am greatly influenced by the commissions’ recommendations So, if a commission thought a project could stay at Gold in exchange for greater funds towards some other sustainability aspect i would be open to that.  I would also be open to requiring Platinum..

IMG-23Matt Williams:

Yes, I do support  increasing the City’s minimum commercial building standards to LEED Platinum.  If we are going to achieve the City’s Climate Action Plan goals, new construction needs to lead the way, because existing buildings for the most part fall short of those goals, and will only improve that shortfall status if/when undergoing a major renovation, which is a discretionary action.

2. Often 60% or more of a new project’s GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions are due to transportation-related impacts. Some have proposed that developers pay for mitigation of these GHGs because they cause public harm just as sellers of tobacco pay a tax for their associated public harm.

Do you support a GHG mitigation fee on new development and why or why not?

If yes, do you have any ideas how such a fee might be assessed?

WillArnold2016Will Arnold:

I desire nothing more than to leave the world a better place for my children. Global climate change is perhaps the number one threat to that better world. We have a responsibility to future generations, and I believe such a mitigation fee is a reasonable and modest step toward honoring that responsibility. And I imagine a number of existing metrics can be combined to produce a reasonable assessment, such as VMT and use of low-carbon technologies.

I am also interested to learn more about how GHG mitigation fees would be “set aside” and how such a fund would be utilized to best meet our community’s Climate Action Plan goals.

Frerichs-Announce-2016-5Lucas Frerichs:

As I mention in several other places in this questionnaire, the transportation sector is our biggest obstacle now and in the future.

It is time for us to have the conversation, which we’ve not formally had, and act accordingly to institute a legal GHG mitigation fee.

I’m unaware of what other communities are doing in this regard, so some models of what others are doing would be helpful.

I’m confident we can put in place an acceptable solution to this issue.

Lee-Brett-HSBrett Lee:

Yes, I do.  It can be relatively simple.  Larger projects typically have vehicle miles travelled (VMT) estimates calculated for the project.  It would be a simple straightforward thing to require a fee based upon the VMT numbers to paid into a city GHG mitigation fund.

The mitigation fund could be used to provide low interest or no interest loans for homeowners in Davis to provide energy efficiency upgrades to their existing homes.

IMG-23Matt Williams:

To the best of my knowledge, the details of how a GHG mitigation fee on new development have not been worked out as yet.  Until those details are available I do not know enough to make an informed decision on this question.

With that said, there are immediately available methods for proactively reducing the transportation-related impacts of new residential projects by maximizing the incentives for the residents’ choosing public transportation and/or bicycle and/or pedestrian modes of transportation.  One such method would be to not provide an automatic parking space with each residential unit, and charge a daily San Francisco-level or UC Davis-level parking space rental fee (between $9.00 and $15.00 a day).

3, There currently is a mandatory solar PV requirement for new single-family home construction in Davis. However, there are currently no similar requirements for new multi-family housing or commercial construction.

Do you support a proposed ordinance mandating solar photovoltaic systems on new multi-family housing, or commercial construction in Davis if not otherwise planned for a net-zero energy use?

WillArnold2016Will Arnold:

I support requiring PV for all new construction, and I will work to create incentives for other energy efficiency measures both in new buildings and remodels. If PV is not a viable solution due to mature tree cover on infill sites, I would support the requirement of alternative methods, including appropriate financial commitments to Community Choice Aggregation or a GHG Mitigation Fund, to reach the same goals.

 Frerichs-Announce-2016-5Lucas Frerichs:

While on the Council, I voted in favor of the new ordinance, mandating PV for single-family home development. This was a very good first step.

We should pursue a similar ordinance for multi-family housing, and commercial construction.

With the approval of a Davis-Yolo CCE program, we will have additional opportunities to produce PV locally on the PVUSA site, which can be expanded from its current 20 acres up to 86 acres. There are also many city facilities which can accommodate PV, such as City-owned parking structures, etc.

Lee-Brett-HSBrett Lee:

Yes I support this.  This is relatively straightforward.  We did a pretty good job with the residential PV requirement.

We can do a similar thing for commercial and multifamily.  If the design of the building is not conducive to PV installation, the developer could pay into the mitigation fund mentioned in the question above.

I should mention that I think that we should add something more to the residential requirement.  We have people “remodeling” their existing homes who in actuality are essentially doing a complete tear down and then rebuilding.  I believe that if the “remodel” is essentially a complete rebuild they should be required to follow the new home PV requirement.  I can show you some houses that are 99% new construction, but are treated as a remodel.  We should eliminate this loophole.

IMG-23Matt Williams:

Yes, as a member of the Natural Resources Commission, I voted in support of the proposed ordinance.

4. What additional steps by the City, its businesses, and residents do you believe would be most effective in reducing the City’ s overall energy use, and GHG emissions to meet our Climate Action and Adaptation Plan?

WillArnold2016Will Arnold:

Our Community’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) has an exhaustive number of objectives and actions that were envisioned as the first phase of priorities to meet our 2050 Carbon Neutral goal. We should remember that the CAAP is a living, breathing document that must be constantly reassessed and adapted to changing conditions if it is to remain a valuable tool.

As we move forward toward our goal, we must not forget that Community Engagement (as specifically described in Section 6, CAAP) has the greatest potential for GHG reductions. The Davis Low Carbon Diet needs to be update, expanded and promoted throughout our community.

Frerichs-Announce-2016-5Lucas Frerichs:

Clearly, the transportation sector is the key to cutting our GHG emissions. This is the biggest nut to crack.

We’re actually doing a pretty decent job when it comes to energy usage.  Once the CCE is in place, we can attempt to create some Davis/Yolo specific energy efficiency retrofit/conservation programs, by gaining access to our public goods charge $- which is approx.. $4M/year that PGE currently takes out of our community and spends elsewhere.

Lee-Brett-HSBrett Lee:

The use of a GHG / Energy Efficiency Fund to provide low cost loans for efficiency upgrades would be my first choice.

In addition, any new city buildings should be net zero energy.

And it is essential that we bolster our public transit system to also recognize that it is not only students who wish to take public transit.  We have a university centric route system, which is understandable but not optimal.

IMG-23Matt Williams:

As noted above, one such method would be to not provide an automatic parking space with each residential unit, and charge a daily San Francisco-level or UC Davis-level parking space rental fee (between $9.00 and $15.00 a day).  This would be particularly effective in student housing situations, because students will be more inclined to avoid the parking fee and use the money saved for their non-transportation living expenses.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. darelldd

    I find it amusing that the photo chosen for a Sierra Club article includes disposable water bottles prominently displayed. :sigh:

    And I’m saddened to find that nobody answered the “how to lower GHG emissions” with the obvious, “Promotion and encouragement of human-powered transportation to get people out of their cars.”

    Matt came closest… though through use of the stick instead of the carrot.

  2. Matt Williams

    Darell, I believe you are not recognizing a carrot when you see one.

    Currently, housing rental fees for a residential unit cover both the costs of the lodging of the resident(s) of the unit, as well as the costs of the lodging of the automobile(s) owned by the resident(s) and domiciled in the parking space(s) provided by the landlord.  For example, a three bedroom apartment in Davis rents for an average of $1,993 per month according to the 2015 UCD Apartment Vacancy and Rental Rates report.  Assuming the city-wide average of 0.7 parking spaces per bed, that means a 3-bedroom apartment uses between 3 and 5 spaces, which according to City Staff reports cost approximately $75,000 apiece to construct.  If a developer doesn’t have to spend that $225,000 and $375,000 on building parking infrastructure, they can charge lower rental rates.  So, for the sake of discussion the $1,993 per month rent for the 3-bedroom apartment could be reduced 10% to $1,793, making each apartment more affordable.  That is truly a carrot . . . one that does indeed go away if the resident chooses to bring their own car instead of using a combination of bicycle/public transit/ZipCar, but I believe being able to avoid that optional expense is also a carrot.

    All carrot . . . no stick.

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