Candidates Respond to Yolano Group Questionnaire – Part 1

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by Alan Pryor, Chair – Sierra Club Yolano Group

In the ballot for March 2020, three candidates are vying for the office of Yolo County District 4 Supervisor – Jim Provenza, Linda Deos, and David Abramson. This District represents the southern and more eastern portions of the City of Davis and rural residents of Yolo County in the area extending south of Davis to the Solano County line and east of Davis to the Yolo Bypass.

The Sierra Club Yolano Group prepares questionnaires for candidates in local races we deem to be seriously contested and/or where there are clear differences between the candidates. We ask questions on a wide range of environmentally-related issues of importance to the electorate and/or our local Sierra Club members and the candidates provide written responses to allow them to directly express their views and opinions in their own words. All candidates provided responses to all of of our questions in this questionnaire.

The Sierra Club Yolano Group Takes “No Endorsement Position” in the 2020 Yolo County District 4 Supervisor Race

The Sierra Club Yolano Group has carefully assessed all of the responses and finds all candidates are equally worthy of receiving Sierra Club endorsement for this election based of their environmental views and proposed policies. Unfortunately, Sierra Club rules prevent endorsement of more candidates than are available open seats in any election. So the Sierra Club Yolano Group must take a “No Endorsement Position” in this Supervisor race.

That said, we believe all of the candidates demonstrated a remarkable understanding of the specific environmental pressures facing the County and the general climate crisis facing our planet. All seemed genuinely cognizant of the necessary urgency in responding to these challenges. Indeed, in our opinion the candidates for this office are among the most environmentally knowledgeable and committed slate of candidates to ever run for Supervisor or any elected office in Yolo County.

Following are the range of topics covered by our questionnaire which is then followed by the first of the 4 articles with the questions and answers as described below.  The order of the candidate responses will change with each article.


Issue 1-1 – New Construction Building Standards

BackgroundRecently, the City of Davis among many other cities have implemented new residential building code standards that include mandatory installation of solar photovoltaic cells on each single family residential homes and a new REACH code that strongly emphasizes all-electric construction for single family homes and apartments of three stories or less.

Question 1-1 – Do you support changing the County’s residential building code to meet these new minimum standards and why or why not?

Jim Provenza Response

I support mandatory solar for new residential construction. Although the state energy commission has mandated rooftop solar statewide, there is already talk of exemptions from those standards. Having our own minimum standards will help to assure that our county meets its GHG reduction goals.

It should be noted that our county’s land use policy is to steer most residential construction to the cities, thus preserving open space and farmland in the rural areas. It is therefore very important the county encourage all cities in the county to participate in this effort.

Linda Deos Response

I do. Sustainability is one of my top priorities. It is critical that Yolo County become a leader in the fight against the climate crisis, which is why I support making Yolo County a Global Leader to Achieve a Green New Deal. I have a climate platform on my website, and want Yolo County to match the City of Davis’ commitment to carbon neutrality by 2040.

Requiring such standards ultimately increases access to renewable energy. It encourages further development of solar and wind production and less reliance on coal production. Green tariffs create a path forward for renewable energy within a utility business model – a model we are already used to for purchasing electricity.

David Abramson Response

Absolutely. Our Local Green New Deal platform includes reaching 100% Renewable Energy production by 2030. Having distributed solar on rooftops is one of the most viable, democratic, resilient, and ecologically-minded strategies for achieving that.

Valley Clean Energy has a great vision for 100% renewable energy generation in Yolo County. Rooftop solar can produce much of the power needed in the County. A distributed energy system can allow us to, over time, move away from high-voltage transmission lines which are under severe neglect and disrepair and have contributed to many of the fires that we have seen in recent years.

There are many existing models for how we can finance and build out the infrastructure for both rooftop solar and all-electric construction and to make it economically beneficial to all who are involved, as part of an equitable green jobs economy.


Issue 1-2 –  New Construction Solar PV Ordinance

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

Question 1-2 – Do you support a proposed County ordinance mandating solar photovoltaic systems on all single-family home construction and for new multi-family housing or commercial construction in the County if not otherwise planned for a net-zero energy use. Why or why not?

Jim Provenza Response

If we are to reach our GHG reduction goals, we must go beyond solar panels for single family homes. There is no reason that new multi-family housing and commercial construction should not be included.

A recent United Nations report stated that global greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 1.5 percent every year over the past decade. The report concluded that the opposite must happen if we are to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, including more intense droughts, stronger storms and fires and widespread hunger by mid-century.

Local action to promote rooftop solar and other renewable energy sources is essential to this effort. Action by local and state government will serve as an example that can drive national and international policy.

Linda Deos Response

Absolutely. It is critical that Yolo County speed up our efforts to achieve Net Zero energy use as soon as possible. I am also open to exploring the use of solar farms that people can own shares in if rooftop solar on their home or business is not feasible due to insufficient sunlight.

David Abramson Response

There is no reason why these requirements should be limited to single-family homes. I would support the same requirements for all multi-family & commercial construction and achieving net-zero carbon energy use. And even better than a mandate is a system of support incentives and financing options to make rooftop solar power affordable and accessible for all new developments and existing homes.


Issue 1-3 –  Greenhouse Gas Mitigation

BackgroundNew developments have additional impacts on GHG emissions due to the construction carbon footprint and transportation-related emissions. 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.

Question 1-3 – Do you support a GHG mitigation fee on new developments in Yolo County and why or why not? If yes, do you have any ideas how such a fee might be assessed?

Jim Provenza Response

I would consider a GHG mitigation fee on new developments. The fee could be assessed based upon the net increase in GHG emissions. However, I would retain the flexibility to permit a developer to mitigate in other ways, such as installation of solar panels at another location. It would also be important to assure that the revenue from the fee be used by the county to advance our GHG reduction goals.

There has been very little residential construction in the unincorporated areas of the county for the last several years. The one large residential development in our county general plan—Dunnigan– was canceled due to the developer’s failure to meet a jobs/housing balance requirement. Residents would have been commuting long distances to work. The land was rezoned for agriculture. I supported the measures that canceled the development and restored  the AG land designation.

Linda Deos Response

I believe strongly that Yolo County should build up within its cities and not out. I want to avoid sprawl, particularly new single family home communities that encourage Bay Area residents to use Yolo County as a bedroom community. I also want to protect the high grade farming soil in Yolo County. Once farmland is sold for housing, it can never be returned.

I would consider GHG mitigation fees for such purposes, and support a mitigation fee rate similar to that applied in Sacramento County. Currently, the rate is $30,000 per ton of emissions, adjusted annually, with a 5% administrative fee assessed to this fee

David Abramson Response

Mitigation fees are better than the current system in which costs are passed onto future generations while profits, often from ecologically-destructive and climate-damaging activities are privatized and even sometimes subsidized. As a hero of mine, John Liu says: “Economics must match ecological function!”.

I would support mitigation feeds immediately, however they are a bridge solution which by themselves would ultimately fail to address the urgent need to draw down carbon to remain within 1.5 degrees C of pre-industrial levels. This limit has been the consensus figure in order to prevent catastrophic ecosystem collapse by the International Panel of Climate Change scientists assembled by the United Nations.

Our Local Green New Deal platform includes a commitment to ‘Net-Zero Carbon Construction and Retrofitting’ as part of Carbon-Neutral target for 2040. These mitigation fees could go directly towards funding that effort in the short-term while we implement a process to reach our true carbon-neutrality goals. We must begin this process immediately and work in collaboration with responsible and willing developers if we hope to achieve a climate-positive future.


Issue 1-4 –  Emergency Climate Action Resolution

BackgroundThe City of Davis and the Davis Joint Unified School District have both recently adopted Emergency Climate Action Resolutions with future goals for zero GHG emissions.

Question 1-4 – Do you support the adoption of such a resolution by the County and, if so, what GHG reduction goals would you support? If not, why not?

Jim Provenza Response – 

I am in strong support of passing an emergency climate action resolution. At the last Board of Supervisors meeting, I requested that a resolution be placed on our agenda the next time we discuss our energy sustainability plan.

I favor the following goals:

  • Transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030.
  • Net-zero carbon by 2040

Because the above standard would be countywide, I am proposing that we work in conjunction with the cities, perhaps through a joint power authority, to meet these goals.

Linda Deos Response

I do. In my climate action plan, I make the following suggestions for Yolo County:

  • Match the City of Davis’ commitment to carbon neutrality by 2040
  • Expand Valley Clean Energy, including purchasing our lines and poles from PG&E, so that we get 100% of our energy from renewable sources.
  • Ensure that rural counties like Yolo that have committed to preserving farmland and avoiding sprawl, are fairly compensated by the state. The fact is, each acre of agriculture and open space conserved saves nearly 100 times the amount of GHG emissions that would result if the land were converted to urban use. But our tax code benefits communities with big box stores at the same time it penalizes communities with large amounts of farmland. These perverse incentives must be changed.

David Abramson Response

Absolutely. I am part of a community collaborative effort drafting a Yolo County Climate Emergency Declaration with specific steps to mobilize for necessary climate action and resilience planning. We are building this collaboration to include members of the Yolo County Board of Supervisors, community climate groups, and at-risk/traditionally underrepresented groups.

A carbon-neutral and climate-positive Yolo County is one of the main goals of our campaign and of the community collaborative Yolo County Local Green New Deal platform. We must build strong collaboration between the Cities and County to achieve carbon-neutrality and climate-positivity in Yolo County by 2040 at the very latest, with most of the transition happening within the next decade. We are fighting for a future that is not just livable, but abundant, healthy, and joyful for ourselves, for our children, grandchildren, and future generations yet to come.


Issue 1-5 –  Other Energy Conservation Measures

BackgroundGHG emissions are increasing instead of decreasing in the US with the resultant acceleration of climate change impacts.

Question 1-5 – What additional steps should be taken by the County, its businesses, and residents that you believe would be most effective in reducing the overall energy use and GHG emissions in the County?

Jim Provenza Response – 

The county and some of the cities will be hiring a consultant to help us develop a plan to reach our GHG reduction goals. These are some preliminary thoughts:

  • Continue to limit most residential construction to the cities or close to the cities. If county land is to be annexed for a project, we should use our leverage to enforce county standards as to GRG reduction and other environmental priorities.
  • Improve transportation options.

Support regenerative agriculture, beginning with a pilot project to demonstrate its viability..

Linda Deos Response

  • Significantly improve our mass transit system to reduce commute traffic to Sacramento and the Bay Area while making alternative modes of transportation both workable and accessible.
  • Create innovative solutions to the state’s affordable housing crisis that are built to green standards, avoid sprawl, and meet the needs of local residents.
  • Create a Rural Innovation Hub in Yolo that can become the leading research park in the world for building a sustainable planet..

David Abramson Response

Climate change is a bigger problem that can be addressed solely by our local political system but our local government has the power to drive the process along in a meaningful and timely way.

We must design solutions that are created by communities working together with the needs of community members and our planet at the forefront of the process.

Regenerative agriculture has the power to draw down carbon in vast quantities. We can support a local and strong economic system which support climate healing and local producers. We can support net-zero carbon construction and retrofitting, waste-to-resource systems, and a declaration of rights of living systems that protect the delicate balance of our planet.

Transportation, accounting for a majority of our greenhouse gas emissions, must be addressed (see below).

We must also provide support for businesses, farmers, and individuals to transition their activities towards regenerative practice as we transform our energy infrastructure.


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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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2 thoughts on “Candidates Respond to Yolano Group Questionnaire – Part 1”

  1. Sharla Cheney

    I really appreciate this article.

    I really liked the pragmatic solutions identified by Jim Provenza and David Abramson.  Their ideas seem to be things we can really accomplish. Jim has the benefit of actual accomplishment as a Yolo County Supervisor in this endeavor, but David is definitely knowledgeable.

    Linda Deos seemed to stray beyond the jurisdiction of the County board of supervisors (changing state tax codes) or has ideas in direct conflict with goals to protect farmland and keep any development close to cities and transportation hubs.  For example, building solar farms and the building a rural innovation hub (research center) somewhere in the county (in direct competition with research centers already in planning stages in Woodland and Davis) are two concepts that stand out.

    1. Sharla Cheney

      At the LVW forum tonight at the Community Chambers, Linda mention making Yolo County an innovation hub for sustainable agricultural practices – a model of implementing and testing sustainable ag practices.  This made me think that I had misunderstood her comment about this in this article, so I went back and checked.

      Create a Rural Innovation Hub in Yolo that can become the leading research park in the world for building a sustainable planet..

      I think I have a different understanding about what she is saying now, but it would be helpful, to me at least, if she elaborated on this idea or had reached out to provide clarification.

       

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