by Alan Pryor
Introduction – Every 2 years 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 on matters of interest to the public and/or our local Sierra Club members. We use questionnaires with written responses to allow the candidates to directly express their views and opinions in their own words. We report these in a series of articles on a range of environmentally-related topics. This is Part 1 of the series in which we report candidates’ responses to a series of questions regarding energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in the City. The candidates responses are initially in alphabetical order based on their first name.
Part 1 – Energy Use and Greenhouse Gases (GHGs)
1st Question re Greenhouse Gas Mitigation
Preamble – Davis has declared a Climate Emergency and mandated carbon neutrality by 2040. 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.
Question – Do you support in principal a GHG mitigation fee on new developments in Davis and why or why not? If yes, do you have any ideas how such a fee might be assessed?
The logical alternative to a mitigation fee is to require new construction to be zero net energy. Where this is not possible, a mitigation fee should be imposed as an incentive to minimize GHG emissions – including transportation related impacts. It is clear there is a need for climate change mitigation and that local governments can provide and are providing this service. Development can have very significant GHG impacts; therefore, I believe creation of a legally defensible concept of a development cost charge for climate change mitigation is appropriate. Although I would prefer it be done at the state level, it is possible that Davis could set a good example by pioneering a GHG mitigation fee for new developments. I see the goal of GHG mitigation fees not just to penalize high emission projects, or as a “sin” tax, but as a lever the City can use to encourage better transit connected development or otherwise reduce the transit related impacts. Adoption of green building codes and land use practices upfront like infill would be better than just GHG tax and garner the best projects. I am not sure what the fee should be at this time, but it would need to be enough to effect change in practice without stifling all new development. That said, the mitigation fee cannot just be used to buy “offset” credits (such as is proposed for DISC) because these actually do not reduce the total carbon footprint of the City. Rather, the mitigation fees should be put into a trust fund used solely to benefit and reduce energy consumption of low-income and marginalized communities.
I would support some sort of GHG mitigation fee. I don’t have enough knowledge to say how it should be assessed at the moment but would be happy to get ideas from the community, including relevant Commissions (like the Natural Resources Commission).
I would support a GHG mitigation fee if by its design it incentivized further reduction of transportation related GHG emissions and placed the heaviest fees on developments that were unable or unwilling to mitigate their transportation impacts. I believe this incentive for improvement is key to getting more sustainable development. One way of thinking of this is a point system. In that system a project could gain points for providing bike parking space to a majority of proposed residents and could lose points for failing safe bike paths and access to bus lines. In that way the fees paid by the developer are directly tied to their ability to mitigate transportation impacts and plan sustainably for the impacted communities.
The bulk of our housing inventory in Davis is ‘old’ housing/stock. The ‘old’ stock is far more inefficient and causes greater harm to our climate. In order to address this issue in a more equitable way and to have a more far reaching impact I would be in favor of applying mitigation fees on all housing not just new housing. One example would be a parcel tax. Let there be no doubt that my guiding principles are social, economic and environmental sustainability. The black lives matter movement in summer of 2020 has shown the spotlight on social injustice. Numerous studies have shown that disadvantaged populations are harmed at higher rates by pollution and global warming and so as a matter of conscious I support all meaningful efforts to reduce climate change and global warming.
Where GHG’s cannot be prevented, I would support mitigation fees, but I’m not a fan of buying one’s way out of a problem. The problem still exists. I prefer not causing the harm in the first place. Net-zero-energy buildings are becoming more common and very achievable. The buildings should therefore be net-zero where possible. The largest negative impact from any new development is the automobiles used by people using that development. We must proceed with a new paradigm, where new development is designed around non-fueled modes of transportation and transit. Changing building code to have parking maxima vs. minima and requiring new construction to incorporate local/regional transportation alternatives seems better than trading money for climate damage. e.g. requiring hotels to be built within walking distance of existing transit hubs or requiring the addition of new infrastructure that connects to existing transit infrastructure seems to me a better way to proceed. Said another way, new building should be required to connect into local/regional transportation in a robust way as part of the building plan. Where there is no way to build net-zero buildings, and for what GHG cannot be prevented, mitigation fees should be imposed.
I do think that we should consider this type of GHG mitigation fee. I’m not sure how to assess it, but I would look to other jurisdictions that may have done something similar as a model/template for how to do it in Davis. I’d also be interested in having the Natural Resources Commission provide the Council with recommendations as to ways to proceed.
I support limiting emissions from new development through fees. Using a monetary incentive linked to outcomes allows developers flexibility in how they choose to meet the standards we set. First, I believe these fees should be assessed annually, not one time. Emissions from transportation are not a one-time cost, they are ongoing. My initial plan to implement a tax on transportation emissions would be to charge a fee per parking spot built for new and existing developments. This would be simple to measure and assess, which is not always the case with transportation related emissions fees. In addition, this would provide ongoing incentive for land use innovation and funding to the City for mitigation and alternative infrastructure.
In principal I support mitigation fees when a project is unable to meet 2040 carbon neutrality goals as it is imperative we actively address climate change. A targeted fee is premature without assessing the true costs of mitigation what the community wants within its developments. Should a project that meets an important social need be prevented from locating in Davis because they cannot meet 100% of our long -term goals?
The City Council has set the goal of reducing our community’s carbon footprint and achieving measurable GHG emission reductions, including reduction of VMT. I believe such a mitigation fee is a reasonable and modest step toward honoring that responsibility. Several existing metrics can be combined to produce a reasonable assessment, such as VMT and use of low-carbon technologies.
2nd Question re Commercial / Multi-Family Solar PV Ordinance
Preamble – 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 greater than 3 stories or commercial construction.
Question – 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?
Yes. In the 1970’s John Whitcombe built the Sun Tree apartments on the corner of F and Covell with a state-of-the-art solar water heating system developed just for that complex. That system has since been removed, but it shows what can be done by Davis developers when they choose to. Today with the lower PV costs, there is no reason multifamily housing or commercial construction should be exempt from PV requirements that single family homes must meet, or the developments should otherwise demonstrate that they are net zero. With lower energy costs, the PV should more than pay for itself over the life of the project.
Definitely. It’s important to push all projects in the direction of more sustainable energy use and this applies to commercial and large residential projects at least as much as it does to smaller residential projects since large projects should generally be able to afford the associated costs more easily than smaller ones.
I absolutely support newly constructed apartments and commercial properties in Davis being required to have solar panels. If we are serious about the Climate Crisis being an emergency, then we have to get all properties and all power users on board. The city should use it’s regulatory authority to push for the maximum possible usage of solar panels in Davis.
I absolutely favor net zero projects
Yes. All new development should be built to maximize solar development and tree shade. Both of these criteria, working together, will make significant positive impacts on our carbon footprint.
I voted for the ordinance requiring mandatory PV on all new single family residential, ahead of the statewide requirements. We have been mandating solar on new commercial developments, but on a project by project basis, not via ordinance. We’ve also been requiring projects to sign up for 100% renewable “Ultra Green” status as customers of Valley Clean Energy. I think that one path forward is for renters and apartment owners that don’t have solar, or where it isn’t feasible to participate in a community solar farm, where customers can buy/subscribe to a portion of the solar generated.
I support the thought behind a solar mandate. However, I disagree with command and control policies like a solar mandate. Mandates create incentive structures that favor specific technologies, in this case PV, which is not a solution alone. As we increase PV without sufficient storage to cover the afternoon ramp, we require additional combined cycle natural gas plants to handle the rapid change in net demand. I would prefer a requirement for new development to meet specific energy and environmental standards with penalty fees for noncompliance. I believe that a net zero standard is appropriate. In addition to requirements for new construction, it is increasingly important that existing structures retrofit and switch to fully electric energy.
I support in principal.
I support requiring PV for all new construction, to the maximum extent allowed by state law. I support creation of incentives for other energy efficiency measures both in new buildings and remodels. If PV is not a viable solution, I would support the requirement of alternative methods, including appropriate financial commitments to VCE or a GHG Mitigation Fund, to reach the same goals. I am also proud to have supported our Nonresidential Reach Code, which requires PV installation if supported by a cost effectiveness study.
3rd Question – Other Energy Conservation Measures
Question – What additional steps could be taken by the City, its businesses, and residents that 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?
Transportation is the area that needs the most improvement. I recently saw data suggesting Davis averages 36.8 VMT per capita as compared to the rest of the SACOG Region’s 25.1 VMT per Capita. With UC Davis as one of the largest employers in California, but with anemic commuter public transportation, the result is most people who live outside of Davis drive to campus. I see the City partnering with UCD and SACOG to better transit connect both Davis and UCD to the region as essential to reducing GHG. I would also advocate for electrification of this system I would also be a strong advocate for a renewable electricity systems. We need systems that produce for more than just for buildings so the energy can be also be used in transportation. Additionally I would advocate for: Low voltage LED lighting systems in new homes Pedestrianize the downtown emphasizing peripheral parking and heavy goods delivery services Provide convenient wait zones for ride sharing / taxi services Partner with UCD to change over Unitrans bus fleet to all electric. Partner with Unitrans and Yolo bus to improve routes to downtown. Lobby UCD to initiate shuttles to the train station, and commuter buses to neighboring cities. (UCD is one of the largest employers in CA, and does little to move its commuters to public transportation) I have also held a DMUD as an aspiration for our City since the 1990s.
One major way to help meet the City’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan would be to increase density where appropriate, especially near the downtown and the UC Davis campus, since sprawl and long commutes lead to increased energy usage and GHG emissions. We also need to do more to incentivize other modes of transportation beyond personal vehicles (like walking, biking, and mass transit).
The city should do a comprehensive look at how the administration of the city government may cause inefficient travel and increase the emissions of residents and the city. The city should examine if requiring residents to come to city offices to receive services is contributing to inefficient and unneeded travel. Our need to maintain distance during the pandemic can give us some ideas on maintaining valuable city services and reducing GHG emissions related to travel.
The survey conducted in advance of the plan indicated that transportation was the largest generator of greenhouse gas emissions. Steps geared towards addressing this impact should focus around reducing transportation. This can be achieved by creating policies and approving projects that cluster jobs, housing, and recreation around each other. I feel strongly that these are some of the most impactful actions any jurisdiction can take. If elected, I will work to implement a comprehensive plan to reduce single automobile ridership in favor of alternative modes of transportation.
- Densify. Re-developing our downtown and most shopping malls with multi-story, multi-family housing and requiring minimum average densities for all new housing developments. 2. Wiring new construction for low-voltage, LED lighting. This saves copper and energy. 3. Adding verifiable passive solar methods to LEED guidelines would allow improved reduction of GHG’s; i.e. eliminating the need for air conditioning units is better than having an Energy Star air conditioning system. Currently a building gets no LEED points if there is no AC system, but does get LEED points for an Energy Star AC system. 4. Installing City-owned solar on City-owned buildings and above City parking lots. 5. Upgrade HVAC, lighting, and water fixtures to modern fixtures, as Yolo County is currently doing. The break-even point for cost is approximately 20 years. The energy and water savings start day one. 6. Plant more trees that are climate-ready, long-lived species.
The biggest source of GHG emissions is from the transportation sector. While we need to focus on reducing single occupancy vehicle trips, and replacing them with walking, biking, and transit use, we need a full-scale movement toward electrification of the transportation sector, if we’re going to see major changes. As a boardmember of Valley Clean Energy, I’ve been working on this already, and we’re working on a first phase of Electrify Yolo, which will be installing numerous EV chargers throughout Davis and across Yolo. We’re fortunate that Unitrans carries over 4 million riders per year- this is phenomenal in a city of 70,000 people, yet most Unitrans riders are students and we need to work together to get Unitrans busses to run through downtown, etc to encourage more non-student riders. We should also consider a community owned (or via Valley Clean Energy) locally produced solar farm (but let’s do it right, with community engagement/input, and via a competitive bid process, unlike the sham Brightnight approval process).
The most important thing we can do as individuals is limit the amount we drive. As a city, we need encourage, solicit, and approve development that allows people to live near where the work and play to limit the need for vehicles. Davis is uniquely suited for this type of planning as we already have robust bicycling culture and infrastructure. Additionally, implementing pricing for having a vehicle in multifamily units and street permits would reduce VMT through decreased vehicle ownership. These are only a few ideas that come from my personal experiences. The most important thing that the City Council can do is create a climate commission to collect ideas from our intelligent and involved citizens to exceed our goals.
My answer has been consistent on this issue. While we have made progress, the City needs to continue to implement the Climate Action & Adaptation Plan. While it is important to always be looking forward and adjusting policies to reduce the city’s carbon footprint, we need to utilize the Plan in place that has been overwhelmingly supporting by our community. The most effective policies are those that encourage the greatest amount of adoption and compliance. While it may be tempting to hit the tightest targets and follow the most aggressive path to carbon neutrality, non-compliance and opposition stymies progress and excludes those looking for a balanced approach they can financially manage and incorporate into their daily lives. Additional steps include, but are not limited to: -Explore funding to incentivize upgrades our existing housing stock. -support the education and outreach to residents and businesses on the latest option available to fund renewable energy sources (PV, insulation, upgraded appliances) and reduce water consumption. We must go to the individual homes and businesses to inquiry about interest and provide concrete information directly applicable to that person. Simply holding events and outreach meetings will only capture a small percentage of the community. -financial and educational support throughout the k-12 system, public and private, to provide safe biking and pedestrian routes and sufficient bike parking to support every student able to commute to school the means to be successful. -Improved infrastructure for electric and hybrid cars -An updated review of fleet and leased vehicles to systematically replace and upgrade to reliable and cost effective zero emission vehicles. -identify funding sources to encourage solar panels over existing parking lots ( i.e. market rate loans via city resources) -Require new paved parking surfaces to have solar panels that also incorporate a sustainable ratio of trees to provide additional shade canopy and CO2 conversion.
I am a strong supporter of the objectives outlined in our community’s CAAP. I believe we should continually review our progress made thus far on the CAAP while remembering that it is a living document and must be constantly reassessed and adapted to changing conditions.
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