Every Monday from here until the election, the Vanguard will ask all five of the council candidates one question which they have precisely 250 words with which to respond.
Question 3: Discuss your views of the city’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan – do you support it? Does it go far enough? What concerns do you have?
District 1 Candidates
Operating in effective partnership with Valley Clean Energy (VCE), the City of Davis has long been a leader in addressing the impacts of climate change. For example, VCE, which I served as chair and now a board member, will achieve 85 percent renewable power by 2024. (I support our going to 100 percent before long.) Meanwhile, our city adopted “reach codes” going beyond state building code requirements to achieve energy efficiency and a shift to all-electric heating and cooling.
The city resolution I co-authored declaring a climate emergency accelerated our goal of carbon neutrality by ten years to 2040. It also set in motion plans to update our climate action and adaptation plan (C AAP), which is nearing completion after an extraordinary community outreach effort generating more than 900 ideas.
The plan focuses on the two largest sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under city policy control – transportation and buildings – and will make our city a model for GHG emissions reduction and climate adaptation.
We will rely on reasonable and voluntary actions to gradually transition our city to zero-carbon. As Council made clear at our December 7, 2021 hearing, we will not impose tens of thousands of dollars in costs on Davis residents by making them suddenly strip all out all their gas appliances. We could someday see gas furnaces beyond their useful life replaced by cost-saving electric heat pumps with financial help through rebates and tax breaks.
Read more about the city’s efforts to address climate change here:
I’m grateful to City Staff and community members who contributed to the CAAP. It’s a good start, and I especially appreciate the breadth of actions proposed to reduce emissions.
The CAAP should be improved in three major ways.
First, the overall vision is lost in the list-like presentation of actions. Community support for these actions depends on a clear, strong vision of a regenerative city—a city powered entirely by clean energy, a city designed for people and other living things, not cars. The document should continually refer to this vision, and visually present it through depictions of shared streets and expanded public transit, a more expansive urban forest, a charging infrastructure, and other key ideas.
Second, the CAAP should identify a small set of actions for immediate investment. For the next few years, we should devote nearly all our attention to: 1) solar generation and storage, particularly on rental properties and in neighborhood micro-grids; 2) creating a public charging infrastructure for electric vehicles; 3) building out a car-free downtown, including expanding public transit and micro-mobility options.
Third, and most importantly, the proposed set of actions does not get us to carbon neutrality (p.99). We are living through a full-blown climate emergency that demands bold action. Other cities are moving forward with innovations like publicly owned solar parks, large-scale battery installations, a massive expansion of public transit, a city-run electric car share system, and expansive car-free zones, to name just a few ideas. Let’s meet the urgency of the moment.
I support creating concrete plans to move toward a carbon neutral future quickly. However, there are clearly areas where the CAAP can be a better policy and process.
I plan to create an independent climate commission to hold the city accountable and facilitate an updated CAAP beginning immediately. We have no time to waste in improving this plan with community input and buy-in. This update needs to engage activists and community members of all ages, income-levels, etc. and increase its focus on transportation and resilience. I also plan to immediately begin the proliferation of resilience centers that can disconnect from the grid in times of emergency at grocery stores, churches, and schools for those in our community as well as climate refugees.
The city’s most important job is to work with the community, which is why it is important to address the whole house electrification mandate. This is not a well thought through policy and the Natural Resources Commission, professional realtors, and the public have identified this. The issues with this policy are threefold. It is inequitable, will decrease housing stock turnover, and will cost the city money. Instead, I suggest our community consider annual fee schedules for gas appliances which provide property owners with incentives to switch to electric at time of replacement but still allow them the option to continue with gas. This would raise funds that can be used to assist people with this transition, cover the costs of enforcement, and help us increase energy resilience.
District 4 Candidates
While I agree that we need to address climate change in a meaningful way, the City’s CAAP is the wrong formula. Much of the burden falls to the individual homeowner, while minimal to zero burden is borne by the city itself, multifamily developments and all other land uses (industrial, commercial, etc.).
The plan begins with mandating electrification (Actions A.1 and A.2) of existing homes. Most homeowners are not financially able to accomplish this. The majority of homeowners will not qualify for the promised assistance from the city, so they will be footing the entire bill. Targeting natural gas use in older homes is a drop in the bucket compared to the emissions from cars.
My biggest problem is the lack of equity in the entire document. Rental properties are exempt from the electrification mandates (they are only required to purchase efficient products without specifying that they must be full electric) and the is no mention of all other land uses being required to be full electric.
The worst part of the plan is the minimal level of action required by the city apart from “greening” their fleet and paying for premium electricity from Valley Clean Energy. Nothing addresses retrofitting existing facilities to make them more energy efficient. City properties have vast potential for PV energy generation to help offset the city’s energy use, but no mention of this in the CAAP. The city should be a leader in reducing their emissions before imposing costly mandates on taxpayers.
Our climate action plan has been extremely thoughtful. From the breadth of stakeholders asked to give input on technical as well as social justice considerations to the outreach to the community the process is a good example of making sure we are addressing the critical need of climate action and thinking of meeting people where they are. One area of concern for me is the size and complexity of the survey.
This was hard to avoid with the scope of the challenges connected to this issue. This draft came before council for input, and we asked for a better understanding of what items would be most cost effective, we also expressed concern about the electrification recommendations. If the survey had gone out with only the options that were most cost effective and that we were not concerned about may have made easier to navigate and caused less concern about the potential requirement to convert homes to all electric, but it would not have given all options to our residents. It is important to understand that the depth of the issue is large and even with all recommendations we will struggle to meet our goals.
It is also important to understand that this is something that must be addressed with our regional partners and by supporting those often left behind because of economic barriers. Lastly new technologies and solutions will emerge to help fight this problem. When those emerge, we must be ready.