Vanguard 2022 Council Candidate Questions – Question 3

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

Dan Carson

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:

https://www.cityofdavis.org/city-hall/community-development-and-sustainability/sustainability-program/climate-change


Bapu Vaitla

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.


Kelsey Fortune

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

Adam Morrill

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.


Gloria Partida

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.

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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25 Comments

  1. Keith Olson

    Once again, all these green proposals but not much mention of how the candidates plan to pay for all of it.

    At least Fortune mentioned:

    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.

    So what this says to me is homeowners who probably couldn’t afford to switch to electric with all its huge costs of retrofitting, permits and hiring an electrician will then have to help subsidize others to do so?

  2. Ron Glick

    If the City wants to lead by example on climate change it would not pay for any plane fares for staff or City Council members. Flying is the most carbon intensive thing people in our society do. City Council members often fly off to conferences on the taxpayers dime.

    Additionally if they wanted to lead by example they would have the city electrify its’ auto fleet and convert its buildings to non-gas heating. Has the City of Davis gone to all renewable energy yet?

    1. Keith Olson

      Additionally if they wanted to lead by example they would have the city electrify its’ auto fleet and convert its buildings to non-gas heating. Has the City of Davis gone to all renewable energy yet?

      At what cost?  Where will the money come from?

      1. David Greenwald

        There is a real problem of looking at this stuff uni-directionally.

        There was an analysis earlier this year from Deloitte – “Deloitte’s analysis shows that insufficient action on climate change could cost the U.S. economy $14.5 trillion in the next 50 years. A loss of this scale is equivalent to nearly 4% of GDP or $1.5 trillion in 2070 alone.”

        Another report from April found that it would cost the US $2 trillion a year by 2100

        Another report found that it could cut the World Economy by $23 trillion by 2050.

        So you are right to ask at what cost, but you are failing to ask what the cost of doing nothing is.

        1. Keith Olson

          Where’s the money going to come from David?  You can cherrypick reports all you want but the bottom line is this stuff is not free.  How will homeowners adhere to mandates to swap out gas to electric when the cost will be huge?  How will people sell homes when they need a big retrofit with contractor work, new appliances, permits and all the other costs involved?  Houses will sit in escrow for untold months and the cost of housing will only get more expensive as the sellers try to recoup some of the costs.

          1. David Greenwald

            You’re still missing the point here. It’s not spend money on this or nothing for that, it’s spending money on this in hopes of saving the costs of climate change down the line which figure to be much more expensive. You don’t seem to want to acknowledge – still even today – the enormity of the change that is going to occur in the next 70 years if climate change proceeds as it has.

        2. Bill Marshall

          Keith O…

          You speak truly about TNSTAAFL..

          Several articles, opinion pieces I’ve read recently, say that taxpayers, residents, (particularly the lower income, ‘disadvantaged’ folk) should pay nothing… “government” should pay for it,,, yeah, right. Perfect sense (not!)

          It appears that folk (although they won’t admit it) are really concerned about “whose ox should be gored”… not them, others… it is “social justice”, “it’s for the kids”, as long as it is “others” who finance things…

          Neither ‘progressives’ nor ‘conservatives’ are innocent on the dubious mind-set… although I’ll expect blow-back from both, it is REAL.. witness the ‘progressives’ “tax the hell out of anyone rich” (aka, doing better than them)… or the ‘conservatives’, who limited FedTax deductions for SALT (will charitable deductions be next?) to punish “blue states”…

          No villains, no innocents in the current mode of ‘discussion’…

        3. Ron Glick

          Forget about the opportunity costs, the city could do this out of cash flow over time. They are always replacing things as they reach the end of useful life. Beyond that there are grants they can apply for. As of last December Davis was still getting power from PG&E instead of Valley Clean Energy. Also taking air travel out of the budget would save the City money.

          My point however was really about how members of the City Council talk a good game but rarely lead by example. They want zero net carbon for the city but fly off to conferences. They want parking meters but won’t give up the placards that exempt them from parking regs. They want us to upgrade our homes but haven’t upgraded city facilities. Its as if they never learned that the finest form of leadership is by example.

          That is what I liked about Robb Davis he didn’t drive and tried not to get in cars at all if he could avoid it. He tried to lead by example. We could use more of that in our leaders.

        4. Richard_McCann

          Addressing the climate crisis could be expensive (although more and more studies are showing positive economic benefits after high up front costs), but we must ask a different question: Will we be like Cunard Line deciding that having enough lifeboats was too expensive on the Titanic? Pennywise/poundfoolish is not a good policy.

  3. Keith Olson

    Here’s an excellent letter sent to the Enterprise that asks the important questions that aren’t being addressed:

     
    The city of Davis is proposing a 2025 edict for replacing natural-gas equipment in homes and businesses with electric models. This would apply when a permit is needed to install furnaces, hot water heaters, major appliances, gas fireplaces and pool equipment. These changes can be costly and complicated, especially for older homes.
    By 2025 the city also wants to prescribe replacement of all fossil-fueled equipment and appliances with electric models before homes and commercial buildings can be sold. This would be triggered by a city-calculated “Building Energy Score.” This decree will delay escrows and invoke costly hurdles for sellers. How does the city expect to develop energy scores for every home or business listed for sale?
    Installing electric appliances/equipment may require higher voltage electric lines and often a new electric service panel. Such costly retrofits could take months to complete, and often necessitate repairs to walls and ceilings. Increased electric supply to the property may also be needed.
    The proposals don’t say how the resulting higher electrical demand will be met. Declining reservoir levels are reducing hydroelectric generating capacity, and the electric distribution grid is stretched to the limit. Now the city wants to increase the system’s burden.
    These proposals are intended to reduce greenhouse gases, but lack rigorous cost analysis and ignore impacts on residents. It’s logical and cost-effective to require all-electric service in new homes and commercial buildings, as the city code already does. But mandating expensive retrofits for existing buildings makes no sense, especially because data show that transportation causes most local greenhouse emissions.
    Information about these draconian proposals is in the draft Climate Action and Adaptation Plan on the city website, including a form for submitting comments by Oct. 10. Also contact your council member to oppose these measures.
    Kathleen RoweDavis
    https://www.davisenterprise.com/forum/letters/letter-city-appliance-plan/

    1. Richard_McCann

      The State of California has just adopted a regulation to end the sale of new gas furnaces by 2030: https://www.npr.org/2022/09/23/1124511549/california-plans-to-phase-out-new-gas-heaters-by-2030

      1. Keith Olson

        As Don says below, given the pushback the state is and will receive I see little chance of these mandates tanking place in such short order for both electric cars and appliances.

         

  4. Walter Shwe

    In a future Monday question to the candidates I propose a question along the following lines. How should the City address the current extreme drought, the likes which hasn’t been seen in 1,200 years?

    1. Ron Glick

      What current drought? Locally we just got 4 inches of rain last week. Last year we got the best rain in the region. We have an aquifer coming out of the Coast Range that the city hardly uses. Local land owners sell water to Southern California and San Joaquin farming interests. Recent CC’s secured water rights for at least the next 30 years and built a new water system to bring that water to town.

      There are plenty of places where water is a problem but Davis’ water security is unlikely to become a major problem anytime soon. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t act responsibly.

        1. Don Shor

          I’ll be happy to provide some context for that.
          The city, like every water district in the state, is under a statewide drought emergency proclamation. That does not mean Davis has a water shortage. In fact, Davis is remarkably well situated for water supply compared to many other water districts in the state. The state emergency declaration does not distinguish between water districts that have planned well vs those that have not.
          We draw from the Sacramento River most of the time, most years now. We use deep-aquifer well water when our water rights run out in any particular year; when the state declares a Shasta Critical condition as it has in the last two years, we go primarily to our deep wells. Those are not imperiled. We still have a couple of dozen shallower wells that supplied the city with water for decades prior to the switch to deeper wells about two decades ago. Those shallower wells are still operable.
          There is no evidence that we are over-drafting the deep wells. We are not using the shallower wells at all. And when the rains return, as they certainly will, we will go back to using river water about 80 – 90% of the time again.
          We do not have a water supply problem in Davis.

        2. Ron Oertel

          So, I take it that the information from the post that Walter provided is nothing more than state-mandated b.s.  (Gee, that sounds “familiar”.)

          The City of Davis announced that continued water conservation is needed as California faces a third year of drought.

          In addition, residents should be observing water-use restrictions, which include those adopted by the Davis City Council in February 2022 after the State enacted emergency water waste prohibitions. A partial list of the restrictions is below, the full list of restrictions can be found on the City of Davis website: 

          Next, we’ll get to the bottom of this “climate change hoax”, and the state requirements emanating from that.  🙂

          Then, we’ll get to work debunking the so-called housing shortage, emanating from state leadership. (Which, I actually do believe is largely b.s., especially in a state with a declining population and declining housing market.)

  5. Richard_McCann

    For those who doubt the threat of the climate crisis here’s what the history of our planet says about conditions at increasing levels of greenhouse gases: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/03/extreme-climate-change-history/617793/

    1. Richard_McCann

      More on what the future holds in 2050 depending on the choices we make: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2022/04/ipcc-report-climate-change-2050/629691/

  6. Colin Walsh

    Carson’s answer is misleading. Where he says, “The plan focuses on the two largest sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under city policy control – transportation and buildings” he leaves out that Transportation is the source of 79% of GHG emissions for Davis and buildings is 7%. while it is true that these are the 2 largest sources, they are far from equal.

    Where Carson says , “We will rely on reasonable and voluntary actions to gradually transition our city to zero-carbon.”  This statement is inconsistent with Carson’s actual motion on CAAP at the May 24th city council meeting. Carson’s motion specifically called for continued consideration of mandates for electrification of buildings, and referenced the CAAP description in the staff report that includes mandatory electrification of homes at time of sale starting in 2025. This motion passed unanimously. It is very reasonable that posters on next door are concerned about mandatory electrification at time of sale starting in 2025 because Carson explicitly included keeping that mandate on the table in his motion to advance the CAAP.

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