As Palo Alto’s first Chief Sustainability Officer (2013 through 2018), and the staff lead on the initial S/CAP, I hope you’ll permit me to offer a few comments for tonight’s meeting, even though I am not a resident and no longer have a formal connection to the city. I just saw the staff memo this morning, so my comments will be few and brief.
The S/CAP that Council unanimously adopted in 2016 was arguably the most aggressive Climate Action Plan of any US city at the time. The bar for climate action has risen so rapidly since then that that initial plan is now just table stakes. It’s still good, it’s still challenging, but the times require much more of us all.
1. The staff report states “The analysis also identifies a number of policies that could be pursued, if legally feasible, while continuing analysis to identify the remaining 8 percent needed.”
- Support staff request to continue that analysis, but with greater urgency.
- Reaffirm the City’s commitment to reduce emissions 80% by 2030. Rephrase it to reduce emissions AT LEAST 80% 2030 OR SOONER.
- Direct staff to develop, within six months, three scenarios for how that could be done.
2. Electrification and retrofits at scale.
- Direct CPAU to develop and set aggressive goals for a “concierge” service that would provide a one-phone call, one-stop-shop for electrification of space and water heating systems, including pre-vetted equipment and contractors, streamlined permitting, and on-bill financing. (For example, if water heaters have an average life of about 10 years, it should be possible to replace 90% of the entire city-wide “fleet” in ten years—especially if the city applies predictive analytics based on historical permits to identify equipment that is coming due for replacement.)
3. Mobility: There are many good moves here, including “Allocate funding for on-demand transit service,” and “Revise employee parking permit fees to make transit a competitively priced commute mode“ (but why wait until 2022-2023?)
- Revise employee parking permit fees by next Quarter, in ways that are revenue neutral for both the City and the employees.
- Revise—or eliminate—minimum parking requirement standards by 2022, not 2024; consider parking _maximum_ requirements for MFR and large commercial properties, as Portland and other cities have pursued.
- Rapidly electrify the City fleet, starting now. Make EVs the default option—not something people or departments need to request—except where EVs are not yet practical for specific vehicles and duty cycles
4. Palo Alto has not adopted a Climate Emergency Declaration (as San Francisco, San Jose, Berkeley, Oakland, Menlo Park, Richmond, and nearly 20,000 other cities have done.
- Adopt a Climate Emergency Declaration, and challenge staff, Council, and commissions to find ways to move more quickly—as quickly as possible, within the constraints of statutory requirements (but not the constraints of “we’ve always done it this way” requirements).
- If nothing else, read this sober and shocking piece: “We’re Hurtling Toward Global Suicide: Why we must do everything differently to ensure the planet’s survival”
Thank you for your consideration, and for your continued leadership.