Redwood City Environmental Initiatives Ad Hoc Committee

As written by a FFMP member, a very close to complete transcript of the last four minutes of the RWC Council Meeting, April 13. Topic listed under 7. MATTERS OF COUNCIL INTEREST; 7.B.City Council Committee Reports; A, Environmental Initiatives Ad Hoc Committee

Giselle Hale started, saying that there were three main points:

“1.) We are interested in having our city take a leadership role in our own operations by developing a green purchasing policy, focusing on vehicle and building electrification in particular. We’ve seen items going to consent and then seen public comments, and our comment to staff is that we’re now in a world where the community is going to hold us responsible for looking to see if there is a green alternative.

“2.) We discussed studying a GHG emissions target that is more ambitious than the state-mandated target. Initially when we sat down with staff they were looking to meet state goals, and we said, ‘Hey, we think our community is interested in a more aggressive target. We want to have a leadership stance on that.’ So they’re going to be coming back on that with a broader discussion, but also really important is the community discussion around what that would look like.

“3.) And then finally we discussed the time frame around both the CAP and the updated Reach Codes.”

After that, Ian added: “Basically what we’re trying to do is update the plan now to reflect the fact that Peninsula Clean Energy is now in place. That’s helping us meet our goals much faster. Which means we shouldn’t rest on our laurels, we should increase our goal. And Reach Codes will be an effective way to help us do that. The other thing is there have been lots of advancements in technology since 2013 when we first put our plan in place. So our new plan will reflect that.”

Looking Back #3: Statement on Reach Codes

From the FFMP archive of statements to Redwood City Council Members, January 13th, 2020. This statement was originally made by Jim Ilnicki.

The report is now out: 2019 was the hottest year world-wide on record.

The permafrost is melting 95 years earlier than scientists predicted.

The Himalayan glacier is melting twice as fast as predicted.

The world news just tonight reported that the oceans are absorbing the heat of the equivalent of three atomic bombs every second.

Flooded Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy

60 Minutes yesterday reported on the flooding in Venice in November, and that it will cost a billion dollars to repair.  Cities all over the world, including the United States, will be facing similar costs in the future.

As one of the students so eloquently stated earlier, the climate crisis is here, now.

I urge you to approve the Reach Code proposal, granting only those exemptions that are absolutely necessary, and even on those, to approve them with the specific goal of finding solutions to those to apply to future similar projects.

I have worked with architects, engineers, contractors, and developers in the past and they are smart. They are problem solvers and they are innovators.  I urge them to take the lead in solving these issues so that we can all move forward together.

Why Are a Few Builders Against All-Electric?

Carol Cross, with contributions from Tom Kabat

Within the circles in which I travel (nerdy climate-change activist types) the question has come up time and again: why are (some) builders against an all-electric code? What’s the attraction of gas infrastructure?

Tom Kabat, an energy and electrification consultant who I believe works in Menlo Park, gave us some answers that I’d like to share with you.

First off, he says California has had a legacy of gas because of being the number one oil producing state in the country in the 1920s. Later came the Warren-Alquist Act of 1974 following the first energy crisis.  That act established the California Energy Commission (CEC) and the Energy efficiency Part 6 of the building code Title24. BTW, back then, technologies were less efficient, and the power grid was dirtier with no Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) and no Community Choice Energy: think PCE.

Things are much different now, due to major advances in consumer electric space heating and cooling. With electricity we now get 4x the efficiency of gas heating and water heating at 3 to 4x the efficiency of a gas water heater. That, plus faster delivery of hot water than even tankless water heaters, an emergency water supply in the tank for many hours of hot water in a power outage, and induction cooktops surpassing gas in speed, precision, control, cleanliness, and safety make electricity a cost-saving choice.

And the electric portfolio policies have advanced, with all of California headed to 60% renewables (wind, solar, geothermal, etc.) by 2030 and fully carbon neutral by 2045. As you know, it’s already cleaner in the Bay Area: SVCE already at 100% carbon free power and PCE at 90% and headed to 100% by 2022. 

He claims (and I believe him) that the construction industry is likely tradition bound and relationship bound.  They make money the old-fashioned way, by repeating the same thing that worked last year, generally with the same suppliers and the same subs who may not have been trained in the new electric alternatives. Developers have not sensed customer preference for clean electric technologies and customers don’t know about them because developers don’t offer them. “It’s a lack of chickens and lack of eggs problem.” Meanwhile, we have new information re: the science on methane as a Greenhouse gas. We now understand methane (CH4) is 30 times as warming if it is leaked than if it is burned (oxidized into CO2).  Unfortunately, we have also recently learned from aircraft infrared scanning, google map vehicle scanning, and from satellite imagery that much more gas is leaking than the gas industry has reported. You may have seen an article in the SF Chronicle just last week on this very discovery. The amount of gas leakage found by independent researchers more than doubles the climate chaos potential of natural gas and makes it even worse than burning coal.

Of course, there will continue to be some folks trying to make their livings off of gas and they will selectively argue with old inapplicable historic facts hoping the listener is unaware of the modern situation. But the truth is, our kids’ future depend on us getting GHGs out of the atmosphere asap, and electrifying buildings is an easy way to begin to get a handle on the problem. There’s simply no longer a good argument for continuing to build with gas infrastructure.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Looking Back #2: Statement to RWC Council

October 14, 2019  – Karen Fine

California Drought Dry Riverbed

We all know there is a human-made climate crisis in the world.  Every day, we hear evidence to support the facts:  hottest five years on record, excessive rain and flooding, fires, extra-strong hurricanes, drought, extinction of species, melting glaciers, melting Arctic Sea ice, sea level rise, climate crisis refugees. And more.  We must do all we are able both personally and with our government to mitigate its effects and hopefully, turn it around.

I was at the September 23 City Council meeting and listened to the discussion and responses and questions about reach codes. It appeared to me that the council members are well aware of the climate crisis and are trying to weave sustainability into their decision making. Thank you for that.

I want Redwood City to join with 1,119 jurisdictions around the world in 20 countries that have already signed the Climate Emergency Declaration. This number includes Alameda, Berkeley, Cupertino, Davis, El Cerrito, Hayward, San Francisco, Richmond, San Jose City Council, Santa Clara County Council, and our own San Mateo County Council. You can do this by voting to sign the Declaration and going to their website at:  climateemergencydeclaration.org  to add our name. This will show intention and be an umbrella for all our actions regarding the climate crisis.

We need to move forward limiting as much as possible the use of fossil fuels. Most residential and commercial buildings here use electricity that is at least 90% carbon free but most homes and businesses also use natural gas.  

Our city needs to continue to increase city owned EV infrastructure with revenues returning to the city as is done in the city of Alameda. We must continue to encourage bicycle use and to provide public transport that is affordable, convenient, frequent and doesn’t rely on fossil fuels.

Transportation and housing are large contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

I am a Redwood City resident, a retired public school teacher and am fortunate to own my own home.  I have a deep concern for the environment and am active in various community organizations, including CityTrees and Fossil Free Mid-Peninsula.  My family also lives in the Bay Area and for my 16 year old granddaughter, my son, and daughter-in-law and for all of our families and friends and neighbors, we must act now. Scientists predict that we may only have 12 years to act before we go beyond the tipping point and will be unable to reverse the effects of the climate crisis. Let’s work together to make it happen. 

Please take a vote to sign the Climate Emergency Declaration.

Thank you.

Looking Back: Statement to Redwood City Council

August 26, 2019 – Jim Ilnicki

Good evening Mayor Bain and Council Members.  I am Jim Ilnicki, Redwood City resident and a member of Fossil Free Mid-Peninsula.

Greenland Glaciers outside of Ammassalik

We know that we are in a climate crisis. The Greenland glacier is melting at a rate of billions of gallons a day. Scientists have confirmed that June and July were the hottest on record. The Amazon rainforest is burning with catastrophic results.

The first tipping point has passed- we will experience sea level rise and more extreme weather.  The second tipping point is coming soon, by around 2030.  Unimaginable damage is looming if we don’t implement highly aggressive measures now to drastically reduce our carbon footprint.

Our hope for the future lies in individual action, technological solutions, and strident policies, regulations, and incentives enacted by our elected officials.

The call for individual action remains a huge challenge.  Why is it that so many of the people who understand and accept the facts about climate change are nevertheless doing little or nothing about it.  That is a complex issue but it’s important to get a handle on it – individual action will remain a critical component of any climate action plan.

As for our elected officials, Washington has done nothing in the last two years, and in fact has gone in reverse. That leaves the state and local level. But, in looking at your agendas, I see that you have your hands full, as do your city departments and staff. So we have a problem of priorities.

Yet cities are the key for governmental action. Cities collectively constitute about 70% of the world’s carbon footprint. Redwood City, and all cities, must do their part.  Therefore, my first ask is that we focus on the climate crisis at every council meeting.  We must require that every project and proposal coming before the Council include a specific section on the project’s carbon footprint. There must also be a section addressing what will be done to offset it, or better, to create a negative footprint.

My second ask is that we set aggressive carbon reduction goals for the year 2030 that are much higher than the State’s current goals. Even if our goals seem unattainable, we must figure out ways to achieve them anyway.  The implementation and progress of our new Climate Action Plan, including goal tracking, must appear as a regular agenda item at every Council Meeting. Because what gets tracked, gets accomplished.

The world faces many problems, but this is the defining crisis of our age.  We are asking that you make this your daily focus, and make it the City’s number one priority now and for years to come.