Oakland Climate Action Plan comes to Planning Commission tonight

I know, I know. You guys are all looking at that headline and thinking “OMG. Is it like, Planning Commission week on ABO or what?” And, yeah, I guess it is. Sorry if you’re not into that kind of stuff. My advice (apologies if this sounds obnoxious) is to get used to it.

They’ve got a lot of interesting stuff going on over there, and I enjoy watching the Planning Commission a lot more than I enjoy watching the City Council. Plus, they’ve got the new zoning coming back at their December 15th meeting (PDF), and I just yesterday picked up my DVD of the last time they discussed it, so we’ll be having some fun with that in the next two weeks. Also, the Council is barely even bothering to meet these days, so even if I wanted to, there just isn’t much for me to work with there. So you can probably expect some posts about AC Transit and MTC in the coming month as well.

Anyway, before tonight’s meeting of the Oakland Planning Commission where they talk about the ballpark at Victory Court and the high rise in Chinatown, they’re having another meeting (PDF). A special one. To discuss City of Oakland’s Draft Energy and Climate Action Plan (ECAP).

Oakland Energy and Climate Action Plan

Are you guys up to speed on the ECAP? Basically, we’re trying to figure out how the City can reduce greenhouse gases 36% below 2005 levels by 2020. The ECAP (PDF) explains:

The City of Oakland is committed to reducing energy use and the causes of climate change. The purpose of the Oakland Energy and Climate Action Plan (ECAP) is to identify and prioritize actions the City can take to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse has (GHG) emissions associated with Oakland. This plan recommends GHG reduction actions and establishes a framework for coordinating implementation, as well as monitoring and reporting on progress. The ECAP will assist the City of Oakland in continuing its legacy of leadership on energy, climate and sustainability issues.

I wrote about it once last spring, when the Council had a special meeting to discuss how they’re against climate change. A few weeks later (on Earth Day), the City released an initial draft Oakland Energy and Climate Action Plan (PDF), which they took public comment on for like two months and held a couple of community workshops about.

Then last week, they released the revised Draft Energy and Climate Action Plan (PDF), plus an appendix (PDF). The Planning Commission is talking about it tonight — well, technically this afternoon, since the meeting starts at 4. Then the Oakland City Council’s Public Works Committee will hear it on December 14th.

A long way to go

Okay. So now you’re all “This list of meeting dates in prose form is fascinating, V. But what is in this plan?” Well, I’ll tell you.

Now, a 36% reduction in GHG emissions over 2005 levels is a big goal. To get an idea of just how big, take a gander at the chart below, taken from the ECAP.

So. GHG emissions come primarily from 3 areas: transportation and land use, building energy use, and materical consumption and waste. The chart below, from the ECAP, illustrates how much each of these areas contribute to total emissions.

The purpose of the ECAP is to identify how we can make reductions in each of these areas. The document explains:

The ECAP outlines a ten year plan including more than 150 actions that will enable Oakland to achieve a 36% reduction in GHG emissions with respect to each of these GHG sources. Oakland can accomplish this goal by 2020 through:

  • 20% reduction in vehicle miles traveled annually as residents, works and visitors meet daily needs by walking, bicycling, and using transit
  • 24 million gallons of oil saved annually due to less driving and more fuel efficient vehicles on local roads
  • 32% decrease in electricity consumption through renewable generation, conservation and energy efficiency
  • 14% decrease in natural has consumption through building retrofits, solar hot water projects and conservation
  • 62 million kWH and 2.7 million therms annually of new renewable energy used to meet local needs
  • 375,000 tons of waste diverted away from local landfills through waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and composting

How to get there

I confess that I haven’t really paid much attention to the ECAP development process. I’ve seen enough of these big-goal plans from the City that I have gotten kind of jaded about them, and frankly, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from this one either. So I’m both surprised and happy to say, after reading the ECAP (PDF), that it’s actually very good.

It contains a list of 150 recommended actions (PDF), followed by an assessment of where we are on each of them, and breaks them out into which ones we have the resources to do right now, and which ones we would have to find money elsewhere to support. Not surprisingly, it would cost a lot of money to do all of it:

The ECAP includes budget estimates for resources the City would need to implement the 32 Priority Actions Requiring New Resources identified in Table 2. The average annual cost to the City associated with implementing all 32 of these actions is projected to be approximately 20 additional staff FTW (2.5 of which can be funded with identified external funds), and an additional $9 million per year for related expenses. It is outside the scope of the ECAP to include a total budget for other actions proposed for implementation through 2020. It is important that the City identify long-term dedicated funding streams to support energy and climate action.

Without going into detail on each one, the ECAP does suggest a number of possible funding sources, most of which are some kind of grant, but also include a regional gas tax, surcharges on energy use, parking! fees, and so on.

They also have a handy little guide about what you can do (PDF) to help Oakland reach its goal that contains many helpful suggestions which you would think are super obvious but in my experience, for some reason, are not. Like putting on a sweater before you turn up the heat.

Actions already underway

So, from that long list of actions, the ECAP (PDF) breaks them down into three sections. The first two are about things Oakland needs to do in the next three years. One section lists actions that are already underway or that we can use existing resources to support. The other section lists actions that we would need new resources to do. The final section lists things the City can do over the next ten years, but don’t need to be done immediately.

Today, let’s look at what we’re already doing, since that’s the least depressing part of the plan. This is divided into three main areas, to match the three main sources of emissions: transportation and land use (PDF), building energy use (PDF), and material waste reduction (PDF).

Transportation and Land Use

  • Identify and Adopt Priority Development Areas: This is a regional government thing that basically amounts to cities identifying areas they think have the most potential for smart growth, which, when approved, will have all sorts of special opportunities for regional funding available. ABAG has approved Oakland’s identified Priority Development Areas, and now it’s up to us to capitalize on that and get some money.
  • Launch and Develop and Funding Plan for the Downtown Shuttle: Have you guys ridden the Broadway Shuttle yet? It’s quite handy, especially when its raining. Anyway, the shuttle is currently funded by a grant from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, but the grant is only for two years. So we still have to figure out how we’re going to keep it going once that runs out.
  • Advance Bus Rapid Transit in Oakland: You guys all know how I feel about BRT already. The Council will be talking about this more next year.
  • Participate in Quarterly SB 375 Discussions: This is another regional thing. The MTC and ABAG are in the process of developing a plan for the Bay Area to comply with the requirements of SB 375. This action just says that city staff should stay on top of the discussions.
  • Call for Port of Oakland GHG Reduction Targets and Plans: Because of the way the City Charter is structured, there is not a ton for the City to do here, except badger the Port and ask them to please follow the City’s lead.
  • Call for Climate Action by Port Tenants: Kind of self-explanatory, similar to the one above.

Building Energy Use

  • Adopt a Green Building Ordinance for Private Development: The City has been working on a Green Building Ordinance for a while now, and it passed in October.
  • Offer Property-Based Energy Financing: This is that deal where property owners can get a loan to put solar panels on their house and then pay it back over like 20 years with an item on their property tax bill. The City has agreed to offer this program through an organization called CaliforniaFIRST, although that hasn’t really gotten going yet due to a variety of issues.
  • Launch a Downtown Commercial Retrofit Program: Self-explanatory, right? The City helps commercial property owners downtown make their buildings more energy efficient. This effort is being funded by a stimulus grant and is supposed to launch next year.
  • Encourage Participation in Local Energy Efficiency Programs: They’re talking about stuff like East Bay Energy Watch and Smart Lights, which are non-City programs that help business owners figure out how to make their businesses more energy efficient.
  • Launch a Residential Green Retrofit Program: This is mostly a County thing, funded by stimulus money. It’s supposed to launch next year.
  • Conduct a Multi-Family Affordable Housing Retrofit Pilot: Another stimulus funded effort that will “provide forgivable loan funds to be repaid from anticipated energy savings to reduce risk and encourage investment of private capital in multi-family affordable housing energy retrofits.”
  • Expand Weatherization Program Delivery: Once again, we have the stimulus to thank for this one, which is giving us money for weatherization of 250 homes occupied by low-income families.
  • Launch the Weatherization and Energy Retrofit Loan Program: This is an effort, also funded by the stimulus, that will allow us to provide loans to 75 low and moderate income homeowners in Oakland so they can make energy improvements on their houses. The loans are interest free and are to be repaid only when the property is sold.
  • Create an Oakland-Specific Water-Efficient Landscaping Ordinance: “The City will create an Oakland-specific WELO providing citywide standards for public space that ensure stormwater retention and water conservation features are incorporated into landscaping.” They haven’t started working on this yet, but are apparently planning to soon.
  • Implement Advanced Operating Procedures for City Facilities: These new operating procedures would cover things like “utility cost reporting, energy efficiency retrofitting, direct digital controls, lighting equipment maintenance, and photovoltaic equipment maintenance.” The City is supposed to have completed two to four of these by the end of next year.
  • Improve Energy Performance of New City Facilities: The City already has a green building ordinance for City facilities, so this action is just about updating it with even stricter requirements.
  • Retrofit City Facilities to Improve Energy Performance: A number of improvements to City buildings are being funded by stimulus money.

Material Consumption and Waste

  • Restructure Solid Waste Management System: This would involve changing things like which materials your can recycle, how big trash containers should be, how often trash gets picked up, and so on. Apparently this is going to come to the Council at some point next year.
  • Refine Implementation of C&D Recycling Ordinance: The City already has a Construction and Demolition (C&D) Debris Waste Reduction & Recycling Ordinance, but the report says that we need to improve its implementation.
  • Promote Waste Reduction at Community Events: Self explanatory, right?
  • Develop Regulations Enabling Urban Food Production: Everyone loves community gardens!
  • Encourage Land Owners to Lease Space for Food Production: Again, self explanatory.

So what’s the Planning Commission doing tonight? Well, they’re being asked by staff to recommend to the City Council that the City examine whether or not we need to do an EIR. From the staff report (PDF):

Upon direction from the City Council, the Community & Economic Development Agency (CEDA) will perform a preliminary CEQA review, which may result in a finding that the ECAP is exempt from further CEQA review. However, if this initial review determines that a more detailed CEQA review is required, funding will need to be identified to pay for the additional environmental analysis. Additionally, over the long term, implementation of the ECAP may result in potential reductions in revenues associated with decreased energy and fuel consumption (e.g., Utility Consumption Tax, Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority [Measure B-ACTIA], State Gas Tax). Conversely, an influx of new revenues may result from the creation of new green business activities (e.g., business tax and sales tax revenue associated with energy retrofit work performed, green business attraction).

Catch the excitement at City Hall, or from the comfort of your own home on KTOP — Channel 10 on Comcast and Channel 99 on U-VERSE and also available streaming online.

6 thoughts on “Oakland Climate Action Plan comes to Planning Commission tonight

  1. Naomi Schiff

    Thank you for posting about this! I realize it didn’t draw a million comments, but it might be more effective and utimately more important to more people than is the (somewhat iffy) ballpark. The more cities move in this direction, the more the states will feel pushed to do so. Who knows, maybe even the feds will finally step up if there is enough momentum!

  2. Dax

    The Oakland Energy and Climate Action Plan should take no steps, nor mandate any steps be taken, that will endanger the economic environment of its many economically challenged residents over the next 5 to 10 years.

    Lofty ideals will not help residents if they have no job, or make so little income, they can’t afford rent.

    All the far off promises of “green jobs” carry little weight for someone struggling to survive over the next few years.

    Of the two environments in Oakland, the ecological and the economic, the latter should be far and away the main focus.
    Many more Oakland residents are suffering from a deteriorating economic environment than they are from any ecological environmental problems.

    Other than that, new climate actions plans are just fine.
    Just don’t drive business away with plans that will encourage them to relocate elsewhere. That would include new businesses that might consider locating here.

    The above should be the first requirement of any new climate plan.
    One worries that the same thinking on climate action will be done by the type of folks who raised parking meter rates.

  3. Navigator

    What are we going to do about all of those hundreds of thousands of cars which use Oakland as a thoroughfare to SF? What are we going to do about the thousands of cars idling at the Bay Bridge toll plaza?

    Oakland needs to develop economically so that those cars park in Oakland. Why bypass a major centrally located city in the region? We need to relocate those SF corporate headquarters to Oakland. Many more people reside in the East Bay than in the West Bay.

    People are made to drive over the Bay Bridge because SF has deemed itself as the center of the Bay Area when in reality Oakland is the geographic center of the Bay Area. It’s unnatural and bad for our regional environment to have a city which is not in the center of the Bay Area and is not at the nexus of our transportation and highway system to be the primary business and commercial center. This causes harm to our local environment. Those hundreds of thousands of cars which bypass Oakland for SF are spewing needless tons of poluntants by driving those extra miles and idling at the toll plaza and in traffic. How do we fix this problem?

    We need regional cooperation or the effects will be minimal.

  4. Brian Stanke

    Still no mention of eliminating the current minimum off-street parking mandate. That decreased raw land values over 30% when implemented, costs the city needed development, and forces residents to subsidize traffic congestion. Why not invest twenty hours of staff time and repeal it completely?

    And the idea that we need NEW resources to STOP giving away subsidized parking to employees? Really?

  5. Patrick M. Mitchell

    Re: the hundreds of thousands of cars that pass through Oakland on the way to SF – one of the big stories on the local news last night was about a nascent plan in San Francisco to charge vehicles $3 when crossing into SF from San Mateo county and another $3 when crossing out of SF into San Mateo County during “congestion periods”. The news anchor was standing over I-280 and stated that cars would be required to have a FasTrak like device to ensure payment. Would SF be able to do this because they are a city as well as a county?

  6. Scott Law

    Flashed on the document. Very nicely done, but there is absolutely nothing about

    - What are the greenhouse gases/emissions ?
    Know about co2 and methane. Are there others?

    - What were those emission levels in 2005 ?

    - how the level measured parts per million ? Tons ? Are there monitoring stations at various city locations ?

    - How will success be determined ? Is there w weighted average of the most damaging gases ? Do the measurements take place over time or
    at one time ? What if it is discovered that one gas iactually more damaging than another gas – do remediation activities shift also?

    - Again measuring question. How do they know that a particular gas is from Oakland vs Berkely, Hayward, Fremont, or from out of state ?

    Seems like a lot execution details need to be answer before the city starts encouragin/forcing people to sell their house and move closer to their jobs in silicon valley or the far east bay…
    One of the solutions proposed..

    Scott L