Special Council meeting on climate change tonight

Tonight is the fifth Tuesday of the month. Normally, that means the Oakland City Council would have the night off. But not tonight!

No, tonight, they have scheduled a special workshop to deal with a pressing issue facing the City — climate change.

36% GHG Reduction by 2020

So, the Council is very concerned about greenhouse gas emissions. Last summer, the same time as they were voting to downzone two major streets in the Central Business District so that you can build no more than six stories on highly developable land in this middle of a major regional transit hub, they also told staff to make a plan that would allow Oakland to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 36% below 2005 levels by 2020. That is 10 years away.

So this plan is going to be released on Earth Day (April 22nd), and you will have opportunities to weigh in at public workshops and on the City’s website during May and June. But for those of you who just can’t wait, you can get a preview with the presentation about the Oakland Energy and Climate Action Plan (ECAP) at the special Council meeting tonight.

Also, if you just can’t stand to wait until 5:30, all the powerpoint slides are already there for you to read in the agenda report (PDF). Basically, the recommendation is that we approach this goal through a three of different arenas.

Land Use & Transportation

In terms of land use & transportation, the ECAP has concluded that we should do the following:

  • Develop citywide transportation plan for all modes of transportation
  • Support a Transportation Impact Fee
  • Tailor parking options to reduce driving
  • Support low carbon fuels and vehicles

Also, people should bike or walk or take transit to work instead of driving, and use fuel efficient vehicles and live near transit.

Building Energy Use

Of course, cars are not the only way we use energy. Lots of energy gets used when we buildings and so on. In terms of reducing that, the ECAP recommends:

  • Provide ongoing energy retrofit programs, including technical support, incentives, financing and workforce development
  • Adopt superior building energy standards (e.g. via Green Building Ordinance)
  • Advance use of renewable energy

We can meet the 36% goal in relationship to building energy if we retrofit half of Oakland’s residential properties and get all businesses to improve their energy efficiency by 20%

Materials & Waste

Now, we should be way ahead on this one anyway, since we already have a Zero Waste by 2020 plan. But we can always do more. ECAP recommends:

  • Redesign the city’s solid waste management system
  • Preserve industrial areas for zero waste industry
  • Expand the Construction & Demolition Recycling Ordinance
  • Support producer product responsibility
  • Promote local manufacturing with recycled materials

Citizens can help out by buying only what they need. Okay. I am not entirely clear on how to reconcile that goal with our big plan to bring Nordstroms and other destination comparison goods retail to Broadway, but whatever.

Does it matter?

No offense to all the people who put a lot of time and work into the climate action plan, but no. Personally, I do believe that the City should do more to reduce emissions and energy use. And I believe that many of the steps suggested in the plan are smart ways to do that.

But the City is already full of smart plans and policies about transit first and livability and development and smart growth and so on and so on. The problem is not a lack of plans or policies telling us what we should be doing. The problem is that the Council lacks the stomach to follow them. It’s very easy to talk about how much you are against climate change and want to reduce energy consumption. It is not so easy to do anything meaningful about it.

Wait, no. I take that back. It is actually super easy to do something about it. You just have to be willing to suck it up and accept that it might, you know, involve some inconvenience. You cannot radically reduce energy consumption while keeping everything about the City and everything about your lifestyle exactly as it is now. And as far as I can tell, keeping everything the same is the only thing the Council wants to do. Anyway.

Oh, also I guess they are going to talk about community choice aggregation.

Meeting starts at 5:30 tonight (PDF). I will not be tweeting this one, but I bet some other people will be. Just search the hashtag #oakmtg. Also, you can catch the action on KTOP, which you can find live on Comcast Channel 10 or streaming online.

24 thoughts on “Special Council meeting on climate change tonight

  1. Patrick M. Mitchell

    The only “climate change” this city council needs to worry about right now is one of increasing hostility from Oakland taxpayers. Wait! I see their plan! By laying off most everyone on the parks and recreation staff, the grass, shrubs and trees will grow unchecked and CO2 will be consumed in the process! Brilliant!

  2. Ralph

    Patrick, I only read the headlight and thought climate change, the only climate change this city council…well you get the picture. Well said!!!

  3. Robert

    I see this exercise as worse than useless. Not because climate change is not important, but for the staff effort invested in a report that will go nowhere, we could have had a couple more folks fixing potholes, or maybe not have to lay off that IT guy.

  4. Izzy Ort

    “We can meet the 36% goal in relationship to building energy if we retrofit half of Oakland’s residential properties and get all businesses to improve their energy efficiency by 20%.”

    And if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does.

    Whenever I see these XX% reduction (in what does not matter) by the year 20YY (the year does not matter), the first question that comes to mind is whether the people proposing the change understand that 100% is as low as you can go.

  5. Ken O

    there is a flawed brookings institute study on “metro ghg footprints”. it is really off in strange ways… such as las vegas and honolulu ranking low on ghgs for instance. honolulu may be warm all the time and require less space heating and water heating, but ALL their electricity is created by burning OIL, 90% dependent on imported food and goods, everyone drives there, etc. LV same things.

    The full report (second link) is definitely worth reading though. Page 21 shows you the US as a map with metro emissions by size and color…

    looks like the US Deep South (tea bagger-land?) is the worst. I don’t know how people can live in the south without their air conditioning, heating and cars. It’ll be back to swampy hell again within a couple generations. as an added “bonus” overt racism seems to have never gone away, there.

    oakland emits relatively less GHGs when compared to any landlocked US city without good public transit – but I see plenty of people driving in and around Oakland to and from their 1-story houses so no greentopia fantasy here. the “greenest” folks may be the shopping cart pushers collecting scrap metal and recycled glass to earn money. they only use human motive power and are recyclers.

    oakland’s 50-year future is probably as a bicycle metro with massive urban gardening and chicken raising, which lowers ghgs due to refrigeration and transport. one problem though is dealing with phosphorous level in your soil. that’s a fossil “fuel”.

    2010 census results when released sometime between 2012-2015 should help shed light on commute modes and land use patterns–ie occupants per dwelling.

  6. Dax

    “they also told staff to make a plan that would allow Oakland to reduce our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 36% below 2005 levels by 2020. That is 10 years away.”

    So far beyond what is possible that it is laughable. 36% is nothing but a political statement. It has nothing at all to do with reality nor any connection to improving the most important problems Oakland residents have.
    I’m sure, while they propose such goals, they are to a person against any further introduction of nuclear power, one of the few “large” sources of new carbon free power production. Right now the residents of Oakland use about 25% carbon free nuclear power and don’t even know it.

    The Oakland City Council has one duty. To improve the “economic environment” of its citizens. If they aim at that one single goal, their residents can much more easily meet the other goals of lower crime, better education, and a improved environment.

    Go to the neighborhoods and ask them what they need most. Cleaner air, less carbon, or more businesses who are hiring Oakland residents?

    Probably the single biggest thing the Oakland City Council could do to reduce greenhouse gases would be to close down Walmart. Pick up any item in Walmart and look at the label. Where is it made? China
    How many full sized (Diablo Canyon size) coal powered plants is China building each month? About 5 or 6 “new” carbon spewing coal plants being put online each month. All so they can fill the Oakland Walmart with all that “stuff”.

    So you clean up Oakland’s carbon and then buy all the “stuff” that produces carbon in China. Oh, I suppose as long a they keep their greenhouse gases inside their borders, we’ll just be fine.
    The science experts on the city council will no doubt be relieved to know that.

  7. Robert

    If Oakland was serious about cutting GHG emissions, then they should be doing more to reduce the number and distance of all trips. By increasing the retail presence in Oakland, increasing jobs in Oakland, and by increasing housing in Oakland, and most importantly, by finding ways to encourage Oakland businesses to hire Oakland residents. Rather than a decade long process to come up with a plan for Auto Row, they should have been far more aggressive in finding a developer to bring retail into the area, and get the interminable bureaucratic process out of the way.

    It is far more effective to cut travel distance from 25 to 5 miles than it is to get that 25 mile trip to use the bus.

  8. David

    Typical counterproductive useless posturing to useless, dope-addled hippies.

    but how do I really feel?

  9. Mary Hollis


    There is also a “Life Enhancement” Sub-Committee of the City Council.

    I feel my life would be enhanced if these people would focus on the real problems and not this fluff.

  10. Ken O

    Dax I can point out two enterprises which are hiring and cutting CO2-

    Urban Releaf – http://www.urbanreleaf.org look them up on facebook

    Backseat Driver Pedicab – well maybe hiring is a misnomer. I’m leasing out cabs the way Friendly/Veterans do.

    Both of these organizations reduce CO2 emission.

    But even FriendlyCab is reducing CO2… in theory. They’ve rolled out quite a few hybrid taxi cabs. (About damn time, in Prius-Subaru capital of the nation.)

  11. Steve Lowe

    Robert, the retail developers who wanted the 14 acre uptown site, the obvious crossroads of the East Bay, were told that it was going to be used for the residential project you see there now.

    I agree with your assessment of cutbacks from 25 to 5, as opposed to getting folks on buses for the whole 25. However, the most important thing we can do is to get High Speed Rail to the Easy Bay so that we can use the funds for HSR through the Bay Area for upgrading already existing “feeder” infrastructure instead.

    Once done, BART could circle the Bay, the system could have an Express function, and people could ride to some sort of HSR Grand Central Station in Union City within a half hour or so.

    Once done, an revaluation of how much bad air would go away with a rise in BART ridership could drive the subsidy of BART down to the point of making any ride worth the cost, as opposed to paying way too much right now, keeping the poor from using it and thereby in their pollution-prone, twenty five year old autos.


  12. Robert

    KenO, I hope that that Brookings report is not the only evidence people rely on when they state that high population densities have lower carbon footprints. In addition to their acknowledged deficiencies; such as leaving out commercial energy use, not counting energy used in transportation on local roads, other energy uses that total about half of the energy used in this country, and lumping all energy use in non-metropolitan areas together for their low density group (i.e. not separating mid sized communities from rural communities). In addition to all of those weaknesses, their fundamental analysis methodology is fatally flawed.

    When dealing with an outcome such as ghg which depends on multiple parameters (population density, climate, source of electricity, use of trains, etc.) the only viable option to analyze the data set is multivariate analysis. This allows accounting for the climate in LA leading to low energy use instead of confounding climate in LA with the high population density (???) in LA being responsible for low energy use. In the absence of such a multivariate analysis, their conclusion that higher population density leads to lower energy use is meaningless. I can look the data and say that if you want to lower ghg everybody should move to the West Coast, It has equal meaning to their conclusion, and actually has a much stronger correlation with the data set.

  13. Robert

    Steve, HSR is going to SF, which from a transportation perspective makes the most sense (although it doesn’t help Oakland).

    Nothing is wrong with adding more housing to dto, but there also needs to be the addition of jobs and shopping.

  14. Ralph

    Uptown Apts – is a prime example of evils of affordable housing. But I am glad that it is beginning to fatten up.

  15. Robert

    Steve, I would have preferred the ballpark option for Uptown, but we didn’t get that either. Would have done wonders for business in dto.

  16. Ken O

    robert, mva sounds good for studying ghgs.

    definitely northern cities have higher heating needs, while lower climes have greater cooling needs. cooling seems easier to me than heating: just add greenery.
    (uhi effect, etc)

    there’s also energy intensity of fresh drinking water to consider, in which case SF/Oakland probably rate higher than Los Angeles, San Diego or Long Beach.

    then, importation of fresh water via fresh fruit from Mexico or Chile which you can find ample quantities of at Oakland’s Whole Foods store, or frozen broccoli from China at Trader Joe’s.

    LA proper has high bus use. Vancouver has higher bus use than Portland has train use.

    ralph, i’m not a fan of enforced affordable housing either. i’m all for affordability, just not by government fiat. if OHA sold its properties Chicago style you’d see more people of means moving to Oakland but that only exports poverty to suburbs so not sure that is wonderful either.

    US has plenty of social engineering under its belt i’m not surprised to see more of it and more extreme versions in the future

  17. oakie

    As usual, a lot of hot air. If they REALLY wanted to do something, how about exempting all electric vehicles from parking fees. And for carbon neutral vehicles that run on recycled vegetable oil (well, I have a dog in that fight). But, of course, the usual MO in the Bay Area is to talk alot, pose as if you’re morally superior, and actually do nothing.

  18. Robert

    KenO, because small towns have lower costs of living than the central bay area, exporting poverty beyond the suburbs would also help raise the standard of living for the poor.

  19. Robert

    oakie, those are things that would encourage good behavior instead of punishing undesirable behavior, so they can’t be considered, of course.

  20. Max Allstadt

    Ordinarily I’d explain this idiotic waste of the Council’s time by saying that they all think that appearing to have a strong ecological conscience is good for them politically.

    But that’s not how the citizens are thinking right now. We’re not worried about 2020. We’re worried about whether or not total bedlam and mayhem will break out in Oakland in 2011 or even before that.

    I have half a mind to go down to that meeting, sign up to speak, and cede all my time to Sanjiv just to punish the council for wasting our time.

    This is unbelievable. This should be one item in a meeting. Staff report. Questions. Vote. Done. Instead they’re going to take an entire night up on it, when they ought to be dealing with dozens of more immediate issues.

  21. Brad

    Actually, it does matter.

    Under the new California Environmental Quality Act Guidelines for analyzing and mitigating GHG impacts caused by new development projects that emit GHG (which, among others, includes any project that attracts car trips), a local agency can make a finding that the GHG impacts of such a project are less than significant if the project is consistent with a local climate action plan. Such a finding can mean the difference between having to prepare an extremely expensive and time consuming environmental impact report or a much less expensive negative declaration or mitigated negative declaration.

  22. David

    But they’re not interested in doing something useful; they’re interested in kowtowing to the fools who bought into this shamanistic new religion, distracting the locals with this Hopium of the quasi-Marxist Oakland masses so that they don’t bother to ask why the city is on course to bankruptcy.