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Carmel Valley board supports city’s ambitious Climate Action Plan

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board has joined nine other community planning groups by sending a letter of support for San Diego’s draft Climate Action Plan. The board voted to support the plan at its June 25 meeting after hearing a second presentation from the Climate Action Campaign, an organization that seeks to ensure that the city stands its ground and keeps its Climate Action Plan aggressive and ambitious.

San Diego’s draft Climate Action Plan includes the goals of reducing greenhouse gases 50 percent by 2035, more ambitious than Gov. Jerry Brown’s goal of 40 percent by 2030.

The plan has five main strategies to reach the reduction of greenhouse gas targets: energy- and water-efficient buildings; clean and renewable energy; bicycling, walking and transit; zero waste; climate resiliency.

The City Council is expected to vote on the draft plan in January 2016.

The Climate Action Campaign is a fairly new organization, founded in January 2015 by Nicole Capretz. Capretz was one of the authors of a draft plan under interim-Mayor Todd Gloria and served as the chair of the city’s Economic and Environmental Sustainability Task Force for three years while serving as the associate director for green energy/green jobs at Environmental Health Coalition.

“Our mission is simple: Stop climate change,” said campaign organizer Brian Elliott at the board’s May meeting.

The two big pieces of the Climate Action Plan relate to transportation and energy. As Elliott noted, 87 percent of people in San Diego still drive to work when they live within a half-mile of public transit. Only 1 percent of people in San Diego walk to work.

“The plan is asking to find solutions,” Elliott said.

Elliott said they want to hear the city planning board’s voices about what works for their communities, changing the model around so that 50 percent of people are driving to work, 25 percent are taking advantage of public transit and 25 percent are walking or riding bikes to work.

“That’s the model we need to go to, and we need community input on how to get there,” Elliott said.

He said there has been success in other California cities. In San Luis Obispo, 18 percent of residents bike to work. It took a while to get there, but thoughtful actions helped, such as protected bike lanes so bike commuters felt safe and repaving streets.

Elliott said he knows that to find success will involve changing the city’s transportation structure. It can’t take 20 minutes for someone to travel two miles.

Board member Ken Farinsky said his issue with transportation is that it is too expensive and is not provided in places where people go — such as a line that would take students from Del Mar to Canyon Crest Academy.

“The right transit lines could be successful in reducing traffic in certain corridors,” Farinsky said.

The second piece of the plan is to reach 100 percent clean energy by 2035. Elliott said the campaign doesn’t want that 100 percent target to be lowered and they want Community Choice Aggregation to be the mechanism used to get there.

Right now the city has only one electricity provider, Elliott said. Community Choice Aggregation allows cities and counties to purchase power on behalf of their residents and businesses and provide another option at a competitive price.

With SDG&E, homeowners max out at 32 percent clean energy content.

“People want to go beyond that, and the city needs to go beyond that,” Elliott said.

Elliott said the idea is spreading throughout California, such as in Marin County. That county has been using Community Choice Aggregation for six years and its rates are lower and the renewable energy content is higher.

In Sonoma County’s Clean Power program, the average total cost for 33 percent renewable energy is lower than the average cost from PG&E. The average cost for 100 percent renewable energy is $113 compared to $100 from PG&E.

Farinsky said he doesn’t totally buy into the Community Choice Aggregation concept.

“The problem right now is that SDG&E doesn’t have the incentive to deal with solar rooftop and local generation,” Farinsky said. “You need to find a way to incentivize SDG&E to make money in rooftop solar and clean energy.”

Chair Frisco White also had issues with the “legally binding” wording in the plan, worrying that the board was supporting a policy that would open residents up to fines if they didn’t convert to solar or meet other energy-saving goals.

Kath Rogers, operations director for Climate Action Campaign, said the reason the Climate Action Plan is “legally binding” is because of the fact that San Diego County was sued because its climate action plan wouldn’t meet the state targets.

“The city would be legally bound to meet the state mandates and targets,” Rogers said.

Rogers said concerns expressed by White, Farinsky and other board members were just the kind of input the campaign wants to hear. She said community members’ input is valuable in shaping the document and making sure the city is able to meet its lofty goals.


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