Dave Room of Bay Localize, OCAC, and Local Clean Energy Alliance raises his caulking gun
Oakland is one step closer to living up to its aspiration to be a model green city. Oakland City Council held a special meeting Tuesday night to hear city staff recommendations and public comments concerning the Energy and Climate Action Plan it is working on.
The council meeting was preceded by an energetic rally in front of City Hall hosted by the Oakland Climate Action Coalition (OCAC) and allies, who have been busy over the last year drafting their own comprehensive set of recommendations. The afternoon rally featured leaders from Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Ella Baker Center, and Communities for a Better Environment, as well as speakers invited by OCAC including Energy Conservation Options President and CEO Dahlia Moodie and Alameda Building Trades Council Secretary-Treasurer Andreas Cluver. Councilmembers Jean Quan, Rebecca Kaplan, Nancy Nadel, Larry Reid and City Council President Jane Brunner also spoke briefly in support of a strong ECAP.
Wearing a green hard hat and flanked by people with caulking guns (symbol for weatherizing Oakland homes) and leafy greens (symbol of healthy, local food systems), Emily Kirsch, lead organizer for the green collar jobs campaign at Ella Baker Center, primed the crowd.
“We can take a different path. We can take a path of innovation, a path of equity, a path of justice, of green job creation and local food systems, and water catchment, using caulking guns to retrofit our buildings. That’s the path we can take. Do you want that path?” Kirsch asked, receiving a loud cheer from a crowd of about a hundred, who held signs that read “Green Jobs Now” and “Oakland is Ready.”
“Labor, community organizations, and environmental groups have to work together,” Cluver said, noting that a third of the construction trade workforce is without a steady job.
Armael Malinis, campaign coordinator with the Asian-Pacific Islander Youth Promoting Advocacy and Leadership (AYPAL), attended the rally in support of the ECAP with about a dozen students from local schools. Malinis said that it is important to engage the youth and to integrate the message of sustainability into the schools, in the form of school gardens, energy efficiency, and education around environmentalism.
The rally ended with spirited chants led by Kirsch: “Green jobs, not jails,” and “We’re the people, a little bit louder now, we’re building green solutions now!”
Inside the council meeting, Oakland’s sustainability coordinator, Garrett Fitzgerald, began by giving a brief background of the ECAP process of community engagement and research that went into the action and policy recommendations. Fitzgerald restated the target of achieving 36% of 2005 greenhouse gas (GHG) levels by 2020, approved by the city council last year. He said the Energy and Climate Action Plan was “primarily a plan to reduce energy use and GHG emissions” by looking at priority actions in a few specific areas.
He and other city staff began the process of determining priority actions by analyzing Oakland’s carbon footprint and major GHG emission sources. They found that transportation accounts for 61% of local emissions and building energy use accounts for most of the rest.
Fitzgerald said those figures “do not include the planes, trains, and ships coming into and out of Oakland’s ports,” because it is harder to get data and the city has less control over those factors.
City staff from the Public Works Agency focused on three major categories that represent the bulk of energy use and emissions and over which the city and community can have a major impact: Transportation and Land Use, Building Energy Use, and Materials & Solid Waste.
“All three sectors matter,” Fitzgerald said, illustrating with a bar chart, “and we need to apply that 36% reduction in each of those three areas.”
Fitzgerald emphasized that a combination of federal, state, and city measures, along with additional community work, will be required to meet the targets.
“State strategies will get us about a third of the way towards Oakland’s 2020 goal,” Fitzgerald said, referring to laws like California's AB32 that set statewide GHG reduction goals.
“The question is how do we get the rest of the way there?”
In the transportation sector, Senior Transportation Planner Iris Starr said “we need to take direct aim” at driving. The recommended goal is a 20% reduction in driving, or Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT).
City staff said that the target can be achieved by driving to work four days of the week instead of five, by encouraging appropriate workplaces to allow telecommuting and flexible work schedules, and by more walking and biking. Just as important, city staff said, is for the city to develop a comprehensive and integrated Transportation Plan with a focus on public transit and transit oriented development.
Other recommendations included creating a transportation impact fee, tailoring parking options to reduce driving, implementing a clean city fleet with locally produced bio-fuels, and accelerating a comprehensive bike and pedestrian plan.
In the sphere of building energy use, city energy engineer Scott Wentworth spoke of the need for ongoing energy retrofit programs, with incentives and financing, and adopting a strong city-wide green building ordinance.
“The community will have to do its part to aggressively conserve energy,” he said, challenging Oakland residents to lower thermostats, shut off power strips, and take shorter showers. Berkeley’s energy conservation ordinance was mentioned as a possible model to follow.
City staff recommended that all businesses achieve 20% energy improvements, make maximum use of new renewable energy systems, and that half of Oakland’s residents be retrofitted for maximum energy efficiency. Wentworth noted that the city has a $4.8 million grant for a downtown commercial retrofit program and stimulus money for weatherization programs, which can create desperately needed jobs. Programs for renters, who are often left out of financing and rebate programs, will also have to be launched, Wentworth said.
Solid Waste and Recycling Program Supervisor Becky Dowdakin, spoke of action items related to Materials & Waste, such as refining the construction and demolition (C&D) recycling ordinance and integrating it with the proposed Green Building ordinance. In addition, the city should promote waste reductions and composting at all community events and promote buying recycled, locally made products.
The was followed by a presentation by Barbara Thornton, mayor of San Anselmo and CEO of the Marin Energy Authority, which recently approved a community choice aggregation program, which allows the purchase of renewable energy. Thornton reported that the goal is 50% renewable energy by 2015 with no increased cost to the customers, who begin receiving service next month. “Deep Green” customers can receive 100% renewable energy for an average cost increase of one cent per Kw/hour, or approximately $2.80 per month. Oakland is beginning to study community choice aggregation or publicly owned power in other cities as it looks at possibilities for reaching its own energy use targets.
Dave Room of Bay Localize and Oakland Climate Action Coalition gave a presentation to the council that made the case that electricity generation and service can be a community development strategy that creates green jobs while putting Oakland on the path to reach its GHG reduction goals. He recommended the city create a special task force to monitor the community choice aggregation (CCA) programs in Marin and San Francisco.
A public comment period followed, when about 25 community members spoke, almost all in favor of an aggressive Energy and Climate Action Plan.
Ingrid Severson of the DIG Cooperative and OCAC member noted that pumping water around state contributes 7% of GHG emissions because it is energy intensive and made the case that water efficiency measures, greywater systems, and building water harvesting projects are critical to reaching ECAP goals.
Shereen D’Souza of the Oakland Food Policy Council commented that globally, up to 32% of GHG can be attributed to our energy and input intensive food system.
“It makes really good sense to rebuild local food systems… we can feed two birds with one seed," D'Souza said. "One place to start is to convert the recently identified 1200 acres of publicly-owned land in Oakland that is currently under-utilized into productive food growing areas."
The preliminary findings of city public works and environmental staff are ambitious. The recommendations by the OCAC are even more so, but as Carli Payne of Transform and Walk Oakland Bike Oakland noted, “There are so many low-hanging fruit."
“The good news is that a number of these actions can move forward with current funding,” city sustainability coordinator Fitzgerald said. Frankly, the motivation we see in the Oakland community provides us with a sea of hope that we can get there.”
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