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Opinion: Pacifica City Council Passes Weakened Climate Action Plan

By Cynthia Kaufman, Pacifica Climate Committee

On July 14, Pacifica City Council passed a weakened Climate Action Plan (CAP).

The Pacifica Climate Committee, a local citizens group working on climate change issues, lobbied the city to start working on a plan in 2009. The council appointed a task force in 2010 that worked for two years to develop the plan. After much effort, the plan has strong goals but is rather weak in what it asks the city to do.

The Pacifica Climate Committee hopes that the city will follow through and begin work to achieve the goals set out in the plan. The city should appoint a staff person in charge of implementation as promised at the council meeting, when it cut the dedicated half-time staff person that the plan originally called for. Council should take quick action on near-term measures in the plan.

The CAP calls for a 35 percent reduction in Pacifica’s greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2020, and 80 percent below 2005 levels by 2050, which is consistent with State of California targets. These are very ambitious goals. Pacifica’s plan calls for encouraging new development to be near transit, improving walking and biking infrastructure (e.g., safe routes to schools, bike lanes), setting a waste diversion goal of 75 percent away from the landfill by 2020 and zero waste by 2030, and supporting state law requiring commercial recycling. The plan also calls for improving public transit but without any specific measures.

Originally, the CAP called for residential and commercial energy efficiency ordinances that would have required sellers or buyers to make basic energy efficiency improvements to homes and commercial buildings when they were sold. This part of the plan was cut by council due to opposition primarily from real estate interests, most notably the San Mateo County Association of Realtors (SAMCAR).

While Council supported the ambitious goals set out in the CAP, it appears that that the current plan will not actually achieve those goals. In a July 14, 2014 letter to the city’s Associate Planner Lee Diaz, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) staff commented that the plan, as currently written, is not strong enough to reach those targets.

BAAQMD staff also questioned various inconsistencies in the CAP and criticized the methodology the city’s consultant used to calculate some of the projected emissions reductions. For example, staff commented, estimated reductions from adoption of a water conservation ordinance were “grossly overestimated,” and other estimates were similarly flawed. 

BAAQMD staff strongly recommended (among other things) that the city should reinstate the residential and commercial energy conservation ordinances to ensure that short- and long-term goals of the CAP will be met.  

BAAQMD letter to Pacifica re CAP

In another peculiar exchange, council member Karen Ervin asked whether the city could encourage the adoption of residential solar energy by lowering solar permit fees. Planning Director George White responded that the city had investigated this and determined that Pacifica’s solar permit fee is already among the lowest in the area. But according to a study done by the Sierra Club, Pacifica’s $335 solar permit fee is the second-highest fee in San Mateo County, second only to Daly City's. Pacifica’s permit fee is well above the $257 average for Northern California cities. We hope council can be persuaded to lower solar permit fees in the future.

PV Fees Residential SF Bay Area

It will be up to the public to make sure that the city dedicates staff time needed to accomplish the actions called for by the plan so that the ambitious goals set out in the CAP are achieved.


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The latest IPCC report is out from the UN on Climate Change.
The UN is calling it climate change -- but it is global warming.

The world is not the same as it was 50 years ago and we need to address global warming -- or we won't have wildlife, farms, water, food -- you name it.

It's not optional -- it's something we can do now, before there are no options at all.

Let's hope our elected candidates understand what is at stake, and Do the Right Thing.

Why it matters that Pacifica passes a strong, effective Climate Action Plan -- and why every town should do so:

The biological wealth, which we are taking for granted so far, is disappearing:

We can stop this by being responsible carbon fuel consumers, and changing use of carbon fuels to alternative energy sources.

At a bare minimum, the City of Pacifica, and cities across the country and around the world, can pass effective Climate Action Plans.

The rest of the world is doing its part on CAPs. Pacifica should do its part to stop global warming.

This article is written as "opinion" but it's a fact: Pacifica's "Climate 'Action' Plan" is not effective in accomplishing the standard goals that all CAPs have: "Kyoto" or better! 35% reduction in greenhouse gases before 2005.

They probably spewed more greenhouse gases in creating it than it will ever conserve.

Just develop faith in the convenient, blindered, science-denying myth that artificially abetted global climate change is a scam, and all will be well in the little land of Pacifica.

Council did exactly the right thing here. Requiring sellers or buyers to take on burdensome costs is asking too much at a time when our city is almost bankrupt and people are struggling. I know some think that the answers to all our problems are to increase taxes and regulations, but there are many other things Pacificans can do that will have a much greater impact, such as promoting no-till gardening and farming.

If we really care about cutting carbon emissions, we should also support the Highway 1 modernization, which will cut fossil fuel consumption and pollution by reducing stop-and-go traffic.

Here is a link to the letter from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) to the City of Pacifica:

The letter expresses complete disbelief in the impossible "plan" proposed by the City of Pacifica.
On a separate note, how is it that Planning Director George White could be so wrong about his area of expertise? How arrogant to disregard solar and other alternative energy.
And how arrogant of Pacifica Mayor Mary Ann Nihart and City Council members Len Stone, Karen Ervin, Sue Digre, and Mike O'Neill not to require an actionable plan, that will actually achieve the vitally important goals all communities must achieve to reduce carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Yes -- Pacifica has a Climate Action Plan (CAP) in name only. The ultimate result of the so-called CAP that Pacifica has put forward is that Pacifica will not achieve anything near the stated goal of a 35% reduction in greenhouse gases (GHG) below 2005 levels.

San Francisco can do it. Berkeley can do it. Pacifica is wholly incompetent in meeting BAAQMD CEQA Guidelines Section 15183.5 -- the requirements for Tiering and Streamlining the analysis of GHG Emissions.

The City of Pacifica signed on to the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which pledges "Kyoto or better."

Yet the City of Pacifica cannot honor its own signed agreement.

And clearly, the city is not trying to honorably do this; it is blatantly in violation of its own stated goals. What will we tell our children and grandchildren when global warming is completely unstoppable? Will we say that Pacifica City Council thought no one would notice? That Pacifica City Council did not care that there will be no food, rampant unpredictable disease, wars over water? That Pacifica City Council thought it was above the laws of nature?


On February 16, 2005 the Kyoto Protocol, the international agreement to address climate disruption, became law for the 141 countries that have ratified it to date. On that day, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels launched the US Mayors Climate Protection Agreement to advance the goals of the Kyoto Protocol through leadership and action by at least 141 American cities.

By the 2005 U.S. Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting in June, 141 mayors had signed the Agreement – the same number of nations that ratified the Kyoto Protocol. In May of 2007, Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor became the 500th mayor to sign on.

Under the Agreement, participating cities commit to take following three actions:

1 - Strive to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocol targets in their own communities, through actions ranging from anti-sprawl land-use policies to urban forest restoration projects to public information campaigns;

2 - Urge their state governments, and the federal government, to enact policies and programs to meet or beat the greenhouse gas emission reduction target suggested for the United States in the Kyoto Protocol -- 7% reduction from 1990 levels by 2012; and

3 - Urge the U.S. Congress to pass the bipartisan greenhouse gas reduction legislation, which would establish a national emission trading system

Read more here:

Already in California, the fire season is almost all year round, and we know that fires are more frequent, longer, and bigger than they have ever been before, and this has been shown to have been caused by global warming.

In California, the drought has increased so much that farmers, who already use 85% of all water in the state, do not have enough for their crops, and hay costs five times as much as usual for feed animals, creating an unsustainable money-losing economy for cattle farmers. The western United States is becoming like the driest part of Australia, where dust storms cause fires and plants have evolved to survive on episodic, minuscule precipitation.



City Council members Karen Ervin, Mary Ann Nihart, Len Stone, Mike O'Neill, Sue Digre: Just tell the voters what justification you have for passing a Climate Action Plan that does not meet even the modest goal of 35% reduction in greenhouse gases before 2005, something that the City of Pacifica signed on to do.

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