To cut carbon emissions, a movement grows to ‘electrify everything’
Yale Environment 360 – April 14
On March 24, just before the city council of Santa Cruz passed an emergency measure to prevent evictions of renters suffering from lost income during the coronavirus pandemic, it adopted another new ordinance: effective July 1, all construction permit applications for new buildings in the city must submit a declaration that their design is “Natural Gas-Free.” With that vote, Santa Cruz became the 30th city or county in California to enact a measure limiting or prohibiting the use of natural gas in new construction. It was just the latest in a string of victories for the “electrify everything” movement, which is pushing for a rapid transition away from burning natural gas and other fossil fuels in buildings. In November, the movement extended beyond California when Brookline, a large suburb of Boston, became the first municipality in Massachusetts to pass an all-electric requirement for new buildings.
State approves revised housing plan for Huntington Beach
The Orange County Register – March 27
State officials have approved Huntington Beach’s new housing plan, setting the stage to dismiss California’s first lawsuit against a city for failing to plan enough low-income housing. The Housing and Community Development Department’s decision, announced March 24, comes seven weeks after the Huntington Beach City Council narrowly approved revisions to its housing plan. The changes add zoning for at least 413 new affordable units to the city’s northeast area — enough to meet state requirements that cities plan and zone for housing at all income levels. Huntington Beach’s new plan also provides “by right” approval of high-density housing projects so long as 20 percent of the units are reserved for low-income residents — meaning the projects could go forward without a public hearing. As a charter city, Huntington Beach leaders maintained, the municipality has greater autonomy over land use and zoning.
New report explores cost of inaction on rising sea levels for Bay Area
Marin Independent Journal – April 10
A new report on rising sea levels presents a worst-case scenario and a call to action for Bay Area communities to work together to address a common threat. Led by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, the report takes study findings from throughout the region to demonstrate the shared impacts of sea level rise ranging from 12 to 108 inches on housing, transportation networks, critical environmental habitat, jobs, and disadvantaged communities. The report estimates that, regionwide, 4 feet of sea-level rise in the next 40 to 100 years could impact 104,000 jobs; render 13,000 homes uninhabitable or uninsurable; and cause 70,000 planned homes (projected to be built by 2040) to either not be built or be constructed elsewhere. The report identified 18 “hot spots” around the bay where sea level rise would have multiple impacts on housing, transportation, habitat, and vulnerable communities. Among them were downtown San Rafael and the Canal area; Corte Madera and Larkspur; Marin City; and the Highway 37 corridor. The report does not take into account planned or ongoing adaptation projects, but rather “illuminates the cost of doing nothing.”
San Jose extends eviction moratorium, moves forward with rent freeze
The Mercury News - April 15
The San Jose City Council this week decided to extend a temporary ban on residential evictions until May 31 and forge ahead with a plan to temporarily prohibit landlords from increasing rent for tens of thousands of rental units across the city. The proposed rent increase freeze is slated to become the newest layer of protection for San Jose tenants affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. If passed by the council on April 21, San Jose will join just a handful of California cities, including Oakland and Los Angeles, that have already instituted similar measures. The proposed ordinance will cover about 39,000 apartments and mobile homes that fall under the city’s rent stabilization program, according to city statistics.
Over 70 miles of Oakland streets will close to cars to give walkers and bicyclists exercise room during coronavirus stay-home order
San Francisco Chronicle – April 10
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said last Thursday that she will temporarily banish cars from residential streets throughout the city, opening more space for pedestrians and bicyclists to use the roadways for exercise during the coronavirus stay-home order. The emergency measure, called “Oakland Slow Streets,” will shut out automobiles from 74 miles of streets — 10 percent of the roadway space in Oakland. Before the coronavirus pandemic exploded in the Bay Area, a car-free streets movement was picking up steam in San Francisco. Officials banned cars from Market Street in January, and the chair of the Municipal Transportation Agency floated the idea of purging private vehicles from Valencia Street in the Mission District.
Small low-carbon technology is better for decarbonization than mega projects, study suggests
GreenBiz – April 14
Low carbon technologies that are smaller in scale, less expensive, and capable of being mass deployed are more likely to enable a faster transition to net zero emissions than high cost mega-projects, a new academic study released this week has argued.. The study, published the journal Science, highlights the benefits of prioritizing smaller technologies such as heat pumps, solar panels, and electric bikes to drive decarbonization, in comparison to more costly, large-scale solutions such as nuclear power plants and carbon capture and storage projects. While it cautions that smaller scale green technologies are “not a panacea” as they cannot replace larger alternatives in all circumstances — such as for long haul flights or industrial processes — the study nevertheless found that smaller systems carried lower investment risks as well as greater scope for improvements in both cost and performance.