Amid hotter weather and drier seasons, the San Carlos City Council held a study session on its draft Climate Mitigation and Adaptation Plan — a document outlining goals for reducing the effects of climate change and the paths to get there.
“It’s fair to say that broadly the community is extremely concerned with climate change,” Mayor Laura Parmer-Lohan said during Monday’s City Council meeting. “There’s a general feeling that we have a crisis right now and we really need to address it as fast as we possibly can.”
Recognizing the urgency needed to address the growing implications of climate change, the city partnered with consulting firm PlaceWorks, to create its Climate Mitigation and Adaptation Plan. Together, the agencies conducted community outreach to determine where community and stakeholder concerns lie.
The document focuses on 10 key goals such as reducing energy use, transitioning to carbon-free energy, promoting energy resilience and sustainable development that reduces vehicle miles traveled and transitioning to low-carbon transportation.
Amongst the 10 goals are 45 strategies to help achieve each end. Strategies include making electricity the city’s primary energy source, focusing on transit-oriented development, encouraging the use of electric vehicles and promoting graywater and recycled water systems.
If no action is taken, data show the city’s greenhouse gas emissions will rise by 28% by 2050. Consistent with targets at the state level, the CMAP aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% of 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% of 1990 levels by 2050.
“These are meant to be a floor for greenhouse reductions, not a ceiling,” Eli Krispi, assistant project manager with PlaceWorks, said.
Eager to make the necessary progress to avoid some of the threats of climate change to the city, including sea-level rise, flooding and wildfires, councilmembers questioned if the CMAP goals were aggressive enough.
Krispi said the goals laid out in the document were more ambitious than the state’s already aggressive benchmarks but said the team also wanted to ensure they were achievable. The CAMP goals would also put the city on a path to exceeding state aims.
Similarly, Adam Lokar, management analyst and sustainability specialist with the city, said San Carlos is moving at a similar pace as others in the region with the strategies it currently has in place.
“All the strategies identified look to build on what the state is already doing and to get us to the goals because we know state action alone won’t get us there,” Lokar said.
Vice Mayor Sara McDowell also called into question whether the document accurately depicted the projected commercial growth slated to occur in the city. Major development interests have popped up in the city’s east side, predominantly from life science companies, potentially leading to the city’s commercial real estate more than doubling in size, Councilmember John Dugan said.
Staff used data from the Association of Bay Area Governments, which assumed a larger jump in employment growth by 2020 but growth has instead been delayed, Krispi said. He suggested the council instead look at growth figures between 2018 and 2020 for a “more realistic” view of what growth would be.
Noting those figures would mean the city would still only experience job growth of 3,000 positions, McDowell asked for the staff to refer to the number of jobs projected in the city’s East Side Innovation District Vision Plan to help inform the CMAP.
“I think that we’re looking at significantly more [jobs],” McDowell said. “I just don’t feel that those numbers are accurate.”
Responding to similar concerns by Councilmember Adam Rak for the environmental impact of jobs from east side development, Lokar said other community documents address future mitigations including encouragement for rideshare programs in the city’s Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan.
Recently adopted Reach Codes, city building codes requiring mostly electric utilities for both commercial and residential projects, also require climate change mitigations, Lokar said. Krispi said mitigations from the reach codes are also included in the CMAP but some figures were developed before the code adoptions.
Assistant City Manager Tara Peterson also noted the city is working to ensure vision and policy documents align including the CMAP, the Housing Element meant to address new state-required housing goals, the East Side Innovation District Vision Plan and the Safety Element Plan which staff will begin work on in the coming month.
Dugan shared appreciation for the structure of the document, adding that he felt the council “could really sink our teeth into” some of the strategies. Still, he called on staff to provide more “color” for which strategy was most pressing so the council could better prioritize its efforts.
“We all are awake to this issue,” Dugan said. “We can’t miss the elephant in the room here, which is, San Carlos is at a major inflection point.”
Next, staff and the consultant team will take council feedback into account before presenting a final draft of the document to the Planning Commission later this year. Following Planning Commission approval, the final draft CMAP will come before the council for formal adoption.