Summary and analysis by the Friends of the Climate Action Plan (FoCAP) team

Since the fires of 2017, the city of Santa Rosa has emerged as a future-thinking, resilient, climate-smart community actively working  toward a vision of an equitable, people-centered future.

The Santa Rosa Community Climate Emergency Resolution offers the following actions, policies, and initiatives to be considered for immediate or near-term implementation following passage of the Climate Emergency Resolution by City Council. This list benefits from a reading of the following documents:

  • MCAP 2020
  • City of Santa Rosa Climate Action Plan (2012): 
  • RCPA’s Climate Action 2020
  • Rocky Mountain Institute’s Carbon Free City Handbook
  • Iowa City’s Climate Action Plan
  • Los Angeles’ Green New Deal
  • Project Drawdown (book edited by Paul Hawken; website)

The following actions, policies, and initiatives are to be considered for implementation following passage of the Climate Emergency Resolution. The items on this list will need to be discussed, vetted, and prioritized prior to implementation. This is not a comprehensive list of ALL actions to be considered.

Included on the following List of Actions are actions, policies, and initiatives that:

  • reduce (both municipal and community-wide) current greenhouse gas emissions (“mitigation”), remove atmospheric carbon (“drawdown”), and prepare for inevitable climate impacts (“adaptation/resilience”)
  • result in both immediate benefits and long-term benefits
  • result in increased awareness among a wide swath of our community 

Actions were considered with the following Action Categories  in mind: 

  1. Community Engagement and Education
  2. Urban Land Use
  3. Mobility/Transportation
  4. Building Energy
  5. Electricity
  6. Solid Waste
  7. Soil and Land Management
  8. Water
  9. Other

Actions were considered with the following criteria in mind:

  • 1. SMART: the action will achieve a goal that is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely
  • 2. Just and Equitable: benefits all community members, with priority to the most vulnerable among us
  • 3. Transformational: increases public understanding and awareness of climate issues and resource use
  • 4. Sufficient: When taken in their entirety, these actions will result in net zero emissions by 2030.  

The Carbon-Free City Handbook lists “…22 recommendations for no-regrets actions that will help cities become carbon free.” The following actions, policies, and initiatives are offered in that same spirit — as “no-regret actions.”

  1. Community Engagement and Education

1.1 Create a Santa Rosa Climate Action Network [or similar name]: Develop and implement a process through which all segments of the Santa Rosa community  are enlisted to be a part of creating/implementing actions. Start with a series of community-led town hall meetings and design charrettes that create a vision of a vibrant and resilient future Santa Rosa with net-zero carbon emissions. Invite out-of-town professionals with experience in Smart Growth, New Urbanism, urban planning, sustainability, and other areas. 

Create community member working groups (suggested: Community Engagement and Education, Urban Land Use, Mobility/Transportation, Building Energy, Electricity, Solid Waste, Soil and Land Management, Water, Other). These working groups, working in conjunction with similarly-tasked groups in other cities or independently, would form a network. They would do the research and would solicit suggestions from the community for additional immediate and effective climate actions within their area of focus. They would also solicit ongoing input from city employees, residents, and from the wider community. The group would then research and select from proposed actions from various working groups. These would be brought for consideration by a Climate Action Network City Government Liaison Team, one member of which would be the city Climate Action Coordinator. The Climate Action Coordinator would be responsible for overseeing and coordinating city-wide climate-related efforts. Such person shall have the authority to form additional teams or working groups as needed to address the climate emergency. 

1.2 Educate the community: Fund education outreach (classes, city website, local resources, event listings, volunteer opportunities, etc) in English and Spanish on the following topics: 

  • 1.2.1 SR City’s goals of zero GHG emissions/drawdown/adaptation
  • 1.2.2 water-saving tips and suggestions
  • 1.2.3 green building
  • 1.2.4 zero net energy (ZNE) residential and commercial building (including all-electric) home performance, deep energy retrofits, regenerative landscaping, 
  • 1.2.5 reducing household and commercial water use (Refer to recent successes in Queensland, Australia (2008) and Cape Town, South Africa (2018)
  • 1.2.6 the resources now available to city residents through PGE, Sonoma Clean Power (SCP), the County’s Energy and Sustainability Division, and other entities including: home energy audits, Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) tax bill financing for energy efficiency improvements, rebates, incentives, tool lending library, and more.
  • 1.3 Educate the teachers so they can educate their students: Coordinate with the Sonoma County Office of Education to offer teachers standards-based professional development in instructing students on climate science and the challenges/opportunities around the climate crisis. Curriculum already available could be improved upon to make it even more relevant to circumstances and opportunities in Northern California.

2. Urban Land Use

  • 2.1 Continue to revise the zoning ordinance in order to remove barriers to the development of the dense, compact, fiscally-stable, pedestrian and bicycle-friendly, zero-emission city that our community envisions. [These barriers include: minimum parking requirements, minimum setbacks, height limits, exclusionary zoning, inequitable impact fees, etc.]. Consider density bonuses and/or streamlined/priority/”by-right-review” for projects that exceed current energy efficiency standards. Create a pedestrian only central business district extending one block in each direction from the new Courthouse Square. Incentivize downtown employees and visitors with low cost garage parking (or free use of public transit). 
  • 2.2 Explore alternative housing solutions: Consider a RV park-type community (similar to the one on Rainsville Road in Petaluma, off Stony Point Road) as one solution to the need for low-cost housing. Housing types might include cabins, RV’s, tiny houses, travel trailers, and tents. Community businesses would include:  grocery, coffee shop, laundromat, library, etc.

3. Mobility/Transportation 

3.1 Streets for people:  Commit to making Santa Rosa easily bikeable and walkable by:

  • Fully funding and implementing the city’s 2018 Bicycle and Pedestrian plan update, thus creating integrated bike paths, bike lanes and bicycle boulevards to make cycling safe for all ages and abilities.
  • Giving priority to pedestrians over vehicles in all transportation planning and widely publicize such efforts in order to engage the community.  Use other cities such as Davis, Ca. and Boulder, Co. as models. Co-benefits would include reduced traffic, air pollution, and vehicle injuries; safer mobility for all and increased health benefits

3.2 Electrify the fleet: Replace all city-owned fossil-fueled vehicles (eg: automobiles, light-and heavy-duty trucks, transit vehicles, police vehicles, and others) with vehicles that run fully on electricity. Include 10-year operating costs when considering vehicle purchases. Other EV ideas in this Sierra Club publication: ACHIEVE Model State and Local Policies to Accelerate Electric Vehicle Adoption

3.3 Encourage the switch to EVs: Expand electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure by directly installing public charging stations and/or incentivizing the private sector to do so.

3.4 Public Transit: Improve frequency and offer discounted fares: Research indicates that improving bus service provides a greater incentive to increasing ridership than even eliminating fares. Santa Rosa Transit can provide community members better public transportation and reduces vehicle trips. A just transition to a net zero emissions economy means supporting those least able to afford the inherent increased costs. 

Analysis: According to the Santa Rosa Climate Action Plan 2020, the data for 2015 show that  71% of workers take a private vehicle to work, by themselves. The private vehicles taking those 71% of the workers (again, these are 2015 numbers) produce about 603,500 metric tons of CO2e. If the number of workers taking private vehicles to work were reduced to 50% through public transit, bicycling, electric scooters, walking, ride-sharing, and other means, there would be an estimated 178,500 metric tons less of CO2e emissions annually. Reducing on-road transportation emissions through increased use of public transit (along with other means of transportation) would be a significant step toward achieving net zero.  

Using information about where Santa Rosa drivers are commuting (vehicle miles traveled), average distance of commute, what percentage of commuters are traveling within the city and county, we could determine emissions savings much more closely. It is likely this information is either available already, or can be obtained through a survey. 

Possible incentives to increase ridership on SR City Bus: 

  • eliminate fares
  • reduced SMART fares transfers
  • corporate incentives for highest ridership (contests, etc)
  • cost savings to riders vs. taking private vehicles. (gas, maintenance, stress, etc)
  • other incentives found from programs around the country with high ridership.  

3.5 Anti-idling ordinance: Pass an ordinance prohibiting vehicle idling on city streets for more than 90 seconds.  Posting “No Idling” signs would help change the mindset of the community and raise awareness.  Such an ordinance would not be enforceable in privately-owned parking lots. (see Santa Cruz Ordinance #2015-05, passed February 24, 2014).

4. Building Energy

  • 4.1 Make all our buildings — both new and existing — zero carbon. The basic strategy is embedded in the CPUC’s Loading Order: first reduce demand and then switch from dirty to clean energy sources. We need to educate, publicize, and implement a wide range of related programs, including: comprehensive energy audits, deep energy retrofits, electricity audits, energy benchmarking, fuel-switching from natural gas to electric, PV installations, microgrids. These efforts need to be widely publicized in our building and planning departments, among staff and contractors, within our schools, among Builders’ Exchange members, etc. Co-benefits: reduced utility costs, increased comfort, cleaner air, additional career track jobs, increased awareness, etc.
  • 4.2 All-electric REACH code: Join the 50+ other California jurisdictions currently on track to implement a ‘reach code’ requiring all-electric (no natural gas) new residential construction starting January 1, 2020.
  • 4.3 Natural gas ban: Following the lead of the cities of Berkeley and Morgan Hill, prohibit installation of underground natural gas infrastructure in all new development. 
  • 4.4 Decarbonize the existing building stock: Work with Sonoma Clean Power and the State to provide incentives for electrification of existing housing and other building stock — both appliance-by-appliance and as whole-building retrofits.
  • 4.5 Municipal re-lamping: First, replace all incandescent and fluorescent lamps in all City-owned buildings with LED lamps. Then, upgrade lighting controls to include light sensors, occupancy/vacancy sensors, etc. 
  • 4.6 All new city buildings to be Zero Net Energy: Require that all new City-owned and leased facilities be all-electric zero net energy (ZNE).
  • 4.7 Solar PV on municipal facilities: Evaluate the potential for installing PV systems on all municipal facilities, including wastewater treatment ponds.
  • 4.9 Train the staff:: Implement training for all city employees in basic climate science in order to increase understanding of the need for mitigation, drawdown, adaptation as well as climate-smart best habits and practices across all departments. [consider moving to a combined community/staff education section]

5. Electricity

  • 5.1 Municipal Power: Build/incentivize community-scale micro-grids. Add micro-grids to key public services to allow for “islanding” of emergency facilities such as fire stations, hospitals, police stations, etc. Invest in locally distributed energy resources  and generation, as well as storage technology to make more of Santa Rosa electrical power resilient. 
  • 5.2 Commit to 100% renewable electricity: Contract with Sonoma Clean Power’s EverGreen 100% clean and renewable electricity for all city-owned and leased facilities. Compare this expense to other uses of these funds that might result in more immediate energy savings and GHG reductions.
  • 5.3 Upgrade motors: Develop a program to replace inefficient motors in city municipal operations with high-efficiency variable speed models through codes, standards, rebates, incentives, audit programs, and other strategies. [Carbon Free City Handbook]

6. Solid Waste 

  • 6.1 Zero waste ordinance: Pass a zero waste ordinance similar to City of Sebastopol’s Resolution #6214, passed October 16, 2018. (Recommended by Zero Waste Sonoma, the joint powers authority formerly known as Sonoma County Waste Management Agency, or SCWMA.
  • 6.2 Polystyrene ban: Pass a ban on polystyrene food service containers. (Recommended by SCWMA. Reference SCWMA Model Ordinance).
  • 6.3 Cut down on disposable foodware: Pass an ordinance limiting the use of single-use serviceware similar to City of Berkeley’s Single Use Foodware and Litter Reduction Ordinance, passed January 22, 2019.
  • 6.4 Make it easy to recycle: Install recycling containers for metal, paper, and plastics at all trash container locations in Santa Rosa.
  • 6.5 Make zero waste normal: Require that all events taking place on City property (Street fairs, parades, car races, county fairs, etc.) be zero waste. Recology is fully supportive.
  • 6.6 Reduce food waste: Build on existing programs that redirect edible excess food from local businesses to homeless shelters, food banks, and directly to recipients. SB1383 will require all municipalities in CA to pass mandatory compost and recycling ordinances by 2022.
  • 6.7 Close the loop on food and yard waste: Establish a city-wide composting program, making it convenient for all residents to divert all food and yard waste from the waste steam and making nutrient-rich compost readily available to all community members.

7. Soil and Land Management

  • 7.1 Community gardens: Coordinate with neighborhood organizations to construct and plant community gardens throughout residential neighborhoods.
  • 7.2 Neighborhood composting: Collect and hot-compost food waste and yard/garden waste within neighborhoods, ideally at community gardens.
  • 7.3 Carbon farming: in agricultural areas, promote carbon farming, which refers to practices that increase the rate at which CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and converted to plant material and/or soil organic matter. Carbon farming practices include no-till, composting, windbreaks, managed grazing, creek restoration, and many others.
  • 7.4 Local food: Work toward establishing intensive food production on land surrounding the City (farms, orchards, animal ag, greenhouses), ideally in proximity to schools, so students understand where food comes from.
  • 7.5 Plant 5,000 trees each year for the next ten years: Plant site-appropriate trees throughout City-owned and –controlled public space. Trees are our least expensive method of removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Trees planted would be site-appropriate and chosen with consultation with local residents and from an approved list“The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the next best time is today.”  Co-benefits: Trees provide shade which lessens the need for air conditioning. Trees sequester carbon, and promote healthy soil development, reduce urban heat island effect, help retain soil moisture, provide habitat, help build topsoil, increase property values, etc. https://planting.itreetools.org/

Analysis: There are tools for calculating the benefits of planting trees. Here is one tool that I’ve tested that will calculate sequestered carbon based on species, avoided emissions based on shading, and more. I tested out the tool using local data. This tool, iTreePlanting, seems easy to work with. I was just curious what planting 1,000 trees would get us…just to start off. Here is what I got.  

Looking at iTreePlanting and plugging in our locale and the electrical generation emissions factor for Sonoma Clean Power (essentially their efficiency) of 98.1 lbs of CO2 per MWhr (CleanStart) and PGE’s fuel (natural gas) emissions factor of 134.46 lbs. per therm (I’m learning lots here: a therm is 0.10 MMBtu…which is the unit “iTree” is looking for). I chose a ten year planting project, with a tree mortality of 10%. I chose a tree from the approved Street Tree List for Santa Rosa. Fast growing, long-lived trees sequester the most. In our area it looks like oaks would work well, so I plugged in coast live oak from the long list of options on the tool, and I “planted” 1000 of them. 

The result is shown below and summarized here. Over the ten years of the “project,” the shade provided by these trees would avoid 95,000+ lbs. of CO2e and the trees would sequester over 124,000 lbs of CO2. It’s easy to do the math for a larger project, of course. Quercus Agrifolia are available from many sources, ranging in price from $3.50 to $100 depending on size. 

Buying a thousand at a price of $50 each (perhaps a lower price could be found), $50k. Buy 10,000 for $500k and we sequester 1,240,000 lbs (that’s 620 tons) of CO2, and avoid 475 tons of emissions. This amount does not seem like a significant amount. A brief review of the topic found this to be true. Urban tree planting apparently has limited impact on drawdown of CO2. For instance, Apple decided to plant 8,000 trees at its new campus in Cupertino. An article with an analysis of the drawdown potential is not encouraging. That said, greening the city could be one part of the multi-faceted solutions to the climate crisis.

  • 7.6 Local food: Incentivize the use of Community Supported Agriculture by providing free access to farmer’s markets and/or providing a convenient location for weekly deliveries to their members.
  • 7.7 Local food: Create an incentive program to encourage local food markets to label and feature food that is grown, farmed, or produced locally.
  • 7.8 Local food: Remove barriers to selling and exchanging home-grown produce.

8. Water

  • 8.1 Upgrade appliances: Find partner agencies to help subsidize replacements of water-inefficient fixtures (toilets, clothes washers and dryers, showerheads, faucet aerators) and replacements of gas-fueled water heaters with electric heat pump water heaters.
  • 8.2 Reduce/eliminate grass lawns: Expand existing lawn-to-landscape conversion programs. Through a  turf-replacement initiative, incentivize homeowners and business to remove lawns. Offer rebates for those electing to install xeriscaped yards.
  • 8.3 Provide alternatives to bottled water. Install water fountains around town (that permit filling of water bottles). Run campaign encouraging reusable instead of single-use water bottles.

9. Other

  • 9.1 No new fossil-fuel infrastructure: Pass a moratorium on new gasoline/diesel fueling stations. [The City of Petaluma passed An Urgency Ordinance … Imposing a Moratorium on the Issuance of Entitlements for New Gas Station Uses …” on May 6, 2019].
  • 9.2 Join the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, USDN, which catalogs resources and best practices and provides support and training. Membership is only open to cities and counties. The annual cost of membership is said to be ~$1,200 per year
  • 9.3 Maintain contact with a legislative analyst to stay informed of State-level legislation that would impact our City’s zero-emissions goals. Keep the community informed of such legislation and communicate the City’s positions directly to State lawmakers and agencies.  Key resource here is Sonoma Clean Power.
  • 9.4 Create an equitable public health action plan: coordinate efforts among all health care providers to anticipate and prepare for the inevitable health consequences (both physical and mental/emotional) resulting from climate change.
    Key resource here is the County Health Department as well as Kaiser Permanente.
  • 9.5 Divestment from fossil fuels: The city would divest from investments in fossil-fuel companies and banks that finance oil/gas exploration and development.
  • 9.6 Public Bank: Following passage of the Public Banking Act, AB857, support the creation of a local or regional public bank
  • in order to provide financing to local households, businesses, and public agencies at low rates.
  • 9.7 Green bonds: Research the possibility of the City issuing one or more general obligation “green bonds” to finance climate-related projects including bike lanes, tree planting, increased PV generation capacity, etc)?
  • 9.8 Seek public funding through a variety of sources: Engage community members in the research of funding sources for climate mitigation and adaptation efforts. Possibilities include:

9.9 Seek private sector funding and involvement: employers both large and small benefit from the sound economic environment and stable climate found in Santa Rosa. It is reasonable to expect participation and even financial support from major employers. 

Resources for additional actions: