February 27, 2015

Search Results for: cleanpowersf

Clean-energy advocates demand mayor restore CleanpowerSF language to San Francisco Climate Action Strategy

Supervisor John Avalos at CleanPowerSF rally in 2013.

Supervisor John Avalos at CleanPowerSF rally in 2013.

On March 31, community clean-energy and green-jobs advocates spoke at a hearing convened by San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos to demand answers on why Mayor Ed Lee is both blocking the launch of CleanPowerSF and stripping the city’s Climate Action Strategy of its only actionable strategy for a just transition to clean energy.

The San Francisco Department of Environment staff have repeatedly stated that a robust clean-energy program is essential to the city for meeting its climate-action goals on schedule, and every draft version of the city’s Climate Action Strategy has included CleanPowerSF as the cornerstone of that transition. However, when Mayor Lee unveiled the final Climate Action Strategy on Feb. 12, all references to CleanPowerSF were discovered to have been deleted from the document.

The Sierra Club, 350 San Francisco, San Francisco Green Party, Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council, Our City, San Francisco Gray Panthers, and other concerned community members spoke at the hearing demanding an end to political favors trumping the need for strong action on climate in the mayor’s office. Over the past week, San Francisco elected leaders have received hundreds of emails from the public insisting that the city move CleanPowerSF toward launch and that the program be written back into the Climate Action Strategy.

The Sierra Club’s San Francisco Group chair Sue Vaughan said, “The people of San Francisco and our planet cannot wait any longer while politicians influenced by fossil-fuel energy corporations delay the just transition to clean energy. Thousands of scientists working on the global climate crisis are now sounding the alarm that we must act immediately and dramatically to curb catastrophic climate disruption.”

Eric Brooks, campaign coordinator for Our City, said “It is time for San Franciscans to stop tolerating the impunity of a mayor who is controlled by PG&E corporation. We will not stand to be a city whose elected leaders prioritize favors to campaign donors over the will and need of our people.”

Jed Holtzman, co-coordinator of 350 San Francisco, remarked, “The failure of this mayoral administration to recognize and act on the extremely alarming climate data is shockingly irresponsible. We live in a coastal city dependent on winter snowpack for drinking water.  Mayor Lee needs to stop acting on behalf of fossil-fuel corporations and start acting to protect his community.”

Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council boardmember and representative Bruce Wolfe said, “With Chevron announcing 1,000 new jobs for fossil-fuel modernization that is a direct contributor to climate change, the CleanPowerSF program is crucial to generating thousands of new green jobs in San Francisco, and yet our so called ‘Jobs Mayor’ is blocking the program and even deleting it from the city’s environmental documents. This has an obvious appearance of outright corruption to all of us.”

CleanPowerSF deleted from San Francisco Climate Action Strategy

Supervisor John Avalos at CleanPowerSF rally.

Supervisor John Avalos at CleanPowerSF rally.

All references to CleanPowerSF, the program to offer residents 100%-renewable electricity, mysteriously disappeared between two versions of San Francisco’s new Climate Action Strategy. In one draft, it was there. Two days later, all mention of the program had been deleted from the final version.

The problem is that without CleanPowerSF, there is no way the city can meet its new target of moving to 100%-renewable electricity by 2030. The Strategy still says, “Moving to 100% renewable electricity is the single biggest step the City can take to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions.” But it no longer lists any possible way to make that step. All that is left is a list of small programs, such as, “Expand SFPark meter demand pricing program,” most of which have nothing to do with renewable electricity. The Climate Action Plan has been reduced to a glossy brochure on the dangers of climate change.

On March 11 Supervisor John Avalos said, “Unless we quickly implement 100% renewable electricity, we will fail to meet our legislated Greenhouse Gas Emission reduction requirements in the next few years.”

San Francisco has already missed its 2012 greenhouse-gas-reduction targets by a wide margin, because Mayor Edwin Lee gutted the programs created by former Mayor Newsom that would have enabled the targets to be met (see Feb., page 4). Now his administration’s hastily edited new plan advances little further.

When asked about the deletions at a Board of Supervisors meeting on March 11, Mayor Lee dodged the question, talking only about his opposition to CleanPowerSF, which he has stalled, but lacks the authority to kill.

What Mayor Lee has succeeded in doing is to rip the guts out of the new Climate Action Strategy, rendering it as meaningless as the missed greenhouse-gas reduction targets from 2012.

John Rizzo, chair, Sierra Club Bay Chapter Political Committee

Clean energy advocates applaud reduced electricity rates for CleanPowerSF

300x225_cleanpowersfOn July 9 San Francisco’s Local Area Formation Commission, in joint meeting with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, voted to reduce the proposed maximum electricity rate for the CleanPowerSF program, which is scheduled to launch early next year. The Sierra Club applauds this change.

Until recently SFPUC staff planned to set the cap at almost double PG&E power rates, but after more than a year of work between advocates and the SFPUC, the rate cap is now set to be much lower. The new cap will ensure that tier-one customers, who are expected to make up the bulk of the program’s participants, will receive the benefit of a much higher renewable-electricity mix than that of PG&E, for an average monthly increase of less than six dollars.

CleanPowerSF is being planned to install hundreds of megawatts of clean, renewable energy and efficiency measures throughout San Francisco, and to generate thousands of local jobs. But advocates had warned that if the CleanPowerSF rate were set too high, too many customers would opt out of the program. This would have made the program too small in scale to achieve its main objective of providing at least half its clean electricity from such local installations by the end of the decade.

Arthur Feinstein, chair of the San Francisco Bay Chapter of the Sierra Club, said, “This lower rate cap for the CleanPowerSF program is a big victory for our community and the environment. These lower rates mean more San Franciscans will take part in the program. This will result in more local clean-energy generation, and that means more local jobs. It also means a lot less greenhouse gas will be going into the atmosphere, a major success in our battle with the world’s greatest threat, climate change.”

Al Weinrub, director of Local Clean Energy Alliance, said, “Now that a reasonable and more competitive cap is being set for CleanPowerSF electricity, we can get on to the important business: putting thousands of San Franciscans to work building hundreds of megawatts of local clean energy installations over the next decade. A large local installation program is vital to recovering a vibrant San Francisco economy, and to ensuring that we are truly replacing fossil fuel with verifiable renewable sources.”

Eric Brooks, campaign coordinator for Our City, said, “These lower rates will ensure that everyone in San Francisco, no matter what their income level, will be able to take part in CleanPowerSF. This will mean that the program will be large enough in scale to ensure strong local hiring of thousands of union workers to build out the infrastructure.”

Producing local renewable energy through CleanPowerSF

Photo: Flickr / Mass Am Sam (cc)

Photo: Flickr / Mass Am Sam (cc)

CleanPowerSF is San Francisco’s opportunity to invest hundreds of millions of dollars and bring thousands of local clean-energy jobs to San Francisco, while transitioning from reliance on dirty fossil-fuel energy to clean renewable electricity. However, a strong program will only take place through continued public advocacy.

Unfortunately, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is not currently prioritizing the investment in local renewable energy generation or energy efficiency. The SFPUC needs to make this commitment.

A strong local build-out plan is also needed for CleanPowerSF to be a popular and economically viable program, one that can compete with PG&E. To make sure that CleanPowerSF is an effective vehicle for addressing the climate and economic development issues facing San Francisco, write to the SFPUC.

Ask the commissioners to support the Sierra Club’s position to establish a solid plan for local production of renewable energy before launching CleanPowerSF, and to make sure that the program charges affordable rates from the beginning.

Supervisors pass CleanPowerSF!

On Tue., Sep. 18, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 8 – 3 for legislation that will finally allow start-up of CleanPowerSF (see August-September Yodeler, page 4).

Supervisor David Campos, who has been working with community advocates and the San Francisco Public Utility Commission to shape the program, said “This program will provide a clean-energy choice to up to 90,000 San Franciscans at a third of the cost of all of the city’s previous and much-smaller renewable-electricity programs.”

Supervisors Campos, Chiu, Cohen, Mar, Kim, Olague, Weiner, and Avalos voted to support CleanPowerSF. Supervisors Farrell, Chu, and Elsbernd voted against the legislation.

For over a decade this program has been among the Sierra Club Bay Chapter’s top priorities. San Francisco Group ExComm member John Rizzo recalls lobbying for it in then-Supervisor Tom Ammiano’s office in 2002. Volunteers and staff have been working continually for it ever since. We will continue weighing in to improve implementation.

On Sep. 25 the Supervisors will hold a second reading on the ordinance. After that, Mayor Ed Lee will have 30 days to approve or veto it. Eight votes would be enough to override a mayoral veto. Then will begin the process of rolling out the program, hopefully providing power to customers by spring, and of developing local sources of green power.


Contact Mayor Ed Lee at:

City Hall
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102
fax: (415)554-6160

Urge him to sign the legislation for CleanPowerSF and to give his full support to its fullest successful implementation and to local generation of clean power, so that San Francisco can take its rightful role as a national leader towards clean energy and stopping global climate change.

Clearing the path for renewable power in San Francisco–Turning CCA into DG and local jobs at CleanPowerSF–This alphabet-soup could determine future of clean energy

Veterans gain green-job skills.

Veterans gain green-job skills.

Updated (Sep. 6, 2012): added more-current information to the WhatYouCanDo section.

Fossil-fuel generation of electricity is one of the leading causes of global climate change, but switching a community to renewable energy is tricky.

A state law passed in 2002 (AB 117—Migden) created Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), the means under California law for communities to take control of their energy choices, offering residents an alternative to PG&E and other investor-owned utilities. But once a community does start setting up a Community Choice program, the results aren’t automatic. It takes a lot of tough decisions to determine whether Community Choice will bring local, clean, low-carbon power generation, energy-efficiency projects, and the accompanying skilled local jobs.

Local control does offer opportunities for nurturing local “distributed generation” (DG), such as solar panels and wind machines on buildings, parking lots, and other available urban spaces. Such local generation should be complemented with local energy-efficiency installations such as insulation, multi-paned windows, cogeneration units on gas boilers (using waste heat to produce steam-generated electricity), and smart grids. By building new local generation capacity, Community Choice ensures that it is directly increasing green power and not just competing with other buyers for renewable electricity that would be generated elsewhere anyway.

The city may also seek carbon-free energy from solar farms and wind farms in areas where large tracts of inexpensive land are available. In this case, we want the city to choose carefully. Such power plants can be far from the customers who use the power, requiring long transmission lines, which lose up to 15% of the power to resistive heat. These lines may be built through sensitive wild areas or agricultural lands. Many companies are trying to site facilities in precious desert wildlands or on prime farmlands. Local control gives the opportunity to set high environmental standards for choosing among providers, in particular standards higher than the state’s definition of renewable energy, which for example allows burning of wood chips.

Instituting such standards is a challenge, though. To get started, a Community Choice program may contract to buy electricity from a large-scale provider that can guarantee supply right away. This strategy can gain the community time to develop secure financing for local clean-energy sources. But once a contract is signed with a large provider, how can we make sure that the local community will develop its own clean energy?

San Francisco’s plans

This is a key problem that San Francisco is wrestling with as it sets up its new Community Choice program, CleanPowerSF (see April-May 2012, page 4). The Sierra Club Bay Chapter is working with allies such as the Local Clean Energy Alliance, Brightline Defense, and Our City to help the San Francisco Public Utility Commission, Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO), and Board of Supervisors shape the CleanPowerSF program.

The SFPUC has negotiated a contract with Shell Energy North America to provide energy meeting state standards as renewable. Shell was one of just two energy providers to come even close to meeting the bidding requirements set forward by the SFPUC three years ago. The SFPUC has passed a resolution for adopting the Shell contract, which, due to the work of the Sierra Club and allies, has language committing the city to the concept of local build-out of clean energy and efficiency as “essential to a successful CCA program”.

Next, two committees of the Board of Supervisors will soon be discussing this resolution. The Bay Chapter and its allies have been working hard to broaden the resolution to include local and regional renewable-energy resources and energy-efficiency projects. Once the resolution clears the two committees, then the full Board will decide whether to accept it and get started, or to reject it. At the same time, the city has contracted for Local Power, the Bay Area clean-energy engineering team that created the Community Choice model and specializes in planning for such programs, to study and then design an implementation plan for installing hundreds of megawatts of local and regional distributed generation via CleanPowerSF. Preliminary study results are due by the end of August, with installation plans and construction bids set for release by October.

The city is faced with some delicate decisions in very difficult financial times. If it approves the Shell contract without a plan for local generation, local renewables could end up developing too slowly, but if the city were to reject the Shell contract on this basis, San Francisco might miss the opportunity to get Community Choice started at all. An ideal solution would be to integrate the Shell contract and the local installation plan, moving them forward as a single program. Recently the SFPUC has proposed allocating $6 million towards energy-efficiency upgrades, the GoSolarSF program, and additional scoping of local build-out. Timing, though, may block integration of Local Power’s scientific analysis of load distribution, efficiency targets, and generation potential. We are working with Supervisor Campos, LAFCO, and the SFPUC to make the commitment to build-out as strong as possible.

Meanwhile, Marin Clean Energy has remained stable despite many attempts by PG&E to attack and undermine it, and is now making progress in building renewable-energy and efficiency installations” (see page 5).

An additional curveball for both Clean­PowerSF and MCE has come with PG&E’s recent announcement that it will soon offer customers what it calls a 100%-green option. This program, however, would be based entirely on Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) that fail to meet even California Renewable Portfolio Standards.

Sierra Club California is a party in a proceeding with the California Public Utility Commission to force PG&E to adopt RECs that qualify under the California Renewable Portfolio Standard, and to address potential monopolistic behavior.

The Sierra Club will continue to work with our allies to ensure that San Francisco finds a clear path forward with CleanPowerSF to genuinely encourage the greatest possible installation of local and regional renewable-energy generation, and energy efficiency.


Contact the San Francisco Board of Supervisors now to urge them to support the CleanPowerSF Community Choice program, with extensive local generation of renewable energy and energy-efficiency improvements.

In coming weeks we expect that there will be further opportunities for readers to take action to support a strong CleanPowerSF. To be sure of receiving e-mail updates and alerts from the Bay Chapter, sign up at http://action.sierraclub.org/site/PageNavigator/CHP_SFBay_SignUp.

David Gray, chair,
Sierra Club Bay Chapter Energy Committee

CleanPowerSF coming to vote

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will soon vote on a new implementation plan and contract for CleanPowerSF (see November-December Yodeler, page 5).

CleanPowerSF, due to start later this year, is San Francisco’s program of “Community Choice Aggregation” (CCA), which gives cities and counties the ability to purchase and develop renewable electricity. CleanPowerSF will offer San Francisco residents a choice: whether to stay with PG&E, which generates most of its electricity from dirty fossil fuels and nuclear power, or to opt for a green alternative with greatly reduced greenhouse-gas emissions.

The planning process for CleanPowerSF has been long and involved. Recently the city’s Public Utility Commission has introduced the framework of the program that will provide 100% renewable energy, at a projected cost for most customers just $6.70 more per month than PG&E’s. The Commission has also contracted for Local Power Inc., to perform a study of options for building local renewable generation (e.g. rooftop solar panels and wind turbines) and increasing energy efficiency. Such options can create local green-collar jobs.

(To our north, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors is also actively advancing towards implementation of a Community Choice program. See the front-page article in Redwood Needles, the newsletter of the Sierra Club Redwood Chapter, February-March 2012.)

PG&E will likely do everything in its power to stop Community Choice, as it tried in 2010 with Prop 16, and in Marin with that county’s CCA effort. We need to let the San Francisco Supervisors know that the local community supports this program.


Contact the San Francisco Board of Supervisors at:

City Hall
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102

and Mayor Ed Lee at same mailing address as above or mayoredwinlee@sfgov.org.

Urge them to support the CleanPowerSF Community Choice program.

We’re not yet sure when the Board will be deciding. We’ll update this article when we know.

Jeramiah Dean, conservation organizer, Sierra Club Bay Chapter

2014: a year of successes on many fronts

10658929_10152219076347723_622597217986591581_o(1)As we close our 90th-anniversary year and look toward the future, the principles of conservation, sustainability, and environmental justice guide our efforts to preserve the region’s iconic open spaces, stand up to big polluters, and strengthen the laws and institutions that put our values into action. In 2014 we achieved many successes in these areas. Here are some of the highlights:

Parks and Open Space

Last year the Bay Chapter won victories that will prevent sprawl and protect more of the region’s world-class natural areas for wildlife and recreation.

  • Open-space protections at the ballot box: In November, voters defeated two developer-backed initiatives in Alameda County in what the Contra Costa Times called a “defining moment for slow growth advocates.” A stunning 84% of Dublin voters rejected an initiative that would have broken their new urban-growth boundary and authorized urban sprawl in rural Doolan Canyon. In Union City, the Flatlands Development Initiative was also soundly defeated, with 65% of voters endorsing the protection of 63 acres of open space. Read more at theyodeler.org/?p=9895.
  • San Francisco waterfront protections: In 2014, San Francisco voters made it clear that they want a say in the future of their city’s waterfront. In June, Proposition B passed by a nearly two-to-one margin, requiring that any development project on the waterfront that would exceed existing height limits receive voter approval. Two projects fell away during the Prop. B campaign: the Golden State Warriors arena at Piers 30-32 and the San Francisco Giants development at Seawall Lot 337. In November, voters demonstrated that Prop. B’s mandate can work, approving a mixed-use development on Pier 70.
  • Standing up for coastal protection: This fall the Club filed a lawsuit challenging a dangerous amendment to Marin’s Local Coastal Plan that could weaken environmental protections for the entire California coast. Read more at theyodeler.org/?p=9803.
  • Alameda Crab Cove park expansion: The Sierra Club made progress in an ongoing campaign to expand the park at Alameda’s Crab Cove. Read more at theyodeler.org/?p=9995.
  • Alameda wetland restoration: Thanks to the strong lobbying efforts of the Sierra Club and other allies, Alameda is moving forward with plans to convert the western side of the Seaplane Lagoon at Alameda Point to a natural wetland park. Read more at theyodeler.org/?p=9752.
  • Funds secured to care for parks: Voters in Berkeley, Richmond, and El Cerrito passed Sierra Club-endorsed measures that will provide funds for park maintenance.

Dirty Energy

In 2014, the threat of mile-long trains of toxic and explosive “extreme fuels” like Bakken crude and Canadian tar sands became a terrifying new reality for the region. The Bay Chapter is fighting back, organizing coalitions against oil-refinery upgrades and for emissions regulations. Meanwhile, in the face of declining U.S. markets, coal companies pushed to massively expand exports of coal, particularly from the West Coast. This year the Bay Chapter contributed to successful campaigns to prevent coal exports from the Bay Area, which would  threaten local communities with pollution from coal dust and other particulate matter.

  • Plans to export coal and petcoke stymied: The Port of Oakland rejected a proposal to build a coal- and petroleum-coke-export facility, which would have handled over five million tons of fossil fuels annually. Read more at theyodeler.org/?p=9262.
  • WesPac EIR recirculated: The Pittsburg City Council reopened parts of the Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report for the WesPac oil-terminal project in order to better assess public-safety risks. The project—which would bring in 242,000 barrels per day of crude oil by rail and tanker—is now on hold.
  • Air District emissions regulations: Pressure from the Sierra Club has been instrumental in pushing forward three strong new refinery-emission rules at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The rules, which are still moving through the approval process, will inventory emissions and improve fence-line monitoring of pollutants; set caps on pollutants; and require a 20% reduction of refinery emissions by 2020. Read more at theyodeler.org/?p=9900.
  • Bay Area cities oppose crude by rail: Over the spring and summer, Richmond, Berkeley, and Oakland all passed resolutions opposing the dangerous transport of crude by rail through their city limits. The Oakland resolution was also the first in the state to address railway transport of coal and petroleum coke in addition to oil. Read more at theyodeler.org/?p=9678.
  • Chevron Richmond refinery expansion: The long fight over the expansion of Chevron’s Richmond refinery (a prerequisite for processing dirty and dangerous “extreme fuels”) ended last summer when the city council approved the project—but environmental groups won key concessions, including limitations on the sulfur content of crude being processed onsite and an agreement that the expanded facility would produce no increase in greenhouse gases. Read more at theyodeler.org/?p=9796.
  • People’s Climate Rally: In September, over 5,000 people attended the solidarity rally in Oakland on the day of the People’s Climate March in New York City. That event drew an estimated 400,000 people and proved to be a galvanizing moment in the global movement to demand climate action.
  • Progress toward an Alameda County fracking ban: Thanks to the Club’s lobbying efforts, a county-wide fracking ban made significant progress in 2014. The ordinance is now being drafted, and the Sierra Club will push for its adoption in 2015.
  • Port of San Francisco fossil-fuel ban: The Board of Supervisors passed a resolution urging the Port of San Francisco to bar the transportation and export of hazardous fossil fuel materials, which would be the first such policy in the nation. The Sierra Club is in negotiations over options to restrict the handling of fossil fuels at the Port.
  • Chevron loses big in Richmond elections: Although Chevron spent close to $4 million in an attempt to stack the Richmond City Council with refinery-friendly candidates, the progressive, Sierra Club-endorsed “Team Richmond” candidates swept the elections, proving that democracy is alive and well in Richmond. Read more at theyodeler.org/?p=9943.
  • Speaking out against a Phillips 66 refinery project: Over 4,500 Sierra Club supporters submitted comments on the proposed upgrade and expansion of the Phillips 66 refinery in San Luis Obisbo. The project, if approved, would threaten the region with spills and pollution from five weekly train deliveries of Canadian tar sands oil.
  • Gas-pump labels to warn of global warming: Both Berkeley and San Francisco are moving forward with plans to post warning labels at fueling stations to inform consumers of the link between driving, carbon dioxide emissions, and climate disruption. Read more on page 14.

Clean Energy

A key Chapter priority is the pursuit of clean-energy solutions right here at home. 2014 saw the expansion and development of Community Choice energy programs across the Bay Area, empowering local communities take back control of their energy future. Visit www.BayAreaEnergyChoice.org to learn more about Community Choice and find a program near you.

  • Community Choice-killer dies in the Senate: Assembly Bill 2145, the “Energy Monopoly Protection Act,” died in the State Senate in September, preventing a catastrophic loss to California’s clean-energy future.
  • Community Choice spreads throughout the Bay Area: Alameda County is moving forward with the study and formation of a countywide Community Choice energy program. The cities of Benicia, El Cerrito, and San Pablo, as well as Napa County, have all expressed interest in joining Marin Clean Energy, while neighboring Sonoma County officially launched its Community Choice program in May. Officials from Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, along with the cities within those counties, are exploring options for creating their own Community Choice programs.
  • Glimmers of hope for CleanPowerSF: While San Francisco’s Community Choice program, CleanPowerSF, is still bogged down in city politics, recent developments have put the program in an even stronger position to succeed when it is finally implemented. In November, a report found that the program could create 8,100 new jobs, and the Board of Supervisors voted to give CleanPowerSF first right to surplus Hetch Hetchy power.


The Bay Chapter achieved transportation victories that will improve air quality, increase use of mass transit, and reduce dependence on the single-occupant automobile.

  • Settlement strengthens Plan Bay Area: The Sierra Club and Earthjustice reached a settlement with the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in a lawsuit over the regional land-use and transportation plan known as Plan Bay Area. The agreement ensures that the plan will meaningfully address the goals of reducing climate change; securing the health and safety of vulnerable communities; and promoting sustainable growth.
  • Transportation victories in the November election: San Francisco voters passed two Sierra Club-endorsed transportation-funding measures: Proposition A, the mayor’s $500-million bond for crucial infrastructure projects, and Proposition B, which dictates increases in the Muni budget as the population increases. San Francisco’s Proposition L—which would have reversed the city’s decades-old “Transit First” policy and established a “Cars First” policy—lost. Nick Josefowitz was elected to BART District 8, dislodging longtime director James Fang and putting BART back on track. In Alameda County, Measure BB—which will restore much-needed bus service and invest unprecedented sums of money into bicycle and pedestrian improvements—passed with over 70% of the vote.

Sustainable Communities

In 2014 we worked to make Bay Area communities  more sustainable by reducing waste and sprawl.

  • “Raise the wage” campaigns take hold: In November, minimum-wage measures passed handily in both San Francisco and Oakland. The Sierra Club supports measures to increase affordable housing and raise the minimum wage, because when people can afford to live near where they work—particularly in transit-rich, walkable, urban areas—there is an aggregate reduction of sprawl and greenhouse-gas emissions.
  • Big steps toward a Zero Waste Oakland: Oakland moved forward on a Zero Waste program that incorporates a number of green and forward-looking elements. After long and tough negotiations, two companies—California Waste Solutions and Waste Management—were awarded the Zero Waste contract. Oakland’s recycling and composting program now includes source separation of trash, recycling, and compostable materials for all Oaklanders; training and job placement for underprivileged youth; augmented bulky waste pick up to prevent illegal dumping; decent wages for recycling workers; a state-of-the-art recycling facility on Oakland’s Army Base; and use of a local EBMUD facility for conversion of commercial food waste to clean energy.


S.F. Board of Supervisors passes new support for local clean power

Photo of Hetch Hetchy by Cowgirl Jules on Flickr Creative Commons.

Photo of Hetch Hetchy by Cowgirl Jules on Flickr Creative Commons.

In a move that will help San Francisco reach its carbon-reduction goals, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance that will increase the amount of clean and renewable energy flowing to the city. The legislation, sponsored by Supervisors Scott Wiener and London Breed, authorizes the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (the SFPUC) to sell much more excess hydroelectric power from the Hetch Hetchy dam system to local development projects. This policy will enable the SFPUC to reduce the City’s greenhouse-gas emissions, sell the hydro power at rates that reflect its real value, and support the City’s developing Community Choice energy program, CleanPowerSF.

Currently, the SFPUC sells most of its excess hydro power at under-market wholesale rates to municipalities outside of San Francisco. The Supervisors’ action authorizes the SFPUC to  sell the greenhouse-gas-free power at higher retail rates to large new developments here in the City (such as the new Transbay Transit Terminal project) and also to the CleanPowerSF program. PG&E is currently the default power provider in the city.

By authorizing the sale of surplus power at higher rates, the new policy will boost the SFPUC’s budget by tens of millions of dollars per year, which it can use to cover current budget shortfalls and pay for clean energy and streetlight projects that are badly in need of funds.

The legislation will also help spur the creation of new renewable energy projects in California. Cities that formerly purchased greenhouse-gas-free power from Hetch Hetchy at bargain-basement prices will now have to buy and build new clean energy sources of their own to meet climate action goals.

When it was originally introduced in July 2014, the legislation did not contain any support for CleanPowerSF. The Sierra Club and other clean energy advocates successfully pushed for an amendment that makes CleanPowerSF—once launched—a priority customer for the surplus hydro power. This amendment will help ensure that CleanPowerSF will be more cost-competitive and reliable.

The San Francisco Department of the Environment has stated that the City cannot meet its aggressive climate action goals without implementing a strong CleanPowerSF program, which would provide the City with at least 50% of its electricity from clean, local sources within the next decade. By contrast, PG&E’s power mix is only 20% renewable. CleanPowerSF will help San Francisco reduce its reliance on dirty and dangerous fossil fuels and transition to a 100% clean-energy economy. By strengthening CleanPowerSF and giving the city first right to excess hydro power, this new ordinance facilitates San Francisco’s energy transition and helps achieve climate goals.

—Eric Brooks

Read more about CleanPowerSF in “Clean-energy advocates demand mayor restore CleanpowerSF language to San Francisco Climate Action Strategy” and “CleanPowerSF deleted from San Francisco Climate Action Strategy“.


San Francisco Elections Recap 2014

MUNI_diesel_hybrid_busSierra Club members in San Francisco had reason to feel unhappy about the election results; several of our priority races didn’t go our way. But we will learn all the lessons we can from these losses—and we shouldn’t forget the important victories we did rack up!

First the bad news:

With ballots still being counted, Supervisor David Campos conceded in his race to represent District 17 in the State Assembly. The winner, who will replace outgoing Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, is David Chiu, the current President of the Board of Supervisors (fun fact: both Davids are 44-year-old Harvard Law School graduates). Although he lost, Campos ran one of the best field campaigns in the city’s history, with over 500 volunteers working to get out the vote on election day. Campos went into the race as the underdog and exceeded expectations by earning 48.8% of the vote to Chiu’s 51.2%. The Sierra Club looks forward to Campos continuing his leadership on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and in advocating for clean-energy solutions—particularly the CleanPowerSF program—on the Board of Supervisors. The election results now give way to two questions: who will Mayor Lee appoint as Chiu’s District 3 successor, and who will the Board of Supervisors choose as their next President?

Tony Kelly, who ran on a platform of independence from the mayor’s office and giving the neighborhood a voice in City Hall, also came in second in his race to represent San Francisco’s District 10 on the Board of Supervisors. With his loss, self-identified progressives failed to take a back a seat considered crucial for advancing environmental issues. The Sierra Club hopes to work more closely with incumbent Supervisor Malia Cohen in the next four years.

In other disappointing news, the Yes on H and No on I campaigns did not go the way the Sierra Club had wished. Proposition H, the initiative that proposed to keep seven acres of soccer fields as natural grass and prevent the installation of 60-foot stadium nightlights, failed to pass. And unfortunately, Proposition I—a competing “Poison Pill” measure, little more than a Parks Department power grab—did pass. The very morning after the election, the S.F. Recreation and Park Department chained off Golden Gate Park’s Beach Chalet fields and began cutting down trees and demolishing the bucolic fields. In the days that followed, local activist Kathleen McCowin was arrested for her part in a sit-in that blocked work trucks from accessing the site (she spent the night in jail and was released without charge the following day). But not all is lost! The Sierra Club lawsuit against the environmental impact report for the contested Beach Chalet project is now in the appeals process. If the Sierra Club prevails, a new EIR will have to be completed. Park advocates would then have an opportunity to demand environmental improvements to the project.

And now for the good news!
Proposition F, a developer proposal to raise height limits at Pier 70 to 90 feet (the height of the tallest building currently at the site), and construct residential housing and parkland, passed. The project will protect artist studios currently at the site and otherwise put to good use an underutilized part of the city. The Sierra Club supported this community-supported infill measure because 600 units (or 30 percent) of all new housing will be affordable and in close proximity to the T-Third transit line.

The Sierra Club was happy to see the failure of Proposition L, a policy measure that sought to reverse San Francisco’s decades-old “Transit First” policy and establish a “Cars First” policy. The initiative lost by a wide margin, garnering only 37 percent of the vote. The proponents, supported by $40,000 from Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sean Parker, called for municipal garages in every neighborhood and permanent bans on the operation of parking meters on Sundays and holidays. The Club is thrilled that San Franciscans have embraced a safe and healthy multimodal transit system and rejected a message of increased congestion and degraded air quality.

Meanwhile, the two transportation funding measures endorsed by the Sierra Club passed. The Mayor’s $500-million bond, Proposition A, will go a long way toward addressing the $10 billion in crucial infrastructure projects needed over the next fifteen years, although the measure was not accompanied by a spending plan. Proposition B, authored by Supervisor Scott Wiener, dictates increases in the Muni budget as the population increases.

Another big transportation victory was the election of Nick Josefowitz to BART District 8, dislodging longtime director James Fang. BART faces massive deferred maintenance costs and the percentage of renewables in BART’s power supply has dropped from 100% in 1996 to 56% today. A forward-looking director like Josefowitz will seek solutions—not the status quo.

In other good news, John Rizzo was re-elected to the Community College Board.  The future of City College of San Francisco is still up in the air; its status is before a Superior Court judge in San Francisco, but trustees are hopeful that they will be re-instated sometime in 2015.

The Sierra Club supports measures to increase affordable housing and raising the minimum wage, because when people can afford to live near where they work—particularly in transit-rich, walkable, urban areas like San Francisco—there is an aggregate reduction of sprawl and greenhouse-gas emissions. Jane Kim, who has been an advocate for affordable housing, handily won her bid for re-election to the Board of Supervisors in District 6. Proposition J, which will raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2018 and thereafter increase hourly wages based on inflation, won handily, with over 77 percent of the vote. Unfortunately, Proposition G, the measure to place a hefty transfer tax on some residential properties sold within five years of purchase, lost 54 percent to 46 percent.  Prop. G would have served as deterrent to the purchase of residential buildings, eviction of tenants, and quick sale of highly lucrative empty buildings. We hope the proposition will be back on the ballot soon.

You can see all of our 2014 endorsement results at sfbay.sierraclub.org/endorsements.

—Becky Evans and Sue Vaughan