Learn about current community planning underway

City of Palo Alto logoWith the Palo Alto City Council’s recent action to continue its focus on sustainability as a Council priority in 2021, this blog is a way for the community to get caught up on the City’s sustainability and climate action efforts, learn about ways to take part in the Climate Action Plan community engagement efforts underway, and learn about everyday sustainability planning available now for your home, work and neighborhood that can have a global impact. Join us as we think globally, and act locally by furthering sustainability and climate action efforts.

The City of Palo Alto takes climate change seriously. Sustainability has been one of City Council’s top priorities for the past several years. The City is currently working on an update to the Sustainability and Climate Action Plan, sometimes referred to as the S/CAP. Consistent with City Council’s adoption of “Climate Change — Protection and Adaptation” as one of the four priorities for 2021, staff is developing a 2021 S/CAP to help the City meet its sustainability goals, including its goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 (the “80 x 30” goal).

The S/CAP will be organized into several issue areas, including the following seven proposed areas: Energy, Mobility, Electric Vehicles, Water, Climate Adaptation and Sea Level Rise, Natural Environment, and Zero Waste. For each area, City staff, in coordination with the community, drafted Goals and Key Actions, and received public input on those draft items through an online webinar event last year. In a second online event, City staff requested community input to help select action co-benefits that can be used in the action evaluation and prioritization process.

For more information on the 2021 S/CAP Process visit: http://cityofpaloalto.org/climateaction or if you have questions about the City’s sustainability efforts email sustainability@cityofpaloalto.org.

At the February 22 Council meeting, staff reported on the status of the S/CAP update and provided Council and the public an opportunity to review the current direction of the S/CAP work effort and key next steps. What was made clear at the meeting by both the Council and the public is that we cannot delay action on climate change. Our GHG reduction efforts, while impactful, have not moved the needle enough since the S/CAP Framework was approved in 2016. Relying mostly on voluntary actions and “low hanging fruit” has not yielded emissions reductions significant enough to continue progress toward the 80 x 30 goal.

Currently staff has completed:

· The 2019 GHG inventory, which shows the sources GHG emissions during that year.

· A Business as Usual Forecast that shows how much GHG reduction will be achieved if we only implement policies and plans that Council has already adopted as of 2019 as well as follow California-wide goals and regulations.

· A preliminary assessment of the various financing tools available for making the costs of the S/CAP more manageable.

· A preliminary Impact Analysis that estimates the GHG reduction potential, costs, and sustainability co-benefits (such as resource conservation or equity) of the Potential Key Actions.

Staff released the 2019 GHG inventory and the Business as Usual Forecast for consideration at the April 19, 2021 Council Meeting. In addition, staff released the preliminary Impact Analysis, which reflects one possible scenario for achieving the 80 x 30 goal. While this scenario represents staff’s best professional judgement, it is important to vet this analysis through community review and feedback. The City hopes to get as much community input as possible on all these work products to help shape the final 2021 S/CAP, which is planned to go to Council for acceptance later this year. Council considered and proposed next steps recognizing the need for urgent action and the next blog post will offer more details on some of these next steps.

Read the staff report here, and go here for all of the meeting materials. Submit community comments for staff consideration to sustainability@cityofpaloalto.org. For more information on the S/CAP, please visit http://cityofpaloalto.org/climateaction.

Sea Level Rise Adaptation Policy Development: In parallel with the S/CAP, staff is working on development of a Sea Level Rise Adaptation Policy. Staff, with technical assistance from AECOM, is currently working on a Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment and Groundwater Study. The study will be used to inform development of the Sea Level Rise Adaptation Policy. Engagement around S/CAP development and sea level rise will be closely coordinated. The next public meeting for the Sea Level Rise Adaptation Policy is scheduled for May / June 2021. For more information about Sea Level Rise, please visit http://cityofpaloalto.org/sealevelrise

Utilities Partnerships: City of Palo Utilities is partnering with other energy agencies and the Building Decarbonization Coalition on a new beneficial electrification campaign — the Switch Is On. The Switch is On provides information on the benefits of switching to electric appliances, available rebates, and contractors in your area. For more information on The Switch is On campaign, please visit https://www.switchison.org/.

· Check out the new Sustainability Homepage on the City’s new website.

· The City launched a pilot with Tootsies, Upstream and Dishcraft to use a reusable take out container to help with our Zero Waste Goals. Also check out the Zero Waste website.

· Rebooted and made significant improvements to the City’s stormwater rebate program.

· Our storm team just installed the Adobe and Matadero Creek trash booms again- which is a great way to capture trash before it enters the Flood Basin

· The Regional Water Quality Control Plant continues to be upgraded while running and operating the plant 24 hours a day. We just had an excellent discussion about our capital program with Finance Committee Tuesday night.

· Finalized the Northwest Recycled Water Strategic Plan.

· Design of the Advanced Water Purification System is underway.

· City of Palo Alto Utilities (CPAU) promoted its regional EV charger rebate program available to workplaces. The program, CALeVIP (California Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project) launched in December and is expected to result in approximately 200 new workplace EV chargers and 10 publicly available direct current (DC) fast chargers over the next 2 years.

· The California Clean Fuel Rewards Program, partially funded by CPAU’s and other agencies’ Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) funds, recently launched and provides a $1,500 rebate for new EV purchases at participating dealerships.

· The City completed large EV charger projects at five sites: Ellen Fletcher Middle School, Gunn High School (both through the City’s EV charger rebate program), SAP, Bryant Street Garage, and Cowper / Webster Garage. An EV charger project at Green Middle School — also through the City’s EV charger rebate program — is installed and waiting on final approvals. The city installed 186 Level 2 ports and 7 DC Fast Charger ports, for a total of 193 new ports.

· The City worked with GreenWaste in 2020 to add three additional electric vehicles to the refuse fleet.