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Feature story: Going 'carbon neutral'

Original post made on Jan 18, 2013

In 2006, a year after Hurricane Katrina brought New Orleans to its knees and six years before Hurricane Sandy transformed New York City's famed subways into fetid swimming pools, a group of Palo Alto's leading environmentalists began a series of meetings to discuss ways the city could fight global warming. ==B Related story:==
• [Web Link What does 'carbon neutral' mean in Palo Alto?]

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, January 18, 2013, 8:48 AM

Comments (8)

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Posted by GreatNews
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2013 at 12:48 pm

Good News re: electricity!


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Posted by higher electricty prices for all
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2013 at 2:42 pm

> "In some ways, you can say it's a small step for this city
> but a big step for our state and for our country and for
> our planet," Cook said.

> Councilman Larry Klein called climate change
> "the great moral issue of our time."

What a KROK! Has Larry Klein stopped driving his big car? Has he required all of this law firm's clients to use public transportation when they come to his office to consult on business matters? Has he promoted the idea that all City employees be required to use public transportation when coming/going to work?

No!

The idea that Palo Alto (or Palo Altans) are going to stop global warming is ludicrous. And looking back at the big moral issues of our time, and looking to see what Palo Altans did to advance those causes—we only have to look into the 1970s when Palo Altans were opposed to fighting Communism in South East Asia. They had no problem at all with the tens upon tens of millions of people who were killed in Mao's China, or Pol Pot's Cambodia. No .. to a peep from Palo Altans ..

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Every few months Palo Alto politician make environmental claims and proposals but it seems as if the City Government and Schools didn't get the message. Instead buying more electric power from "green" sources, how about using less of it through simple conservation or generating with Solar PV on your own buildings? And instead of stonewalling private renewable energy projects in Palo Alto, how about expediting them?

This stuff reads like politician moving their lips when you compare it to the actual results.


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Posted by Energy Professional
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 18, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Two suggestions:

1. Repeal the Utility Users Tax. UUT funds flow directly into the general fund and have nothing to do with the utility or energy. The funds end up supporting more govt. union jobs/pensions and city council pet projects that again have nothing to do with the utility or energy. Some of the saved funds could be used to shift our remaining generation to renewable sources if that is what the public wants, and the rest returned to ratepayers.

2. Remove the recently added $500 fee for permitting residential PV systems. In its search for revenue, the city has created a disincentive to anyone trying to deploy solar.


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Posted by bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 18, 2013 at 9:25 pm

"Most customers who said they're willing to pay are willing to pay 12 times more than what we're recommending," Padilla told the utilities commission.

Twelve times? Even at $30/month, this is $360/month. We try to minimize our electricity usage, but to date our bill has averaged >$40/month this winter. Must be a misprint.

If we must use scarce money for any energy up grade, let's install solar in every home at cost.


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Posted by Wayne Martin
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 19, 2013 at 4:09 pm

> Repeal the Utility Users Tax.

This is appealing, but not necessarily the best thing to do. It is correct that this money flows into the General Fund, and then into salaries/benefits—but it could be targeted for Infrastructure replacement—which needs to be replaced, over time. The current City Council wants to pass more bonds, which will appear on our property taxes—trying to hide them from us.

Let's consider a couple possibilities:

1) Require that the Cubberley Center become self-sufficient, by raising the rents to the point that the occupants pay for the approximately $6M/year lease from the PAUSD.
2) The current $11+M from the UUT would be put into reserve accounts that would be invested at whatever modest, but safe, returns the City can manage. Under such a scheme, such an Infrastructure Reserve Fund could grow to about $132M in 10 years, and $305M in 20 years.

Now—there are quite a few issues that would affect such a plan, so let's not get to excited about the missing details at the moment—let's just consider the possibilities that the UUT be targeted for Infrastructure—and not padding the salaries of City employees.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 19, 2013 at 4:48 pm

@bill, earlier in the article they said "If things go as planned, the Utilities Department estimates that the city's leap to carbon neutrality will cost the average ratepayer between $2.60 and $4.20 more a year ("year" is not a misprint)."

12 times that figure would be less than $60 per year or $5 per month.

I'm not sure whether I believe any of it.


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Posted by Steve Raney
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 20, 2013 at 6:11 pm

Some reactions:

1. Overall kudos to the spirited Green Ribbon Task Force (GRTF) effort.

2. I was disappointed to read yet another PA Weakly article that failed to set relevant PA/regional/state climate context. This continues to puzzle, given that The Editor understands the context:

Weekly Editor Jay Thorwaldson started as a Palo Alto Times reporter in 1966, has covered ABAG, and has encyclopedic knowledge of historical Palo Alto land use decisions. Jay wrote a 1968 article on Palo Alto's jobs/housing imbalance, with 2.4 jobs for every household in those days. Jay's take on Palo Alto's current jobs/housing imbalance: "Well-intentioned and environmentally conscious Palo Alto has restricted housing to create a terrible environmental situation with long commutes wasting fuel. It's an insoluble situation. Long commutes damage the social fabric and create lower quality of life. Workers are forced to commute from Manteca, etc. Palo Alto has a drawbridge mentality. Compounding the insolubility, objections raised by neighborhood associations are legitimate."

The background that writer Gennady Sheyner should have provided: State Senate Bill 375 (SB375) builds on AB32 by adding the nation's first law to control greenhouse gas emissions by curbing sprawl and linking land use to climate protection. The state's press release stated: "Californians need to rethink how we design our communities. SB 375 does this by providing emissions-reduction goals around which regions can plan - integrating disjointed planning activities and providing incentives for local governments and developers to follow new conscientiously-planned growth patterns. ARB (California state Air Resources Board) will also work with California's 18 metropolitan planning organizations to align their regional transportation, housing and land-use plans and prepare a 'sustainable communities strategy' to reduce the amount of vehicle miles traveled in their respective regions and demonstrate the region's ability to attain its greenhouse gas reduction targets. Spending less time on the road is the single-most powerful way for California to reduce its carbon footprint." Then, Sheyner could have pointed out Palo Alto's climate disconnect.

3. In 2006, there was a missed opportunity when GRTF decided not to add smart growth and land use to the effort. While it is obvious that Palo Alto is a part of the Bay Area, rather than being an island, it is not standard procedure for elite suburb volunteer-led climate efforts to think in this manner.

4. PA Council continues to make embarrassing statements (with "magical" theories) about smart growth and climate.

There is a widespread allegation that a "climate hero" councilmember led an effort to overturn the state's Regional Housing Needs Allocation process (a cornerstone of climate protection). Luckily this effort failed, because it would have dramatically increased CA GHG emissions. There is an opportunity for the Weakly to expose our local Lance Armstrong of climate heroism.

More on the Palo Alto Housing Element and SB375 can be found in a yahoo groups post: Web Link


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