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Palo Alto adopts new carbon-cutting target

Original post made on Apr 20, 2016

With Earth Day just around the corner, Palo Alto officials on Monday renewed their vows to their native planet when they adopted a goal to slash greenhouse-gas emissions by 80 percent by 2030.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, April 20, 2016, 8:02 AM

Comments (37)

Posted by Hopenchange
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 20, 2016 at 8:44 am


Go Palo Alto!

You're leading the Bay Area in virtue-signaling!


Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 20, 2016 at 9:17 am

Reducing car ownership in the same week VTA announces reducing bus service makes this an anomaly. Reducing car ownership is not the same as using more public transit for regular commutes. Where's the news about buses to get kids to school? Where's the news to get a high speed high frequency bus to our airports? Where's the news to boost zip car use?


Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 20, 2016 at 9:40 am

mauricio is a registered user.

At the same time, Palo Alto plans to increase this town's population, which is the exact opposite of carbon cutting.


Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 20, 2016 at 9:59 am

"fuel switch" initiative aimed at getting local residents and businesses to rely on clean electricity, rather than natural gas, for water and space heating.

Another ill-considered feel good plan where we'd be asked to do something that costs more , isn't as efficient from an energy use standpoint and makes no real difference environmentally??? The thing in this article that really scares me is the quoted comment "and we have our own utility" which sounds like code for "we can gouge our residents with little accountability for ROI".


Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 20, 2016 at 9:59 am

"fuel switch" initiative aimed at getting local residents and businesses to rely on clean electricity, rather than natural gas, for water and space heating.

Another ill-considered feel good plan where we'd be asked to do something that costs more , isn't as efficient from an energy use standpoint and makes no real difference environmentally??? The thing in this article that really scares me is the quoted comment "and we have our own utility" which sounds like code for "we can gouge our residents with little accountability for ROI".


Posted by Dan
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 20, 2016 at 9:59 am

"fuel switch" initiative aimed at getting local residents and businesses to rely on clean electricity, rather than natural gas, for water and space heating.

Another ill-considered feel good plan where we'd be asked to do something that costs more , isn't as efficient from an energy use standpoint and makes no real difference environmentally??? The thing in this article that really scares me is the quoted comment "and we have our own utility" which sounds like code for "we can gouge our residents with little accountability for ROI".


Posted by CM
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 20, 2016 at 10:50 am

Yes there is much we can do as a city to try to protect the environment, but the number one driver of unsustainable use of the world's resources was never even mentioned at the City Council meeting - Population Growth! Palo Alto is setting an awful example by pretending that you can continue to increase the population of a given area and not destroy more of the world. People do not live in an energy and supply bubble. They may think that a dense city uses fewer resources but the reality is that even if we get to zero CO2 in Palo Alto all of the human bodies here will still be responsible for massive amounts of destruction elsewhere in the natural world to support our lives. Collectively our food comes from hundreds of thousands of acres of land taken from the natural world and used to grow food. Our clothes, bedding, rugs, furniture, paper products, electronics all destroy land, trees, harvest natural materials, burn fuels for production, use clean water and destroy habitats. And every time the city allows the construction of a massive office development we have approved the release of millions of pounds of CO2 generated to create materials (iron, concrete, plastics, wood) for that structure. There is now evidence that people who live in cities use more resources than those in more rural communities due to their increased modes of consumption. Plus new modes of shared transportation (Uber Lyft) have been shown to actually decrease mass transit ridership and increase car trips. (People still prefer to get where they want to go directly and quickly).

Yes, we should move to an all electric grid, as long as that electricity comes from a totally renewable source that did not destroy more of the natural world. However, turning the discussion to human population growth, the driving factor that is raising CO2 but is also destroying forests and grasslands, polluting lakes and rivers, strip harvesting the oceans and driving massive worldwide extinctions of plants and animals will require that we talk about a sustainable human population size and how to control it. I eagerly await this discussion of the real issue that will control environmental destruction and how Palo Alto will lead the Bay Area in declaring a sustainable number of residents for our city and how we will support them without destroying more of the planet.


Posted by Laura
a resident of Southgate
on Apr 20, 2016 at 11:06 am

I expected the council to move ahead with this - 80/30. Good. But, there are many pitfalls along the way given how broad a swath this will cut - parks, housing, commercial development, playing fields, on and on and on. Much of which is being discussed right now in our Comp Plan update. As Council member Schmid said, this MUST be integrated into our Comp Plan. Otherwise, not only could they compete, which would override and govern? And in the name of climate concern, will people (some staff, council and big-development community groups and corporations) try to use the Climate plan to work around our Comp Plan - get tall dense development justified, allowing buildings to cover more square footage instead of any green (even low water) buffer, etc. I say - be very careful, Palo Altans. Watch this like a hawk. God or the Devil will be in the details.


Posted by Kate
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 20, 2016 at 12:41 pm

I just wish the 'environmentalists' would stop building apartment complexes, more housing, and stuffing people into our area. Can't have it both ways. Used to be years ago that not more than four single non-related people could live in the same home. Things are out of hand now. People do not have have a god-given right to live where they want to live. If so, I'd choose Hillsborough,


Posted by Density is green
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 20, 2016 at 1:09 pm

There are people on this thread already arguing that population density is bad for carbon emissions and the environment. That couldn't be more wrong. Carbon emissions per person go way down if people live in walkable areas near jobs and services, or if they live in buildings with multiple units.

You may not like looking at apartment buildings, but please just say that. Don't tell us that sprawl and forcing people to live further away from their jobs somehow reduce carbon emissions. It couldn't be further from the truth.


Posted by Richard Placone
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 20, 2016 at 2:30 pm

I think this plan, for all its faults, is a beginning in the right direction. However, the plan mostly calls for reduction in the use of fossil fuels in one way or another, directly or indirectly. But there is not one word about the city making efforts to itself produce sustainable energy. For example, there are many large open parking lots in this town, and many highrise, flat topped buildings as well. Many of these, if not all, could be excellent sites for installation of solar panels. I note that the Googleplex in Mt. View has several large parking lots with overhead trellises supporting solar panels. The city could lead the way by installing such on its own open air garages. More, it could mandate that large companies could do the same with their parking lots. HP in the Stanford Research Park comes to mind. Surely reasonable incentives, positive or negative, could get this well underway by 2030, or even earlier. Then there is the possibility of wind turbines. As many have pointed out here, much of what the city's plan does is shift the production of CO2 from our town, to other environments. Taking that into account, Palo Alto is not so green after all.


Posted by Michael
a resident of University South
on Apr 20, 2016 at 3:14 pm

"Carbon emissions per person go way down if people live in walkable areas near jobs and services, or if they live in buildings with multiple units."

OK, Midtown Dig, I call. Put your venue where your mouth is. There are lots of multiple units condo buildings here near downtown. Come on over.

(We both know you won't, don't we? That density thing is always for other people.)


Posted by density is green
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 20, 2016 at 3:41 pm

Everything that looks green isn't. In fact, the densest areas are the most environmentally friendly because people can walk and bike instead of driving, they don't have huge lawns to water, and apartment buildings waste a lot less air conditioning and heating. Plus people who live in urban areas tend to have fewer kids. The Bay Area in particular is a great place for people to live because we have a very mild climate that doesn't require much heating and air conditioning, we live very close to where our food is grown, and we also live very close to an international port.

Here's a study by Berkeley backing that up: Web Link

Here's a map you can play with that very clearly shows that greenhouse gas emissions per household are significantly lower in dense area like downtown SF than in areas like Woodside.

People are going to have kids whether we like it or not. Building or not building in Palo Alto will not affect national birth rates or national immigration policy. So more people are definitely coming. The question is - is it better if these people live in less dense or more dense places? And from an environmentalist point of view, it's indisputable, the world is better off if they live in dense, walkable places than if they live in exurbs that continue to make the car central to one's life.


Posted by density is green
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 20, 2016 at 3:42 pm

Here's the map showing green house gas emissions per household across the Bay Area, forgot to link. It's really eye opening. Web Link


Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 20, 2016 at 3:56 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Except the Bay area is very polluted, and the air quality deteriorating the more the population density increases. Just watch the smog and tell us we are still very different from Los Angeles. "The densest areas are the most environmentally friendly" is a meme that is often used by urban ideologues and developers trying to head off criticism of increased density, but it's a false meme. Please spend a few hours in Woodside and then come back and try to convince us that Palo Alto, San Fransisco and San Jose are greener.


Posted by Proud Palo Altan
a resident of Professorville
on Apr 20, 2016 at 3:56 pm

Congratulations to the City Council for their courage in adopting this ambitious goal. I hope we're a beacon and model to others that with some smart people, innovative thinking and perseverance we can turn this "global weirding" planet around and make it safe for our children and grandchildren. It won't be easy, but we made this mess and we need to clean it up. Kudos to all those who worked on this and made it happen.


Posted by density is green
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 20, 2016 at 4:11 pm

People don't cause smog. Fossil fueled vehicles do. Most smog can be eliminated by moving to electric vehicles, which is imminent, and the rest by moving to renewable energy sources in general. Spreading people out to eliminate smog does nothing for reducing green house gas emissions and stalling climate change which is a far greater environmental problem.


Posted by No it Isn't
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 20, 2016 at 4:11 pm

No it Isn't is a registered user.

When people live in high density, the pollution is more condensed, as is the crime. Resources such as water are more stressed, because use is not spread out. Close proximity causes more disease and parasites.

Ask any anthropologist how the human race was far healthier when we were nomadic. Once we settled into cities, disease and pestilence skyrocketed. London was polluted by the 10th century. Rome was polluted by the 5th century.

High density living is also unhealthy for children, and in such places there are frequent occurrences of cancer clusters ( as now in the SF Bay Area), especially childhood cancers, blood cancers and breast cancers.

Ask any insurance analyst about why ALL types of insurance are highest in high density locations. Theincreased crime, violent and non- violent, increased risk of accidents and injuries, increased illness and contagion make for very high rates. This is why condos cost more to insure than a single family detached home on a 6,000 sf lot! This is why people in Tokyo, NYC, Beijing, Paris, London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, Taipei, etc are plagued by asthma, autoimmune disease, cancers, influenza, TB, meningitis, MRSA, etc.

People need some amount of distance to remain healthy and reduce the spread of contagious disease. Space lessens the occurrence of crime, esp violent crime. Look what happens to rats, chickens, turkeys and other animals put artificially in high density situations: they start killing each other!

If everyone goes back to living in high density cities, people's health and well-being will be severely compromised. With a shortage of doctors, that will be disastrous.


Posted by stephen levy
a resident of University South
on Apr 20, 2016 at 4:12 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

The Bay Are Air Quality Management District reports that

for 1980-84 the region had an average of 38 days that exceeded the federal ozone standard. Population in 1980 was 5.1 million.

In 1990 population grew to 5.9 million and there were 19 days (1990-94) that exceeded the national standard,

By 2000 the region had 6.6 million residents and just 12 days on average above the federal standard for 2000-04.

And the 2010 regional population grew to 7.0 million while the days exceeding the federal ozone standard fell to 5.

So population increased from 5.1 to 7.0 million and days out of compliance fell from 39 to 5.

So we can and have had more people and driving while air quality has improved. And that can continue.

That is the promise of the S/CAP and state and regional climate policies.


Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 20, 2016 at 4:25 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

The pollution is averaged out to include both dense and less dense areas in the SF Bay area. In densely populated areas, the pollution is just more condensed. We can't live on top of each other. It is the least healthy, physically and mentally, and most disease causing life style. It also generates higher violent crime rates and higher mental health problems. The air quality statistics mentioned above seem acceptable, barely, only because the Bay area still has some rural/semi rural areas that are not densely populated. I was watching our most densly populated areas from the Stanford Dish earlier today, and the smog made them look just as polluted, as ugly and as unhealthy as Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley.


Posted by density is green
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 20, 2016 at 4:48 pm

That is incorrect. That data is not averaged out over dense and less dense areas. It's not total greenhouse gas emissions for each area. It's average emissions on a per household basis. Households in less dense area drive more, and spend more energy on heating and cooling their homes. They also have more kids.


Posted by Michael
a resident of University South
on Apr 20, 2016 at 5:39 pm

@density is green

How dense is your neighborhood, Crescent Park, compared to the neighborhoods bordering downtown? Way different, huh? Like, maybe, lots, lots less, what with all those really big single-family houses? Yet you tell us density is a really good thing.

Yep, density is a really good thing--for OTHER people.


Posted by nonsense
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 20, 2016 at 6:59 pm

First of all, the S/CAP is supposed to be about saving the earth and all of its creatures, not just humans. So the focus merely on human health while ignoring the health of everything else in the world is misguided. When we sprawl, even if it looks like we have lots of lawn and trees, we are destroying entire ecosystems and causing unheralded levels of species extinction.

Second, you are ignoring what human health is going to look like if we don't forestall climate change. Scientists currently predict that climate change will cause unprecedented droughts, crops won't grow in new climates, harmful bacteria and viruses will spread more quickly in warm climates, humans will suffer from even more allergies, more people will die as the frequency of superstorms increases, and we will contract many more skin cancers from our depleting ozone layer. That's going to affect everyone on this planet, no matter where you live. Further, economists are telling us that the food and water shortages we face are going to lead to war and we've already seen this in areas like Syria where multi-year drought contributed to civil unrest and revolution. Trust that the diseases and contagions affecting Syrian refugees (which they're taking with them wherever they go) are far more frightening than the increased health risks you get by living in San Francisco versus Palo Alto and that healthcare in refugee camps is extremely limited.

Third, if living densely necessarily meant more crime and disease, then among first world cities, Paris, which is the densest first world city of over 100,000 people would be a crime-ridden, disease infested no-go zone. And yet it's one of the finest cities in the world and more people want to visit it than any other city in the world. Clearly, living in apartment buildings with a corner store down the street doesn't make people into murderous, cancerous, beasts. Your suggestion to the contrary implies that people shouldn't be held responsible for their actions because "the city made them do it" and I think that's rather silly especially when you consider that all the mass school shootings that have happened have been in suburbs.

In fact, populations in cities across the United States have been increasing rapidly in the last 20 years and yet crime rates in those cities has actually been falling. NYC: high of over 300 homicides per million people in the 1980s, but down to less than 50 now, but they added over a million people. SF added over 127k people between 1990 and 2010 and saw the violent crime rate go down from 1,800 per 100,000 residents to about 700.

You are conflating ideas related to poverty, corporate pollution, and your own association of cities as something white people in this country flee from with actual data about density. In other words, you associate density with a whole host of problems but density isn't actually the cause of any of those problems, it's just correlated.

We have more crime in cities in the US because up until very recently most of our poor lived in cities and received little in the way of public services, access to healthcare, or quality education. It's not surprising that you get more violence in areas that lack quality education, jobs, and services. But that's a purely American thing and a function of demographics far more than a function of the types of homes people live in. And it's also not surprising that health in cities would be worse when its citizens are poor and don't have the resources to fight polluters in their neighborhoods, demand safety in the way chemicals are handled, or access to healthcare facilities. In countries like France whose cities have never had white flight and where rich people have always resided, they don't associate cities with poverty or crime like we do here. Now that poor people are increasingly being pushed into suburbs Web Link you're going to start seeing higher crime rates on a per capita basis in suburbs.

According to the University of Pennsylvania, the risk of injury death — which counts both violent crime and accidents — is more than 20% higher in the countryside than it is in large urban areas. Now it’s true that the risk of homicide is greater in big cities than it is in the countryside. But the study, which analyzed 1,295,919 deaths from injury between 1999 and 2006, found the rate of dying from an unintentional injury is over 15 times higher than that of homicide for the population as a whole. Whether you live in rural areas or the city, you’re much less likely to die from a gunshot wound — either from someone else or self-inflicted — than you are in a simple accident. Especially car crashes, which make up the bulk of unintentional injury deaths — motor-vehicle-injury-related deaths occurred at a rate that is more than 1.4 times higher than the next leading cause of death.Web Link




Posted by density is green
a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 20, 2016 at 7:00 pm

@Michael - I live with roommates, so I live plenty densely. And if there were more small apartments available in Palo Alto, I'd ditch the roommates and live in one of those instead. I'm happy with density. I used to live in SoMa in SF and before that in Manhattan and before that in the heart of DC. Lots of us love density. I really miss the ease of walking everywhere I used to have before.


Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Apr 20, 2016 at 7:22 pm

Nobody wants to live in a densely populated area, except for, you know, all the people that do... by definition (hint: density means more people).

You can argue whether or not you feel its "green" until the cows come home, but plenty of people here seem to be arguing against simple logic...


Posted by Chelsea
a resident of another community
on Apr 20, 2016 at 9:19 pm

As a native Palo Altoan who spent the first 18 years of my life in the city (and current resident of San Francisco who still visits Palo Alto often), I was overjoyed to read this news. The city's Sustainability and Climate Action Plan and aggressive yet absolutely achievable 80% by 2030 carbon emissions reduction target will establish Palo Alto as a true leader in the battle against climate change and show that reducing emissions CAN BE DONE with minimal cost and a net improvement in quality of life. And done it must be if Palo Alto, the broader Bay Area are to still be the wonderful communities they are today in 2050 (when I'll be 67) and beyond!


Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 20, 2016 at 11:30 pm

"The city's Sustainability and Climate Action Plan and aggressive yet absolutely achievable 80% by 2030 carbon emissions reduction target will establish Palo Alto as a true leader in the battle against climate change and show that reducing emissions CAN BE DONE with minimal cost and a net improvement in quality of life."

Entirely laudable sentiments. We can only wish city hall's rhetoric had some basis in reality.


Posted by Michael
a resident of University South
on Apr 20, 2016 at 11:38 pm

"@Michael - I live with roommates, so I live plenty densely."

Right. I used to live in an extended family in a house on 10 acres. Big urban density, right?

"And if there were more small apartments available in Palo Alto, I'd ditch the roommates and live in one of those instead."

In other words, you'd like to ditch the density (per your definition of density).

"I'm happy with density."

Apparently not.


Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 21, 2016 at 6:02 am

mauricio is a registered user.

Even if people living in less dense areas, like Woodside, for example, drive more, the area produces less pollution because it is far less dense compared to Palo Alto. Because it's so woodsy, the forests negate some of the pollution effects, unlike urban deforested area. Where is the evidence that Woodside residents use more energy to heat and cool their houses than residents of Crescent Park? There are many huge houses in Crescent Park and other parts of Palo Alto. Where is the evidence that Woodside residents have more kids than Palo Alto residents?

Density is definitely not green. People need space. We are not supposed live on top of each other like sardines in a can. Density is depressing, unhealthy and unnatural.


Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 21, 2016 at 7:26 am

With the large number of new buildings and offices and condos and hotels the City Council has approved this "Energy Savings" initiative is nonsense. More people is more pollution. And it does not save energy to drive around for a half hour looking for a parking place for lunchtime to 4PM.
This is the usual Palo Alto City Council grandstanding.
If the Council wants to do something useful cancel the 10% increase in all bills for all utilities and cut City workers by 25%. Enough of the self glorification for doing nothing useful.


Posted by jerry99
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 21, 2016 at 7:31 am

We need fewer people in the city to make it more habitable. And spend money on more police. Crime and especially burglaries have skyrocketed in Palo Alto and need to be worked. Why not spend some of the Council's time working on real issues and problems, not this endless crap on bicycling and collecting kitchen garbage and wasting city residents money buying "clean energy".
2sNcR


Posted by Positive
a resident of Addison School
on Apr 21, 2016 at 8:56 am

All these comments about how terrible City Hall is and they should be spending our money to fix problems -- are you kidding me??? We live in the most fantastic place on the planet! The streets are safe and clean, we have some of the best water anywhere, lots of trees and green space, a world-class university, our sewers are fully functional, there's virtually no crime, our schools are the best in the world, no unemployment, no war, and air that's getting cleaner as regulations have stopped spewing dangerous particles into the air -- and all you can do is complain about what? Too many people? Well, in order to be truly sustainable we'd need the density that the Ohlone tribes had before the white man. Which one of you is wiling to leave to make that a reality?
Of course density can be good or bad. I'd say the density of the Flavellas of Rio are, um, not so good. Density here -- if we'd get off our dependence on the car and walk and bike and take transit and live close to services is a density that works, Do you really need to get into your car to go down and pick up a prescription at the pharmacy or a bottle of milk? YOU are the problem and you're just putting it on "others who want to live here". Well, I bet the Ohlones would feel the same way if we hadn't come in obliterated them.
Yes, population is an issue, but more of an issue in the southern hemisphere than here. Tell your children and grandchildren not to have more than 1 or 2 kids -- oh wait, you didn't mean YOUR family, you meant others.
Get over it. We're blessed and you sound so entitled. Take some responsibility for the garbage we've ALL poured into the atmosphere with the way we get around, the food we eat, the "stuff" we buy. Life in Palo Alto could be EVEN better if we were a walkable/bike-able/transit rich community where we would be grateful for what we have and show the rest of the world it CAN be done. Let's get over ourselves, roll up our sleeves and get to work. We have the moral imperative to do everything we can to make this planet livable.


Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 21, 2016 at 9:54 am

I kind of funny and sad how there is always a faction of the Palo Alto community whose solution to every problem is "that's not my problem," and / or, "the solution is that fewer people should live in Palo Alto."

We get it, you want Palo Alto to be like it was when you moved here in 1982. But the world is changing, and there are problems to solve.


Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 21, 2016 at 4:48 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

The pro density/ pro development crowd is good at using glib sound-bytes, Carly Fiona style, to advance their ideology, but behind their slogans there is absolutely nothing. Sorry, no matter how they phrase their ideology, more people means more pollution. More cars mean more pollution, more gridlock, more noise and more ugliness. No, SF Peninsula residents will not give up their cars, unless Palo Alto becomes the equivalent of Hong Kong or Paris and are provided with world class public transit that is inexpensive, very comfortable, runs 24/7 and can take them anywhere quickly and comfortably.

Overpopulation is a global problem and is also a Palo Alto problem. Density is NOT green and is NOT good. It increases violence, crime, ugliness, alienation and despair. Humans need space from each other, they should not live on top of each other like sardines in a can. Palo Alto needs to find ways to reduce its population, by many thousands of people. Parcels of land must become parks and orchards, not apartment buildings.


Posted by Roger Overnaut
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Apr 21, 2016 at 4:49 pm

Fortunately for 80/30, a closetful of accounting gimmicks is available for cooking the numbers to order. A favorite, called carbon neutrality, plus its cousin carbon offsetting, lets you ignore all the CO2 emissions you are willing to buy your way out of. It already accounts for a sizeable fraction of the city's "carbon-neutral electric power portfolio."

The city properly does not tout our electricity as being carbon-free but, given that most people don't understand the difference, or even know that there is a difference, the unearned plaudits roll in.

Remember: carbon accounting begins with the answer you want, not the data that is.


Posted by Robert
a resident of another community
on Apr 21, 2016 at 4:56 pm

@mauricio

Now I'm going to go out on a limb and assume you know the root "causes" population increase, which begs the question: seeing how you, someone who has had children, has done more to contribute to the problem than many others (including plenty of the folks you critisize), doesn't it come across as a tad disingenuous for you complain, let alone lecture others, on the consequences of population growth?


Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Southgate

on Sep 26, 2017 at 3:06 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


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