The public is invited to help brainstorm ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by joining in creating San Mateo’s Climate Action Plan at a meeting Thursday night.
The city of San Mateo will host a public forum to update and consolidate its existing data and plans that will guide residents, business and local government toward adhering to the state’s requirements to reduce green house gas emissions 15 percent by 2020, said Kathy Kleinbaum, the city’s senior management analyst and sustainability coordinator.
“We’ll have a pretty extensive list of measures. … So we’re really looking to get some community feedback on which items they feel should be mandated or see some incentives. ... Or some that they just don’t think are workable for the community,” Kleinbaum said. “Another aspect is where their top priorities are and where they’d like to see the most resources.”
The city has had two popup booths at Central Park and an online forum for residents to post ideas and comments. Thus far, some of the trending ideas include encouraging community gardens and installing more composting and recycling bins on public streets, Kleinbaum said. There’s also a large contingency that wants to improve the overall biking experience through more lanes or better connectivity of existing lanes, Kleinbaum said.
Larger ideas include offering more publicly accessible electric vehicle charging stations and there is a big push for renewable energy sources such as solar panels, Kleinbaum said.
The plan will also outline how to encourage or enforce measures to help reduce emissions such as programs that assist people in retrofitting their homes with solar panels or requiring new developments to implement renewable energy sources, Kleinbaum said.
Having a substantial effect will need to be a citywide effort as municipal operations only account for 3 percent to 5 percent of total emissions, Kleinbaum said.
“Most of the emission reductions that we’re going to need to achieve are going to have to come from private property; both from new developments getting built being more energy efficient … but also the existing building stock; all the single-family homes and businesses out there,” Kleinbaum said.
Making wise decisions regarding transportation has an impact and encouraging people to use public transit, bike or drive electric vehicles will be important, Kleinbaum said.
The city’s new Sustainability Commission, formed earlier this year, is charged with developing the action plan and will incorporate input generated at Thursday’s meeting, Kleinbaum said.
“Since their inception, this was one of the tasks that was assigned to them as their top priority and the Climate Action Plan really sets the framework for what types of sustainability programs the city’s going to be putting in place,” Kleinbaum said. “It’s really critical for us as it takes the previous plans and studies done before and it measures our progress so we’ll … build off the work that’s been done.”
The Climate Action Plan will consolidate the city’s existing Sustainable Initiatives Plan, Greenhouse Gas Emissions Plan and Climate Action plan for Municipal Operations and Government.
Measuring greenhouse gas emissions is complicated and the county paid for a study conducted in 2009 about 2005 emissions and another study completed earlier this year about 2010 emissions, Kleinbaum said.
Typically, measuring greenhouse gas emissions is a combination of data from Pacific Gas and Electric, monitoring driving or freeway miles, how much garbage cities generate and other information, Kleinbaum said.
Between the 2005 and 2010 surveys, San Mateo’s emissions went down 9 percent, Kleinbaum said. But with advancements in technology, data may have changed.
The county is looking at whether it can conduct annual emissions surveys and if it can’t, the city will study what it can, Kleinbaum said.
Keeping with progressing technology also entails adjusting climate action plans, which typically need to be updated every five years, Kleinbaum said.
The Sustainability Commission will meet to discuss a draft of San Mateo’s Climate Action Plan around November. The proposal will then go to the Planning Commission and ultimately to the City Council for approval, as it would amend the city’s General Plan, Kleinbaum said.
Educating and changing public behavior will have the largest impact on achieving greenhouse gas reduction goals so it’s important it be a community-driven plan, Kleinbaum said.
“We really just want to get people’s input to find out what’s most important to the community,” Kleinbaum said. “We don’t want to put any regulations in place that people feel are overly onerous. So these are people’s opportunities to weigh in.”
The meeting begins 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 4, in the Oak Room of the Main Library, 55 W. Third Ave., San Mateo. For more information about the Climate Action Plan visit www.cityofsanmateo.org.
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