Officials supported a climate action plan intended to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Burlingame over the coming decades despite the calls of a community group to set more aggressive goals.
The Burlingame Planning Commission unanimously agreed Monday, Aug. 12, to recommend councilmembers approve the program intending to make the city more environmentally friendly.
The proposal, which aligns with the city’s updated general plan, establishes a strategy for the city to limit its impact on the environment as the population grows through expected residential development and population growth.
For his part, Commissioner Richard Terrones said he supported the vision included in the document attempting to cut greenhouse gasses through improved mobility routes, more efficient development practices, natural resource conservation and more.
“I think it’s a very important document,” said Terrones, according to video of the meeting.
Commissioner Richard Sargent echoed that sentiment.
“I think the report is worthy of being recommended,” he said, as it will head from the commission to the Burlingame City Council for examination next month.
The plan raises 20 measures designed to make Burlingame a more environmentally-friendly community, a majority of which can be implemented through improvements to development and transportation policy.
Among the most notable programs and practices identified to cut greenhouse gas emissions are implementing a transportation demand management plan for the city, establishing a complete streets network, adopting more efficient construction management policies, becoming more energy efficient and supporting Peninsula Clean Energy, according to the plan.
Should the measures be put to practice, the plan indicates Burlingame will be successful in meeting its emissions goals through 2030, before beginning to fall short in 2040.
While officials lauded the vision, the Citizens Environmental Council of Burlingame pushed for more assertive policy which would lead to greater effectiveness at a more rapid pace.
“We recommend setting targets that get us ahead of the state’s, and in line with their next move, assuming they set more aggressive targets before our next [Climate Action Plan] update in 2025,” said a letter from the council.
To that end, the council suggested Burlingame set more ambitious benchmarks for greenhouse emission reductions than the plan allows for, nodding to local standards such as those set in Palo Alto and San Francisco.
Among the progressive standards sought by the council was achieving 2030 emissions below levels reached in 1990, which is the goal set in Palo Alto.
“The 2030 goal would also give Burlingame the distinction in San Mateo County of the most accountable in addressing climate change and providing happy and healthy living for current and future generations,” said the letter.
However, a consultant hired by the city to draft the plan said it is likely not possible for Burlingame to set such a high threshold for emissions reduction, noting the limitations of existing technology.
“At this point, it’s not feasible for the city,” said Chris Dugan, a senior project manager with MIG, the firm hired to help Burlingame. He balanced that perspective by noting the admirable nature of the request.
Regarding the other recommendations from the council to establish more strict mandates to accomplish the goals set in the plan, Dugan said he is reticent to support such a proposal for fear of crafting a one-size-fits-all policy. He said some of the council’s recommendations were supported and will be examined by councilmembers when the plan comes up for further examination next month.
Doug Silverstein, who represented Citizens Environmental Council of Burlingame at the meeting, said he is hopeful the plan receives more attention to craft a vision which addresses the perspective of all residents.
“I’m confident more Burlingame residents will get involved in coming months and years to get engaged with the city to assure Burlingame has a strong plan,” he said.
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