Concerns for rising sea levels and unprecedented wildfires have driven 24 Bay Area organizations to call on the Redwood City Council to address specific demands, including prohibiting development on Baylands within the city’s 2030 Climate Action Plan, calling the draft a recycled appendix of “boilerplate ideas.”
The statement, signed by a coalition of nonprofits including the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter, Redwood City Neighbors United, Save the Bay and Green Foothills, called for Redwood City to incorporate “specific and measurable climate adaptation actions targeted at shoreline resiliency, green stormwater infrastructure and mitigation of wildfire risk.”
Redwood City is currently in the process of finalizing its Climate Action Plan meant to set goals for where the city would like to be by the year 2030. A draft of the plan was released on July 27, recommending the city reduce emissions associated with single-occupant vehicle transportation, solid waste and the built environment.
The plan calls for a total of 33 quantifiable emissions reduction measures, selected from a set of 47 measures developed by the City and County Association of Governments, an agency focused on boosting quality of life. Despite the measures which range from incentivizing renewable energy use to developing safe school routes, the coalition statement said the city “has sadly fallen short of where” it should be by now, pressing officials to go further with policies.
“The draft 2030 CAP Update essentially reiterates the vague and generalized adaptation language from the 2013 CAP, with no progress towards specific actions. It seems that Redwood City is content to continue running in place when it comes to climate adaptation planning,” said the statement.
Beyond calling for the restoration of wetlands, the prioritization of nature-based solutions, and for developing guidelines on flood-proofing for new developments, the coalition also calls for the City Council to “prohibit new development on undeveloped Baylands at risk of flooding based on sea level rise projections, including the Redwood City Salt Ponds.”
Development of the salt ponds, owned by agricultural company Cargill, was met with major protest in late 2019 by more than 60 elected officials and environmental and community groups that penned a joint statement in opposition to its potential development. The future of development in the area is uncertain as local organizations continue to fight Trump administration rollbacks of the Clean Water Act, a federal law which regulates the discharge of pollutants into surface bodies of water.
Additional concerns included mitigating wildfire risks, a worry of the coalition exacerbated by recent historic waves of flames across the Bay Area caused by thousands of lightning strikes. In the statement, the coalition calls for the city to reduce development into wildland areas and to strengthen wildfire resistance of existing homes in wildfire risk areas.
“The urgent need for climate adaptation planning is abundantly evident in current headlines about local wildfire devastation and anticipated “unsurvivable” flood impacts from Hurricane Laura on the Gulf Coast — all while the COVID pandemic lays bare the dangers of being caught unprepared,” said the statement.
Councilwoman Giselle Hale, who sits on the Environmental Initiatives subcommittee, said in an email that the committee “received significant community input and is working together with staff on the plan that will ultimately go to council.”
City spokeswoman Jennifer Yamaguma echoed Hale in a statement, noting considerable feedback on the draft was received from environmental groups. She noted the City Council will be considering adopting a reach code during a Sept. 14 council meeting which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by promoting building electrification.
“Environmental sustainability is a top concern for the city. We are reducing the environmental impact of city operations though LED streetlight installation, purchase of zero and low-emission vehicles and, most recently, transition to electric leaf blowers,” Redwood City Mayor Diane Howard said in a statement. “We also are working closely with others, including partnering with San Mateo County, Atherton and Menlo Park to upgrade the Bayfront Canal and protect residents from flooding.”
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