Focused on long-term climate mitigation efforts, the Redwood City Council and staff discussed various approaches they plan on taking to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address challenges like sea level rise and flooding.
“It’s just exciting to know we as a city in our own small way can contribute meaningfully to this battle against climate change,” Councilmember Michael Smith said during Monday’s City Council meeting.
Aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 50% below 2005 levels by 2030, the city adopted a Climate Action Plan last November. The goal was to reduce the effects of climate change that the plan said are already being experienced like rising temperatures, sea level rise, increased fire risks, impacts on energy systems and more frequent and intense storms.
A year later, Public Works Director Terence Kyaw led a study session on the plan and other sustainability efforts in which he noted the city is focused on emissions caused by transportation, the largest contributor of greenhouse gases and in mitigation efforts like creating urban forests meant to deter flooding.
Kyaw said the city is looking into electrifying city vehicles, an aggressive policy set out in the plan. When electric alternatives are not available, the city would look into more fuel-efficient vehicles and will retire old equipment and vehicles when possible.
Councilmember Jeff Gee noted that as the city and its residents turn to more electric vehicles, the city will need to ensure ample charging stations are distributed across town. He also suggested the city needed to be proactive in ensuring owners of older multifamily homes are also fitted with EV charging stations.
“Someone can go buy an electric vehicle but if they can’t charge it at home it doesn’t really work,” Gee said.
To combat flooding, city staff have focused on green infrastructure which directs rain runoff to vegetation, preventing the creeks and canals from overflowing. Staff is also partnering with San Carlos, Belmont and the county in studying the Redwood Shores area which is at risk of sea level rise and flooding.
And while an Urban Forest Plan would help with capturing runoff rainwater, it would also target extreme heat by planting far more trees across the city with a focus on areas vulnerable to heat waves.
Having already adopted electric reach codes, which require most new development to use all-electric appliances, city staff are also working on electrifying municipal buildings starting with Fire Station 9. Staff is considering replacing its aging diesel-powered generator with a solar microgrid and battery backup. Similar replacements could happen at the city’s library and the Fair Oaks Community Center.
When asked by Smith about what policies were “low-hanging fruit” to achieve, Kyaw said one of those policies the council was being asked to adopt during that meeting. To align the city with state Senate Bill 1383, the city is required to adopt an ordinance that would enforce proper organic food waste disposal which is intended to help reduce methane gas emissions.
Through the city’s Mandatory Organic Waste Disposal ordinance, those who live in single-family homes will be required to have and properly use a green recycling bin. Businesses and multifamily buildings must have an organic collection service and which must also be properly sorted.
Large commercial establishments that generate edible food, including restaurants, supermarkets, hotels, local education agencies and food service providers, will also be required to divert food through recovery organizations. Records of the diversions are required to be kept starting Jan. 1, 2022.
The city and the San Mateo Office of Sustainability would serve as enforcement agencies. Public Works Superintendent Adrian Lee said the city will first take an educational approach with the community and private businesses over the next two years before implementing enforcement measures.
“Ultimately we’re not trying to enforce on people. We want compliance,” Lee said. “We want to educate them and teach them and get them on board with what we’re trying to do.”
A focus on education will also be used with other environmental initiatives through partnerships with local high schools. Councilmember Alicia Aguirre also encouraged staff to work closely with the city’s Youth Advisory Committee.
Councilmembers unanimously supported the measure and shared an interest in monitoring its effect on the community including a potential 7% service rate increase.
The city is slated to take on additional climate change mitigation measures in the final months of the year and early next year. In November, the council will consider adopting a Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plan and a California Short-Lived Climate Pollutant Reduction ordinance.
Next year, it could also adopt a Disposable Food Ware Ordinance, as done in neighboring jurisdictions which require businesses that serve prepared foods to use approved compostable food accessories and containers.
“I think we’re in the right direction,” Aguirre said. “And we have a lot of work to do.”
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