Sac CAAP: council update

The City of Sacramento preliminary draft Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) was on the agenda of the 2022-08-16 city council agenda, with a workshop on carbon neutrality. The council had asked staff for a status report, and to bring ideas for accelerating reaching carbon neutrality sooner than the original target date of 2045.

The staff presentation presented a few things that had happened before completion of the plan. Staff focused, as does the plan, on buildings and EVs. Ryan Moore of Public Works talked about transportation projects, but did not mention policy. Jennifer Venema presented several acceleration ideas, but they were vague. One was the build-out of the bicycle master plan, as though it was that, or everything else. The slides used by the staff presentation have not been made available to the public.

Almost everyone who spoke on the agenda items, on Zoom and in person (this was the first in-the-room council meeting), spoke in support of achieving neutrality sooner, and taking serious actions rather than the mild actions suggested by the plan. I am really proud of the citizens and organizations that took the time to formulate thoughtful statements and to wait for their turn.

Some of the council members spoke. Katie Valenzuela was the only one with a substatiative idea (see below), the others just offered platitudes. Darrell Steinberg unfortunately went off on a long rant in support of the transportation sales tax measures, including the lie that it had been amended. The side agreement between SACOG and SacTA has not been approved, and the language of the ballot measure has not changed at all – it is still bad news for the climate.

Katie Valenzuela’s slide

I made the following statement:


“Transportation is 57% of carbon emissions in Sacramento. Equitable transportation is what we should be talking about.

Transportation priorities, carried over from Mayors Commission on Climate Change:

  1. Active transportation
  2. Transit
  3. Electrification of remaining motor vehicles

The CAAP seems to invert that priority, and is strongly focused on EVs, which would retain the motor vehicle dominance of our transportation system.

Active transportation should be first and foremost in the CAAP.

Why is active transportation so important to transit? Because that is how people get to and from transit. Both are important to an effective response.

$510M for a full buildout of the bicycle master plan is a fraction of what is already being spent on motor vehicle capacity expansion. For example, the Fix 50 projects is estimated at $433M, but will probably come in much higher.

Deb Banks mentioned that the bicycle master plan needs an update. The pedestrian plan, however, dates from 2006, and is completely out of date. Yet the CAAP does not even mention updating those documents nor combining them into an active transportation plan.”


Some items I missed talking about (two minutes is a very short time):

Bike share is hardly mentioned in plan, and was not mentioned in the presentation. I think an effective bike share system is key to getting people out of cars, but we have a privately owned and operated system that could disappear at any time without notice (as it has before). Bike share should be effectively integrated with the transit system, but this idea is absent.

Cost to consumers (citizens) is also missing from the plan and the discussion. Conversion of fossil fueled private vehicles to electrified private vehicles is a the core action of the plan, with the unspoken and false assumption that electric cars are affordable for the vast majority of people. Think about it like this:

modecost
pedal bike$500, or less
electric bike$2000, or less
electric cargo bike$4000, or less
electric private vehicle$40,000, or more

What should the city be supporting? What should the city be subsidizing? It is clear that the bicycle is the right answer. The city seems to have the idea that the people of Sacramento are rich, and will all buy Teslas. How out of touch can you be?

The truly transformative and easily short term action that the city can take to protect that climate is to make walking and bicycling safe, city-wide. In the long run, that involves reconstructing streets, expensive and time-consuming. In the short run, though, there are many, many low cost actions that city could take that mostly have to do with policy and not projects. Such as:

  • leading pedestrian intervals on all signals
  • removal of pedestrian beg buttons
  • prohibiting right turn on red
  • paint and post temporary curb extensions on every intersection where a fatality or severe injury has occurred
  • acceptance by the city of responsibility for sidewalk maintenance (except for damage caused by trees on private property), in recognition that sidewalks are a core part of the transportation system along with streets
  • law enforcement focused on failure to yield to pedestrians
  • serious investigations of every crash with fatalities, with action to slow traffic, shorten crossing distances, etc. required in every instance; creation of a crash investigation team that includes nonprofit expertise and citizens, de-emphasizing law enforcement and traffic engineers
  • pricing parking everywhere in the city; this does not mean parking meters everywhere, it means that street parking requires a permit that reflects the cost building and maintaining parking on streets
  • re-energizing and empowering Vision Zero, which has languished
  • replacement of bikeway vertical delineators (soft-hit posts) with hard curbs
  • enforcement against leaving trash cans in bike lanes
  • a moratorium on roadway capacity expansion projects, through 2045, whether the city is a lead or partner agency; this would include freeways
  • lowering speed limit on all urban streets to 20 mph (20 is plenty) and collector/arterial streets to 30 mph; yes, streets need to be redesigned to physically enforce lower speeds, but in the meanwhile we can save lives with lower posted speeds

The bottom line here is that if the city makes walking and bicycling safe, throughout the city, much of our climate targets will be met. Please see my 2019 series “Walkable Sacramento” for more details and more ideas.

Sac CAAP: more carbon-intense transportation and land use

The City of Sacramento (and the county, and the region, and the state) have created a very carbon-intensive transportation system, focusing on moving motor vehicles (more and faster) over all other uses of the public right-of-way. It has also created a carbon-intensive land use pattern, by allowing and encouraging sprawling development that places everything further away, and makes motor vehicle travel the only reasonable option for many people to get from one place to another. Sprawl not only makes transportation less efficient, but uses more water and more electricity, reduces agricultural lands, and isolates people. Freeways and the arterial street network that supports them are far more expensive than other roadways, so most of our transportation budget goes to those two types. There is little left over for streets, and little left over for maintenance. But you know all that.

If the city is serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), it would focus most of the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan on these issues. Transportation and land use, and housing in particular, cannot be separated from each other. They should not be separated in the plan. If we change our transportation system without changing land use and housing, we fail. If we change land use and housing without changing the transportation system, we fail. They must both be changed, healed from the harms of past city action or neglect, together. What the draft plan proposes to do is make minor changes to housing and minor changes to transportation, but sets low goals for both. And it uses enough vague language that it is not even clear that those low goals will be achieved. Most importantly, it does not commit the city to spending any money to fix problems and do better. What it is basically doing is kicking the can down the road, in case future versions of the city government happen to be more committed to change and innovation.

I encourage you to take a look at the plan (yes, it is long and hard to read), and then contact your city council member to express your concerns. I’ll likely be gone by 2045, so won’t see the outcome, but for many of you and your children, the meek action and underfunding that the plan proposes will make your world unlivable. Time for leadership is now!

Sac CAAP: affordable housing near transit


The City of Sacramento’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP), preliminary draft, sets a goal, in the Measure E-5: Support Infill Growth section to “Enable the development of 8,700 new affordable by design units by 2040 within 0.25 mile of public transit…”. Sound good, but.

This is a low goal. The city already has a deficit of affordable housing, and has no plan for raising the necessary funds to build this affordable housing (it killed inclusionary zoning, and replaced it with a completely insufficient development impact fee, and the $100 Measure U contribution to the housing fund is on hold). The city’s Housing Element, required by RHNA, specifies that 16,769 units of ‘Extremely Low- and Very Low-Income, and Low Income’ housing are needed. While it it true that some affordable projects have been, and will be, developed without any city help, setting a goal of only half what is already needed is meek.

Location within 0.25 miles of transit is a mixed bag. While it is clearly a good that affordable housing is accessible to transit (otherwise it is not truly affordable under the housing+transportation analysis), past practice has been to locate affordable housing projects on arterial roadways, those sources of pollution and noise and traffic violence that families living in affordable housing should be protected against rather than exposed to. Unless the city is making a real commitment to redesigning these roadways to reduce VMT, reduce traffic violence, reduce air pollution, and emphasize active transportation and transit, it would be better to place affordable housing elsewhere. I don’t think that CAAP is making that commitment. A strong argument made by many housing advocates is that we should be encouraging affordable housing everywhere, not just along arterial roadways (also known as stroads).

Sac CAAP: non-motorized and MCCC

The City of Sacramento’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP), preliminary draft, sets targets for active transportation and transit. The Mayors’ Climate Change Commission (MCCC) Achieving Carbon Zero in Sacramento and West Sacramento by 2045, set different targets.

MCCC 2020MCCC 2045CAAP 2030CAAP 2045
Active Transportation30%40%6%12%
Transit & Shared30%50%11%11%
MCCC page 26, CAAP page 66

The CAAP states (page 100) “This level of active transportation mode share by 2030 is consistent with outcomes of comparable case studies and peer-reviewed literature and anticipated level of investment through 2030, all of which are necessary factors to consider for quantifying evidence-based reductions for a qualified GHG reduction plan.” and (page 102) “Planning for at least an 11 percent transit mode share by 2030 is an evidence-based goal that the City considers achievable given current understanding of transit behaviors in Sacramento and comparable case studies, given that sufficient funding can be obtained to implement the necessary infrastructure.”

The justification for the mild targets is in the CAAP Appendix C – Community Measures GHG Emissions Quantification, page 20 for Active Transportation (TR-1) and page for Transit (TR-2). The document active transportation section cites work commute trips, which misses the point that all trips are an opportunity for GHG reduction, and that only about 15% of all trips now are work-related (pre-pandemic). It also states that we can’t be compared to European cities (nor does it even use up-to-date data from Europe), but implies that Sacramento won’t be taking the actions to significantly increase mode share, so therefore uses a much lower number. No actual research is cited. For transit, the document states that we could achieve a 21% mode share based on peer city Oakland, but then inexplicably sets the target of 11%.

Why is the city setting such low goals? Reading between the lines, it is because they don’t intend to spend the funds necessary to reach these goals, and they know they can’t fund this all with competitive grants. This is not climate leadership, in my opinion. The city should be doing everything it possibly can to shift trips aways from motor vehicles to active transportation and transit.

Some elements of the MCCC were included in the CAAP, some were not. I’ve found it valuable to compare the two. If you have the time, please do that yourself. The MCCC is a much stronger document.

Sac CAAP: what to focus on

The City of Sacramento’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP), preliminary draft, includes the graphic below, showing emissions by sector for the city.

Transportation is 57% of emissions (2016), and is likely higher now because other sectors are being reduced but transportation is expanding. One might assume that 57% of the document would be devoted to this primary source. But Chapter 6, GHG-Reduction Measures and Actions, devotes 15 pages to built environment, 14 pages to transportation, and 13 pages to other sectors (waste, water and wastewater, carbon sequestration). Transportation is the second sector to be addressed, after built environment, which I think represents that the city sees transportation as less important than built environment.

what Sacramento did wrong

I’m reviewing the City of Sacramento’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP), preliminary draft. I’ll have several more posts on this, but what immediately comes through to me is that the plan doesn’t acknowledge what the city did wrong in the past to create such a carbon-intensive city.

So, let me help with that:

Transportation

  • focusing the transportation network on continuously expanding capacity for motor vehicles, ignoring and more frequently being hostile to other modes; this has changed slightly, but is still the dominant approach
  • spending almost all funds on roadway capacity expansion (more lanes and interchanges) instead of maintaining what we have; every pothole is a policy failure
  • refusing to accept responsibility for sidewalks, which are a critical and core component of the transportation network
  • refusing to spend any general funds on transportation improvements, other than required matches, depending instead almost entirely on grant funding from the state and federal levels
  • providing free and below market rate parking throughout the city, which not only subsidizes but increases motor vehicle use
  • going all-in on motor vehicle electrification, while nearly ignoring electric bikes; there are no electric bike incentives, and no electric bike charging facilities
  • failing to update the outmoded 2006 pedestrian plan, and/or to combine it with the bicycle plan into an integrated active transportation plan
  • refusing to develop policy around transportation solutions, as though every project were unique and had nothing to do with other projects or with the overall pattern; the bicycle and pedestrian master plans are examples, laying out individual routes but not creating policy that determines what kind of facilities are appropriate for what kinds of streets and intersections
  • refusing to innovate and pilot new ideas, as every peer city has been doing; despite accepting the progressive NACTO guidelines, the city has actually not implemented anything that does not comply to the letter with the regressive MUTCD guidelines

Housing and Land Use

  • zoning which prevented multi-family and mixed use throughout most of the city; this has changed a little, and will change more with the 2040 General Plan, but the legacy of this will be with us for generations, and yes, the intent was largely racist; zoning of this sort makes everything further away, requiring more driving
  • setting development standards which make inefficient use of land, with setbacks and height limits, which again, spreads everything out
  • eliminating inclusionary zoning without creating a viable method of funding affordable housing through development impact fees or other mechanisms; for example, the city only contributed pittance $2.8M of the $40 or so that the newly opened Lavender Courtyard cost
  • supporting and celebrating large residential greenfield developments while ignoring infill development, and placing requirements on development that are easy for large developers and onerous for small developers; this has changed a bit, but not much
  • bending over backwards to promote and subsidize very large projects, such as the arena and Delta Shores, while paying no attention to small businesses; every empty storefront is as much a failure of the city as it is of that business

None of this is to say that the city is not doing some good things, or that it is not light years ahead of the county, and ahead of most of the cities in the region. But overcoming carbon addiction requires admitting that you have a problem, and largely created the problem, and can’t overcome the problem until you stop doing the wrong things.

I think it is important that the CAAP not only state what the city will do, but also what it will STOP doing.

Sacramento and sidewalks

The draft City of Sacramento Climate Action Plan (CAAP) section MEASURE TR-1: Improve Active Transportation Infrastructure to Achieve 6% Active Transportation Mode Share by 2030 and 12% by 2045, includes the performance indicator “Deploy 20,000 feet of new/repaired pedestrian infrastructure by 2030”. The final CAAP will become part of the city’s 2040 General Plan.

This is less than four miles of sidewalk repair. The city has approximately 2300 miles of sidewalk. At this rate, 8 years to repair 4 miles of sidewalk, it would take 4600 years to address the sidewalks in the city. What does the city intend instead? That private property owners repair sidewalks, even though the sidewalks and the land they sit on belong to the city (in most cases, though some wider sidewalks in the central city are a mix of city and private). From the city’s Sidewalks, Curbs & Gutters page:

Q: Isn’t it the City’s responsibility to maintain the sidewalk? Isn’t it public property?

A: The sidewalk is in the City’s right-of-way. However, California Streets and Highways Code sections 5610 through 5618 allow cities throughout California to require property owners to maintain the sidewalks in front of their property. Sacramento City Code section 12.32 sets forth the City’s procedures under these sections.  Sacramento is not the only city to require sidewalk repairs to be the property owner’s responsibility. However, curb and gutter maintenance is the City’s responsibility. As the property owner may bear civil liability for a person suffering personal injury or property damage caused by a defective sidewalk: it is in the property owners best interest to maintain the sidewalk and reduce the risk of a lawsuit.

Note the word ‘allows’. Nothing requires that the city shift the burden of sidewalk maintenance to private property owners. The city has simply decided to do so, so that it may shift responsibility of a critical part of the transportation infrastructure off the city and onto adjacent property owners (so that it may spend more on roadway capacity expansion, in case you were wondering). Though it would make sense to require property owners to repair sidewalk damage from root heaving due to trees on private property, it is ridiculous (and criminal, in my opinion) for the city to demand that private property owners repair sidewalks when the trees are in the city-owned sidewalk buffer area. This is the sort of action one would expect in a dictatorship, forcing citizens to take on individual responsibility for city actions.

See previous posts: Walkable Sacramento #4: sidewalks and whose responsibility are sidewalks?.