infill housing for GHG reduction

The Carbon Footprint Planning Tools and Scenarios webpage of the Cool Climate Network of UC Berkeley has a tool for calculating how much of a contribution various local policies and actions could make to reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). For Sacramento County, the graph produced is:

What is the leading category? Urban infill, which is primarily but not entirely housing. Electric vehicles, the solution most touted by agencies and politicians, comes in fifth.

This finding tracks with other analyses:

Many cities in the region, including Elk Grove, Rancho Cordova, Folsom, and Roseville, and the county of Sacramento, envision of future of continuously expanding greenfield development, which is the exactly opposite of infill. Why? Because greenfield developers make bigger contributions to candidates than infill developers, and greenfield development is the perfect way of gaining property tax income now, while deferring maintenance to the future, when current office holders will be long gone. Greenfield development is climate arson, simple as that. Yes, the developments may have nice walking and bicycling paths within them, but travel to jobs, grocery stores, coffee shops, medical services, and really anything people want, requires driving a motor vehicle. As you well know, we already are not able to maintain our transportation system because most of the money goes to building more roadway capacity (particularly very expensive freeways and interchanges), not to maintenance. If what has already been built were maintained to high standards, your tax rate would be about half your income.

The answer is residential infill. That does take some investment. Some utilities may need to be upgraded. We may need to spend more on transit. But the costs are far far lower over the life of the development than is greenfield development.

Some recent articles and research on the different costs of infill and greenfield, but if you search online, you will find almost unlimited references, with a few that come to other conclusions.

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.

Governor asks CARB for more

CARB has released for public review the Draft 2022 Scoping Plan Update. On July 22, the governor sent a letter to CARB, asking for more ambitious and quicker goals in the Scoping Plan (Governor Newsom Calls for Bold Actions to Move Faster Toward Climate Goals).

As has been posted here, the Scoping Plan is weak, and depends far too much on motor vehicle electrification, so the governor’s letter is a good move. It includes:

  • Offshore Wind
  • Clean and Healthy Buildings
  • Moving Away from Fossil Fuels
  • Methane
  • Carbon Removal
  • Increasing Climate Ambition

What the governor’s letter, and the Scoping Plan, does not include, is bicycling and in particular electric bikes. This is a sad oversight on the part of both. Conversion of motor vehicle trips to bicycle trips and especially e-bike trips, is the shorter and lowest cost pathway to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. CARB knows that, the governor knows that, but both are so committed to a windshield perspective and continuation of car dominance of our transportation system, that they ignore the simple steps.

The governor also announced the launch of the Climate Dashboard. On the dashboard, there are only two indicators that are red instead of green, and one is VMT. Yet despite this, the governor and CARB, and many other advocates who should know better, want to just convert fossil fuel motor vehicles to electric vehicles.

CA Climate Dashboard VMT indicator

The Climate Dashboard also includes the following graphic, often used in text, as a comparison to show progress being made. The question which logically follows is: Why not just take the cars off the road?

SACOG Board on sales tax analysis

The SACOG Board met today, and agenda item 12 was on the SACOG Review & Analysis of Proposed Citizens’ Transportation Tax Initiative in Sacramento County. This was an information item, for discussion, not for action. This post is a brief summary of the discussion, to follow on to the earlier post on the analysis: SACOG analysis of Measure 2022. The analysis identifies 26 (or more) capacity expansion projects proposed in the measure’s Transportation Expenditure Plan, all of which would increase GHG/VMT, and most of which would also increase sprawl.

Nearly every representative of the cities and counties in Sacramento County rejected the analysis as being flawed, some even said it was unprofessional. They claimed that the analysis made so many assumptions that it could not be trusted, and that SACOG should not be in the business of producing documents like this. Despite that fact that planning for transportation and land use is specifically the purview of the MPOs, and that they instead support a measure that speculates about transportation needs for 40 years into the future. If you don’t like the message, blame the messenger.

I can’t resist pointing out that this has become a pattern for supporters of more of the same (more capacity expansion, more sprawl, more GHG/VMT):

Supporters of sprawl and the measure proponents: Show us the data!

SACOG: Here is the data.

Supporters of sprawl and the measure proponents: No, not that data. We don’t believe you.

On the other hand, every representative from the other five counties in the SACOG region expressed great concern that allowing the measure to go through would threaten their own transportation projects and funding due to the region not meeting GHG reduction goal of 19%. Don Saylor of Yolo County was the most succinct, saying that SACOG must consider the impact on the region as a whole, and that it is time to move past the limited vision of the past.

The out-of-left-field part of the discussion was that Darrell Steinberg talked about an ongoing negotiation with the measure proponents that would mitigate for the worst aspects of the measure. This apparently has been going on for six weeks, and is the reason the release of the analysis was delayed, even though it was completed a month ago.

Darrell talked about five elements of the negotiation (this is captured from his verbal report, and may not be accurate, no printed information was offered):

  • $300M in the measure for the connector would be contingent upon SACOG defining mitigation measures, and that the Capital Southeast Connector JPA accepted the mitigation.
  • SACOG would develop a scenario in the currently developing MTP/SCS that includes the connector.
  • SACOG would commit to putting the connector in the MTP if these other conditions where met.
  • An additional $300M would be provided for connector mitigation in the measure.
  • $100M will be added to the California Mobility Center, diverted from other projects.

It looks as though Steinberg is putting the onus on SACOG, not on the proponents. It is true that none of the government entities have any control over the measure, but if negotiations are going on, it should be from a position of strength, not weakness. If the City of Sacramento opposed the measure, it is very unlikely that it would pass.

The proponents intended to bully the agencies into supporting it, and to make sure that they got their message across, removed the climate protection language from the measure. They want the agencies to make their own decisions about whether and how to mitigate climate impacts, regardless of regional interests or the intent of the state legislature, or even the interests of the counties that would be impacted.

To my knowledge, no opponents of the measure, of which there are many, the majority of the transit, transportation, and environmental advocacy organizations, were asked to participate in the negotiations. Yet another example of excluding public engagement, just as the people who wrote the measure excluded public engagement.

SACOG said that the analysis would be presented to the various SACOG committees, and would come back to the board in June. It isn’t clear to me what, if anything will happen at that point. I assume the negotiations will have completed by then, successfully or unsuccessfully. It isn’t clear what kind of agreement could be reached that would actually be binding on Sacramento Transportation Authority and the other governments, since a measure, if passed and not found unconstitutional, has the force of law. Maybe there is a way.

For more on the measure, see Measure 2022 posts. The use of this category is not meant to confuse. A lot of people are referring to this as Measure A, but the measure letters are assigned by county elections after they have qualified, so this is in no sense Measure A at this time.

SACOG analysis of Measure 2022

SACOG has released a blockbuster analysis on the effects of the proposed transportation sales tax measure that may be on the ballot in November 2022. The report is extensive, 88 pages. The SACOG Board agenda for 2022-05-19, item 12: SACOG Review & Analysis of Proposed Citizens’ Transportation Tax Initiative in Sacramento County is available here; the entire agenda packet is available on the SACOG website, but is quite large. I will be creating a number of posts on this analysis, but to start, here are two key quotes:

SACOG’s analysis of the proposed transportation tax initiative in Sacramento County projects the region would likely fall short of meeting its state-mandated 19 percent per capita greenhouse gas reduction target by nearly 2 percent. This would jeopardize the region’s ability to compete for state transportation and housing funding programs. The analysis shows that the potential impacts from this revised 2022 initiative are indeed significant enough that the region and decisionmakers should take the time to understand and weigh the potential benefits of the transportation investments against the risks of failing to meet the region’s GHG target.

SACOG Review, page 7

* The 26 known capacity expanding projects in the measure would substantially increase per capita GHG emissions, threatening the region’s ability to meet its 2035 GHG target. This conclusion results from the impact of the transportation facilities themselves, and from the impact additional transportation capacity would have on the location of new housing and employment development, substantially altering the region’s land use forecast and travel patterns and increasing per capita VMT.

* As a result, while the region’s 2020 MTP/SCS succeeded in meeting the per capita GHG emissions reduction target—19% from 2005 to 2035—the analysis shows that the initiative’s capacity projects would erode the region’s performance by nearly 2%; adding the capacity projects to the 2020 MTP/SCS would achieve an overall reduction of per capita GHG of less than 17% by the target year.

* The transit expansion projects in the initiative did not offset the impact of the initiative’s roadway capacity expanding projects enough to help the region meet its GHG emissions reduction target.

SACOG Review, page 5

For more on the measure, see Measure 2022 posts. The use of this category is not meant to confuse. A lot of people are referring to this as Measure A, but the measure letters are assigned by county elections after they have qualified, so this is in no sense Measure A at this time.