After two years of allocating $0 towards implementation of the City’s much-touted Climate Action Plan (CAP), at the end of May the mayor guaranteed that crucial recent hires in the SF Environment Department (SFE) can keep their jobs (whew!) and continue the work executing many strategies outlined in the CAP - as well as applying for federal and state grants, leveraging millions more in emissions-reduction support.
But she left something out: funding for the staff and resources to allow the eagerly-anticipated Climate Equity Hub (catalyst for electrification of existing buildings ) finally to become reality. It’s needed as a source for renters, homeowners, landlords, chefs, business owners, workers, trainees, contractors, and others to access rebates, incentives, education, jobs: opportunities for all San Franciscans to benefit from the elimination of health-harming,climate-destroying methane (natural gas) from our buildings.
After weeks of emailing and calling the Supervisors (thank you, everyone who spoke up!), the month of June ended for advocates with Budget Public Comment Day at City Hall. A dozen of us from SFCEC visited the offices of all 11 Supervisors to lobby for funding the Climate Equity Hub. We concentrated on the five members of the Budget & Appropriations Committee, mired as they were in the high-pressure final hours of the add-back process. After the dramatic discovery that the Hub had been dropped from The List of still-negotiable budget asks, we upped our game, did some revisiting with newly-relevant talking points - and that evening the Hub was back on the list! Funding amount was much less than the Environment Department asked for - what else is new? - but it's something. The budget must be approved by the full Board sometime this month (July) and signed by the Mayor by August 1st.
...then maybe greenhouse-gas emissions-lowering climate action could at least be part of the bond? In May, the Supervisors' Budget and Appropriations Committee approved the Capital Planning Committee’s 10-year bond schedule, which at the last minute included adding $140 million to the $200 million Affordable Housing Bond scheduled to go on the March 2024 ballot.
The devil is in the details, and we want the $140 million to be used to electrify and rehab existing affordable housing, and/or to repurpose existing buildings as all-electric affordable housing. The latter would add to the affordable housing stock; the former would improve what we already have. New construction, of course, is already required to be all-electric. Money used on existing buildings would provide badly needed upgrades, insure cleaner indoor air, help to lower asthma rates, and reduce the planet-heating emissions caused by burning fossil fuels.
City departments are working together behind-the-scenes on such a possibility. In early fall, the Board of Supervisors will be voting on the specific bond proposal. Stay tuned for advocacy alerts!
March 15, 2023 was a big day for climate activism. In the morning at a meeting of Bay Area Air Quality Management Board, we joined Sierra Club, many doctors from SF Bay Physicians for Social Responsibility and others to speak out for phasing out polluting fossil-fuel-powered appliances. Many people also had written to the board members before the meeting. And we won! The BAAQMD board voted to approve the nation's first zero-nitrogen oxides (NOx) standard for furnaces and water heaters, which will effectively phase out the sale of new gas furnaces and water heaters, beginning in 2027. The rules will apply when a consumer replaces a burned-out appliance — no one would be required to remove working appliances.
In the afternoon, we went to City Hall for the Budget & Appropriations hearing on the CLEE report. Back in December, the Supervisors passed a non-binding resolution urging the Capital Planning Committee, now developing the City’s 10-year Capital Plan, to schedule climate bonds in the queue for the near future. As of the hearing, they had NOT done so. Such bonds are recommended by UC Berkeley’s Center for Law, Energy & Environment (CLEE), which analyzed funding and financing strategies to generate sufficient revenue for San Francisco’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) while advancing equity and ensuring smart implementation. At this informational hearing, we heard from SF Environment Department, the City Controllor, the Office of Resilience and Capital Planning, Supervisors on the Budget & Appropriations Committee,and writers of the CLEE report. We gave public comment - and many others had written to the policymakers before the meeting. You can STILL write to them to emphasize the urgency of funding the City's CAP until the end of March, by using our easy letter- writing tool.
Like candidates’ requests for campaign money, city budget talks seem to be never-ending. But so many of the pressing needs confronting our elected officials, from health crises to housing or lack thereof, are exacerbated by the ever-increasing climate catastrophes besetting our warming planet.
In January 2023, once again we urged Mayor Breed to include funding in her budget proposal, for SF Environment Department to continue implementing the City’s Climate Action Plan. The request is for less than $7 million, reasonable in an annual budget of $14 billion. Many letters were sent. We'll see what her budget includes when it's due June 1st.
Background. With first-ever General Fund money provided by the Board of Supervisors (they listened to us!) the Environment Department (SFE) commissioned a study to look into how to fund San Francisco's Climate Action Plan (CAP), our City's roadmap to reaching our climate goals. The Center for Law, Energy and the Environment (CLEE) at UC Berkeley released that report this past November (“Funding San Francisco Climate Action: Strategies for Revenue, Implementation, and Equity,”) having studied many options and made several recommendations.
The Capital Planning Committee, which consists of 11 department heads and other city leaders and makes recommendations to the Mayor and BoS on the City’s capital expenditures and plan, is now updating its 10-year plan for future bonds to be placed on the ballot.
Resolution. In December, after a barrage of messages from SFCEC members and allies, the full Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a (non-binding) resolution urging the Capital Planning Committee to include funding priorities recommended by the CLEE Report in the proposed General Obligation Bond schedule. Supervisor Mandelman called a hearing on the CLEE report to be held before the Supervisors' Budget & Appropriations Committee in the new year.
Electioneering for the Climate. Before the November 2022 election, we advocated for YES on Prop J to keep the JFK Promenade in Golden Gate Park a safe, protected open space for families, seniors, people with disabilities, and all San Franciscans. It passed! We endorsed NO on Prop I, a competing measure to end the JFK Promenade, along with the weekend compromise on the Great Highway, and cost taxpayers over $80 million by overturning the Ocean Beach Climate Adaptation project in favor of a ridiculous, ultimately doomed seawall. It failed! We were also successful in our support for Yes on Prop L to extend an existing ½-cent sales tax for 30 years to fund transportation projects. Unfortunately, state Proposition 30, which would have funded air-pollution-reducing programs by taxing personal income above $2 million, failed - although it did win in San Francisco county.
We were excited to celebrate and award the title Climate Champion to three San Francisco Supervisors - Rafael Mandelman, Gordon Mar, and Myrna Melgar - in appreciation of their outstanding work with the Climate Justice and Environmental Justice community to fight climate change and protect our health and environment.
When: Friday, October 7, 2022, 1:30 - 2:30 pm
Where: Polk Street steps of City Hall, facing Civic Center Plaza
These Supervisors have introduced and supported legislation, resolutions, and have held hearings on many issues related to climate and environmental justice. They have been with us all along the way, pushing for support of the Department of the Environment (SFE) and the implementation and funding of our Climate Action Plan.
With this recognition, we let them know we remember their contributions and we can't wait to work with them in the future to fund and implement the Climate Action Plan.
Other organizations joining SF CEC in honoring the Supervisors include 350 SF, California Native Plant Society, Charge across Town, Citizens Climate Lobby SF Chapter, Climate Action Now!, Climate Reality Project SF Policy Action, Friends of the Urban Forest, Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice, Jobs With Justice, Mothers Out Front SF, Plastic Free Fridays, Plastic Free Future, SF Bay Physicians for Social Responsibility, San Francisco Tomorrow, SF Circle of 1000 Grandmothers for Future Generations, SPUR (SF Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association), and Sutro Stewards.
Thanks to persistent advocacy of climate activists (we heard that again and again), the Board of Supervisors’ budget allocated $2.6 million in General Fund money to the Department of the Environment (SFE) to begin implementing the Climate Action Plan (CAP). It’s more than twice as much as they allocated to SFE last year - so we’re celebrating the win! The Climate Equity Hub will move out of the planning stage to become reality.
The full Board voted its approval July 19, 2022. Thanks to everyone who called or wrote their Supervisor to tell them that funding equitable climate action is important to their constituents!
We won $1.4 million for three climate programs!!
Climate-action funding got the most action at the Budget and Appropriations Committee hearing last week. Supervisor Mandelman introduced his proposal to add $1.4 million for an analysis of what’s needed, a climate equity hub to collect experts and information for all-electric retrofits, and grants for community-led climate action. Supervisor Mar joined in, and Chair Haney was enthusiastic. We and allies had the most commenters (30% of the total!!) even though no comment was allowed until after 11 hours of nonstop budget reports.
There's still more work to do...The proposal is about .01% of the city budget, not the 1% we seek, so we need to applaud but cry Encore And More!
Check out the press release from Supervisors Mandelman, Mar, and Haney.
Daniel Tahara, of the SF Climate Emergency Coalition speaks at the San Francisco Department of Environment’s Earth Day Celebration, April 22, 2021.
After the speeches of Debra Gore-Mann, President of the Greenlining Institute (pictured top-center), Eric Shaw, Director of Mayor’s office of Housing and Community Development (middle-right) and Sharaya Souza, Executive Director of the American Indian Cultural District (bottom-left), Daniel spoke on working together on climate, and the need for the City to fund climate solutions.
Director of the SF Department of the Environment Debbie Raphael (bottom-center) hosted the event.