- This Week
If cutting edge San Francisco can't meet the challenge of climate change and related environmental issues, are we all doomed?
04.16.13 - 6:04 pm | Steven T. Jones |
"PT. REYES FROM CHIMNEY ROCK" BY TOM KILLION
Falvey cites the mayor's recent move of $2 million into the GoSolar program, new electric vehicle charging stations in city garages, and his support for industries working on environmental solutions: "Mayor Lee's CleantechSF initiative supports the growth of the already vibrant cleantech industry and cleantech jobs in San Francisco, and he has been proactive in reaching out to the City's 211 companies that make up one of the largest and most concentrated cleantech clusters in the world."
Yet many environmentalists say that simply waiting for corporations to save the planet won't work, particularly given their history, profit motives, and the short term thinking of global capitalism.
"To put it bluntly, the Lee administration is bought and paid for by PG&E," said Eric Brooks with Our City, which has worked for years to launch CleanPowerSF and ensure that it builds local renewable power capacity.
The opening of the McKinsey report makes it clear why the environmental policies of San Francisco and other big cities matter: "Around the globe, urban areas are becoming more crowded and consuming more resources per capita," it states. "Cities are already responsible for roughly seventy percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, and as economic growth becomes more concentrated in urban centers, their total greenhouse gas emissions may double by 2050. As a result, tackling the problem of climate change will in large part depend on how we reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of cities."
And San Francisco, it argues, is the perfect place to start: "The city now has the opportunity to crystallize and execute a bold, thoughtful strategy to attain new targets, continue to lead by example, and further national and global debates on climate change."
The unwritten message: If we can't do it here, maybe we can't do it anywhere.
ON THE EDGE
San Francisco's waterfront is where economic pressures meet environmental challenges. As the city seeks to continue with aggressive growth and developments efforts on one side of the line — embodied recently by the proposed Warriors Arena at Piers 30-32, 8 Washington and other waterfront condo complexes, and other projects that intensify building along the water — that puts more pressure on the city to compensate with stronger sustainability initiatives.
"The natural thing to do with most of our waterfront would be to open it up to the public," said Jon Golinger, who is leading this year's referendum campaign to overturn the approval of 8 Washington. "But if the lens you're looking through is just the balance sheet and quarterly profits, the most valuable land maybe in the world is San Francisco's waterfront."
He and others — including SF Waterfront Alliance, a new group formed to oppose the Warriors Arena — say the city is long overdue in updating its development plan for the waterfront, as Prop. H in 1990 called for every five years. They criticize the city and Port for letting developers push projects without a larger vision.
"We are extremely concerned with what's happening on our shorelines," said Michelle Myers, director of the Sierra Club's Bay Chapter, arguing that the city should be embracing waterfront open space that can handle storm surge instead of hardening the waterfront with new developments. "Why aren't we thinking about those kinds of projects on our shoreline?"
David Lewis, director of Save the Bay, told us cities need to think less about the value of waterfront real estate and do what it can to facilitate the rising bay. "There are waterfront projects that are not appropriate," Lewis said. Projects he puts in that category range from a scuttled proposal to build around 10,000 homes on the Cargill Salt Flats in Redwood City to the Warriors Arena on Piers 30-32.