March 20, 2020


How The City Of San Diego’s Budget Can Address Our Climate And Community Needs

Maleeka Marsden, Co-Director of Policy

The impacts of COVID-19 have caused disruptions to the City of San Diego’s operations, services, revenue and priorities. Unfortunately, when one crisis starts, the other doesn’t stop.

As the City of San Diego adapts and responds to these changes in next year’s budget, they must fulfill their commitments to implementing the legally-binding Climate Action Plan. 

Here are our main recommendations: 

  1. Create a Mobility Department to help San Diego transition to a climate-friendly transportation system;
  2. Continue to expand San Diego’s network of bike infrastructure;
  3. Fully fund the City’s CAP update and release a five-year outlook, so we can chart the path to Zero Carbon.

At the first budget hearing, council members seemed open to fully funding the City’s CAP, instead of expanding the smart streetlights program, which has serious public surveillance concerns. However, we are unclear on the future of the Mobility Department. 

Stay tuned for updates and click here to read our full letter with recommendations. 

We Need An Economic Recovery That Helps Everyday People

Noah Harris, Transportation Policy Advocate

Yesterday, I joined advocates, including our powerhouse Board Member Rosa Olascoaga Vidal, to make a passionate case in support of no-cost youth bus passes to our local transit agency, MTS. While advocates have been fighting for over a decade to make this possible, it is clear that youth transit riders need us now, more than ever. 

In San Diego and across the nation, working class families are suffering disproportionately from the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. Many families are struggling to put food on the table and pay rent, transportation costs should not be another barrier to access. 

No-cost transit passes for youth represent one of many steps on the path to a just economic recovery for our region. That is why CAC, as part of the San Diego Green New Deal Alliance, sent this letter to our local transit agency. 

Why are no-cost youth transit passes so essential? In the short term, no-cost transit will ensure that young people have access to the resources they need to stay safe and healthy under the COVID-19 crisis. In the long term, it will connect all young people to education, employment, and economic opportunity. 

On top of that, no-cost youth transit passes are also a climate justice solution. Here in San Diego, transportation accounts for the majority of our greenhouse gas emissions. Through no-cost transit passes, we can create the next generation of transit riders and build a cleaner, healthier San Diego for all!

We were disappointed to hear that MTS’ Board of Directors is supportive of this program, but don’t think that now is the right time.  

While this effort was unsuccessful, the fight continues! We will continue to organize, advocate, and mobilize toward a just economic recovery and a world-class transportation system. San Diegans deserve nothing less. 

You Made #GivingTuesdayNow a Success!

Evlyn Andrade, Director of Development

We are overwhelmed at the generosity of our community of climate warriors! With your help, we raised $14,150 in just 24 hours during #GivingTuesdayNow. 

The climate crisis isn’t going anywhere and our team is working remotely to continue this fight. Hear what they’ve been up to, in their own words. 

Maleeka – Fighting for a Just Economic Recovery from COVID-19

Galena – Holding Cities and Elected Officials Accountable Through Our CAP Report Card

Noah – Transforming Our Public Spaces to Serve People, Not Cars

Jose – Fighting to Bring Energy Democracy to Orange County

The passion of people like you keeps us going, and we hope we make you proud. Thank you for being a part of our community and for supporting us during this critical time. While the future feels uncertain, we’re confident that together, we can overcome anything.

Meet Noah – our Transportation Policy Advocate

Noah Harris here, your new Transportation Policy Advocate with Climate Action Campaign, reporting to you live from my sixth week at CAC. From day one, it’s been a whirlwind of an adventure, and has only become more so as the coronavirus affects every aspect of the world we live in. 

Like so many, our team is working remotely. I had no idea I would be advocating for a more sustainable, safe, connected, and equitable transit system from my couch.

I’m new to San Diego, but grew up in the car-dependent sprawl of Los Angeles. Before moving to San Diego, I spent the last four years living in the greater Boston area, where I relished every opportunity to get acquainted with the city’s transit, especially its bus lines. I could also be found on the expansive network of protected bike lanes often, even in the iciest conditions. It was surprising to me too, but Bostonians don’t let the weather stop them from doing almost anything!

Now, I’m back in Southern California, where cars and trucks pollute our air, warm our planet, and exacerbate inequity, and I’m on a mission to fight for world-class transit in our region. 

As I continue to advocate and organize from home, I’ve had some time to reflect on my first few weeks. Read below about one of my favorite work days so far.

Report Card Press Conference and the KPBS Studio

Maleeka and Jade Hindmon in the KPBS studio

On Tuesday, March 10th (my second week on the job), Climate Action Campaign held a press conference announcing the release of our 4th annual Report Card, in which we assess the region’s climate planning and climate action. 

While I was busy introducing myself to supporters and partners with elbow-bumps (it was the early days of the coronavirus), Maleeka Marsden, Co-Director of Policy and lead author, laid down a clear message: “While we are winning some battles, we are losing the war against the climate crisis.”

Quickly after the press conference, we, Maleeka and I, headed over to KPBS studio, where I watched Maleeka’s interview with KPBS Midday as she shared the key findings from this year’s report. 

Wins at San Diego City Council 

Speaking in support of the Mt. Edna project

Shortly after, Maleeka and I rushed over to San Diego City Council, where I nervously gave my first public comment. I spoke in support of the proposed Mt. Etna Project, a 404-unit affordable housing complex in Clairemont. The project, slated to be built in a Transit Priority Area and close to the region’s largest employment center, directly addresses the housing and climate crises. The motion passed 8-1.

Moments after, San Diego joined dozens of other U.S. cities in declaring a climate emergency. Passing 7-1, Maleeka urged council members to accompany this resolution with demonstrated commitments to the City’s Climate Action Plan.

Conclusion: CAC does not rest, and is a critical voice in the region!

As I look back on my first days, (and try to acclimate to my new city under quarantine), I’m reminded that this is a deeply unsettling time. I continue to work with our partnersfrom a distancetowards the dream of a transportation system that provides San Diegans with real choices. Looking forward to meeting everyone in person, and hope to see you all on the number two bus soon!

Celebrating Five Years of CAC

It’s hard to believe, but it’s our 5th Anniversary at CAC!  Five years ago during this week (March 17, 2015 to be exact), CAC was granted our official non-profit status.  

We started with two people and a budget of less than $200k, and five years later, we are a staff of nine with a budget over $1M!  This is a testament to our bottom-up approach to winning transformative change that has established San Diego as a leader in climate action. 

While we have a lot more work to do, we are proud of all that we have accomplished in this short amount of time. Here are our top 5 wins in our first 5 years:

1) Winning a landmark, legally-binding 100% Clean Energy Climate Action Plan in San Diego. 

Our first win was a big one — helping San Diego become the largest city in the country to commit to 100% clean energy. With a Republican Mayor and a bipartisan city council, it wasn’t easy, but we showed what was possible by building broad-based community support for a road map to cut our carbon emissions in half. 

When it did pass with unanimous support, it was a true — and all too rare — moment of broadly shared civic pride.  

CAC Executive Director, Nicole Capretz, Announcing the CAP Plans

Inspired by San Diego’s bold action, California soon set its own 100% clean energy goal – SB 100 – sparking a national race to 100%. 

Today, one-third of Americans live in a community that has committed to or achieved 100% clean energy. We’re proud to say that San Diego and Climate Action Campaign were at the epicenter of this movement.

2) Winning 7 Additional 100% Clean Energy Climate Action Plans in San Diego

After securing the City of San Diego’s bold Climate Action Plan in 2015, we worked hard to replicate that success by urging other cities in the region to follow suit. Today, six other cities in our region have 100% clean energy Climate Action Plans. 

We also succeeded in securing a 100% clean energy commitment from San Diego Unified School District (the second largest school district in California). 

100% Clean Energy CAP Commitment Timeline

3) Winning Energy Democracy for the Region through Community Choice Energy 

CCE Supporters Gathering On the Steps of SD City Council

After half a decade of tireless advocacy, cities in our region are finally committing to dramatically slash emissions with a program that will provide cleaner energy at competitive rates: Community Choice Energy (CCE). 

Community Choice Energy programs allow cities to provide a public alternative to our private utilities, helping cities take control of their energy future and ensuring a path to 100% clean energy. We now have eight cities participating in Community Choice Programs set to launch in 2021, with six more cities exploring the possibility.

Community Members Rallying in Support of Community Choice Energy

San Diego Community Power (SDCP) will be the second largest CCE program in California and serve residents of La Mesa, Chula Vista, San Diego, Encinitas, and Chula Vista. SDCP is projected to:

  • save families and businesses a combined $1.2 billion on their energy bills, 
  • build over 1,000 megawatts of new local, clean energy projects
  • cut local GHG emissions by 1.9 metric tons, 
  • reinvest $1.5 billion toward clean energy programs and initiatives over 10 years. 

SDCP will also have a keen focus on building an equitable and sustainable 21st century workforce, exemplifying the very best of what CCE programs can achieve. 

4) Defeating a Freeway-Centric Transportation Proposal in 2016

In 2016, we joined hands with a diverse group of labor, environmental, and social justice organizations to defeat a proposed ballot measure that would have locked us into more urban sprawl, congestion and freeways.

Coalition Rallying In Opposition to SANDAG Measure A

Striking down Measure A sent a clear message: San Diegans deserve a transportation system that connects everyone to opportunity and one that is good for our health and the planet. This win opened the door to a new transportation vision for our region: world-class transit and bikeable, walkable neighborhoods. Stay tuned for exciting developments this year! 

5) Establishing a Model Climate Corridor on El Cajon Boulevard

Through our El Cajon Boulevard Model Climate Corridor we are demonstrating how the actions we must take to achieve a fossil-free future will also lead to a better quality of life.

Announcing our Model Climate Corridor Project at the Boulevard Busway Press Conference

We fought alongside our partners to secure the Boulevard Busway, a 3-mile  bus- and bike- only lane on El Cajon Blvd, one of the most dense and heavily used corridors in San Diego. We saw this as an opportunity to integrate mixed-use development, affordable housing, efficient transit, and tree-lined streets to model an equitable, zero carbon region.

Boulevard Busway Route

To get started, we partnered with the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association and secured funding for 50+ shade trees to make this vision a reality.  Keep your eye out as the trees get planted, and new bus-only lanes around our region get installed.

El Cajon Boulevard Model Climate Corridor Mock-Up

With Gratitude

We are proud of these achievements, but we couldn’t have done it without you. We are thankful to all that have fought tirelessly with us, believed in us, and supported us. A big thank you to our partners, our volunteers, and our donors. 

Our Vision For The Next Five Years

Climate Action Campaign will continue to spark change from the ground up by shooting for the North Star in 2020: Zero Carbon. The best available science shows that we cannot protect our future unless we reach this goal. With your support, we can build capacity, mobilize our community, and catalyze systemic change for a safe and livable future.