March 20, 2020

Blog

Freeway Travel Is On The Rise. Yes, We Still Need World-Class Transit.

Noah Harris, Transportation Policy Advocate

We’ve got some bad news: San Diegans are still racking up tons of miles in their cars, even with California’s stay home order. Our region needs a world-class transit system that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and helps us secure a Zero Carbon future. 

Our regional planning agency–SANDAG–recently published an update on freeway travel from mid-March through early June. Here are two key stats: 

  1. In the third month of quarantine, San Diegans drove a whopping 514 million miles on our eight local freeways. 
  2. The number of cars on our freeways has increased each week since the height of the quarantine, and in the first week of June, that number was only down 21% compared to the same time last year. 

Despite a drastic drop in freeway travel in mid-April, the numbers are now almost back to status quo. Our response to this pandemic — through strategies like slow streets and curbside restaurants — has shown that we can quickly reimagine our public spaces, even during a crisis. 

By harnessing this spirit of adaptability and duty to one another, we can build a world-class transportation system that confronts our other looming crisis — climate change.

Take a closer look at the freeway travel data here and stay tuned for some huge updates and opportunities to engage in regional transportation decisions. 


How Encinitas Can Chart The Course To Zero Carbon

Noah Harris, Transportation Policy Advocate

In May, the CAC crew joined partners in writing a letter outlining our recommendations for Encinitas’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) Update this year. Last week, we met with Encinitas elected officials to share why these five recommendations are essential to stopping the climate crisis:

  1. Chart the course to a Zero Carbon future.
  2. Electrify everything, including buildings. 
  3. Encourage telecommuting through specific strategies. 
  4. Help residents opt out of driving and into biking, walking, and transit. 
  5. Build and prioritize affordable housing near transit. 

During our meeting with Encinitas officials, we learned that this year’s CAP Update will be small. Despite this, we made one thing crystal clear: setting a roadmap today for carbon neutrality is essential to halting the most devastating impacts of climate change. 

Across our region, we’re fighting to ensure that Climate Action Plans are not just aspirational documents, but real maps to zero carbon, in accordance with climate science. Want to learn more about the need for zero carbon? Check out the landmark UN IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5℃.


Emergency Averted: County of San Diego Rejects Dangerous Lilac Hills Project In Wildfire Zone

Noah Harris, Transportation Policy Advocate

Last week, we spoke in opposition to the Lilac Hills Ranch housing development, urging the Board of Supervisors to reject the project planned in a dangerous wildfire zone. After nearly a decade of negotiations and a failed ballot measure, the Board killed Lilac Hills in a four-to-one vote!

Wildfire risks aside, Lilac Hills is a perfect example of the type of development we must stop. Sprawl projects like these — far away from jobs, goods, and transit — lock us into car-dependence and cause deadly air pollution in our region, further exacerbating the climate crisis.

To tackle the climate crisis, we must reject sprawl in favor of dense, infill housing near jobs and transit. Although this vote is a huge win, it’s beyond time for the County of San Diego to get serious about stopping sprawl development in our fire-prone rural areas.

We’ll keep pushing our elected officials to build a climate-safe future in San Diego County. To learn more, check out this article with details about the vote and why we should just say NO to sprawl.


Lemon Grove Strengthens Their CAP Through Increased Focus On Transit, Clean Energy, and Equity

Galena Robertson-Geibel, Operations Manager

Since adopting their Climate Action Plan (CAP) in April of this year, Lemon Grove has already made four important updates to strengthen their commitment to climate solutions that benefit their communities.

These updates are:

  1. An increased target for the percentage of people traveling by transit
  2. An increased clean energy goal, including a commitment to participating in a program that provides 100% clean energy, such as Community Choice Energy
  3. A commitment to prioritizing CAP actions that advance social equity
  4. Annual reporting requirements, so that Lemon Grove residents are aware of what their city is doing to address the climate crisis

We have been involved in Lemon Grove’s CAP development since the beginning, working with local residents (including our very own, Evlyn Andrade!), attending workshops, meeting with elected officials and city staff, and collaborating with partners. 

To see the CAP finally adopted and further strengthened is a huge win!

Even more exciting was the number of public comments in favor of a strong CAP that were submitted to City Council, demonstrating the depth of public support. This win proves how important it is that we all engage with our local elected officials, to the demand the change climate science tells us we need. 

To find out how your city is doing on climate, and to learn more about important climate goals to share with your own City Council, check out our 4th Edition Report Card.


Climate Change Is Making Babies Sick: New Research Links Climate Crisis to Pregnancy Risks

Ariana Criste, Communications Manager

In new research released in the Journal of the American Medical Association, CAC Board Member, Bruce Bekkar, M.D., co-authored a study demonstrating the link between the climate crisis and negative pregnancy outcomes.

The research shows that heat and air pollution are taking a serious toll on the health of babies and mothers. One of the studies found that “high exposure to air pollution during the final trimester of pregnancy was linked to a 42 percent increase in the risk of stillbirth.”

This research covered 32 million births and compiled 57 individual studies to show how the climate crisis and air pollution are causing pregnancy and birth complications, especially for Black mothers.

Black moms matter. It’s time to really be paying attention to the groups that are especially vulnerable,” – Bruce Bekkar, M.D. CAC Board Member and Co-Author of this Report

Black, brown, and low-income communities experience more heat waves and air pollution because their neighborhoods lack tree cover and parks and are often near freeways and industrial facilities.

Not only are Black mothers burdened by heat and air pollution risks during pregnancy, they also receive unequal levels of treatment when they do seek care because of racial bias in our healthcare system.

The climate crisis is a public health emergency that’s already impacting black and brown communities. We’re redoubling our anti-racist work and engaging public health professionals through our Public Health Advisory Council, because every child deserves clean air and clean water.

Want to learn more? Read this New York Times article about the study.


The Biggest Deal You Never Heard Of: The Franchise Agreement

Mathew Vasilakis, Co-Director of Policy

I’ve held off writing this post for as long as I could. Writing about this topic is challenging because of how obscure, niche, and—dare I say—unsexy it is. But it’s a deal so consequential to our future, you HAVE to know what’s going on.

In short, for the first time in 50 years, the City of San Diego’s energy franchise agreements are set to expire. I know, what does that mean and why is it a big deal? Well these agreements dictate everything about how our energy is delivered to us, and how much we pay. In short, this deal determines: 

  • Who gets to design, build, maintain our energy system
  • What kind of energy system we get (clean or dirty)
  • What the bill will be for us at the end of the line

Needless to say, our current energy agreements favor the big Wall Street corporation. Our utility, SDG&E, fights tooth and nail to keep their monopoly power and line their Executive and shareholder pockets with our hard-earned money, while we pay the highest energy bills in the state.

I’m not going to get into the weeds just yet about how we can flip the script and win the People’s Deal for a Better Franchise Agreement, but I wanted to flag this for you now because it is about to heat up. Climate Action Campaign and our partners are on it, and we’ll need your help soon.

Stay tuned and check out this recent Voice of San Diego article on the Franchise Agreements to learn more.


We Won! Court Rejects San Diego County’s Flawed Climate Action Plan 

Nicole Capretz, Founder & Executive Director

The County of San Diego has done it again. They have once again been told by the California Court of Appeal to rescind their adopted Climate Action Plan and start over, because their CAP does not protect public health nor meet state climate goals.  

The three biggest takeaways from the case are:

  1. The County has not developed a Climate Action Plan that will allow San Diego to reach our climate goals. 
  2. The County must figure out ways to promote smart growth, protect public health, and reduce driving. 
  3. The County cannot use unverified and unenforceable international carbon offsets in order to approve sprawl development.

This will be the third time the County has to publicly rescind their adopted climate plans, which is a rare and humiliating act. Overall, it is an unprecedented failure of leadership on one of the biggest public health threats of our time.  

Please join us in calling on the County of San Diego to develop a new Climate Action Plan that protects our health and safety, meets state law, and stops sprawl development in favor of smart growth near jobs and transit. 

Want to learn more? Here is a link to the decision (note: it’s long and dense!):

https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/D075328.PDF

We will never give up, and always fight for clean air and clean water for all. 


There Can Be No Climate Justice Without Racial Justice – A Statement From CAC’s Executive Director

Nicole Capretz, Founder & Executive Director

Like many of you, we have been heartbroken, angry, and inspired by the calls for a new America. We stand in solidarity with those demanding justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and countless other lives lost to systemic racism, white supremacy, and police brutality. Here’s why: 

We often hear that the climate crisis impacts us all. While that is true, the climate crisis is impacting communities of color first and worst. Our country has a history of sacrificing Black, brown, and indigenous lives by placing polluting facilities in their communities in the United States and globally. 

Every Child Deserves Clean Air and Clean Water

In the U.S., Latino and Black Americans live closer to toxic facilities, energy plants, and other polluters resulting in higher rates of respiratory illnesses and cancer.

Communities of color shoulder the burden of air pollution in San Diego, too. The rate of asthma in San Ysidro is 18 times higher than the country as a whole. Here, 41% of residents live within 500 feet of a pollution source. This is no accident. 

It’s the result of over a century of racist policies with one message: that the lives and livelihoods of black and brown people don’t matter. The truth is that our fossil fuel powered economy has always required sacrificial places and people. 

Our Struggles Are Connected, And So Is Our Liberation

We don’t live in a “single-issue” world, everything is interconnected. If we want to survive, we must connect the dots between our daily struggles and global crises. 

The same systems of oppression that criminalize blackness, allow polluters to set up shop in our backyards. We must have the courage and imagination to confront and dismantle them if we hope to realize the vision of a better world. 

What Will Happen If We Don’t Address The Root Problems

If we respond to the climate crisis by battening down the hatches and militarizing our police, we are setting the stage for more resource wars and endless human rights violations. Every policy win that makes our societies more humane and just in the face of the warming world, will also help us weather the climate crisis without slipping into our worst impulses. 

We’re Committed To Doing The Work

Since our founding, we’ve approached our work through a lens of equity — amplifying the work of our partners fighting for racial justice and supporting policies that will make our region more safe and just. We still have work to do. 

This is why we’re redoubling our commitment to anti-racism. As an organization, we are:

  • Conducting a racial justice training for staff and Board
  • Strengthening our strategic plan to elevate racial and economic justice in our work. 
  • Testifying in support of economic justice measures like Emergency Rental Relief. 
  • Centering racial justice in both the San Diego Green New Deal and a California Green New Deal. 
  • Joining hundreds of other organizations within the California Green coalition to stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. 

This is only the beginning.  We commit to being fierce allies in the fight for racial justice. We hope you will join us.  


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.