While legislation is essential to climate action, the work doesn't stop there. We need thoughtful, ambitious implementation by our state agencies, too.
Lately, we've been busy spreading the word about urban environmentalism at the California Air Resources Board, which is updating the state's 2045 carbon emissions roadmap (the Scoping Plan Update). This roadmap is hugely impactful, so we need to get it right.
This past month, we submitted comments on draft roadmap targets. We argued for:
Want to learn more? Here's a look at our entire public comment. Or visit the California Air Resources Board website to learn more about the Scoping Plan.
Congratulations to Urban Environmentalists Travis Close and Venessa Boehm for getting their fantastic op-ed published in Berkeleyside! In their piece, Vanessa and Travis eloquently call for the California Legislature to pass SB 9, which would legalize duplexes and lot splits statewide. Read their op-ed here.
Opinion pieces are an essential part of getting the word out about urban environmentalism. If you would like to write your own op-ed about a topic you're passionate about, please get in touch with us at email@example.com, or become a member and find us on the Slack at #environment. We'll help you refine your idea, provide writing tips and edit suggestions, and help you get placed in a local paper. Publishing an op-ed is surprisingly easy, we promise!
Want some inspiration? Check out some other op-eds written by Urban Environmentalists here:
Please join us in Hellman Hollow in Golden Gate Park for the Urban Environmentalists Summer Picnic! If you haven't yet checked out Car-Free JFK, this is a great opportunity to arrive by foot, bike, or scooter via JFK Drive.
Due to the pandemic, this is a BYO event: make sure to bring your own food & drink, picnic blanket, folding chair, etc. For everyone's safety, fully vaccinated attendees only.
Sign up today, and we'll see you there!
We are thrilled to announce that Joanna Gubman, a long-time volunteer lead with Urban Environmentalists, has signed on as our first-ever Executive Director!
Joanna comes to us from the California Public Utilities Commission, where she served as an Administrative Law Judge and Commissioner's Advisor, among other roles. She brings to Urban Environmentalists her expertise in clean energy and transportation policy, energy programs for underserved communities, and of course, navigating complex government bureaucracies. In her free time, Joanna serves as a member of the board of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.
Her several research fellowships in Germany have also inspired Joanna to become ever more committed to urbanism here in the Bay Area. She wishes everyone had the opportunity to live in a city with mixed-use multifamily development, transit that runs every 4 minutes, protected bike lanes on nearly every major street, and playgrounds every few blocks.
If you haven't yet met Joanna, we hope you'll join us for our Summer Picnic on August 29 and say hi! You can also reach out anytime with your thoughts and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope you enjoyed our bike parking panel last Thursday, with helpful ideas for how to make biking more practical for SF residents and workers, especially tenants and gig economy workers. If not, stay tuned for the recording on our Youtube channel, or read our livetweet thread.
Please support our priority bill AB 1401 THIS WEEKEND
AB 1401 is a clear statement of Urban Environmentalist values, and its fate in the legislature may be decided this week.
AB 1401 eliminates parking requirements in neighborhoods near high-quality transit, which will make housing more affordable, make our cities healthier and more livable, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Not only does mandating parking inherently raise the price of new housing, but the requirements preclude some of the best "Missing Middle" home types we learned about in last fall's Beyond Towers and Sprawl event, capable of providing more affordable housing without subsidy. They certainly preclude exciting projects like Culdesac's new car-free neighborhood in Tempe, AZ.
Worst, recent research has shown a large, direct connection between building parking and more car ownership, and car ownership is a top predictor of household carbon footprint. California is at risk of falling behind in meeting its climate goals, and car-dependence is the biggest reason.
Support AB 1401
June 7: Fair Housing Elements + East Bay Candidate Meet & Greet
For our June meeting, hear from Jes McBride about the Campaign for Fair Housing Elements, how fairer Housing Elements support our values as Urban Environmentalists, and how you can help. Stay on for a meet & greet with Janani Ramachandran, a social justice lawyer, activist, and artist running for special election in State Assembly District 18 (Alameda and neighboring East Bay cities). RSVP here.
We co-present a guest post by two UC Davis law professors, exploring an idea raised in The True Cost of Residential Street Parking, a SPUR Digital Dialogue held in November, co-hosted with Urban Environmentalists. Watch a video of the original conversation. Many thanks to Professors Elmendorf and Shanske for diving into the question of whether California cities can legally charge market rates for parking, and to SPUR for co-publishing this post with us, excerpted below.
How to Solve the Transit Budget Crunch: Price the Private Use of Public Streets
Written By Chris Elmendorf and Darien Shanske, UC Davis, Dec 18, 2020.
Read the full piece on SPUR's website.
COVID-19 has been catastrophic for public transit. Plunging fare and tax revenues are forcing drastic cuts. San Francisco’s transit agency could lay off more than one in five workers. Los Angeles is cutting service by 20%. Washington, DC is proposing to shutter 16% of its stations and eliminate weekend rail service. State governments can’t provide stopgap funding because they’re constitutionally constrained to balance budgets (though there is some room for creativity). Congress ought to step up, but Mitch McConnell stands in the way.
We think there’s a solution right under our feet: Make private drivers pay market rates to use the public’s roads. Traditionally, transit customers have had to fork over hefty fares, while private drivers go for free. The result is congestion, endless circling for parking spaces, Ubers and Lyfts blocking bike lanes and bus stops, and, at this precarious fiscal moment, a huge pot of potential revenue waiting to be claimed.
The place to start is residential parking. San Francisco has 275,000 curb parking spaces, only 10% of which are metered. Another 80,000 are in restricted residential parking zones. For a trivial annual fee, residents park without limit in their zone. Meanwhile, garage parking in the city costs on the order of $200 to $500 a month. Street parking isn’t worth as much as garage parking, and the value of a curb space would vary a lot from one neighborhood to the next. But even if the average curb space in the city were worth only $100 per month, the city could be earning $300 million a year from the street parking it now gives away. That’s almost double the transit agency’s forecasted deficit next year...
The authors conclude:
Here’s the bottom line: The question of what and whom to charge for using the curb lane is a political and policy question for California cities, not a legal matter. Yes, someone will probably sue if a city raises the price of parking—but they’re not likely to win. Making drastic cuts to the transit budget is a choice, not an inevitability. There is a better way.
Read the full piece on SPUR's website.
Thanks for joining us for The True Cost of Residential Street Parking, co-hosted with SPUR and Streets for People.
Street Parking Video & Brainstorm
Watch the video: Missed the discussion on residential parking? No worries. Catch parking expert Donald Shoup, urban planner Anna Muessig, law professor Chris Elmendorf, and moderator Raynell Cooper from SFMTA on Urban Environmentalists' YouTube Channel.
Share your ideas: Send us your ideas for how we could better use residential curb space. We'll include our favorites in the next newsletter, and share them with SFMTA! Just take 30 seconds to draw a picture of how we could better use residential curb space (bike parking? tiny houses? you tell us!). Snap a photo of your drawing and email your photo to us, or tweet it to @UrbanEnviroCA. (Words are OK too, if you don't like to draw.)
Building Bike Networks in SF & Berlin - Dec 14
What does it take to get a complete network of protected bike lanes, without gaps or choke points? On Monday we heard from Berliner Peter Broytman (Coordination Office Cycling) about how the city rapidly expanded its bike network during covid, and discussed how SF can grow its bike network with local bike lane mapper Peter Belden. Contact us to connect with Peter Belden with your ideas about growing SF's bike network.
What we're reading
The True Cost of Residential Street Parking - Nov 16, 5pm
Co-hosted by SPUR and Streets for People
Just a quick reminder to sign up now for our FREE virtual event this Monday at 5pm. We've got an all-star panel lined up, including Donald Shoup, the UCLA professor who literally wrote the book on the high cost of free parking. Can't wait to see you there.
Plus, scroll down for a petition to keep bike lanes on Better Market Street, from our friends at Streets for People. And check out this article on San Francisco's recent vote to ban natural gas in new buildings starting next year!
Today's Action: Save the Protected Bike Lanes on Market Street
In October 2019, after nearly ten years of community outreach, the SFMTA Board approved the Better Market Street plan. This once in a generation update to our main civic boulevard included sidewalk-level protected bike lanes the length of Market Street, shown in the rendering above. This facility was a hard-won victory for bicycle advocates and was to provide a safe and pleasant cycling experience for all ages and abilities.
Now, the SFMTA wants to re-open the project and throw out the protected bike lanes from the plan, instead forcing cyclists to share the curb lane with taxis and delivery vehicles. This will lock in place for another generation the current unsafe conditions on Market Street where cyclists regularly risk injury and death due to sharing street space with careless drivers. Additionally, all Muni vehicles will be forced to use the center lane, creating more delays for transit riders compared to the previously approved plan.
Please sign the Streets for People petition and tell the SFMTA that we need safe cycling facilities on Market Street. If you want to say this in person, there will be public comment opportunities coming up - follow Streets for People on Twitter to stay updated.
See you Monday,
Zack, Joanna, Cliff, Jon, Robert, and Terry at Urban Environmentalists
We know you are all probably saturated with election news these past few weeks that have brought both inspiration and disappointment. We first want to recognize the courageous and tireless contributions of our postal service workers, our poll workers & volunteers, activists and organizations driving up voter turnout, and all of the Americans who took on physical risk and showed incredible patience to exercise their right to vote and directly support others' right to do so.
Before we do a deeper election recap-- we want to make sure you don't miss our all-star lineup for our event TOMORROW. Join us for The True Cost of Residential Street Parking.
In January, we will have a president that recognizes both the reality of climate change and the US housing shortage, who respects expertise, and whose ideas for "building back better" show a path for enhancing climate resilience, social equity, and shared prosperity all together.
Not all the votes are in, but so far we are also seeing a number of local victories for candidates and ballot measures supporting Urban Environmentalist values. We won't be able to list everyone here, but here are some of the ones we are most excited about:
The True Cost of Residential Street Parking
It's never too early after the election to talk about parking!
Free or inexpensive street parking near home is a benefit that many take for granted, as residential parking permits range from $35 or less in San José to $144 annually in San Francisco (and many neighborhoods don't require permits at all). However, even residential permit holders often find themselves circling for parking at the end of the day, while individuals without cars receive little to no benefit from this valuable curb space. Is the public right-of-way the right place for parking private vehicles? What are the true costs and benefits of residential street parking, considering externalities such as racial justice and carbon impacts? If we as a society decide to change how we allocate and regulate curb space, what steps would be required and how could we ensure that our new approaches are equitable? Hear an expert panel (listed below) discuss these questions and much more. Co-hosted with SPUR and Streets for People.
RSVP here on SPUR's event page to join us Mon, Nov 16 at 5pm.
What We're Watching
About Here has a great video about the Missing Middle Mystery in Vancouver, dramatizing the themes we covered in our more lengthy Beyond Towers and Sprawl conversation last month (rewatch here).