The Pleasanton City Council last week received its first yearly update on city staff's progress in implementing the Climate Action Plan 2.0 (CAP 2.0), which includes dozens of environmental projects to reduce greenhouse gasses.
The CAP 2.0, which the council adopted in February 2022, is a framework that creates a more focused approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to City Manager Gerry Beaudin, and sets targets that he and staff called ambitious.
"The CAP calculates the city's expected emissions accounts for legislation that will affect our emissions and then sets the target pathway," Megan Campbell, associate planner for the city, said during the May 2 council meeting.
Some of the most notable primary action projects that have either been completed or are on track to be completed soon include efforts to get more buildings to be all electric powered with more solar panels, more electric vehicle charging station locations and a gas leaf blower ban that could soon come before the council for a final decision.
Councilmember Valerie Arkin, who said she has people calling her all the time regarding leaf blowers, had asked Campbell about why the efforts to ban these gas powered tools has taken so long given that it has been brought up many times before and was supposed to come before the council this month.
Campbell said that due to the city having received comments back from the California Department of Housing and Community Development regarding Pleasanton's sixth cycle Housing Element, she had to switch her focus to that and away from the gas leaf blower topic.
She did, however, say that the council will hear more about that ban in a later time this year.
Vice Mayor Jack Balch also asked about the ban and clarified with Campbell that the state recently passed legislation that bans the sale of new gas-powered small engine equipment, which includes leaf blowers, mowers and other trimming tools.
"That will handle part of our problem, because if your leaf blower breaks, and you go to buy one at the store, it will only be electric in the near future," Campbell said. "The (gas powered) leaf blowers though, do have a lifespan of maybe 10 years ... so there will definitely be a lot of gas leaf blowers still out there and so the question is do we want to take it further and make sure that we're also banning all of those ones that are still operational?"
Apart from leaf blowers, Campbell went through all of the other projects that the city is currently working on such as the implementation of building codes that require new buildings have to be all electric; municipal facility energy improvements; expanding portable charging stations to places like the Pleasanton Senior Center and the Firehouse Arts Center; and the increased city rebate maximums for lawn transformation to use less water.
But for solar panel infrastructure efforts, specifically for city-owned buildings, Councilmember Julie Testa said that not much has been done on that front and wanted to know more about why the Pleasanton Library and the Dolores Bengtson Aquatic Center haven't had solar panels installed, given that they each use up a lot of energy.
Beaudin said that while the library roof replacement project doesn't include solar panels, there are other projects that do, such as the new fire station on West Las Positas Boulevard and Santa Rita Road that was remodeled to be more energy efficient.
"This is a shift we will make with our capital improvements," Beaudin said. "The payback period keeps getting better and better on solar systems and the rebates are still there to install as well so we'll be looking at this as a component of our capital investments in our facility investments going forward."
Becky Hopkins, assistant to the city manager, mentioned that the East Bay Community Energy power agency is working with the city to identify city facilities that would qualify for solar and battery backup.
She said that she is currently filling out PG&E documents so that those installations can occur by the end of this year or early next year.
Beaudin also pointed out that amidst future budget discussions in the coming months, city staff will be bringing up the possibility of creating a sustainability manager position. He said that staff will be looking at federal and grants to help pay for the position and that this position will come up during the May 16 budget discussion meeting.
In other business
* The council reviewed and adopted Pleasanton's 2023 legislative framework, which helps guide the city's response to certain state and federal bills, after having a high-level discussion on dozens of bills that related to housing, fiscal sustainability, infrastructure and the environment.
Staff presented a laundry list of bills that they -- along with the City Council Legislative Subcommittee, which includes Testa and Arkin -- recommend the city should either oppose or support.
Some of the bills revolved around supporting affordable housing and homeless services; wanting to protect funding for local government and opposing measures that limit the city's ability to adopt revenue measures; and supporting efforts to obtain funding to treat Pleasanton's groundwater wells, which contain PFAS chemicals -- otherwise known as forever chemicals.
Hopkins also mentioned that staff recommended supporting efforts to secure funding for sewer stormwater flood control, development of new infrastructure and funding for programs that help the city meet their CAP 2.0 and other sustainability goals.
Andres Ramirez, a senior associate at Townsend Public Affairs, which is an advocacy firm that works with the city on these legislative issues, provided the council with an overview of the advocacy work that he and his firm have been doing in Sacramento and Washington D.C.
He said that some of the themes that Pleasanton city staff have brought up during these legislative sessions revolved around maintaining local control, which was a topic that Testa spent some time discussing.
"We have lost so much local authority and we see that trend continuing. Do you see anything that can be done to reverse or neutralize the loss of local authority that continues to happen through all of this legislation?" Testa asked Ramirez.
Ramirez responded by saying that they have already been doing as much as they can on that front legislatively and that if the council wanted more advocacy on that issue, they would need to seek other avenues and firms to do that work.
Balch also stated that he wanted to, in the future, look at the overall legislative advocacy that Pleasanton is doing with Townsend so that the city could see if their services are still worth the cost as the city prepares to look at its budget.
Mayor Karla Brown responded to that by saying all of the $9 million in state funding that the city is either getting for highway infrastructure or for transportation has come directly from the firm's legislative advocacy and that she sees the work as an investment to the city.
* The council unanimously voted to adopt modifications to the city's objective design standards (ODS) for housing sites, including a change to garage doors where two-car garages at new housing sites would have one single door instead of two.
According to community development director Ellen Clark, housing projects would require 30% of the units to have a single door garage for two cars.
"While the standards in the ODS are appropriate ... the city will continue to refine these standards as needed as projects are submitted and reviewed," senior planner Shweta Bonn said. "We've tried to strike a balance between the standards with comments from the development community that have expressed concern that the requirements are too strict, along with maintaining a high standard for new projects."
On Jan. 26, the council adopted two sets of objective design standards for residential development -- one that aligned with housing sites zoned during the city's new Housing Element cycle and another for smaller infill development in multifamily zoning districts.
Another modification the council approved was allowing tiering the allowable height limit for projects greater than 30 dwelling units per acre, to be less than 55 feet high, particularly if there is no vehicular parking on the ground-floor level.