Advocating for Los Altos to Take Leadership Positions on Environmental Issues
Los Altos must take a leadership position in protecting the environment and our natural resources.
My Commitment to Environmental Responsibility
- Longest serving current member of the Parks and Recreation Commission (served as both Chair and Vice-chair)
- Member of the Commission’s Energy Independence Subcommittee
- Advocate for installing naturescapes instead of or in addition to traditional playgrounds
- Voted to recommend that the City Council ban the use of synthetic pesticides in Los Altos’ parks
Our City Council has the Responsibility to Take Steps to Protect the Environment and our Natural Resources
Without question, the most important environmental issue the Los Altos City Council will face over the next four years is positioning Los Altos for a healthy, environmentally sustainable future. This will be achieved on many fronts, but the three most important for the next four years are:
Higher-density housing: I favor more housing along the El Camino corridor because of its proximity to public transportation and shopping. I am open to exploring locations for higher-density housing that also have access to transportation and shopping and that make sense for our City. Promoting safe bicycle and pedestrian routes and traffic calming will encourage people to use more environmentally friendly modes of transportation as opposed to driving.
Sustainable energy independence: I support installation of solar panels on the new Hillview Community Center and would be open to installing them in City-owned parking lots. I also favor installing more electric-car charging stations; using reclaimed water to water our plants and foliage; and using natural, nontoxic pest controls.
I will promote civic education programs, such as explaining the consequences of using natural gas as opposed to electricity when designing and building new homes. GreenTown Los Altos does an excellent job both reaching out to the community and taking action, such as their current program to plant 500 new trees in the City and recent “Skip the Straw” campaign to help curb plastic pollution.
Climate change: The City of Los Altos has a climate action plan (“CAP”), but it is several years old. It is time for Los Altos to take it’s commitment to the environment seriously. Here is a quote from the City’s FY 2020-21 operating budget (page x):
The City currently lacks appropriate staff to assist the Environmental Commission; to administer the City’s Climate Action Plan; to oversee and expand our recycling efforts as well as implementing other requirements associated with our solid waste efforts (bin labeling, route contamination audit, education and outreach), and we have relatively little expertise improving the energy efficiency of City facilities.
I find this unacceptable.
It is an abrogation of responsibility that this Council fails to grasp the importance of adopting and implementing real and tangible efforts to fight climate change. The City recently hired a sustainability coordinator. The City Council must work with the coordinator to propose updates to the CAP that include concrete, measurable steps, including eliminating single-use plastic shopping bags and plastic straws by businesses and restaurants in the City. I would reach out to academic, nonprofit, and other experts to help us develop an ambitious yet achievable plan of action.
Other environmental areas I would like to see the Council explore:
- Incorporating green initiatives into City programs and policies;
- Exploring the use of solar panels on City buildings;
- Providing property owners incentives to install solar panels on existing and newly constructed homes and commercial buildings;
- Making sustainable design a priority;
- Working to reduce vehicle traffic on our streets;
- Requiring as part of the City’s solicitation process selection criteria a vendor’s commitment to green initiatives; and
- Exploring ways to partner with our schools and business community to increase awareness and implementation of more green initiatives.
Los Altos has More Opportunities to Take a Leadership Role on Environmental Issues
Los Altos could be leading the region in safeguarding the environment. Although there are challenges and no solution is perfect, as a broader Bay Area community we must work together toward solutions to preempt our impact on the environment and climate change. As a City we can implement programs around local transportation issues, energy usage, and sustainability challenges. This includes educating and promoting energy efficient remodels of homes and home gardens, encouraging more bicycle and pedestrian options in the City and incentivizing through new City codes.
Because of the uncertainty at the national level regarding how much support local jurisdictions will continue to receive, cities need to be more innovative and creative in their approach.