Green City, City of Sanctuary: Moving Forward Together

The November election is now behind us, and we suddenly face a very uncertain future. The election of Donald Trump to the presidency threatens much we hold dear as Americans, as lovers of freedom, as San Franciscans. More than ever, San Francisco, the Bay Area, and California will play a critical role in preserving and growing a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable society, and help show the US the way forward.

We don’t yet know exactly what the election of Trump as President, together with Republican control of the Senate and House of Representatives, will mean for the United States, but the outlines are becoming clear. It’s clear that the incoming administration, and its allies in congress, will make life much tougher for immigrants to the United States, promising mass deportations and discrimination against Muslim immigrants. There are ominous signs of tough times ahead for LGBTQ, women’s, and public health issues, not to mention near certain backward steps on climate and environmental issues.

Our Federal social safety net, from Social Security to health care and support for housing, is also threatened. Our safety net is already weak compared to peer countries, and income inequality continues to worsen, making threatened cutbacks even more dire for an increasingly broad swath of Americans.

Standing Firm on our Environmental Commitments

A Trump administration is shaping up to be a disaster for the national and global environment. President Obama has taken important steps to protect the global climate, using his executive and statutory authority to overcome Congressional opposition to climate action. The Obama administration strengthened fuel economy standards for new cars and trucks, and tightened air pollution regulations on fossil-fuel burning power plants, particularly coal. He concluded an agreement with China, the world’s largest carbon polluter, on reducing carbon emissions. The European Union and India also agreed to cut carbon emissions. In October, the Paris Climate treaty reached the necessary threshold of participating countries to go into effect. The shift away from coal power towards renewable energy and natural gas in the US, China, and other countries caused global carbon emissions to stop increasing in 2014 and 2015. Effective climate action is also a boon to health; decreasing our reliance on dirty fossil fuels will prevent millions of illnesses and premature deaths from air pollution.

Trump has pledged to withdraw immediately from the Paris Climate Treaty, to reduce restrictions on burning coal, and to open up more federal lands for oil and gas extraction. Federal incentives for renewable energy could disappear.  Trump wouldn’t be the first US president to renege on an international climate treaty; During his presidency, George W. Bush and his congressional allies refused to enact the weaker Kyoto Climate Accords. There’s far more global momentum towards climate action now than at any point in the past. As the climate crisis continues to worsen, however, the stakes of delay and failure are increasingly more dramatic. International peer pressure may be stronger now. The Chinese government has several times admonished Trump to maintain the US’ climate commitments, and promised to move ahead with with its own climate plan. French presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy promised to enact a carbon tariff on European imports from the US should the US withdraw from the Paris treaty.

For the next few years, the actions states, cities, and citizens will be critical in creating a more equitable, inclusive, and sustainable United States. Fortunately California, the most populous and wealthy US state, continues to lead the way. Earlier this year, the state strengthened its climate protection goals and standards, including renewing the states carbon cap and trade program. Washington state’s carbon tax proposal was defeated on election day, leaving California as the US’ climate action leader.

Welcoming Immigrants Means Welcoming Housing

Meanwhile in San Francisco, City leaders reiterated their commitment to San Francisco’s Sanctuary City status. San Francisco has long been a sanctuary for immigrants, but also for domestic migrants, fleeing intolerance at home.

As we move forward, how can San Francisco fulfill it’s commitment to becoming both a City of Sanctuary – a city that embraces diversity and inclusion, and welcome those who want – or need – to come here, while supporting those who want to stay here, and a Green City – moving boldly towards a more sustainable and healthy future for people, for our unique, diverse, and irreplaceable local biodiversity, and for the planet? Can San Francisco and the Bay Area become urban and regional exemplars of sustainability and environmental justice?

San Francisco’s Sanctuary City status will be little more than symbolic without easing San Francisco’s brutal housing affordability crisis. At present, between 6,000 and 7,000 San Franciscans are homeless, and many other San Franciscans feel increasingly insecure about their ability to afford housing in the City. On election day, San Francisco made some progress towards becoming a more affordable City. Voters approved Measure C, which will provide over $150 million to acquire and rehabilitate affordable housing citywide. It was one of several successful measures around the bay to fund affordable housing, which collectively commit over $2 billion toward a solution. San Franciscans rejected measures P and U, preventing the weakening of key City housing affordability programs. Voters approved Measure J, which would have provided $50 million annually for homeless services and housing, but didn’t approve Measure K, the actual mechanism to deliver funding for Proposition J.

These ballot box victories complement recent legislation, championed by Livable City, to protect the City’s rental housing from demolition, merger, and conversion, and legalize the creation of new rent-stabilized housing in existing buildings. The City is now free to adopt new standards for inclusionary affordable housing which can increase the number of new affordable units in market rate developments while sustaining the overall production of needed housing.

The Next Era of Transportation

The Bay Area took a step towards a more equitable, sustainable, and livable future by approving Measure RR, a bond measure to renew and reinvest in the aging BART system. San Franciscans overwhelmingly approved Measure E, which established City responsibility and funding for maintaining street trees and repairing sidewalks. San Francisco voters approved the same Measure J aimed to support homeless services and housing, which also called for $100 million per year in increased spending on safer walking and cycling, maintaining and improving public transit, and road repair. The failure to pass Proposition K makes these improvements unlikely.

2017 Livable City Priority Areas

As we move into 2017, Livable City will be working to sustain and deepen the City’s recent progress on preserving and building affordable housing, improving street safety and sustainable mobility, building livable and inclusive neighborhoods, planning better for growth, equity, and sustainability,  and protecting and greening the city’s public spaces – our streets, parks, and the waterfront. It’s incumbent upon us as a diverse community to light the path for the rest of the country to follow.

Livable Neighborhoods

  • Revive neighborhood planning for residents, businesses, transportation, streetscapes, and open spaces
  • Expand affordable housing citywide

Complete Streets

  • Bigger, better, more Sunday Streets
  • Fulfill Vision Zero and eliminate road deaths by 2020
  • Expand street tree planting and sidewalk greening

Sustainable Transportation

  • Electrify and modernize Caltrain and bring it Downtown
  • Reduce conflicts between curb loading vehicles and walking, cycling, and transit
  • Create a citywide network of protected cycle lanes

Open Space

  • Continuous walking and cycling path along the Bay and Ocean
  • San Miguel Hills Great Park: Connect hilltop open space from Golden Gate Park to Twin Peaks and Glen Park
  • Expand parks and open spaces in underserved neighborhoods