San Mateo works with residents to develop emissions-reduction plan 

San Mateo is currently developing its first Climate Action Plan, a comprehensive set of guidelines and goals intended to address state-required emissions reductions, sustainability initiatives and community feedback.

The city is offering residents the chance to present their ideas online via a town hall website. Residents can post about various climate and environmental issues that concern them and then engage in conversations with one another to come up with potential solutions. City officials plan to incorporate the community input, along with feedback from public forums, into the Sustainability Commission's final plan, which is set for adoption by the end of this year.

One question posed on the website, "What are your bright ideas for how San Mateo can become a more sustainable community?" elicited responses such as: "More bike lanes please," "Understanding energy consumption in the city's buildings" and "more community vegetable gardens."

Kathy Kleinbaum of the City Manager's Office said that the online town hall responses have only been trickling in -- which is evident from a glance at the site -- and essentially reflect the same ideas recently presented at the first official public forum on the initiative.

The forum was in the form of a pop-up workshop held in San Mateo's Central Park during a summer concert series. Kleinbaum said that city officials "got a lot of interesting community input," adding that, in general, "people are very interested in using more renewable energy and in alternatives to driving their cars."

"The biggest roadblocks to all the efforts were the costs involved and also safety concerns related to commuting by bike," Kleinbaum said.

The Climate Action Plan will evaluate the city's current strategies for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and incorporate new strategies that will help businesses and residents reduce emissions according to state guidelines.

Fifty-eight percent of the city's greenhouse-gas emissions come from on-road transportation, 18 percent are produced by businesses and 17 percent by residences, according to city officials.

The first edition of the plan is slated for completion by the end of August. A public forum in September will allow interested residents to provide feedback on that same version.

In recent years, the city has made some emissions reductions, officials note. San Mateo households use 2 to 5 percent less electricity today than they did in 2005, and San Mateo residents use 12 percent less water per person than the average Bay Area resident, according to city data. There are still significant improvements to be made, however, and city officials hope the new Climate Action Plan, with the inclusion of community recommendations, will help provide a path to further energy reductions.

The next public forum on the Climate Action Plan will take place at Central Park on Thursday at 6 p.m. After that, the Sustainability Commission will begin drafting the plan with the addition of community input, and its initial version will be presented to the public for review and comment at a forum scheduled on Sept. 4.

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Emilie Mutert

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