City Climate Corner

Contra Costa CA: SMART Housing & Conservative City Climate Progress

Episode Summary

Though near the Bay Area, Contra Costa County has very different political dynamics when it comes to climate change. And yet a group of organizations are collaborating to get climate action language into cities' general plans and even getting climate emergency resolutions adopted. We interview Lynda Deschambault, President and Co-founder of Contra Costa County Climate Leaders and Zoe Siegel, Sr. Director of Climate Resilience at Greenbelt Alliance, about their approach and specifically how they're using Sustainable, Mixed-use, Affordable, Resilient, and Transportation-friendly (SMART) housing to make progress.

Episode Notes

Though near the Bay Area, Contra Costa County has very different political dynamics when it comes to climate change. And yet a group of organizations are collaborating to get climate action language into cities' general plans and even getting climate emergency resolutions adopted. We interview Lynda Deschambault, President and Co-founder of Contra Costa County Climate Leaders and Zoe Siegel, Sr. Director of Climate Resilience at Greenbelt Alliance, about their approach and specifically how they're using Sustainable, Mixed-use, Affordable, Resilient, and Transportation-friendly (SMART) housing to make progress.


Episode Transcription


Abby Finis  00:02

Cities produce more than sixty percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Big cities get a lot of attention, but most household emissions in the US actually come from communities outside urban cores, making them critical players in climate mitigation and climate justice. City Climate Corner explores how these small- and mid-sized cities are tackling climate change and moving toward an equitable and sustainable future. 

Abby Finis  00:21

I'm Abby Finis.

Larry Kraft  00:23

And, I'm Larry Kraft. We're co-hosts for City Climate Corner.

Abby Finis  00:30

Hey, Larry. 

Larry Kraft  00:31

Hey, Abby. 

Abby Finis  00:32

I've been thinking a bit about some of the conversations that we've had. On this episode, we talked about storytelling, and the conversation that's playing out at the federal level and where we're at in terms of just talking about climate change and how messaging works  and doesn't work. And for a long time, messaging has failed around climate change. But public opinion has been shifting. And yet, we still have areas of the country where it's a challenge to talk about climate change as climate change, you might have to talk about it as something else and thinking about it and wondering what your assessment is of where we're at.

Larry Kraft  01:10

Yeah, it's interesting, because at one level, for me, I don't understand why we can't just talk about climate change. It should not be political, let's just talk about the issue. And we can disagree on how to approach it. But let's just talk about it. But that's not reality in many places. And I ran into that when some of the organizing I was doing around Minnesota with other cities. And if in certain places, elected officials or staff need to talk about it in a different way, and can get to the same outcomes, well, okay, we can do that. The co-benefits of the work that needs to happen, are so vast unto themselves, that I'm supportive of finding other ways of people entering this action without mentioning the words climate change.

Abby Finis  02:01

Yeah, and I just have had these moments where you might be speaking with somebody who doesn't really agree, but maybe you're not debating climate change you're talking about, okay, well, we are seeing increased heavy precipitation. And that is impacting our infrastructure. And, oh, well, I guess I didn't really think about the impact on infrastructure. And yeah, that is really important. Those moments that you can have, where you connect with people, and you can find that common ground and make progress are really important. And so I think tapping into that is something that we have yet to do. And it's part of the reason we want to have these conversations. It's not just about those cities that are really ahead of the curve on this and have been doing a lot of action for a long time. But it's also about those communities that, yeah, we have people in the community who really want to do something, but are struggling to kind of get a foothold and having those conversations and pushing action.

Larry Kraft  02:51

It may also be those communities where they don't even realize that they need to do climate action. But man, it's been flooding lately, or the wildfires have been close or our air quality is not good. And let's do something about that. You're at the point where you can do these things and the emissions reduction is the co-benefit.

Abby Finis  03:09

Yeah, we have a really great example today from Contra Costa County in California, where it is that. It's a bit more of a conservative County, with folks who are being persistent and pushing action and finding where they can have the successes and the wins.

Larry Kraft  03:23

Yeah, and also from a housing angle, which is interesting. So let's do it. 

Abby Finis  03:28

Let's do it. 

Start of interview

Larry Kraft  03:31

Today we are speaking with Lynda Deschambault of Contra Costa Climate Leaders and Zoe Siegel, the Senior Director of Climate Resilience at Greenbelt Alliance. Welcome to City Climate Corner and let's start with introductions. Lynda, maybe you go first?

Lynda Deschambault  03:49

Sure. I'm the executive director of a nonprofit called Contra Costa County Climate Leaders. We were founded in 2007. At the time, I was the mayor of Moraga and like other small town mayors, I was working full time as an environmental scientist for 21 years at the US EPA. Long commute and to the day late evenings I was volunteering as an elected official and formed our organization. 

Larry Kraft  04:15

Grea! Zoe?

Zoe Siegel  04:17

I'm Zoe Siegel. I'm the Senior Director of climate resilience at Greenbelt Alliance. I'm a Contra Costa native I grew up in the Bay Area. And Greenbelt Alliance is an environmental nonprofit that really focuses on environmental and housing advocacy because we really want to make a huge impact on our climate crisis in the Bay Area. So we work all around the region but I have spent a large portion of my time focusing on climate advocacy and policy in Contra Costa County.

Larry Kraft  04:44

Here we want to focus on the cities within Contra Costa County. And Lynda can you give us some background information on the area? 

Lynda Deschambault  04:53

Sure. The San Francisco Bay Area is defined by nine counties and Contra Costa County is the probably most eastern county. We have nineteen cities and the Board of Supervisors Contra Costa County. And so a rural area more semi rural than you know, obviously downtown San Francisco Alameda County with Oakland Contra Costa County tends to have smaller towns. The makeup of the cities tends to be very different rather than an elected full time mayor we have a volunteer board of elected officials and a mayor who rotates in on an annual basis.

Larry Kraft  05:32

Zoe, can you tell us more about Greenbelt Alliance and its role in the region? You gave us a nice intro before but we'd love to hear a little bit more detail about what you're doing within Contra Costa.

Zoe Siegel  05:42

Greenbelt Alliance is a sixty year old environmental nonprofit. And originally, our main focus was really protecting open spaces. And as climate impacts worsened. Greenbelt saw the value of advocating for more infill housing, and more climate smart housing in cities. We've really adjusted our mission and our goals to make a larger impact on the climate crisis. We now really believe that housing is a critical part of the climate solution. And we are working all around the region. But specifically in Contra Costa in some of the cities that have a little bit less focused than other cities. 

Zoe Siegel  06:18

In the Bay Area, we live in a bubble there's no shortage of advocates pushing for the right climate policies, and housing policies. But most of those people really focus on the larger cities like San Francisco, Oakland, even Richmond, which is one of the larger cities in Contra Costa. And at Greenbelt Alliance, we are really interested in working with the cities that have fewer advocates following and tracking their city processes and potentially elected officials that don't have the same climate values that we hold. My background in particular is in disaster planning and specifically sea level rise. I've taken a definite interest in really making sure that Contra Costa is actively planning to make their shorelines more resilient and bring community members together to build resilient communities and to be able to withstand the shocks and stressors of climate impacts.

Larry Kraft  07:08

When you talk about housing, is it primarily single family housing that you're thinking about? Or is it also a multifamily?

Zoe Siegel  07:17

That's a very good question. So while we understand that there is a value of single family housing, we really believe that in order to make the impact on our climate that we need, we need to build infill housing. So that's smaller, denser housing in existing communities, usually multifamily housing. It could be a duplex or a triplex not necessarily a skyscraper in a residential neighborhood. But one of the real important things that we believe is critical is to reduce our commute times. 

Zoe Siegel  07:44

In order to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we have to reduce our commute times. And transportation is one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas emissions in the Bay area and region wide and nationwide. In order to really make an impact on a day to day basis, we need to make sure that residents are able to shorten their commute times and be able to afford to live closer to where they work and where their community is. We're seeing all around the Bay Area, dramatic increases in displacement and really long commute times. And in Contra Costa County, that's no different. And so we want to make sure that we build jobs near housing, and housing near jobs.

Climate Action Challenges in Contra Costa

Abby Finis  08:24

As we know, climate change has been politicized in a way that makes it challenging to move forward with action at the pace that we need to be at to avoid some of the worst impacts. But we also know that the climate solutions are desirable, regardless of politics. And successes often come from how we frame those solutions and how we want to work toward them. And Lynda, you've been facing this. What are some of the challenges that you've been dealing with in terms of trying to drive climate action in Contra Costa?

Lynda Deschambault  08:53

It's definitely challenging. As I said, a lot of elected officials in the smaller towns don't do this full time don't have a staff don't have someone to assist them. So when you try to look at the majority of our population lives in cities, smaller and medium sized cities, how are you going to affect change and the smaller communities? You've got five elected officials who are likely busy and have other full time jobs commuting to their day jobs doing this in the evenings. And the challenge is how do you even know what to do? What are the issues? Often for a small town, the number one thing are police fire and roads, you know, and all of those start to be exasperated by the climate crisis. Flooding and access and ingress and egress and fires and roads. And in the middle of that you try to ask them to write a Climate Action Plan or to pass policy to ban plastic bags or pass the climate emergency resolution. And it's very challenging. 

Lynda Deschambault  09:53

We quickly learned that there was very little time in the day, very little resources to help prepare a volunteer elected official in the evenings. And so what do you do? How do you start to address that? And what I did is quickly I started to go out and try to identify peers, leaders and other cities, maybe medium cities, or a town that really made this front and center for them. In the early days, some of the cities you've featured on your podcasts or cities, I would turn to to say, "Hey, what's going on in Keene, New Hampshire? What's going on down there in Fremont, California? And what can I do to take something that's already done already prepared and packaged, and make it easy to take to my council, to my fellow elected officials, to my city manager to see if we could make that happen?" 

Lynda Deschambault  10:39

Looking at best practices looking at going on? And even sometimes that can be a challenge to find them. Where are they? We publish a newsletter, we have a portal on our website, where we try to save some of these things much like you're doing with a podcast featuring the cities, it's essential to have that type of resource or information available to a part time volunteer Mayor so that they can take that to their city and try to do the same things. But it's challenging. They're lacking in resources and staff. And often the leader is may not be the mayor or an elected official leader may be a staff member or a city clerk or a member of a community that serves on the creeks commission. So there's a lot of work to be done in the small cities to try to identify how you can be effective and how you can have change and actually pass climate policy.

Larry Kraft  11:34

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Successes in Contra Costa

Abby Finis  11:50

You've done a ton of work and just gathering these resources, maintaining this website, reaching out and finding those leaders, whether it's within the city or volunteers or nonprofit groups. What successes have you seen over the time that you've been doing this work?

Lynda Deschambault  12:09

Well, I think the greatest success is the partnerships we've been building and working with groups like Greenbelt Alliance, the Sierra Club,, because we found that the leaders were a mix of other groups that could educate and work together and collaborate. And so working with groups like Greenbelt Alliance, has really helped us identify opportunities. And one of the things we did not too long ago was working with Zoe's group, we put on a workshop, demystifying general plans. What is the city's general plan? Well, that's the blueprint for all cities for all work going forward. And they're often only updated every twenty or thirty years. So when they are updated as a great opportunity to make sure we get climate in front and center in those general plans. 

Lynda Deschambault  12:55

I think the success we've had with Greenbelt Alliance around general plans and also passing climate emergency resolutions is something that probably the latest two latest great successes we've had, and we've had a number of groups Climate Reality, Al Gore's group has nine hubs in the Bay Area. And there is a climate rally Contra Costa hub. Along with working with Sierra Club and other groups, we've really had some great success looking at doing a number of things like climate emergency resolutions and updating general plans and their housing elements.

Larry Kraft  13:32

Were you able to get a climate emergency resolution done or climate oriented goals included in a general plan in a more conservative community?

Lynda Deschambault  13:44

Yes, and no. Sometimes we are not thrilled with the language. We did recently work closely with Greenbelt Alliance and showed up at ad hoc meetings and the County Board of Supervisors who did pass the climate emergency resolution. It did actually have a couple robust, measurable requirements. All of our groups were advocating for two very important things. One, that they have an Equity Diversity team. And two, we really wanted them to look at electrifying buildings and banning natural gas and new construction. Honestly, some of us went back and forth. What we did is on our website. We had a portal of all the climate emergency resolutions that we could find that we felt had good strong language, and tried to advocate for that. Showed up at the meetings prepared talking points. I think we had over 20 people speak at that meeting. 

Lynda Deschambault  14:35

And in the end, I'll be honest, the language in there was not necessarily as robust as we would like, there were a lot of things that more progressive cities are doing City of Fremont City of San Francisco. That was not language that we were able to have success in getting it in, but we stuck a hard and fast to our two requests for the diversity team to be built in for electrification of new buildings to be in there. And we had success. So it's it's not always a yes or no question. 

Larry Kraft  15:03

Yeah, right. 

Lynda Deschambault  15:04

Yes. But you know, and sometimes the language might be volunteer or may consider where we'd prefer a shell or must in policy. And that's something that we see a lot in Contra Costa County that you don't really get into necessarily in some of the other counties. They're a little more eager to sit up to the table with actual clear, we shall do this by such and such a day. We have success, and we could have more success. But every step is in the right direction. And as I said, patience and persistence keeps us going forward.

Larry Kraft  15:36

Well, absolutely. It builds on itself, right?

Lynda Deschambault  15:38

That's exactly right. And it was only a month or two later, we went to the City of Martinez and did the same thing. So they now have passed the climate emergency resolution. And they cut and pasted the same language from the board of supervisors where we had success. And they too include it in the resolution that they will develop an equity or diversity team to address climate justice. And they will also have a electrification and ban on natural gas for all new construction.

Greenbelt’s work with city planning and development

Larry Kraft  16:06

That's great. Once that kind of stuff is in there, then the local activists can then go and hey, this is what you said you're going to do and can start holding them accountable. Hey Zoe, can you tell us a bit more about how Greenbelt is working with communities to consider resilience in planning and development decisions?

Zoe Siegel  16:22

So we're working with communities and working with local government focusing on building capacity at both sides. It's a really exciting moment in Contra Costa County right now, because there's seven or eight general plans happening and every city has to update their housing element. Every city in California has to update their housing element. And the housing element of the General Plan is a really critical way to build more climate resilience, making sure that we're building the right kind of housing in the right places, and protecting housing from being built in high fire severity zones or flood zones. 

Zoe Siegel  16:54

One of the really exciting things that we've been working on across Contra Costa County is making sure that all of the environmental advocates that really do care about the climate issues are getting involved in the housing element and are really voicing their concerns and their their excitement for warehousing should be built, and what lands should be protected for open space and climate mitigation benefits. After years of advocacy and really trying to, you know, mobilize folks on the ground, we realized that there's a need for more guidance on which policies to really be pushing for. We can say, "Oh, we want our shorelines to be more resilient from sea level rise, or we, you know, have this issue of urban heat island and we need more trees." But we found that when advocating to elected officials or to city staff, it's a lot more productive to really provide the policies and provide a little bit more of a concrete example. 

Zoe Siegel  17:45

And so we recently came out with a toolkit called the resilience playbook. And it's an online guide for really accelerating equitable adaptation to the climate crisis across the Bay Area. But a lot of the case studies and our inspiration for creating it was based on our advocacy working in Contra Costa. And it offers a holistic approach to advancing solutions that really address overlapping environmental, economic and social challenges. And the playbook has curated strategies as well as an explanation of the different issues. And how it's been playing out as community groups or community activists or even city staff can learn more about a specific issue and then see the policies and just cut and paste policies directly into their general plans, or cut and paste policies, you know, into their public comment and into their letters to the city depending on the user. 

Zoe Siegel  18:33

And we're working to build in more sample ordinances similar to the building electrification. It's something that's really important, and it's a fairly straightforward ordinance that could be produced on a wider scale, if we were to share the ordinance another city has written with another city. On the notice capacity, I think, as advocates, we can get as many people on the ground or push for the right policies. But if the right people are not in power, or the city doesn't have enough capacity, whether that be staff or funding to really implement the policies that are are in there, their housing element, or their safety element, or their climate emergency declaration, nothing is going to happen. And so in addition to pushing for the right climate policies, Lynda and I and others have really been pushing to make sure these policies are measurable, implementable and that community members can really hold cities accountable for these policies. And, that the county or city gets more funding to actually implement these things. Because we know that cities are stretched thin right now. And in order to make the impact that we really need, there needs to be more staff, more coordination across departments, and more communication with the public.

Larry Kraft  19:48

Lynda you and I first spoke about a year ago and I remember you telling me about your organization. And what you've just described Zoe just seems to fit I can see the natural partnership between the two organizations have making this as easy as possible for these communities in the policy itself, but then in really trying to think through how things get implemented.

Zoe Siegel  20:10

Yeah, Lynda has been a great inspiration to us. 

Climate SMART Development

Larry Kraft  20:12

So we were reading on your site about climate smart development. Can you tell us a bit more about what that is?

Zoe Siegel  20:18

SMART is an acronym that is used in many ways these days. But for us, SMART stands for Sustainable, the type of housing that we are really advocating for is sustainable. Both in terms of green building, but also buildings that have environmental benefits, like bio soils outside to absorb floodwaters, or green roofs, and that are built to energy and water efficiency standards. And then mixed stands for mixed use. We really believe that in order to create a, you know, a vibrant, healthy, sustainable community, you need to have a mix of building types and have an ability for residents to walk and bike and access their community amenities without a car. And then affordable. As the climate crisis just continues to worsen in the Bay Area, we really believe that we need to increase the affordability of housing, both with deed restricted affordable housing, and also with what is now called missing middle housing. 

Zoe Siegel  21:16

In addition to expensive market rate housing, there's a huge need for housing for teachers, delivery drivers, and the like to really be able to afford to live in the communities that they're serving, and not have a hugely long commute that emits larger greenhouse gas emissions. And then resilient. Resilient is another important feature that we are looking for, based on the location of the housing. We want to make sure that you know houses are not built along the shoreline in a flood zone, or in high wildfire severity zone. And I think a lot of cities, both in Contra Costa County and around the region are facing these challenges right now because they have to build a significant increase in housing this year. But there's only so many places that housing can be built. And we want to make sure that these houses are not sprawling single family homes built on a hillside that could lead to erosion and increased wildfire hazards. So we really want to make sure that the houses are built in existing communities in the right places. And then transportation. As I've mentioned, transportation is a really key part of both housing and climate. And we want to make sure that as we build more housing, that people have the options to walk and bike and take public transit and so that we're increasing our public transportation offerings and reducing the need to rely on a single emission vehicle.


Larry Kraft  22:38

Lynda, is there anything you want to add about the partnership you have with Greenbelt? 

Lynda Deschambault  22:42

Well, I just don't think that we could do it each on our own. We all have our different experiences, we all have our different opportunities. Greenbelt Alliance is much more entrenched as a larger organization. And yet we have a lot more on the ground and know what's going on. And have the personal relationships. Myself as a former mayor, you know, at the table and understanding people. So I think we work really well together. And it's only through that that we can really continue to have that type of success. I love the byline that Greenbelt Alliance has is to educate, advocate, and collaborate. We are two groups and some of the other groups says I can't fail to mention Contra Costa has been very active Sierra Club's been very active Climate Reality. You know, we all work together. 

Lynda Deschambault  23:33

We had a campaign at one point we were calling it the just one campaign that if everybody would just show up to just one city council meeting, even a year, when you've got a million residents in Contra Costa County, that would be you know, 10,000 more voices heard. We can't reach all those people alone. We can only do it with organizations and leaders like Zoe. Like I said, the Climate Leaders in our county vary greatly. We do have a few mayors who are leaders, a few city staff who are leaders. But a lot of times it's a bottom up approach. And I couldn't say enough good things about working with our partners. 

Lynda Deschambault  24:09

One of the quotes that we like is just because you don't take an interest in politics doesn't mean that politics won't take an interest in you. And this is super important with the climate crisis that we all show up and that we all try to pull our resources as much as we can and help one another. And I've been doing this since 2007. And without the support of groups like Zoe and others I would be well burnt out by now. Together, we are making change day by day in our smaller communities such as Contra Costa County where really all that work has to happen. They say that local actions change the world and it's not just local in large cities, but it's in our medium and smaller cities where we're having the most impact and that's our goal and I think we're successful and we try to have some fun and support one another through the process.

Larry Kraft  25:04

I think we would absolutely agree with you on that small midsize cities thing.

Abby Finis  25:08

We definitely would. And I really love hearing what you both are saying both in terms of building that political will, from the ground up and through partnerships, but also getting at this through the tools that cities have through planning and regulation, and just trying to start from there and reversing course on how we've really done it wrong for a while now. And I love the tools that you're putting together at Greenbelt Alliance and just trying to make it as easy as possible for cities to just grab that and make it their own. Can you Zoe tell us if there's a city just kind of starting out and thinking about resilience and climate and how they want to include that in their planning policies? Where do they start? What should they be thinking about?

Where should a city start - the Resilience Playbook

Zoe Siegel  25:49

I think it depends on where the city is located, and what the climate risks are, and then what their housing situation looks like. We've worked a lot in the city of Oakley, which is a little bit farther away from the bay shoreline, it feels like a whole different world. The Bay Area's typically very forward thinking and cares a lot about climate change, and you get out there and there's just not the same level of awareness and understanding of these issues. In order to make the progress that we need, I think what we've been doing is aligning on the issues that the groups on the ground that we've been working with really do care about. 

Zoe Siegel  26:31

The first step is to get the right people together, and to align on issues. And we've been working primarily with them on prohibiting development along the shoreline and sharing policies. Focusing on the education piece of the resilience playbook before we get to the policy piece. They don't even all believe that climate change exists. We have to really, really start from the beginning, beliefs around climate change aside, there are still policies that we can agree on, and we can align ourselves with and then we can incrementally move from there. 

Zoe Siegel  27:05

It's been a slow process, but I think it's been exciting to see that we've been able to get more people involved in these policies, and get more people just following and tracking the local city processes. Very often in the small cities that you have city council members or mayors that have just been in power for a very long time and have no incentive to take the climate action that is needed. Even the most incremental push from an activist is really important. And I think the the resilience playbook is there to support that incremental and substantial change.

Abby Finis  27:40

Is the playbook adaptable outside of the Bay Area?

Zoe Siegel  27:45

Yeah, definitely. We've been approached by a few other communities to fully adopt it. But the policies can all be adapted, it's sort of a choose your own adventure. Not every policy is going to be applicable for every city in the Bay Area. And similarly, it's not going to be applicable for every city in America, but many of the policies are and so you have to really pick the issues that you care about or that you think are important. And then you can cut and paste and go from there.


Abby Finis  28:13

And, Lynda, you've been doing this for a while now. And you've seen some successes and some setbacks, I imagine over the last 15 years or so. What advice do you have for other cities and other regions of the country that might be in a similar place as Contra Costa in terms of maybe there's some political resistance or inertia? What advice do you have to get them going?

Lynda Deschambault  28:35

It really depends first on identifying the leaders in the community who have the passion and the resilience to want to take this on. Some cities in our area, as we mentioned, are still even at the state of climate denier. So I think the best information is to keep an open mind, follow the science and look at what other cities are doing. Look at what other leaders are doing. And try to do what you can to share those best practices and try to see what you can to identify that might work for your community. 

Lynda Deschambault  29:11

So in some cities that may not want to pass the climate emergency resolution, that type of declaration may seem overwhelming. But to them working with something on recycling food waste at the local schools, is something that's very manageable. And with that you can follow the science Well, methane gas from is one of the most intensive greenhouse gases. And so doing something with food waste in one community may make a lot more sense than others. So I think cities need to really just be at the table. Take a look at the menu. We have quite a large menu on our website of different policies that cities have passed, that might be something that would work for you. 

Lynda Deschambault  29:50

One of the most more successful ways I've seen cities make progress is by having a subcommittee of volunteers. So perhaps your city needs to be educated and doesn't have the opportunity to do that. But there are first steps in forming forming committees that can take a look at that and take a look at what's going on out there. There's so many resources from the League of California Cities, where people are sharing what they're doing. And don't be overwhelmed. Go out there, see what's out there, find out who your leaders are, form your committees and take some of these things off the shelf with technology or Find and Replace can remove the name, city of Windsor, California, to the city of Moraga, California, and voila, you have a new ordinance. 

Lynda Deschambault  30:34

There's a lot of resources out there. And there's a lot of opportunity. And I think the most important thing is, it doesn't matter what you do, as long as you do it. As long as cities start making progress on something that works for them. And then partnerships and groups like Zoe and I will be there at the table to help you and show up at your city council meetings when you need us.

Abby Finis  30:58

Well we really appreciate both of your efforts, and driving climate action and resilient development and joining us today on City Climate Corner.

Larry Kraft  31:09

Thank you both very much. 

Abby & Larry debrief

Larry Kraft  31:13

All right, Abby, what do you think?

Abby Finis  31:16

I thought it was a great conversation. And we've talked about this before, I really love when we start thinking about, you know, what are some of those foundational documents is those policies that we can rethink, you know, how those are shaped and the impact that they're going to have on land use that they're going to have on housing. And the value of incorporating resilience into that is is tremendous. And it's one of those things that takes a long time to have that kind of turnover. But it's so important that we do it now so that it is integrated into development going forward. And we can at least address that new development, while also thinking about how we have to get it some of the existing development.

Larry Kraft  31:57

Yeah, I jotted down this concept of the intersection between land use, housing, and transportation emissions, right? How do we shorten our commute time? Transportation being now the largest source of emissions in most places you think, "Okay, well, let's just get more EVs." But it's not just that it's so interrelated with how we develop and how we zone and all kinds of things.

Abby Finis  32:25

Yeah, one of the things we don't always talk about is a large metropolitan city might have a greater source of greenhouse gas emissions on the whole, but actually kind of per capita is going to be lower because you don't have the same transportation emissions, you tend to have smaller homes who tend to have more multifamily homes. And so those per capita emissions are down relative to suburbs and excerpts and then rural communities where you're driving more. So I think that that's a hugely important piece in consideration of development is, well, how are we building so that we don't have to drive 15-20 miles to run our errands, or to get to work or whatever it might be?

Larry Kraft  33:07

One of the things I was struck by as we were talking about some of these smaller communities, that the elected officials maybe just focused on police fire roads. In St. Louis Park, we talk about drink, drive and flush as the one of the prime focuses of city work. Yet, all those things get more and more connected to energy to climate. And then I like this SMART, hear about smart goals. But this is a different set of abbreviations for smart, right, sustainable, mixed use, affordable, resilient, and transportation.

Abby Finis  33:42

Yeah, I think it's a good acronym to use and to think about in terms of what makes sense for sustainable and resilient development. I was watching a video on Greenbelt's website, and they showed how you know, you might think about flood hazards in this area, you might think about sea level rise in this area, or wildfire in this area, and just really kind of mapping that out and thinking about what areas you might want to preserve as open space versus what are going to be better used for development. I think it's just a really cool resource that they've had. And they've brought this throughout the Bay Area and has proven to be valuable in Contra Costa as well.

Larry Kraft  34:21

Yeah, one of the other things that comes across, which we've seen in many places is collaboration, right? These two organizations that we talked to here, but they even mentioned others that they're working with how that is really important than many of the stories we tell.

Abby Finis  34:36

Yeah, and Lynda's been a true leader herself and this persistence over nearly 15 years. She talked about this being a community where a lot of the elected officials are volunteer and they have full time jobs and don't have time to do this extra climate work. And so she's really been leading the way in developing tools and building partnerships and driving as much action maybe it's smaller incremental steps but it's steps nonetheless.

Larry Kraft  35:07

Yeah, it's inspiring to hear she's been at it for a while and obviously making progress in tough places to make progress in which is great.

Abby Finis  35:17

The more you have successes and the more you see the benefits of smart planning, those winds will continue to get bigger and and momentum will grow. 

Abby Finis  35:29

We hope you enjoyed this episode of City Climate Corner. If you like what you're hearing, make sure to subscribe and give us a review. If you're able, become a monthly supporter through Patreon. As always, you can find more information on this topic and resources from each episode's guests on our webpage If you have an idea for the show, send us an email at or find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Larry Kraft  35:53

City Climate Corner is produced by Abby Finis and me, Larry Kraft. Edited by me. Our production assistant is Maggie Morin. Music by…

Abby Finis  36:01

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.

Larry Kraft  36:03

Thanks for listening, and we'll see you next time.