Opinion: At a turning point, we choose a bright, clean energy future for our town and our kids

by Mitch Slomiak on May 19, 2019

Change comes hard for most people. It can be scary, unsettling, and disruptive. But change is happening all around us, all the time. Our beautiful town by the bay has been at the epicenter of dramatic regional growth in the past few decades, bringing new people, culture, and jobs, but also traffic, pollution, and a major housing crunch.

And so, at this turning point, we are faced with a choice. We can embrace the change and channel it into vibrant communities with new opportunities for housing, modern ideas on mobility, and a commitment to clean energy. We can choose to be proactive and plan for a future that transitions us from fossil fuels and pollution, and plan for a smart city with more transit options to help people get around, and more housing near transit hubs.

Or we can choose to do nothing and watch climate impacts worsen, watch traffic gridlock and frustrations grow, watch valuable members of our community get priced out of their homes. We’ve already been experiencing the impacts of climate change with more intense wildfires that spread unhealthy smoke, with rising bay levels that will soon flood homes, schools, sanitation infrastructure, and roadways, and with intense heatwaves that affect all of us.

The 2018 Special Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/) finds that if we want to avoid the very worst and irreversible impacts of climate change, we must dramatically reduce Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by 2030 through rapid, far-reaching, and un-precedented measures. Here, in the heart of Silicon Valley, we have the resources and ingenuity to show how a cohesive community that respects its heritage can evolve into a prosperous, sustainable town. These are the steps to get us there:

  • Climate Goals: Adopt a new Climate Action Plan that accelerates a near term transition to carbon neutrality, maximizes GHG reductions by 2030, spurs innovation and creates jobs, and prepares for the impacts of climate change on public health, infrastructure, the economy, ecosystems, and public spaces in our community.
  • Smart City Planning: Incorporate climate and sustainability into all city policies, programs, and plans
  • Public Outreach & Benchmarking Progress: Increase public outreach on the city’s community-wide sustainability and resilience efforts, including regular reporting on progress towards GHG reduction goals, actions, and policies.
  • Equity: Recognize the needs of all community members through environmental and social justice, and a commitment to create equitable investment, planning, and services for a more cohesive city of Menlo Park.
  • Sustainable Mobility: Implement transportation policies that eliminate carbon pollution and reduce congestion, creating more convenient and safe options for bicycling, walking, and riding public transit, while supporting a transition to electric vehicles.
  • Zero Carbon Buildings: Ensure that new homes and buildings are built with Zero Carbon electric heating and appliances, and work with regional partners to explore programs that assist home and building owners with upgrades that phase out fossil fuel use.
  • Healthy Neighborhoods: Discourage the use of toxic chemicals among homeowners and businesses, including pesticides.
  • Preserve the Landscape: Protect open space and natural resources as a part of the climate action plan and adaptation strategy.

The Climate and Sustainability resolution that was signed by Menlo Park’s Mayor on Earth Day is a commitment to transition our town to a green, zero carbon economy that supports diverse, thriving communities, where everyone is welcome.

Our action or inaction on these issues will be our legacy left to our children and future generations.

Mitch Slomiak is Co-Founder and Chair of Menlo Spark and longtime resident of the Willows. This post was co-written by Chris DeCardy, also Co-Founder of Menlo Spark and longtime resident of the Willows.

Photo by Robb Most (c) 2019




One Comment

Brielle Johnck May 20, 2019 at 10:08 am

This list of 8 great ideas cannot be addressed until Menlo Park takes the first and most difficult step of not making the situation worse. Office development , no matter how green the buildings are, bring thousands of office workers to the city every day of the work week. Most drive and do it alone. The exhaust from cars stuck in traffic is a greater contribution to the greenhouse gas problem than anything else.
There are no mitigations that will make up for the traffic congestion that poisons our air. With every office building approved, parking garages are included but not housing. What does this tell us?
Our updated General Plan allowed a maximum amount of office on the east side of 101 and within months, the maximum was reached and the Council is now faced with increasing the office cap. Facebook wants 9 more office buildings; Sobrato and Tarlton are also in line with applications for office.
MP needs to take a time out. Stop approving office until we implement the ideas suggested in this article.
All the towns in the Mid Peninsula made the grave mistake of approving office and not requiring apartments as part of the approval. Bohannon is the Poster Child of this error. 900,000 sf of office and not one living unit.

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