[Email from San Francisco Urban Naturalist Joshua Klipp, Jan 24, 2021]
From: Joshua Klipp
Date: Sun, Jan 24, 2021 at 2:12 PM
Subject: Re: Please comment on the SF Climate Action Plan
I attended the workshop in real-time, I concur it was time well-spent. One note, that when asked what would happen with these plans once done, the Department of Environment’s response was essentially that the ideas were already basically happening at some level, in various City departments. As someone who’s paid a lot of attention to the bio-diversity/ecological ideas in these plans, I respectfully disagree. Also, I’ve read a lot of city plans that go nowhere without funding and the power of law behind them. So I’m just going to bookmark that, see how it goes, and continue to participate in these workshops.
Also, I’ve dedicated more time than I could quantify into growing and protecting our city’s urban canopy. Like any other climate solution, I understand that trees aren’t a one-stop sequestration shop. In addition to sequestering carbon, they support the ecology, clean the air of wildfire particulate, absorb stormwater runoff, improve mental and community health, and are an issue of social and economic justice. When it comes to making this world a better place, there is room for – in fact a NEED for – many perspectives, including urban canopy.
Date: Sun, Jan 24, 2021 at 1:31 PM
Subject: Please comment on the SF Climate Action Plan
The plan has some thoughtful proposals in it. So many, it took me a few hours to read and comment. The website is great. You can click the page where you want to comment and a pop up window comes up for you to write your comment in.
I’m always proud of SF when the city leads on important subjects like this. Thank you for the thoughtful approach. I would like to note, however, that getting carbon out of the air via urban forestry is a leap. Marshes are better carbon storers and grasslands are more reliable places to store carbon. Current studies suggest that mangroves and coastal wetlands annually sequester carbon at a rate ten times greater than mature tropical forests. They also store three to five times more carbon per equivalent area than tropical forests. Good news: San Francisco has a large coastline that is ready for restoration. Grasslands, too, need to be considered over turning the city into a forest because they are a more reliable carbon sink than forests. Native bunch grasses store carbon in their roots, sometimes up to 10-20 feet deep, as opposed to trees that store carbon in their woody material and leaves that can burn or rot. Marsh reference: https://
A great way to save energy and address biodiversity loss is to consider limiting lighting where appropriate. New streetlights and other outdoor lights should be installed in such a way as to minimize the effect on plants, insects and other animals. Spotlights and search lights should be banned from dusk to dawn. Stadium lights should be turned off immediately after games. Dazzling lights from carnival rides and Ferris wheels should be eliminated. If a light is only necessary on occasion, then put it on a sensor instead of always keeping it on. Use full cut-off filters that cover the actual bulb and direct light to where it is needed and nowhere else. Consider joining the International Dark-Sky Association: https://www.
It’s well known that the production of cement — the world’s leading construction material — is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for about 8 percent of all such releases. If cement production were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest emitter. Please consider finding materials that don’t emit as much carbon as cement. Or, find ways to reduce the need to build and develop entirely. Reference: https://www.
Consider completely removing entire blocks of pavement and re-wilding them to create connected corridors. The pandemic has revealed that slow streets work in many places. Conduct a study of city streets and pick a couple to de-pave partially or entirely if possible. This will be in example to the world on how to add value to people’s likes while filtering water and storing in the ground instead of letting it run into the sewer system. It will also allow wildlife to bounce back and flourish. Let the San Francisco Estuary Institute’s “Making Nature’s Cities” report guide your process. Using the framework developed in this report, urban designers and local residents can work together to link local parks, greenways, green roofs, street trees, stormwater basins, commercial landscaping, and backyards to support biodiversity while making cities better places to live. Reference: https://www.sfei.
Please use science to guide the evaluation of sequestration techniques. Restore holistic systems: forests, scrublands, oak woodlands, grasslands, marshes, creeks and oceans — please don’t simply go with the impulse to turn SF into a mythical forest city. SF is not historically a place for forests. Reduce the usage of concrete and hard surfaces, instead. Restore watersheds, marshes and grasslands to better store carbon. Planting trees is just one tool in the tool box that nature offers you. Use it wisely.
Local native habitats have built-in and established food webs that have been harmed by development and the impositions of exotic landscaping. Thank you for thinking local.
RPD’s 700 acres of golf courses represents a great opportunity to plant indigenous species while giving golfers a wilder, rough-hewn coastal experience that will make the courses a destination instead of a sink for lawn pesticides.
I recommend that the city weight each landscape or plant by using a biodiversity metric. Landscapers need a system that they can use that will guide them to hit a number — a biodiversity point system. Ginkgos are a citywide favorite that offers zero biodiversity value. It’s more like a green statue. That plant would have a zero rating. Landscapers could plant that tree but their landscaping plan would have to make up those points somewhere else. For instance, they could plant a hollyleaf cherry and achieve 200 points. Make the point system based on the number of insects and birds the plant services. You could also award carbon points for each plant. Coast live oaks are known for both its high biodiversity value and its high carbon storage ability.
Backyards represent one of the few unpaved areas of the city. In other regions of California, water agencies provide incentives for homeowners to eliminate their lawns and plant native plants. San Francisco should develop a templated plan for homeowners to do this and the program should be promoted. SF could promote conservation and create backyard habitat with this program.
“Urban Forest” as a term is too simple and doesn’t consider all the various forms of habitats that knit together an ecological community. Please use the term Urban Ecology instead.
Don’t rely on commercial sources for your plant stocks. Please arrange permits for this new nursery to collect and regenerate species that will help expand the current, diminishing DNA pool. Our local wildlife co-evolved with our local plants and should bounce back if we provided them what they need to eat.
Tax lawns to discourage their build-out. I get it. Humans are savanna apes. But every year across the country, lawns consume nearly 3 trillion gallons of water a year, 200 million gallons of gas (for all that mowing), and 70 million pounds of pesticides. Lawns also discourage biodiversity. Save a space in this action plan to tax and discourage lawns.