Net Zero San Francisco 2050

By John Addison

John Addison is the author of two books - Save Gas, Save the Planet that details the future of transportation and Revenue Rocket about technology partner strategy. CNET, Clean Fleet Report, and Meeting of the Minds have published over 300 of his articles. Prior to being a writer and speaker, he was in partner and sales management for technology companies such as Sun Microsystems. Follow John on Twitter @soaringcities.

Oct 22, 2015 | Smart Cities | 0 comments

This blog post is a response to the Dear 2015 group blogging event prompt:

The year is 2050. Write a letter to the people of 2015 describing what your city is like, and give them advice on the next 35 years.

For more responses, see the Dear 2015 Event Page.

April 22, 2050 Speech by John Addison

It is exciting to be with you for your eightieth Earth Day. When I last spoke with you, 35 years ago, on Earth Day 2015, the world looked to San Francisco as a model of innovation and sustainability. Now, you are a soaring net-zero city, meeting all of your energy demands with renewable energy.

When I spoke here at Earth Day 2015, the city’s official goal was an 80 percent greenhouse gas emission achievement by 2050. You achieved that in 2042 and never looked back. Reaching Net Zero is even more impressive since the population has grown from 825,000 people to over 1,150,000.

In 2015, 42 percent of the world’s carbon emissions were from two countries: China and the United States. Since then, most of the world’s new buildings have been in those two countries. The new buildings have been remarkably energy efficient and a key factor in the world finally reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

It took courage and political will to build zero net-energy high-rises, install offshore wind farms, and invest billions in rail and bus rapid transit. In the face of dissent and denial it was not easy, but you did it. You have a beautiful net-zero city; iconic as your Golden Gate Bridge.

In 2015, San Francisco’s Chinese Mayor Lee hosted many delegations from Asia. Your architects played key roles in many of China’s new buildings and cities. In part, thanks to your innovation and leadership, buildings that were once the number one use of energy and carbon emissions have been replaced with zero net energy places to live and work, often in thriving mixed use communities. As extreme climate takes its toll, San Francisco was a model of mitigation.

Now your Mayor Chopra hosts delegations from the world, including the climate-caused diaspora from her native home of India, seeking solutions to ocean waters rising as drinking water disappears. In the midst of California’s worst megadrought, San Francisco is incredibly efficient in its use. You recycle and desalinate with record energy efficiency. You showed how to rebuild a city after the 16-foot surge from an offshore earthquake and now have more floating homes that coexist with rising seas. Some call you the Venice of the United States, although when I think of your renaissance of innovation, I think of Florence.

Urban density has invited high rise living and walkable living to your bay fronts, your ocean, your hills, your parks, and neighborhoods. In 2015, your density of 17,000 people per square mile put you on the net-zero path. You were far better than most U.S. cities, even if you trailed New York. People now have much more nearby with 25,000 people per square mile. With density, world class transportation is cost effective. Most destinations are reached in minutes by walking or biking.

Although the great surge permanently closed your Great Highway and several bay-front neighborhoods, mobility is better than ever. Fewer people now own cars than in 2015, when your native companies of Uber and Lyft expanded their service around the world. Now our smart apps have on-demand self-driving cars await us at home, work, and transit stops to whisk us to our final destination. My journey yesterday from Chicago to your Transbay Center took only a few hours on high-speed rail.

In 2015, equity was a problem for San Francisco and the nation. Lower income people could not afford to live here, nor could the teachers, government employees, and service industry workers who made the city great. Now that San Francisco only has 45 square miles, no longer 49, with the total to shrink as the ocean rises, land is more expensive than ever. Yet record numbers quickly travel from nearby cities in your region of 10 million, using rail, transit, and on-demand mobility.

Yes, you are a model of resilience, growing much of your food here in the city, even as California droughts and wildfires destroyed most of the state’s agriculture. You see waste as energy and materials.

It has been wonderful to return to this emerald city surrounded by blue waters, this gateway to Asia, this city that teaches the world how to innovate, this shining example of zero-net energy living. It is here that we are all inspired and leave our hearts until we again return.

Discussion

Leave your comment below, or reply to others.

Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org

Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology

Engaging Historically Marginalized Communities During COVID-19

Engaging Historically Marginalized Communities During COVID-19

Since historically marginalized communities are already being disproportionally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, I am frustrated to see these communities also negatively impacted by the lack of on-the-ground public engagement. While I realize the threat of COVID-19 and the associated restrictions make conducting on-the-ground public engagement challenging, I want to encourage fellow planners to think more creatively. I will admit that I struggled to think creatively when I first heard that Clackamas Community College (CCC) would continue having mostly online classes in Spring Term 2021. CCC has had mostly online classes since the end of Winter Term 2020 when COVID-19 first started impacting Oregon. CCC’s decision about Spring Term 2021 became more stressful when Clackamas County staff told me that public outreach for their new shuttles could not be delayed until next summer.

If Companies Want a Diverse Workforce, They Need to Pay Attention to Transportation

If Companies Want a Diverse Workforce, They Need to Pay Attention to Transportation

A new toolkit has been developed to help businesses think through strategies to decrease mobility barriers to the workplace, which reduces turnover. When workers can reliably get to work regardless of their personal circumstances, it provides employment stability and the opportunity to build wealth. It’s a win-win. Developed through a partnership between Metropolitan Planning Council and a pro bono Boston Consulting Group team, the toolkit includes slide decks, an overview report, customizable templates, a cost calculator, and instructional videos walking a company through the thought process of establishing a baseline situation, evaluating and selecting a solution, and standing up a program.

Depending on the employer’s location and employees’ needs, solutions may range from helping with last-mile transportation to the transit system, to developing on-demand vanpools, to establishing in-house carpool matching systems. The ROI calculator gives employers the ability to determine the break-even cost—the subsidy amount a company can manage without hurting the bottom line.

How Affordable Green Housing Enhances Cities

How Affordable Green Housing Enhances Cities

Housing that is affordable to low-income residents is often substandard and suffering from deferred maintenance, exposing residents to poor air quality and high energy bills. This situation can exacerbate asthma and other respiratory health issues, and siphon scarce dollars from higher value items like more nutritious food, health care, or education. Providing safe, decent, affordable, and healthy housing is one way to address historic inequities in community investment. Engaging with affordable housing and other types of community benefit projects is an important first step toward fully integrating equity into the green building process. In creating a framework for going deeper on equity, our new book, the Blueprint for Affordable Housing (Island Press 2020), starts with the Convention on Human Rights and the fundamental right to housing.  

The Future of Cities

Mayors, planners, futurists, technologists, executives and advocates — hundreds of urban thought leaders publish on Meeting of the Minds. Sign up below to follow the future of cities.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This