Three California cities receive U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Award

Feb 2, 2021

In December 2020, San Luis Obispo, Manhattan Beach, and San Leandro received a Small City Honorable Mention award from the U.S. Conference of Mayors for their climate protection best practices. Specifically, former Manhattan Beach Mayor Richard Montgomery, San Leandro Mayor Pauline Cutter, and San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon were recognized for their leadership in taking local action and are featured in the 14th Annual Mayors’ Climate Protection Awards.

San Luis Obispo’s clean energy choice program for new buildings

The City of San Luis Obispo has a long history of environmental protection and climate action. Since 2017, the community has identified climate action as a major city goal and has asked the city to implement actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while improving local quality of life. As part of this effort, city staff studied the potential for a citywide all-electric new building program. The topic of all-electric new buildings was new to many stakeholders and throughout the planning and public engagement process, the city provided substantial education and outreach and worked to dispel misinformation.

After working with key stakeholders to improve the draft program, the program was unanimously adopted in June 2020. The city’s Clean Energy Choice Program will create a legacy of safe, comfortable, cost-effective new buildings for the community and has developed substantial local capacity to begin working on decarbonizing existing buildings. The all-electric buildings will be healthier and have substantially lower operational greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, the transition to all-electric new development offers a critical opportunity to engage a growing local workforce and stimulate the green local economy. The city expects thousands of housing units to be built all-electric over the next decade, which will result in substantially lower greenhouse gas emissions and progress towards the community goal of carbon neutrality by 2035.

“We join hundreds U.S. cities, companies, and universities in recommitting to climate action that will help avoid the worst of projected climate impacts,” said Mayor Heidi Harmon. “We know that a focus on a clean and green economy and just transition can help us restore and grow our local and regional economy while we reduce emissions. I am proud to say that the City of San Luis Obispo is ‘all in’.”  

Manhattan Beach will soon power the entire community with 100 percent clean, renewable energy
On Nov. 17, 2020, the Manhattan Beach City Council selected 100 percent green power as the default electricity for all power customers, following the switch to 100 percent renewable energy for all municipal operations in 2019. Concurrently, the city launched Climate Ready Manhattan Beach which includes creating a Climate Action and Adaptation Plan; completing sea level rise and climate vulnerability assessments; and updating the city’s land use and hazard plans.

The Covid-19 pandemic has created a difficult situation for public engagement in L.A. County; however, the city has met the moment and demonstrated the ability to address more than just one crisis at a time. The city is using an immersive virtual reality (VR) experience to “look ahead” and raise awareness of the impacts of climate change and sea level rise while providing survey questions to assess public support for different carbon reduction strategies. Created in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Whitespace VR, these sea level rise visualizations give the public a 360-degree virtual tour of three locations along the city’s coastline: Manhattan Beach Pier, Bruce’s Beach, and El Porto. Virtual reality shows how the coast would look with flooding from sea level rise and coastal storms, while identifying what is possible if climate action is taken.

Manhattan-Beach-City-Councilmember-Richard-Montgomery.pngIn the U.S. Conference of Mayors report former Mayor Richard Montgomery said, “cities are on the front lines when it comes to climate change. I’m proud that Manhattan Beach is one of those cities leading the world in reducing carbon emissions through policies and adoption of clean technologies. Our city has a strong history of taking climate action and moving towards sustainability, and the council’s decision to power the city with 100 percent renewable energy through Clean Power Alliance has a direct correlation with lowering carbon emissions and building a legacy for future generations.”

San Leandro’s solar and energy efficiency in wastewater operations

The City of San Leandro was recognized for its energy infrastructure upgrades to the Water Pollution Control Plant (WPCP), which included a one-megawatt photovoltaic solar array, new HVAC controls and LED lighting modernizations. San Leandro’s city council also recently approved a battery storage addition that turns the solar array and plant into a micro-grid, protecting the WPCP’s critical services against power outages.

The upgrades reduce the plant’s electrical energy consumption by at least 45 percent or $247,500 annually. In the future, the city can use these funds for more improvement projects at the WPCP or to reduce potential rate increases for WPCP ratepayers. In addition to reducing the plant’s energy consumption, the upgrades are estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 2.8 million pounds annually. This trajectory helped the city meet its Climate Action Plan goal of reducing 2005 emission levels by 25 percent before 2020.

San-Leandro-Mayor-Pauline-Cutter.jpg“The City of San Leandro is committed to our pursuit of energy efficiency and resiliency and adding solar power to the WPCP – at one time the city’s largest electricity user – is a huge step forward on the effort,” said San Leandro Mayor Pauline Cutter. “I am honored to accept this award on behalf of all who worked on this program and for everyone who supports the city’s bold, green goals.”

The Cal Cities #LocalWorks initiative shines the spotlight on examples of local actions that are making a difference to their communities. Show how #LocalWorks in your community by contacting