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San Francisco's Clean-Tech Report Card
Joel Makower, 7 Nov 05

Last October, my company, Clean Edge, published a report, Harnessing San Francisco's Clean-Tech Future, outlining how San Francisco could implement programs and strategies to become a leader in the clean-technology sector, with a focus on clean energy and transportation. The report, commissioned by the Mayor's office and the city's Department of the Environment, offered a ten-point plan to help the city play a central role in pursuing clean-technology development and attracting new business and jobs.

Just before Thanksgiving last year, I, along with former U.S. EPA administrator William Reilly, were called in to brief Mayor Gavin Newsom on the report. I entered the Mayor's office much like a Master's candidate, fully prepped to defend my thesis. To my pleasant surprise, Newsom began the meeting by pointing to the report and saying, "This is great. Let's do it."

The ensuing conversation was, suffice to say, pretty easy.

Still, this was, after all, big-city government. And while I had long admired Newsom's green politics and risk-taking initiatives, I left his office with a healthy skepticism about how much would actually get done.

Some ten months later, the Mayor's office called again, asking us to update the report. It turned out my skepticism was dead wrong. Five of the ten recommendations had, to some degree, already been accomplished. Two others were underway. Only three hadn't yet been fully addressed.

That updated report is being published today and can be downloaded (PDF) here. It's a model of what any city, state, or region can do to attract job-creating companies focusing on clean energy, alternative transportation, organic products, biobased materials, and other goods and services that fall under the "clean-tech" moniker.

San Francisco's initiative will be guided by a newly formed Clean Technology Advisory Council, chaired by Bill Reilly, charged with promoting the city's clean-tech vision and inviting clean-tech firms to make their homes within San Francisco. (I've been honored to be named to that council.)

In addition, the Mayor, Board of Supervisors, and city agencies have developed a three-part shared vision for clean technology in San Francisco:

to create high-skilled, high-wage clean-tech jobs; to promote a cleaner and healthier environment; and to reduce the City's dependence on fossil fuels by investing in clean energy research and development. To achieve these goals, the City is pursuing four broad strategies: 1) investing in the industries of the future, 2) promoting the construction and renovation of high-performance, energy-efficient buildings, 3) improving the environmental aspects of its landscape, and 4) diversifying its energy sources.

Beyond that:

  • The Mayor has named a clean-tech manager, Jennifer Entine-Matz, to coordinate citywide clean-tech initiatives, market and execute San Francisco's clean-tech business attraction strategy, and work with the new advisory council.

  • The Board of Supervisors last month approved a payroll tax exemption for qualified clean-tech companies doing business in San Francisco.

  • Several city agencies are working to create a fast-track permitting program for new commercial buildings that meet the LEED green-building standards.

  • The Mayor recently signed the Precautionary Purchasing Ordinance, which creates a comprehensive system for the city to identify, purchase, and use environmentally preferable products. San Francisco is the first city in the U.S. to adopt an ordinance of this kind.

Among the works in progress:

  • There is strong support for creating a Clean Technology Park at the Hunter's Point Shipyard, which would be dedicated to clean-tech research, development, and manufacturing. It would serve as an incubator for early-stage companies, a showcase for the technologies themselves, and a learning and training facility that provides workforce development for future clean-technology workers.

  • The city is implementing a number of noteworthy high-profile projects, including a proposal to use the animal fat produced at a local tallow rendering facility to produce up to five million gallons of biodiesel a year for use by the city's buses and other vehicles.

There's more, which you can read in today's report.

All told, a pretty impressive first-year report card. Indeed, I’ll give the city an "A."

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Bravo Joel and bravo San Fransicso! This is, indeed, good news.

Posted by: Jesse Jenkins on 7 Nov 05

Toyota Parts For All clearly states the importance and preventive ways on how to save a lot of money on gas. The point really, is to choose a car that’s best for your needs and your lifestyle. And don't forget to read the article entitle "Being Green: Is It worth the Green".

Posted by: Kelly Clarkson on 7 Nov 05

Does anyone here know if there are similar plans in Seattle? Maybe we could turn it into a competition--which city in the States is ahead in the race to become the greenist!

Posted by: Pace Arko on 7 Nov 05

Great work Joel. Would it make sense to start a "Green Sister Cities" program to teach what San Francisco learns to other cities? I like Pace's "competition" idea, but it might be hard to ask, say, Oxaca, Mexico, to compete. But they could learn.

Posted by: David Foley on 8 Nov 05

The Puget Sound Regional Council has a Prosperity Partnership which has developed an economic strategy for Central Puget Sound:

The strategy has an industry cluster focus, one of which is "clean technology":

Posted by: Paul Fleming on 8 Nov 05



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