On the Issues

Electrification of a 1950’s Cookie Cutter Ranch

November 2019 Pecha Kucha presentation to Boulder Switch on Decarbonizing an old home.  Pecha Kucha is 20 slides in 5 minutes. 

My name is David Takahashi. I am running for Boulder City Council because voters aren’t being served well by the current members. It’s time for a change.  I am a needed Climate Champion.

I married into a climate science family where the climate is dinner conversation.  I initially doubted the consequences. But, losing our home in a wildfire, neighbors losses to a flood, seeing the widespread climate-related damage convinced me to admit I was wrong and act on behalf of coming generations.

I am a retired software engineer schooled in complex adaptive agile methods.  My community work has been relational organizing: climate, regenerative economics, affordable housing, homelessness, intergenerational equity, restorative justice, building efficiency, microgrids, community building, interfaith alliances, public engagement, and localization.

I will stand firm asking the Council, what good is a house if you don’t have a decent planet to put it on?

We have passed the time of talk; we urgently need to begin acting.  To act, I propose declaring Boulder’s intention to reach Carbon Neutral goals in an achievable and accountable time frame.  I would say 80% by 2035 and Carbon Neutral by 2040.  Our very own Rocky Mountain Institute proposes a Carbon Neutral course for cities, and I would partner with them.  Other cities our size have already achieved this goal, and I would move to learn from them by establishing inter-city ties.  Lancaster, CA, is the best example of a city that has made the pledge, executed on plan, and reaped the benefits.  The city I believe we have much to share with is Berkeley, CA, which finds itself in similar straights.  So I would build a network of Councils concerned with achieving the common goal of Carbon Neutrality and use it to collaborate and accelerate the learning curve.

Our goal is to get off fossil fuels and onto commodity priced renewables now

  1. Commit to a formal pledge to go Carbon Neutral with interim targets to arrest further degradation.
  2. Formalize aggressive but achievable stretch building codes (applicable at the time of sale or permitting) to conserve energy.
  3. Attractive funding to deep retrofit existing buildings and make conversion easy.
  4. Have city staff explain their plan to resolve the difference between the 80% renewable target our utility has committed to and the 100% our city is committed to.
  5. Confirm interim Greenhouse Gas Emissions targets from city staff to keep carbon targets accountable.
  6. Clarify the essential role the public will play in the City Climate Action Plan to gauge public ownership.
  7. For public safety’s sake, a clear roadmap for community disaster preparedness (flood, fire, drought, heatwave, pandemic).  For instance, if backup power is through diesel generators, how long will they run if the supply chain is severed?
  8. Make fossil fuel the least economical cost option. 

In response to our increasing carbon concentrations, we have taken our 60-year-old home to carbon neutrality.  We have tried to broadcast the ability to do so to the greater public through workshops, two Boulder Green Home Tours, City of Boulder videos, and newspaper articles.  We did the work to reach Carbon Neutrality rather than to save money.  Our home is a model of what the 40,000+ dwellings in Boulder could achieve.  We needed to do this work as a retrofit rather than new construction to demonstrate a Deep Energy Retrofit is possible even on older homes.  Our work reveals that we can increase our comfort, reduce cost, and honor planetary limitations.

So our course reduces our demand through monitoring our usage.  Then, to conserve our reduced demand through energy efficiency.  To then supply the reduced demand using rooftop solar and storage.  By doing this, our built environment will reach 90% reductions in less than ten years.  Concurrently we improve our circular economy through waste reduction and recycling.  And we set the stage for electrification of our transportation through the energy work we have just accomplished, which will further reduce our footprint and get us very close to our Carbon Neutral goal.

My home and everything in it burned to the ground in 2010.  My former mountain neighborhood was decimated by the floods of 2013, and I witnessed massive damage here in Boulder.  In these cases, the community rose to help those victimized.  Our air was recently the worst quality in the WORLD due to wildfires in the west.  So safety is everyone’s priority.  And safety is a concern at all levels of society. 

City Council can proactively look out for collective safety by mitigating the causes and conditions of dangerous conditions.  The police are best suited to reacting to unfolding emergencies somewhat after the fact.  The public is looking to local governance for a sense of public safety.  Such as protecting us from $500M in clean-up costs for local floods predicted by the science of global warming.  Or protection from the $217M in losses for the Four Mile Canyon Wildfire of 2010, also indicated by the science.  Ignoring climate has debilitating costs that must be considered and avoided if we are to thrive.

What should be done to reduce the impacts of the 60,000 commuters that already arrive in Boulder?

It is essential to qualify these are 60,000 single-occupancy vehicles (SOV).
If we build light rail and manage the last mile, will people continue spending two hours commuting, trying to find parking, and reaching their destination?

COVID taught us that working from home has multiple benefits, so why not have Tues/Thurs work from home days?

If we build affordable housing, the other three work from workdays become non-SOV.

I believe Electric Bicycles are a game-changer, especially with our currently aging demographic.  But they pose a new safety issue on our mixed-use bike paths and roads.  The paths already present a public safety issue with the mixed-use of pedestrians and high-speed wheeled vehicles.  I believe thinking about multi-modal paths is going to be in our future.  I propose we begin planning on north-south bicycle freeways during commute times without disrupting east-west traffic.

As part of the City of Boulder’s Accelerate Neighborhood Climate Action initiative, I am starting a project to create a Community Cycles Bicycle Maintenance trailer.  Like the existing Block Party trailer, neighborhoods can reserve that to hold bicycle maintenance days that deliver the trailer and volunteer bicycle technicians to teach the participants how to properly maintain their bicycles and troubleshoot any problems bicyclists are having.

Finally, I believe that the idea of Cyclovias or the bicycle freeways being opened all day, one day a week, is another community-building exercise that encourages safe alternate modes of travel.

What steps, if any, should be taken to balance employment and workforce housing in the city?

We could look to Seattle with its HALA guidelines and Housing Levy for a working model.  I propose using the jobs/housing ratio as an adaptable housing constraint to bring jobs and housing into balance.  You can add jobs if you add the accommodation they require.

I would ask CU to think about student/housing

Affordable Housing
Boulder has been adding market-rate housing, further eroding the working middle’s ability to live here.  We have a 25% goal of building affordable housing, but we have not yet delivered on that.  Other cities, like San Francisco, have demonstrated what can happen when we ignore providing diverse housing.  Other cities, like Seattle, show what producing 20% affordable housing can accomplish. Unfortunately, we are acting more like San Francisco, and I will move Council to a Seattle model.

One measure we have is the jobs/housing ratio, which takes the number of jobs and divides it by the number of dwellings.  If this ratio dips beneath 1.0, then we are forcing commuting.  Our ratio is around 0.40, which explains 60,000 single-occupancy vehicles streaming into Boulder each working day, and the 60,000 impermeable heat-islanding parking spots needed to accommodate them.  I propose using the jobs/housing ratio as a dynamic housing constraint to replace the simplistic 1% rule.

Bedrooms are for People
Bedrooms are for People does provide the solution to problems of affordability and density.  I am looking for answers to issues of homeownership.  I very much like that an older person being squeezed out of aging in place by increasing property taxes could have a remedy in sharing their home with others losing their homes and with younger people willing to trade rent reductions for services

I want to say that Seattle, once a victim to astronomical rent and sale prices, has increased the number of homes built, with 20% affordable, has lowered rents and home prices.  So the solution may lie in free-market availability rather than increased density.  I support the part of Bedrooms that enables equity building.  So, I believe that ‘Bedrooms’ is solving a problem, but I question if it is solving affordable and attainable housing.

I believe one of the instruments Boulder could lead on is finding ways for how entry gateways to housing could ensure building equity, which could move up the housing supply chain as personal finances improve.  For instance, a teacher might start with shares in a co-op, move to a tiny home, move to a mobile home, move to a four-plex, get married, have children, and move to a multi-family housing or single-family dwelling.  I am intrigued by ways we can help first buyers start small, build equity, and keep moving up.  Equity opportunities would mean these gateways would count in our jobs/housing indicator.  Fixing this would mean group housing, tiny homes, manufactured homes, and even Bedrooms for People could provide equity building, impacting long-term affordability.  We need the equity to move into missing middle housing as well.

Another avenue is creating incentives to reach higher densities through property tax incentives that reward higher densities while keeping single family tax rates rising as they do today. But, again, it is essential always to remember to create affordable housing for our working middle class as we proceed.

COVID has shown us just how unprepared we are for system breakdown.  To walk into a supermarket to find bare shelves, and having markets limit purchases to one of a kind to distribute goods evenly, tells us a lot.  And from my experience with wildfires and flooding, COVID is a climate disaster on training wheels.

COVID recovery is an opportunity to reassess what is important to us, carefully incorporate those that bring value, and gently let go of those things that bring aggravation. But, unfortunately, we also have some system breakdown-related challenges that will continue to aggravate us going forward: evictions and debt due to lost income.  Our local Rental Housing Association has brought this up, and I have answered that the concept of restorative justice (a system of justice that focuses on rehabilitating offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large) might be employed to affect significantly.

When our foothills home burned to the ground in the 2010 Fourmile Canyon Wildfire, our Boulder Community spontaneously created a Fire Victim Recovery Center where surplus household goods were dropped off and then made available to fire victims.  Businesses in the area offered victims discounts at their stores.  This generosity is the human value of compassion and charity shining brightly and provides a model for moving forward in these disrupted times.  I will champion this approach.

I pledge that as a Councilmember, I will tirelessly move us toward disaster readiness while ceaselessly removing the causes and conditions of the disasters themselves.

Homelessness is a regional problem that most communities along our front range are experiencing.  Solutions, therefore, should be sought at the regional scale.  Successful programs are going on around the country, which Boulder can learn from.  To educate what grant and donation-based solutions can accomplish, I would publicly stream the documentary on the Community First! community in Austin and bring the founder, Alan Graham, to Boulder.  I would invite local municipalities to send their Homeless champions to a regional summit led by him.

As an interfaith organizer, I understand the role that faith communities are playing in solving this moral dilemma across the country.  I can tell you that inspired faithful have stepped forward in this world and demonstrate that what stands between where are we are today and a charitable world rich in compassion is our failures of imagination. Churches around the county are doing what they can; some provide temporary tent city opportunities or provide Safe Parking.  Allan Graham has persevered in Austin, Texas, with his Mobile Loaves and Community First Village project since 1998. The Sacred Settlement project takes Housing First! Movement and repurposes it to Community First!, and is building a tiny home village on church property. We have the Colorado Village Collaborative bridging the Gap between the Streets and Stable Housing here in Colorado. Here in Boulder, we have the First Methodist Church helping create Attention Homes, which houses homeless youth. We have Har HaShem providing housing for the previously homeless.  From San Diego, we have YIGBY Housing (“Yes In God’s Back Yard”) – Low Income Housing on Faith Community Land, Serving Vulnerable Populations. We will not be alone!

There is also a wealth of non-profit organizations that are moving the needle on the many aspects of homelessness.  As a council member, I would forge alliances with organizations already addressing the many facets of restoring human dignity in our homeless response.

As for the safest cities, the shootings at King Soopers come to mind.  I am aware that, like smoky air quality, the shooter visited from an external location.  My stand on guns and public safety follows the success of reducing cigarette use, alcohol consumption, and even fuel consumption by increasing taxes on the consumables.  Let’s try it with guns through use taxes on bullets.  Like gas taxes which tax the heaviest users, a tax on bullets would tax the wealthiest consumers.  The country’s 300 million guns used more than 12 billion rounds of ammunition in 2009. You may laugh, but I am not alone: Daniel Moynihan in 1993 proposed:

A more promising approach, noted Moynihan, would be increasing the tax on bullets. The police and military could buy bullets tax-free, and perhaps gun ranges could also sell ammunition tax-free. But for everyone else, Moynihan wanted to levy a tax of “ten-thousand percent” or $75 surcharge per bullet. The more devastating ammunition—hollow-tipped, armor-piercing, and assault weapon bullets could be taxed at an even higher rate (although probably not $5,000 per bullet).

I see defunding the police as a way of right-sizing the organization and inviting public discourse around the police force’s role in enforcing public safety.  Part of this discourse reviews the BPD’s responsibilities and suggests delegation and redirection of funding to other more focused entities.  For instance, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (CC4H) volunteers routinely check up on their homeless population.  I would consider moving some police funding for homeless enforcement to CC4H or other focused organizations.  We are in a time of re-invention, and a review of the allocation of limited funding resources is possible to achieve improved results for public money spent.

CU South annexation has grown so polarizing and contentious, and the stakes are so high that I believe the issue deserves the benefit of public discussion and civil discourse. However, as stakeholders, I think the city and CU need to recuse themselves from these proceedings to hear the people’s voices truly.

  1. Problem Definition: People, planet, profit.  Reliable flood protection, respecting the land while providing the best deal for Boulder.
  2. The land is beautiful and has sacred elements, are there alternatives to losing this?
    The land is fragile, are there less impactful options?
    Is paying infrastructure costs an acceptable deal for Boulder’s present and future taxpayers?
    Can CU decouple the flood mitigation from development?
  3. I believe we have not seen the last of 1,000-year rains.  Will 100-year flood protection stand up to the next 1,000-year rain? Also, 1,000-year rains often come in spring; what if we get a spring deluge while we have spring snowmelt?
  4. The city and university are solving a different problem than the public. So why didn’t the city and consultants ask why are we willing to spend $500M on flood damages, but not $30M additional to achieve 500-year protection?
  5. The strength of our informed public on the issues around developing the land is breathtaking, and the city and university have chosen to discount them.  Bring public voices to the table, and make it a large one.
  6. Climate science tells us warmer air can hold more moisture. So are 1,000-year floods more frequent?  It’s a $500M bet.
  7. Do I support the “Let Voters Decide on CU South Annexation” Ballot measure?
    Yes, this is what democracy looks like!

As a person of color, everything I do has an equity lens.  One of the equity lenses is affordability. So I see energy efficiency work as both an affordability win (spending less on rising utility bills) and a job creator for marginalized communities (as shown through Grid Alternatives and Van Jone’s work in Richmond, CA.)

As already mentioned, there is a wealth of non-profit organizations moving the needle on the many aspects of Social Justice.  As a council member, I would forge alliances with organizations already focusing on these issues.

We need to expand the equity lens to include the unborn coming generations who have little say in the impoverished conditions we are leaving them.