In order to select our endorsements, Glendale Environmental Coalition’s endorsement committee requested each candidate complete a survey of questions focused on sustainability issues in Glendale. Here are the responses by the three candidates endorsed by GEC: Dan Brotman, Paula Devine and Ardy Kassakhian.
1. What is your position on whether Glendale should install new gas-generating capacity at the Grayson Power Plant?
This issue motivated my run for office.
I helped found and lead the Glendale Environmental Coalition to fight against the 262 MW re-powering of the Grayson gas plant in Glendale for the last two years. In partnership with the Sierra Club and Earthjustice, we put pressure on Glendale City Council and ultimately got the project pulled. The City is now proposing a smaller repowering of less than 100 MW of gas, coupled with large scale battery storage and distributed clean energy. This win, in the face of intense pushback from Glendale Water and Power, was the result of a combination of expert arguments made directly to decision makers and strong organizing which brought over 1,200 people to three City Hall rallies. Never in Glendale’s history has there been such an outpouring of public protest.
I built and maintained the coalition to achieve this, and my decision to run for office is an outgrowth of these efforts. The revised GWP plan is estimated to be $174 million cheaper than the original, all-gas plan, per GWP’s own accounting. This victory will have ramifications for air quality and public health throughout the larger LA basin, and well as set an example for a rapid shift to clean energy by other utilities.
I would like to see the final remaining gas components of this plan replaced with renewables and storage. Since the final decision will not be made for a couple years, and since prices of renewables will continue to drop, I believe this can be done. But we will need a City Council that is willing to lead on the issue.
My position on whether Glendale should install new gas-generating capacity at the Grayson Power Plant is well documented in the votes I have made, starting when I seconded the motion and voted to “pause” the original Integrated Resource Plan. I listened to the concerns of the GEC and believed that alternatives must be explored before moving ahead with the IRP. This resulted in a revised IRP which included only 93 megawatts of “back-up” emergency gas generation instead of the originally proposed 265 megawatts. I then voted to approve the revised IRP and added a condition that staff present to council methods on how Glendale can reach 100% renewable energy by 2030 instead of the State mandated 2045. I believe that, in the two or three years it will take before any contracts could be signed or work could start, the technology may advance to a point where much less than 93 megawatts of back-up gas generation or no gas generation would be needed. The bottom line for me is that it is essential that we “keep the lights on” during the rebuilding of Grayson and, although my position is that Grayson must be 100% renewable at some point in time, during the interim period, there must be “back-up” gas generation. The leadership of the GEC has concurred with this approach.
I was wholeheartedly against the expansion of the Grayson Power Plant. As a matter of fact, although in my role as the City Clerk of Glendale I’m not always able to put my activist hat on when I’d like to, I enabled the leaders of this very coalition, and helped guide them through the bureaucratic red tape of City Hall during that very important fight. I was a huge supporter of the movement, but our work is not done. When elected, I will fight to make sure the clocks are not rolled back, and the city doesn’t revert back to its old ways.
2. What will you do to maximize Glendale's use of clean energy sources?
I will establish an Office of Sustainability within the City and ensure it is staffed for success and has authority to hold City departments accountable for their climate commitments. The first task of the Office should be to develop a legally enforceable Climate Action Plan committing the City to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with State goals under SB32 and a Clean Energy Plan to map a path to achieve zero carbon energy by 2030. To achieve a shorter term climate win, I intend to spearhead the passage of new building codes prohibiting the use of gas in new building projects and requiring EV charging stations in new multi-family developments.
I will also ensure the stalled 2017 Pedestrian Plan obtains Council and CEQA approval in order to make “walkability” a major focus of all downtown and transit corridor development.
I will view every decision through the lens of sustainability. I understand the intersections of housing, transit, and climate policy, and the way these decisions affect perennial Glendalian complaints about development and traffic.
I will monitor the progress of repowering Grayson to assure all of the IRP conditions are being met. Also, as a policy and decision maker, I will support the hiring of a Sustainability Manager who will be responsible for proactively informing Council of “state of the art” methods for maximizing Glendale’s use of clean energy sources.
I will lead the charge to invest in environmental protection efforts and invest in renewable energy technology to make Glendale a leader in sustainability and adoption of clean energy practices. I want to power Glendale with 100% renewable energy. I plan to do this by supporting rooftop solar, energy storage and energy efficiency, which will cost half as much as the proposed gas plant. I support investment in our community with clean energy alternatives like solar and efficiency because these will cut energy use and save money for our schools, seniors and businesses. Having our own municipal utility affords us the opportunity to be a leader in this area, but it requires the will and dedication to environmentally responsible values. As we have seen with the many catastrophic wildfires around us, tackling climate change in our own backyard, increasing and protecting open space, and halting any outdated fossil fuel-based projects must be top priorities.
3. GWP originally proposed a half billion-dollar expansion of the Grayson Power Plant and likely would have pursued that course if not for advocacy by the GEC, the Sierra Club and utility experts.
What structural, policy and/or procedural changes would you advocate for in light of this reversal of course?
As I laid out above, Glendale needs to put together a Clean Energy Plan and get serious about a Renewable Portfolio Standard of 100% clean electricity by 2030. With a mandate like this, discussions of future construction will be framed in a way that would prohibit consideration of stranded fossil fuel assets. An RPS like this would likely have prevented a fossil fuel-based Grayson repowering from getting as close to implementation as it did.
I would also work to ensure that appointees GWP Commission are experts in water and power and that the Commission has authority to vet proposals before they go to City Council, similar to the model for the City of Los Angeles.
In terms of how the “reversal of course” took place, I believe the current structural, policy and/or procedural methods worked as they should have and would not advocate for any changes. We had staff proposing a plan, we had individuals and groups who disagreed with the plan. We then followed our structural, policy and procedural methods which required and resulted in outreach, input from all stakeholders, testimony and hearings. Finally, presentations were made to the council (the policy/decision makers) who looked at both sides of the issue and made a decision that, in this case, concurred with position of the individuals and groups. The policy and procedures followed for the Grayson project were no different than what the city has successfully followed in adjudicating other cases where there is a disagreement between staff and the stakeholders which results in a “reversal of course”.
With this said, I believe the question that should be asked is what structural, policy/and or procedural changes should be made in light of the time and effort it takes on both sides to resolve the issues and reach a decision. In answer to this question, I would advocate for, and, in fact, have supported, the creation of a Sustainability Section and Sustainability Manager. This person acting as an “independent” resource, would interface with all city departments and private individuals or groups, provide them with pertinent information and recommendations and, thereby, enable city departments to formulate plans from the outset that meet the goals and requirements of the city while, at the same time, considering and taking into account the position of the stakeholders.
We need to invest in an electric grid that affordably and aggressively reduces greenhouse gases, while ensuring reliability and resiliency with increased development of local resources such as microgrids, solar, and energy storage that can help provide power during disasters or times of grid interruption. I would support a virtual power plant to reduce the demand on Glendale’s power grid and eliminate the need to expand the power plant.
4. Many cities have environmental affairs or sustainability departments.
a. What’s your opinion on establishing a sustainability department in Glendale?
b. If you support establishing such a department, to whom should it report?
a. We should immediately establish a sustainability department and ensure it is staffed for success and has authority to hold City departments accountable for their climate commitments. The first task of the Office should be to develop a legally enforceable Climate Action Plan committing the City to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with State goals under SB100 and a Clean Energy Plan to map a path to achieve zero carbon energy by 2030. I have called for this publicly on my website.
b. It does not make sense to have the Sustainability Department report to GWP, as is currently planned. The Department cannot hold GWP accountable if it answers to GWP. The Department should answer directly to City Council.
My answer to this question is stated in question #3, above.
In July of 2019, following the direction of the City Council, City staff and the consulting firm of EcoMotion initiated a three-phase, 12-month plan that includes 1) Evaluation of Current Activities, 2) Developing the Sustainability Section and 3) Management of the Sustainability Section. EcoMotion has conducted initial background research, reviewed the Greener Glendale Plan and the City’s commitments to climate protection. The initial results of the plan will be presented to council in early 2020.
I support Glendale having an environmental affairs and/or sustainability department. I believe it should be a stand-alone department with a director of sustainability who ultimately, like any other department head, will report to the city manager who in turn reports to the city council. The department should also have its own Sustainability Commission.
5. Like most cities, Glendale has several appointed commissions.
What’s your opinion on mandating that appointees have expertise – academic and/or professional – relevant to the commission for which they are nominated?
In most cases, it is beneficial to have commissioners who have substantial experience relating to the field in which they are appointed to serve. However, we must be careful not to interpret this as experience in the industry itself.
For example, LADWP Commissioners Vasquez and Reyes both came from environmental activist backgrounds, not the energy sector. Both turned out to be effective Commissioners. Both had experience and literacy in power- and water-related issues, but not from the perspective of industry. The diversity of opinion that they brought to LADWP has helped make LADWP more dynamic, innovative, and responsive to the public.
What we want to do is make sure that our Commissioners have literacy in the issues they will be acting on. What we don’t want to do is set up Commissions that are supposed to regulate an industry, yet are wholly controlled by current or former members of that industry.
I believe it is essential that commission appointees have expertise–academic and/or professional – relevant to the commission for which they are nominated. A review of my commission appointments will show that I abide by this mandate.
I believe that all commission appointees must have the expertise relevant to the commission for which they are nominated. Commissioners are appointed by City Council members as their eyes and ears. It only makes sense that these individuals have substantial qualifications to provide the right feedback and policy recommendations for their respective commission.
6. What’s your opinion on establishing a citizen’s environmental/sustainability commission?
I like the idea. I support increased public accountability. I also support institutions like this that would serve as incubators for policy ideas. Hopefully a Commission would help pressure and inform City Council in positive and productive ways.
I am certainly open to considering this possibility. I would evaluate recommendations from our Sustainability Manager as well as any concerned stakeholders before making a final decision on this question.
As I stated before, one thing our City needs is to have a commission for Environmental Issues and Health which can research and implement different approaches and studies into policy. These individuals would work with City departments, and specifically the above proposed sustainability department, to encourage, develop, and implement ways of minimizing our carbon footprint and moving toward 100 percent clean and renewable energy in Glendale
7. The built environment has significant environmental impacts.
a. What’s your opinion on adopting a LEED mandate for new commercial construction and/or significant remodels?
b. What’s your opinion on a LID ordinance (low impact development ordinance)?
c. On a related issue, do you believe development impact fees are adequate?
a. To mitigate our climate impact, Glendale must move rapidly to eliminate gas hookups for new residential and commercial buildings, and introduce incentives to electrify existing buildings. Retrofitting buildings is much harder than building them sustainably the first time. I favor reach codes with the highest LEED requirements for new construction.
b. I would support such an ordinance.
c. It’s tempting to want to increase development impact fees to pay for environmental impacts. The challenge is that they make it more difficult to build affordable housing. Fees should be commensurate with actual impacts and should not be used as a backdoor revenue generator.
a. I am certainly open to considering a LEED mandate for new commercial construction and/or significant remodels. I would evaluate recommendations from our Sustainability Manager as well as any concerned stakeholders before making a final decision on this question.
b. I am certainly open to considering a LID ordinance. I would evaluate recommendations from our Sustainability Manager as well as any concerned stakeholders before making a final decision on this question.
c, Due to the number of development impact fees we currently have and purposes for which they are used, it is not possible to properly answer this very general question. What I would do, if re-elected, is ask staff for report on our development impact fees showing how much we are collecting and how much we are allocating/spending for each fee category and then make a decision on whether our fees are adequate for the specific intended purposes.
a. I believe the City of Glendale must adopt a policy that all new commercial construction and/or significant remodels meet the LEED standard.
b. A low impact development ordinance would be an incredible strategy to mitigate the impacts of runoff and stormwater pollution in Glendale. I believe that by implementing LID principles and practices, water can be managed in a way that reduces the impact of developments and promote the natural movement of water.
c. I do not believe that the development impact fees are adequate. In this regard more needs to be done to ensure we use these fees to acquire and protect more open space.
8. Los Angeles has adopted a building electrification plan. What’s your opinion on Glendale adopting an equivalent plan?
It is critical for Glendale to make all new construction electric-only, and look at ways to begin converting our older buildings.
I am certainly open to considering a building electrification plan for Glendale. I would evaluate recommendations from our Sustainability Manager as well as any concerned stakeholders before making a final decision on this question.
Also, before adopting such a plan, I would ask for a report from staff detailing the experience Los Angeles, and any other city that may have such a plan, is having with their plan.
It seems that cars and power plants get the most attention when it comes to pollution. But buildings are responsible for a quarter of California’s planet-warming emissions when gas and electricity use are taken into account. I believe Glendale should adopt a plan equivalent to the LA building electrification plan. Replacing fossil fuel powered systems such as space heating, water heating, cooking and laundry with electricity and other fossil fuel-free, zero-carbon alternatives is a necessary step for Glendale to achieve 100 percent clean, renewable energy.
9. Are you aware whether Glendale has completed an energy and water efficiency audit of its municipal facilities?
a. If it has not, should it?
I’m not aware, but I am doubtful that the City is doing everything it can to be energy and water efficient.
a. If it has not, should it?
The Public Works Department has conducted many energy and water use studies generally related to the consideration of large retrofit projects aimed at reducing energy and water use. Also, the Glendale Water and Power Department, is constantly monitoring the water and electric usage and looking for more efficient and “greener” alternatives. However, there has not been a recent city-wide audit of energy and water efficiency in all of the municipal facilities.
a. If it has not, should it?
Yes, there should be such an audit as a part of the Sustainability Manager’s responsibilities.
The city audit in the past has not had a focus on electrification and the use of or emphasis on renewable energy sources. If elected I will push for a regular audit and assessment on how we can increase these types of energy sources on city facilities and city owned properties.
10. Glendale has a Zero Waste plan that was never implemented.
How would you ensure that plans such as this are actually implemented?
a. If it has not, should it?
This is a problem not just with the waste plan, but with many plans. The city also produced a biking plan that was never implemented, and a pedestrian plan has been held in limbo for years. Plans always have to be followed up with concrete action from Council to implement their recommendations, or a City Department has to clearly be given the authority and mandate to enact them. Empowering an Office of Sustainability to enact large portions of these plans could help.
The following actions identified in the Glendale Zero Waste Plan have, in fact, been implemented:
- Joined other local communities to adopt local take-back policies and programs for problematic materials – Glendale implemented the plastic bag ban.
- Implemented Mandatory Commercial Recycling – obtained a CalRecycle Grant to enforce recycling regulations at multi-family properties
- Implemented the Pilot Organics Recycling Program for Recovering Energy and Compost from Organic Discards
- Installed new public recycling containers in downtown Glendale and Montrose
- Amended Glendale Municipal Code to include Green Building requirements
- Installed public battery drop off locations in addition to the Fire Department Hazardous Materials programs
- Adopted a Zero Waste Resolution
- Became a member of California Product Stewardship Council
I will ensure that the action items in the Zero Waste Plan continue to be implement by voting to approve the creation of a Sustainability Section with a Sustainability Manager who will be responsible for bringing Glendale’s Zero Waste Plan to fruition.
I plan to follow through with the Glendale Zero Waste Action Plan from 2010, and expand this plan with the newest studies and approaches on reducing the flow of waste. As a council member, I will be fully committed to Zero Waste plans and ordinances based on comprehensive waste characterization studies, and support public involvement and transparency. We need to cut down the amount of waste we are putting into our landfills. The food we throw away ends up producing methane gas that is considered more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide
11. Scholl Canyon has a limited life expectancy. Green waste that is used as alternative daily landfill cover at the landfill will no longer count toward diversion. SB 1383 sets very ambitious organics diversion mandates.
a. Is the City prepared for the costs affiliated with the above?
b. How can the City facilitate progress toward zero waste by
1) the commercial sector,
2) the residential sector and
3) its own employees and operations?
a. I do not believe the City is prepared for the future of Scholl. The Scholl Canyon Landfill, which has been the dumping ground for most residential and some commercial waste, is quickly filling up. At current rates, it is expected to reach capacity sometime around 2028. The Scholl Canyon Landfill sits in a vibrant residential area alongside schools and parks. It’s an old dump which wasn’t designed with the safety features we would insist on today. It’s an environmental disaster waiting to happen. Some in the City want to expand the landfill so we can just keep dumping our garbage there (and also rake in profits by taking garbage from Pasadena and elsewhere). This might seem like an appealing solution, but it’s not right. As a City Councilmember, I will insist that plans to expand the landfill be taken off the table once and for all and that we focus on when and how to close it.
So where do we send out trash if there’s no local landfill? This question is complicated by the fact that our recycling and waste diversion rates are falling. Glendale is not alone in this. All cities in California are facing a recycling crisis because China and other Asian countries that used to buy much of our single-use, disposable items no longer want them. We may think we’re recycling when we put plastics in the grey bin, but most of it is now just getting dumped along with everything else. In fact, whereas Glendale was once earning some revenues from recycling, the overall program is now an expense item.
b. Glendale is facing a serious waste crisis.
Most of us create and dispose our garbage without thinking much about where it goes. If we’re homeowners, we reliably put recyclables in the grey bin, yard waste in the green bin and everything else in the burgundy bin. If we’re renters, we are at the mercy of our landlords, and if they decide not to have recycling bins at all, we have to throw it all in the trash and hope for the best. We figure the City has it all figured out after that. If only that were so!
Fixing this problem won’t be easy, but there are things we can do.
First, we need robust food rescue and food waste composting programs. Organics are the single biggest source of landfilled waste and generate greenhouse gas emissions when landfilled. If our schools, businesses, restaurants and municipal departments work together to divert edible food to food banks and unusable food to compost facilities, we can have a big impact right there. We should also develop programs for residents to participate in these efforts.
Second, we need to reduce our use of single use plastics. Glendale implemented a plastic bag ban a few years ago. It’s now time to phase out most other single use plastics, including polystyrene (commonly called “Styrofoam”) take out containers and plastic cups and utensils. Pasadena implemented a polystyrene ban a couple years ago. Burbank is studying a broader ban on single use plastics. It’s time for Glendale to step up and be a leader in this fight.
Third, we need to leverage the City’s power to support markets for recyclable materials and require producers to take responsibility for the trash they force on consumers. Every time the City makes a purchasing decision, it should give preference to products made from recycled content. It should also insist on take back policies where suppliers are required to recover difficult-to-recycle and hazardous items, and minimize and reuse packaging. The City could also develop education programs to help businesses reduce their waste, and mandates if education doesn’t work.
There are many other approaches Glendale can take to reduce the flow of waste we produce. These should be studied and brought together in the form of an aggressive Zero Waste Plan that meets the needs of the moment. Glendale developed a Zero Waste Action Plan in 2010, but there was only minimal follow through. As a Councilmember, I would take this problem very seriously.
a. Yes. The city is prepared for the additional costs associated with green waste management. However, the totality of all recent statewide legislation is expected to significantly impact the city’s waste management costs. Because of this, a Cost of Services Study for this operation is currently underway.
b. The ultimate goal for Glendale is to achieve a Zero Waste status. The City can facilitate progress toward this goal by creating the Sustainability Section and hiring a Sustainability Manager who would be responsible for updating and continuing to implement the Zero Waste Action Plan in the three areas mentioned above.
Further, while waiting for the report from the consultant, EcoMotion, (see question #4), I have taken and will take the following actions to facilitate progress toward zero waste in the areas of food waste, single use plastics and recycling:
a. I moved to have staff bring a report to Council with recommendations on how we can create and implement food recovery programs.
b. I moved to have staff bring a report to Council with recommendations on how we can reduce or eliminate the use of single-use plastics in our commercial establishments.
c. I will ask staff to bring a report to Council with recommendations for addressing the control and/or disposal of recyclable materials.
d. I will ask staff to bring a report to Council with recommendations for implementing educational programs for the public on waste management and to include recommendations for food waste composting programs.
a. The Scholl Canyon dump must ultimately be shut down because it presents a hazard to residents and our Jewel City. In order to determine the future of the site I would rely on experts who can provide us with more information, as well as the residents in the area who are impacted. I believe that increasing food waste prevention, encouraging edible food rescue, and expanding the composting and in-vessel digestion of organic waste throughout the City will help reduce methane emissions from organic waste disposed in our landfills. These are actions we must take.
b. Our city must address food waste through prevention, redistribution and composting. I will work to come up with incentives for grocery stores that donate their food instead of throwing it away. With at least 10 percent of our local community college students suffering from hunger, there is no reason for anyone to be throwing food away in our city. I also support a city-wide ban on polystyrene. The reason why we consume so much food out of foam containers is that we’re not in the habit of using our own safer alternatives, something I will work to tackle through public education about public energy and resource conservation. I would support the expansion of recycling in Glendale and introduce a program requiring all takeout food packaging be returnable, recyclable, biodegradable or degradable. I would support providing incentives to residents and businesses to implement energy efficiency measures and other measures that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I also support Zero Waste landscaping and yard care, grass cycling, the use of native plants and xeriscaping as part of educational programs for all sectors. By training all city staff, Glendale can be the model for its citizens and businesses. This way our staff will also be able to effectively communicate the importance of the Zero Waste Action Plan because they have experienced the ease of implementation, the savings and the benefits to their community.
12. The City does not have Environmentally Preferred Products Purchasing Policy or Extended Producer Responsibility policies.
Explain your position regarding these topics and what policies you would advocate for.
We need to leverage the City’s power to support markets for recyclable materials and require producers to take responsibility for the trash they force on consumers. Every time the City makes a purchasing decision, it should give preference to products made from recycled content. It should also insist on take back policies where suppliers are required to recover difficult-to-recycle and hazardous items, and minimize and reuse packaging.
Although Environmentally Preferable Procurement is not an official procurement policy adopted by the City, many departments strive to be environmentally sustainable in their procurement purchases, and the City’s Purchasing Policy provides a preference for recycled, reusable and recyclable products. As far as the future of such a policy, I would advocate for the sustainability office doing the research and establishing city-wide policies for Environmentally Preferred Products Purchasing and Extended Producer Responsibility.
I would support Environmentally Preferred Products Purchasing Policies and Extended Producer Responsibility policies that would ultimately reduce effects on human health and the environment when compared with competing products that serve the same purpose. I will work to promote the use of environmentally preferable products, practices and suppliers by developing and implementing City wide preferred supplier contracts and product standards, and make every effort to secure contracts with suppliers that are environmental leaders in their respective markets whenever practicable. As a council member I will advocate for using more energy-efficient and water-conserving products that can save money and resources. Using more products that are reusable, refillable, more durable or repairable. Also, increasing support of recycling programs that can expand the recycling industry and create a more competitive environment that will cause pricing of recycled products to come down, relative to non-environmentally friendly competitive products. I will work to add a process to apply the Precautionary Principle to all major City purchases. I would also meet with each City department to identify products and services that may either be wasteful or toxic, and explore alternatives to current practices, or how to design the waste out. I support having take-back programs as a better, more cost-effective way to successfully capture household hazardous waste.
13. The transportation sector is the largest source of global warming emissions in the US, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.
What steps would you advocate toward reducing GHG emissions from the City’s fleet?
Explain your position regarding these topics and what policies you would advocate for.
On my website, I publicly call for Glendale to convert our City vehicle fleet to electric power. Every new vehicle purchase should be fully electric, and there should be ample infrastructure to charge EVs on city properties.
I would advocate for the gradual replacement of the City’s fleet with electric vehicles. I have been advocating for the past five years for electric buses in Glendale. City Council has finally approved funding for a study to begin the replacement process.
I want Glendale to become one of America’s greenest fleets in terms of City owned vehicles. I would recommend converting all city fleet to alternative fuel vehicles, including CNG, electric, hybrid, LNG, biodiesel, and propane powered vehicles. We must also take an active role in reducing our carbon footprint by retrofitting our Glendale Beeline buses with particulate traps to further reduce emissions from their already clean burning gasoline buses. We must also replace older diesel buses with new hybrid technology “E‐Power” buses.