Green Technology - Q&A with Bill Bogaard

Interview with Mayor Bill Bogaard
June, 2008


On June 7 and 8, the Pasadena Conference Center hosted the Green Pasadena Leadership Summit, which explored the challenge of global warming in regard to City operations and the activities of businesses and individuals in our community.  Prior to the Summit, Mayor Bogaard was interviewed by Green Technology, which organized the Summit, to describe the Green City Action Plan, Pasadena’s commitment to environmental responsibility over the long term.  The interview follows.


With a population of over 145,000 and an estimated growth rate of 10 percent since 1990, Pasadena is also home to some of the richest arts and culture, educational facilities and high technology in California. Pasadena was one of the early cities to sign onto the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Control Agreement in 2006, committing to reduce its carbon footprint dramatically by 2020. Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard speaks frankly with Green Technology Magazine about how his city is implementing its Green City Action Plan, some of the nuts and bolts of creating necessary “behavior change,” and the importance of addressing environmental issues now.

What was the genesis of Pasadena's Green City Action Plan?

The idea for a strong local commitment to climate control originated for me with the U.S. Conference of Mayors in which I have been active during my time as mayor since 1999. Mayor Greg Nickels of Seattle developed a program by which cities could commit themselves to a climate control effort similar to what nations were called upon to do under the Kyoto Accords. So, roughly speaking, cities are committing to reduce their carbon footprint by the year 2020 to a level at or below the historic level of 1990. Pasadena was one of the early cities to sign on, about the 200th city in a group of cities that now total over 800. Because many of the cities that are participating in this effort - the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Control Agreement - are the larger cities, they represent over a third of the total population of the U.S.

Are most of these cities are actually making headway with their plans?

I'm certain there's a wide range of implementation and that there is some failure to meet the goals. I can say that our commitment in Pasadena is strong. One of the things that is helping Pasadena and other cities is an increasing focus on what I would call the metrics of reducing carbon footprint. That is the development of standards by which a baseline of emissions can be established, and then the measuring techniques that can be used year after year under this eight-year program to demonstrate that, yes, that particular city has reduced its footprint. So the accountability of these programs is presently being developed, and I think it will prompt the cities that are participating to measure up.

Who is developing these metrics?

I was at a conference about six months ago, and one of the panels was devoted to persons - engineers, accountants and others - who are in firms that are developing accountability procedures. The Conference of Mayors is encouraging this action and helping them promote their work.

What made you come back from that original meeting and say, "okay, this plan has got to be put in place in Pasadena"?

In Pasadena important decisions like this are made by a majority of the City Council. I can say proudly that when we adopted our commitment in September of 2006, it was a unanimous decision.

My own thinking was evolutionary. Earlier in that year, when the U.S. Conference of Mayors program was first promulgated, I was immediately attracted to it, because I loved the idea that Pasadena would be a leadership city, a city that would step up to the plate even if it involves some inconvenience. I shared the proposal with my colleagues, and then after a few weeks I checked in with some of them and found that there was real receptivity. I started discussions with the city manager about a review of the requirements of this commitment that would allow the city manager to put it before the council after a couple of months of study. We needed to say that we know what we're doing, and we know how we're going to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

One additional point should be made. Since then, I have come to a state of thinking that this is no longer a progressive thing, this is no longer a good example for other cities. This is an absolute requirement for us and for other cities to come to grips with our over-consuming since World War II of our fair share of the earth's resources in the United States. So I no longer think this is a great thing to do; it's a mandatory thing for us to do.

How do you get your constituents to embrace your thinking on this?

It's a challenge, there's no question. During the last 12 months we have conducted a large number of awareness and educational programs of various kinds that all reflect our commitment to a green standard of living. For example, we celebrated Bike Week. We have conducted a series of lectures in the library for developers in regard to our green building materials and construction design requirements. We have offered a water conservation plan and are forced to consider making water conservation mandatory. We have upped our commitment to renewable energy sources, and we continue to study our circumstances to figure out how we can reduce reliance on coal.

Besides what the city is doing to promote greening, have you noticed residents and businesses coming back with their own plans and projects?

I'm very encouraged by what's happening in the business community and among the largest employers in the city. One example is a company that is a commercial office building manager. It is under contract with eight or ten large buildings in Pasadena. The management of that firm is telling me that tenants are preferring green buildings. Some of the steps that are involved are relatively simple, like changing light bulbs, and others are more significant, like effectuating remodels of existing buildings that allow them to be much more energy efficient and more efficient in other ways in terms of their day to day operations - clean chemicals and so on. There are employees of tenants who put pressure on their own employers to choose space that is green.

Our utility, Pasadena Water and Power, has initiated meetings with representatives of the largest 25 employers, and as we go around the table, the representatives of those companies reflect a lot of creativity and a lot of innovation in pursuing sustainability. They have various reasons. For some, their employees want it. Others see less expensive ways to go forward, and others are feeling pressured by the cost of electric power and water, so they want to be conservationist.

Do you think that in the final analysis a lot of these things will have to be mandated, or will public awareness programs will be able to create behavior change?

I would say a little bit of both. Hopefully, we who are in a position of making decisions along these lines, whether government or large enterprises, can figure out ways to engage with people through education and through offering alternatives that are not less comfortable.

When it comes to buildings, is there a possibility that building codes might be changed to embrace greener practices?

The answer is yes. In fact, in Pasadena, even before we adopted the commitment to the U.S. Conference of Mayors agreement, we had adopted one of the first green building ordinances. That's been made a part of our overall Green City Action Plan. We're proud that several of the recently completed buildings in Pasadena have been certified for LEED (U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) recognition at various levels. City Hall, for example, where a major retrofit was completed in the middle of 2007, has been awarded a LEED Gold Certification, the second highest rating.

Why should the people of Pasadena, residents and business people, care about making a green commitment?

I would say that the evidence is overwhelming that our activities as human beings are adversely affecting our climate and our environment. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to understand how new approaches can be incorporated into ordinary living in a way that creates sustainability. The economics and the effort of sustainable living are by no means impossible.

A major portion of the population of Pasadena and surrounding cities is not living an affluent lifestyle. If you're a single mom struggling to pay rent and keep food on the table, how can you embrace these issues?

That's not an easy question to answer. I would say that persons at the lower levels of income are already forced by their circumstances to be less consumerist than those at affluent levels. They use less energy, less water. My hope is that these changes, as we work toward them over the years ahead, can be achieved without pain, or without new pain, or without new privation for persons of lower income.

If you had your way completely, what would you like to see Pasadena be like and look like in another decade or so?

We're presently engaged in a review of the general plan relating to land use, mobility, open space conservation, as well as housing. My hope would be that these new policies, as they're developed during the next year, would confirm the style of living that Pasadena has achieved during this decade. This is based upon Pasadena's architectural and historical structures, open and available parks, single family neighborhoods, strong economy and great arts and culture.

But some of that lifestyle will be adjusted by reason of global warming. Further, my hope is in ten years Pasadena will be dealing more effectively than today with the needs of young people, giving them a good start in life through public education and through other community-based opportunities for recreation, for summer internships, for outdoor experiences in the mountains. Finally, for our Green Cities Action Plan, I would hope that ten years from now we will have truly achieved significant carbon footprint reduction.

Why do you feel that events like the Green Pasadena Leadership Summit are important?

The Leadership Summit is one of the most effective ways to communicate to our residents and our businesses about the goals of sustainability. My expectation is that the Summit will be a major step forward in engaging the people of Pasadena in this important effort.


Posted: 6/1/2008 10:35:00 AM
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