Southern California environment news and trends

San Francisco tops list of US cities with most eco-friendly services

David Paul Morris/Getty Images

Daniel Romero plants flats of plants on the living roof of the new California Academy of Sciences building in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California.

San Francisco has long been a pioneer in urban environmentalism, including being the first American city to ban single-use plastic bags. A new survey finds that the city by the Bay is the country’s most environmentally friendly location — literally.

As reported by Treehugger, website Thumbtack.com rated America’s largest cities in terms of the “highest per-capita prevalence of eco-friendly services,” ranging from green architects to housecleaners who only use biodegradable, non-chemical cleaning agents. When the dust cleared, the top three spots were all in the Bay area: San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.

“These rankings match up well with other city rankings for sustainability. Nine of the top ten cities on our list are also cited by the National Resources Defense Council as examples of smarter cities,” said the report, which is not without a sense of humor.

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California cities rank on new U.S. public transportation list

Expo Line Test Run

Kevin Ferguson/KPCC

The Exposition Line train at the La Cienega/Jefferson station after finishing a test run.

According to a new report, five California locales placed among the top 25 American cities for public transportation.

The rankings were determined by exceedingly useful website Walk Score through a series of calculations resulting in a “Transit Score” which “measures how well a location is served by public transportation, and is based on data released in a standard open format by public transit agencies.”

In California, San Francisco rated the highest, coming in second overall with a transit score of 80, just one point behind the top-rated city of New York. Los Angeles just missed the top ten, scoring the 11th spot just behind Portland, OR and ahead of Milwaukee, WI. Walks Score considers L.A. the 13th most “walkable” city in America, citing downtown L.A., Koreatown and Mid-City as the best neighborhoods for getting around on foot. Los Angeles is sure to rank even higher on the site’s next survey, given the completion of the new L.A. Metro Expo Line that recently opened for service.

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PG&E wants to offer utility customers more green options

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Jaime Rius/AFP/Getty Images

California’s largest utility this week has proposed a new way to support green energy.

Dubbed the “Green Option,” the program would allow Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s five million customers in cities like Napa, San Jose and Berkeley the chance to pay an average of $6 more per bill to help fund renewable energy solutions like wind farms and solar plants. According to a press release from PG&E, the proposal recently sent to the California Public Utilities Commission is the result of customer demand.

"On behalf of our customers, PG&E is already one of the largest suppliers of renewable energy in the country," said Helen Burt, senior vice president and chief customer officer of PG&E in the release. "We have heard from many of our customers, however, who want to do even more to support clean energy and the green economy. Our Green Option, backed by an independent third-party's environmental certification, will give them that choice."

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California is still America’s most solar-powered state

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Matt Cardy/Getty Images

You can breathe easy, Team California Solar: we’re still Number One.

According to a report from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, the state of California is responsible for close to half of America’s photovoltaic activity through 2010 (869 megawatts of installed capacity out of the nation’s total of 1,831 megawatts).

Within the state, San Diego reigns as California’s top solar-powered city, according to a new report from the Environment California Research & Policy Center. The city boasts more than 4500 solar-topped homes, businesses and government facilities, double the number of just two years ago.  San Diego accounts for close to 37 megawatts of the state’s sun-juiced energy.

“San Diego didn’t become the state’s Number One solar city by happenstance,” said mayor Jerry Sanders in a press release. “It was the result of local policies and programs that encourage investment in solar power.”

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San Jose among '10 Sustainable Cities To Watch'

Everyone loves a list. Ranking, rating, arranging – there’s something about putting things in a neat, numerical sequence to bring a little sense of order to the world.

The start of a new year is always a great time to make lists. Having already categorized the year that was, now is when we start looking forward and making predictions of what is yet to come. Which is why I was excited to peruse environmental blog Triple Pundits list of the 10 Sustainable Cities to Watch in 2012.

It’s an exotic list that spans the globe, including Doha, Qatar, and Accra, Ghana. It’s so much so that only two American cities make the list: my beloved Detroit, MI and our very own neighbors in San Jose, CA. Focusing on the city’s light rail system and robust Green Vision Goals, they term San Jose “one of the greenest, cleanest and safest cities in the USA.” (The blog also a point to call L.A.’s sustainability a miserable failure). 

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