City of San José Member Spotlight

Climate Smart San José

The City of San José has created Climate Smart San José, a plan that outlines goals for the city to reach the Paris Agreement goals by 2050. Where better to address these issues and lead by example than the capital of Silicon Valley? With great access to technology comes great potential to create solutions to address these goals in the most effective ways possible. The United States accounts for about 14% of global carbon dioxide emissions, therefore San José is taking advantage of its technological resources in the area to discover energy-reducing methods and clean technology so that climate-friendly techniques can become increasingly affordable and adaptable for other areas in the country to use as well.

Although the federal government has officially pulled out of the Paris Agreement, local governments and jurisdictions still have the option and responsibility to acknowledge these goals to take matters into their own hands. The City of San José’s priority has and will always be to create a safe and comfortable environment and future so its residents can live, work, and play in the most satisfying way possible. The following LGSEC member spotlight discusses the City of San José’s goals to effectively improve infrastructure, transportation, and job economy as laid out in Climate Smart San José.  


There are three pillars comprised of nine strategies based on Paris goals outlined in Climate Smart San José  (pages 71-113):

1. A Sustainable & Climate Smart City

1.1 Transitioning to a renewable energy future means providing clean electricity that supplies the entire city. San José  plans to operate on 100% renewable energy by 2050 and has the potential to install solar panels on 94% of roofs (about 201,000 roofs) in the city.

1.2 Embracing the Californian climate means creating an urban landscape in homes and public places that is not just low water usage, but attractive and enjoyable as well. Water usage per capita is expected to decrease 66% by 2040 and 23% of water use by this year is expected to be sourced from recycled/reused water.

2. A Vibrant City of Connected & Focused Growth

2.1 Densifying the city in focused growth areas increases walkability and cycling while also making neighborhoods more vibrant, distinctive, and enjoyable. “Complete streets” that are pedestrian and bike friendly are expected to reach 100% by 2030.

2.2 Making homes energy efficient and fully electric can make them affordable for families and more comfortable to live in. There are currently about 100 Zero Net Energy (ZNE) homes but it is expected that 90,000 homes will be ZNE by 2050 and 100% electric. Additionally, household energy consumption is expected to decrease by 62% by 2050.

2.3 New technology can enable clean, electric, and personalized mobility choices that make it convenient to move between any two points in the city. This means increasing electric car usage and the accompanying infrastructure, depending on ridesharing services, and eventually adopting the usage of autonomous vehicles.

2.4 Developing integrated, accessible, public, and active transport infrastructure reduces car dependency to move within the city. This goal can be reached by upgrading Caltrain to be all electric by 2021, extending the BART program, creating a California High-Speed Rail to connect northern and southern California, upgrading Diridon Station, and improving biking and walking accessibility.

3. An Economically Inclusive City of Opportunity

3. 1 Creating local jobs within the city reduces vehicle miles traveled by making it possible for residents to work close to where they live, which will save time, money, and gas spent commuting. The employed-to-resident ratio should reach 1.0 by 2030 and exceed that thereafter.

3.2 Making commercial buildings high-performance and siting them close to transit lowers water and energy use. While the California’s Long Term Strategic Energy Efficiency Plan embraces a goal of all new commercial construction in California being zero net energy by 2030, the State has not yet adopted this requirement in California’s building energy code. The City of San José is being proactive and aims to reach a goal of making all new commercial construction “zero net carbon” (i.e. also addressing natural gas usage) by 2030. 

3.3 Moving commercial goods through the city more efficiently with new technology and fleet management practices can be achieved by switching to hybrid and electric delivery vehicles, which are currently being designed for future production.

Funding and Implementation:

Between now and 2050, The Plan will cost $264 billion but will create savings amounting to $269 billion, a total net savings of $5 billion. The $264 billion price tag will be distributed among City Hall, residents, the private sector, developers, and regional agencies. The City of San José has already launched a demand aggregation program through San José Clean Energy (a community choice energy program) and secured $2.8 M in grant funding and resources through Bloomberg Philanthropies and BAAQMD. There are a range of potential other various funding mechanisms that could be used to implement the plan including (pages 141-145):

  • Borrowing measure options such as Lease Revenue Bonds (LRB), General Obligation (GO), Infrastructure Bank Financing, and Social Impact Bonds (SIB).
  • Fees and Tariffs come in multiple forms such as Public Benefit Funds (PBF), Fee-bates and Density Bonuses, Traffic Congestion (parking fees and tolls), 3 types of Developer Impact Fees, Carbon Taxes, and Cap & Trade.
  • Developers and City Hall can support land use development special financing instruments such as Value Capture Tools: Special Assessment and Tax Increment Financing (TIF).
  • Lending option such as Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Loans, On-Bill Financing, Loan Loss Reserve Funds (LRF), Industrial Revenue Bonds, and Energy Efficiency Loans are available to residents.
  • Partnerships can be leveraged through different types of mechanisms- Power Purchase Agreements, Pay for Success (PFS) and Pay for Performance (PFP), and Public-Private Partnerships (PPP).

It is clear that achieving the goals in Climate Smart San José is going to require collective action from various stakeholders like agencies, the business community, universities, colleges, as well as families and households. The City of San José’s government plans to lead the movement by making the solutions affordable and accessible to empower these groups’ efforts in achieving the goals. The City of San José will also continually update a dashboard to monitor progress for stakeholders to view successes and failures of the program.


Significant progress has been made in the areas of community engagement, identifying financing options for solar power and energy efficiency projects, commercial building efficiency, the launch of San José Clean Energy (local CCE), water use efficiency, electric vehicle strategy, and the formation of a Climate Smart – Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) compact.