San Francisco Supervisors Move Forward with Green Energy Program

The program, dubbed GreenFinanceSF, will allow homeowners to borrow money for green energy upgrades and pay it back as a line item on their property tax bills.

by Marisa Lagos, San Francisco Chronicle / December 10, 2014

(TNS) -- San Francisco will soon move forward with a creative financing program that would help homeowners install solar panels and make energy efficiency upgrades, after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously approved it Tuesday.

Dubbed GreenFinanceSF and generally known as Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, the program will allow homeowners to borrow money for green energy upgrades and pay it back as a line item on their property tax bills. It faces one more vote at the board before going to the mayor for his signature.

Adoption of the program was four years in the making: San Francisco attempted to move forward with a PACE program in 2010 but backed off when federal banking authorities, worried it would pose a risk to mortgage lenders if homeowners defaulted on the loans, objected. State and local government officials pushed back in recent years, creating a $10 million state reserve to cover defaults and moving forward in recent months with dozens of local PACE programs around the state.

San Francisco’s program is expected to kick off in the spring; it is the last Bay Area county to adopt a PACE program.

Supervisor Mark Farrell, who sponsored the San Francisco legislation with Mayor Ed Lee, said the expansion of PACE programs could “trigger a market transformation as profound as the information and technological revolution that we are currently experiencing,” as well as help San Franciscans save money on their energy bills and create local construction jobs.

“Other parts of the state that have adopted PACE programs, most notably Sonoma and Riverside counties, have seen the positive impacts that have followed for their residents and their local economy,” Farrell said.

Also Tuesday, the board again unanimously backed two measures it approved two weeks ago. One could significantly expand the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s retail customer base for selling energy; the other will allow the city to track how much certain city contractors pay their employees and analyze whether they discriminate based on gender. Both now head to Lee’s desk.

The board has only one more meeting in 2014, but some supervisors are already looking toward next year.

Supervisor Malia Cohen on Tuesday introduced a resolution that will allow the city to buy a Visitacion Valley community center from a private investor for $1. The property at 66 Raymond St. operated for decades as a community center, most recently as a place for senior citizens to gather, until last year, when a nonprofit lost it to foreclosure. Cohen and Lee worked to persuade the new owner, Sausalito real estate investor Joe Giraudo — who had no idea of the building’s history when he bought it on the auction block — to donate it back to the community.

The building will reopen next year after improvements are made.

Also Tuesday, Supervisor Norman Yee asked the city attorney and the board’s budget and legislative analyst to explore the possibility of legislation aimed at making city streets safer for pedestrians and at helping immigrant youths pay application fees to stay in the country legally.

Yee asked the city attorney to draft legislation to prevent tour bus operators from talking to passengers while driving. In October, longtime City Hall employee Priscila “Precy” Moreto was fatally run over by a tourist bus in a crosswalk directly in front of City Hall.

Yee, the victim of a pedestrian accident himself, also on Tuesday asked the budget and legislative analyst to look into how much it would cost the city to install “black boxes,” like the ones found in airliners, in all city vehicles. The boxes, which are used by city officials in New York City and on Muni vehicles in San Francisco, would record driving data.

At the request of the city’s Youth Commission, Yee also asked the city attorney and the budget and legislative analyst to look into legislation to help San Francisco youths who are applying for President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The program, which provides temporary relief from deportation and a two-year work permit to people age 15 to 30 brought to the U.S. illegally as children, comes with a nearly $500 to application fee. Yee said many youths who were approved for the program in 2012, when it was unveiled by Obama, must now reapply and are struggling to pay the fee.

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