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Filmed on Wednesday April 8, 02009

Gavin Newsom

Cities and Time

A fourth-generation San Franciscan, Gavin Newsom has been the city's mayor since 2003. In 1991 he founded the PlumpJack group of businesses.

More than any other political entity, cities learn from each other. San Francisco's youthful mayor has traveled the world examining what works best in other cities. Now in his sixth year on the job, he has seen various ideas and programs bloom or wither, and has led the city's ambition to become one of the world's Greenest. In this talk we hear about lessons learned and plans in the making, in a world now mostly urban.

Sustainable Cities

Mayor Newsom began with how moved he was by hosting the UN's World Environment Day in San Francisco in 2005.  For that event, which was called "Green Cities - Plan for the Planet!", he invited 120 mayors from around the world.  Days of intense discussion led to the publication of 21 policy principles for building permanently sustainable cities, in the areas of energy, waste, design, nature, transportation, health, and water.  Cities, Newsom said, consume 75% of natural resources and are responsible for 75% of pollution.

He became determined to help make San Francisco the Greenest city in the world.

That can be accomplished only with a plethora of highly specific programs.  The city's renewable energy portfolio, for example, includes highly demanding Green building standards (LEED); conversion to biodiesel and the recycling of "fats, oils, and grease;" generous rebates for solar; and plans for collecting energy from tidal-flow turbines below the Golden Gate and wave generators off of Ocean Beach.

He wants San Francisco to be the world leader in electric vehicles, starting with plug-in hybrids and moving to fully electric.  They have half the moving parts of gas vehicles and much higher efficiency.  The batteries can charge in off-peak hours, and gas stations can convert to "switch stations," where you simply swap in charged batteries in less time than it takes to fill up with gas. The way cellphone time is sold in minutes, vehicle charging can be sold in miles.

He would like to see parking meters used for charging, and San Francisco is developing congestion-price parking meters that cost more during peak congestion hours, and that sense and can broadcast when they're empty.

To encourage urban density, which is inherently Green, the city is building more highrises, and California's coming high-speed rail system will leave from the heart of downtown.

Newsom noted with glee that there is now intense competition between cities to out-Green each other.  Portland, San Francisco, Manhattan, Amsterdam, Vancouver, Singapore and countless others vie in the quest for Green bragging rights.  They borrow ideas and deploy comparative shame: "How can sunless Berlin have more solar power than any American city?"

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Will Hearst • David and Abby Rumsey • Kim Polese • Shel Kaphan • Garrett Gruener • Christensen Fund • Stream Guys Media Streaming • The Scorpio Rising Fund • Peter Baumann • Brian Eno • Greg Stikeleather • Chevron • Nion McEvoy and The Long Now Membership

We would also like to recognize George Cowan (1920 - 2012) for being the first to sponsor this series.