Solar Power Your Condominium

Is your electricity bill climbing?  Many people who are now working at home and generally staying in more are paying more these days.  Help is available if your utility payments are outside of your budget. For others, rising electricity costs may signal that it’s a good time to install solar power.

If you live in a condominium and would like to install rooftop solar but always assumed it would be too difficult, you’re in luck. Installing solar at condo building is easier now thanks to changes in laws that govern condominium buildings.  These changes were explored at a Lunch and Learn webinar recently hosted by Climate Action Santa Monica and the City of Santa Monica Office of Sustainability and Environment. 

Watch the full lunch and learn webinar on Solar for Condos

In the webinar, local real estate attorney and condo law expert, Paul DeSantis, digs into the revised laws as well as the process for getting solar panels installed on a condominium building.  Significantly, two-thirds of condo owners are no longer needed to move forward with a solar project. Insurability and financing are also improved. Paul observes that a single condo owner can now move the process along fairly quickly, while laying a path for other condo owners to install solar as well.

Drew Johnstone, Senior Sustainability Analyst for the City of Santa Monica, provides an overview of solar how it works, how it’s installed and what to expect from your new bill. He also reviews the site conditions required for solar installation and addresses how different types of condominium buildings can lay out a rooftop solar system.

Laurene von Klan, CASM’s co-chair has been heading up the CASM solar program. CASM is working with the city on this project because Santa Monica has huge rooftop solar potential.  She hopes that the new laws can jump start a wave of solar power installations in the city. “We have so many flat roofs on multi-unit buildings and so much sun. Solar power is a natural, do-able way for Santa Monica to generate results for the climate.”

Support is being provided to help interested condominium owners determine if solar power is suited for them and their building.

If you are interested in learning more please email You will receive a checklist that will help evaluate your solar potential.  If solar is feasible on your building, a second screening and assistance with layout of a system will provided.

What if you live in an apartment and rent your home? Renewable energy is available to you, too. You can receive 100% renewable energy through the Clean Power Alliance.  And there are other steps you can take to lower your energy carbon footprint. Please check out Renewable Energy Resources for Renters.

Your mobility choices make a difference

In Santa Monica, 64% of our greenhouse gas emissions come from motor vehicle transportation, mostly from private cars. Indeed, this is true throughout much of the world. Clearly, this paradigm must change to prevent further impacts of climate change. To achieve a meaningful reduction in our carbon footprint we must drive fewer miles. While transitioning to electric cars is important, that option is not a silver bullet. We need more options, and they already exist.

We can increase the proportion of local trips that are made by walking, cycling, scooters, electric bikes and other low-speed mobility devices if we re-shape current road designs to serve all road users equitably. Santa Monica, with its abundant sun and relatively flat topography is ideally positioned to take advantage of new mobility technology, with bicycles (and electric bicycles) playing an important role.

Reducing car use and car ownership delivers enormous, much-needed co-benefits such as significant financial savings for individuals, improved air quality, vibrant, human-oriented streets where businesses can thrive, fewer deadly collisions and a natural way to integrate activity into our lives that keeps us healthy and more resistant to disease. Walking, cycling and low-speed mobility are solutions that we can no longer afford to leave under-developed and untapped.  

We invite you to join us and our partners in promoting a healthier, more sustainable vision for our streets. For additional information about climate-friendly transportation choices, visit these sites:

The Earth-Saving Power of Trees

As any long-time Santa Monica resident will tell you, our summers are getting hotter, our winter rains are getting scarcer. (How much is Santa Monica’s climate changing? Read More here).

Trees are one of the most effective ways Santa Monica residents can combat climate change.  There is also correlation with increased tree canopy and lower temperatures, as well as cleaner air and less crime. Unfortunately, across the country, city tree canopies are shrinking due to natural disasters, disease, and other factors. In addition, lower income neighborhoods are seeing less canopy coverage and therefore higher temperatures.

The problem of canopy loss has become so large that the City of Santa Monica (along with cities across the nation) are seeking help from residents. Luckily, it’s one of the simplest and most effective climate change solutions we can all take part in!

How do trees help combat climate change?

Trees naturally absorb carbon dioxide as well as other global warming emissions that are released by cars, gas-powered equipment like lawn mowers and leaf blowers, beef production and power plants. In turn, they release oxygen into our air. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that asthma rates are at an all-time high. As the most prevalent chronic disease in childhood, asthma affects one in every twelve Americans. By planting trees, we help reduce pollutants that trigger asthma and other respiratory diseases. People living in polluted urban areas are far less likely to be hospitalized with asthma when there are lots of trees in their neighborhood.


Trees also help cool the air and reduce temperatures because they provide shade. They also engage in “sweating”, (evapotranspiration), which lowers temperatures. Shade and evapotranspiration alone can reduce summer peak temperatures by 2-9℉!

Santa Monica: Let’s get planting!

Below are a few ways to bring trees and all their benefits into your life. If there is very little space and no way to accommodate even a small tree, consider a large bush or hedge. Live in an apartment? No problem! You can still contribute to increasing our tree population!

  • If your curbside/parkway area is lacking trees or has any diseased trees, call the City’s Urban Forester via the City Hall hotline at 310-458-8411. Here is a designated tree-planting map for 2019 and 2020. If your street is not included in either of these plans, check out the City’s designated plans for upcoming years
  • To provide feedback and input for the City’s urban forestry planning, you can attend meetings at the City’s Urban Forest Task Force, which meets six times a year, the fourth Wednesday of every month, usually at the Santa Monica Main Library. For more information, visit the Santa Monica Urban Task Force’s website.
  • Even small spaces can accommodate trees. Whether you own or rent, walk around your property to see which space(s) make sense for plantings. Tall bushes are also a great option if a space cannot accommodate even a small tree.

    For a list of tree or bush species with specific height and sun requirements, visit your local nursery or use the online Las Pilitas directory. Some wonderful options for small spaces are the Mountain Mahogany which acts as a beautiful low-water privacy hedge, Toyon, Coffeeberry, and many varieties of Manzanita. (Choosing plants that are native to southern California and which have “low” water requirements means less maintenance than plants from other regions, thereby reducing or eliminating your need for water, fertilizers and pest control. By planting natives, you’re also providing food and habitat for our local birds and other native fauna.)
  • Fruit trees are also a great option if you’d like to further enjoy the benefits of your trees. Choose organic when buying. A few extra dollars is worth the healthier variety you’ll be feasting on for years to come.
Manzanita is a great option
Photo from Las Palitas Directory

A few tips for planting:

  • Use planting instructions to understand the growth habits of the tree and guide you both while selecting as well as during planting to determine how far apart to place each plant. Trees and bushes should be spaced based on their height and width at maturity.
  • Plant in the fall: Again, follow planting instructions. Ideally, you’ll want to plant during dormancy and when plants can receive regular watering. Any tree or bush will want regular watering the first 2-3 months, until it establishes. 
  • Mulch: Use mulch around the base of your new plant to minimize water needs and provide slow-releasing nutrients into the soil. Mulch also invites beneficial worms and small soil insects that help keep your soil aerated and healthy.

If you are not able to plant trees on your owned or rented property, consider donating your time or money to a local tree-planting nonprofit organization. One local group that has been championing tree canopy increase in the Los Angeles area for over three decades and which has wonderful volunteering opportunities is Tree People, located in Coldwater Canyon.

No matter where you live in Santa Monica or how much time and money you have to invest in tree plantings, there is something you can do to help increase our city and county’s tree population. If we want to thwart climate change and clean up our air, all capable citizens can and should be active citizens.  Planting trees is a great option.

A beautiful Magnolia Tree, a common species in Santa Monica

Things to Know About Natural Gas in Santa Monica

Santa Monica, and many other cities, are moving away from natural gas because of the climate crisis. Using gas to make electricity or to heat homes is more polluting than doing so with solar or wind. It is estimated that natural gas (methane) is roughly 30 times more potent as a heat-trapping gas than carbon.

The City of Santa Monica recently amended its building code to favor electricity over gas in new construction. Recognizing that natural gas is a fuel preferred by some and a part of our existing energy supply system, the City is providing a pathway that will allow natural gas to continue to be used, in exchange for other energy efficiencies. It is hoped that natural gas usage will gradually decline. This is a positive step. Climate Action Santa Monica supported the city’s plans and offered suggestions for additional measures.

At recent City Council hearings on this issue, our local gas company, SoCal Gas, made the case that gas is a vital part hour energy infrastructure moving forward, and that the city should plan for ongoing use of gas and developing renewable natural gas. Some of their arguments made sense. Solar and other renewables have, for the time being, some limitations. There just aren’t enough batteries for storing the solar power generated during the day so that it can be used at night. Sometimes there is not enough solar, wind power, or other forms of renewable energy available to meet peak demand, for example on extremely hot days when everyone is running air conditioning. So, for the time being, it looks like we are committed to continued use of natural gas, with the hope that our reliance will decrease over time.

Are we fully aware of the risks that come with our continued commitment to gas?

We should be.

A report by the California Council on Science and Technology states that a nearby natural gas storage facility, in Playa del Rey, is problematic. It has a history of gas leaks, and industrial scale gas leaks can be particularly harmful to our climate. In addition, the report states the facility “located near a large population center in a very high wildfire hazard zone, stands out as a facility with relatively higher risk to health and safety than the other facilities in California. Aliso Canyon, Honor Rancho, and La Goleta also present higher health and safety risks than other facilities because of their locations near large numbers of people.”

Several groups have recently begun to call for closure of the Playa Del Rey facility, making us all more aware of the full cost associated with continued use of our natural gas infrastructure. Legislation has been introduced to investigate the facility and its compliance with local health and safety rules.

We do not have a lot of choice in who provides our gas. But we can, for the safety of our children, friends, and family, and for the health of the planet, be vocal and conscientious consumers. We can question why this gas storage facility is so problematic. We can go electric when it’s time to replace a home furnace, clothes dryer, stove, or car. We can install solar panels on our homes, or ask our landlord or homeowners group to consider it. We can let our elected officials know that we support taking action to move away from gas and provide more safer renewable electricity. If we do so, perhaps one day we will no longer need to have troublesome gas storage in our backyard.

Thinking about going electric?

Check out new electric cars and other technologies at Alt Car Expo in Santa Monica on November 2!

National Solar Tours Coming to Santa Monica

Do you have solar? Does it work for you? Don’t have solar but curious to learn more?

The National Solar Tour is October 5th and 6th, and Climate Action Santa Monica is looking for people in Santa Monica to sign up and show off their solar systems. This is an opportunity for people who are curious about the potential of solar and want to know what it is really like to live with solar power.    

Research shows that people are more likely to get solar when their neighbors have it. Solar power figures prominently into the City of Santa Monica’s Climate Adaptation Plan. It is also considered one of the top solutions to the climate crisis globally.  Even better, for many homeowners it makes financial sense. It creates local jobs, too.   

Interested? Please contact and learn more about the event

If you don’t have solar but want to learn more, you can visit a home on the solar tour and ask a real user (not a sales person) about their experience. 

And what if you live in a multi-unit building? New laws make solar for condos more feasible and pilot programs are being run to investigate ways to bring solar to multi-unit buildings of all kinds. Advocates are always needed to shift laws and regulations so that solar is available and affordable to EVERYONE! Find out more by emailing

The Electric Big Blue Bus has Arrived, and Not a Moment Too Soon!

The first of 18 electric buses that Big Blue Bus will acquire by 2021 was celebrated by a press event and ribbon cutting this past Wednesday, August 21,2019, at the city’s bus facility on Colorado and 6th Street.  The state-of-the-art vehicle then went into service on BBB route 1 that afternoon.  

These battery electric buses are the key to the transit system meeting its goal of being a zero-emission fleet by 2030.  The agency will not buy any more internal combustion-powered buses; all new buses purchased will be battery electric, eventually replacing the entire fleet with zero-emission buses.

Electric bus battery details

The new 75 passenger bus will have a range of approximately 150 miles which is anticipated to power it for a full day’s service.  A full recharge takes under three hours using ChargePoint Express fast chargers at BBB’s facility.  The bus uses lithium-ion batteries similar to what are used in modern electric cars like the Tesla.  And like all electric vehicles, the bus is extremely quiet, an added bonus for people near our busy streets.

Gillig is the manufacturer of the new buses, which are being built at their plant in Livermore CA.  The powertrain and batteries were developed and built by Cummins at their facilities in Tennessee and Indiana, so the entire vehicle is U.S. made.  It was in development for over 5 years in close collaboration with BBB.  

Celebrating the new Electric BBB!

As the BBB electric fleet grows in the coming years, it will play an important role in meeting Santa Monica’s goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2050 (meaning that none of the energy use or transportation in the city will contribute to net greenhouse gas production).  Emissions from transportation are the single biggest source of greenhouse gases in Santa Monica, primarily from private cars.  So using our comfortable, reliable Big Blue Buses for your transportation needs is one of the most important things you can do to address the climate crisis!

What do you think? Are you excited to try out the new electric Big Blue Bus? Leave your comments below. View the Big Blue Bus routes and schedules here. See you on the bus.


Santa Monica Residents,

We have a HUGE potential to reduce our output of global warming emissions, and it’s very simple: If you are ready to dump your old fridge, freezer or A/C unit, please call the City of Santa Monica’s Resource Recovery and Recycling at 310-458-2223. DO NOT leave curbside or alley as this will lead to a dangerous dumping of the harmful chemicals inside the unit.

This old freezer was recently found dumped in an alley in Santa Monica.  If you see one, talk to your neighbor and/or call the City of Santa Monica to request safe disposal.

Here’s what you need to know:

Did you know that refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners contain gases that are 1,000 – 9,000 times more potent at warming our climate than carbon dioxide? 

If refrigerators, freezers and air conditioning units are recycled and disposed of properly by professionals, then 90% of the gases in each unit are captured and purified for reuse or transformed into other chemicals that do not have climate changing capacity. 

If Santa Monica residents dump their units curbside or in the alley and the refrigerants in those units are drained or released by amateurs, then each unit will spew its gases into our atmosphere with enormous temperature-increasing effects on the climate.

In 2016, 170-nations gathered in Kigali, Rwanda, to address the pressing issue with using these climate-warming gases, a.k.a. refrigerant gases a.k.a. HFC’s. Luckily, the countries agreed on an amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase out the use of harmful greenhouse gases starting in 2019. Manufacturers will switch to alternatives such as propane and ammonium. Scientists estimate that the Kigali accord can reduce global warming by nearly 1° Fahrenheit

But the proper disposal of any HFC-containing appliance is key in keeping these potent climate warming gases at bay. Any of us updating to a new unit or, simply, downsizing has the power and the responsibility to make sure these gases are recycled or properly disposed of.

Tossing out your ol’ fridge, freezer or air conditioner? Here’s what to do:

  1. ALWAYS dispose of your unit with a professional. Amateur drainage of the harmful refrigerant HFC gases will result in spewage straight into our atmosphere. 
  2. DO NOT leave refrigerators, freezers or air conditioners curbside or alley UNLESS you have already arranged for a FREE pickup by the City of Santa Monica. Please call the city’s Resource Recovery and Recycling: 310-458-2223. In addition to the environmental risk of leaving your unit curbside without proper disposal plans, this can also lead to playing children trapping themselves inside your unit.  Take safety measures such as removing doors!
  3. If you have arranged for pick-up with the city of Santa Monica (310-458-2223) and are asked to leave your unit curbside or in the alley, PLEASE MARK THE UNIT with a visible note: “For City Pickup ONLY – Harmful Chemicals / Para la recogida en la ciudad SOLAMENTE – Productos químicos nocivos”

If you are replacing with another unit, shop stores that offer free or inexpensive recycling of old units. If you are buying a new unit from a reputable store and they offer take your old unit away, you can generally have confidence that it will be handled properly. But feel free to ask if they are approved or alternatively, look for retailers that partner with EPA’s Responsible Appliance Disposal (RAD) Program