It’s a moral obligation and civic duty insists South Pasadena Mayor Michael Cacciotti for cities like the one he oversees to protect the health and wellbeing of residents through environmental legislation.
“I, like so many, recognize the importance of protecting what we have,” said Cacciotti, who was a major part of last week’s lengthy council meeting starting one night and reaching into the next before key decisions were made to expand electrification efforts in the city. “Action by the council will help to reduce greenhouse gasses, clean up the air, greatly reduce vehicle fuel maintenance costs, and improve the quality of life for those who live here.”
Following a long discussion as part of the September 21 meeting that didn’t conclude until 12:56 a.m. last Thursday morning, councilmembers set into motion calling for the installation of solar panels over a downtown parking lot at Hope Street and Mound Avenue, new electric vehicle chargers at City Hall and the appropriation of funding for leasing 20 Tesla vehicles from Enterprise Fleet Management Inc. for the local law enforcement officials.
Some of the chargers will be publicly available in the evening after City Hall closes and on weekends.
“These efforts are designed to provide a fiscally, prudent and sustainable healthier lifestyle for our residents,” said Cacciotti, a member of the council since 2001. “We’re setting an example for any city, police department in our state or world to follow. There are so many benefits for this, whether it’s the environment in cutting pollution or the savings from the use of electric vehicles over gas-guzzling models when you’re not paying for high priced gasoline and high maintenance costs.”
A longtime environmental advocate, Cacciotti has owned an electric Prius since February 2002. Nearly 22 years old, it has 180,000 miles with original brakes. Little has been spent on keeping it maintained, and he estimates saving in that time $17,000 versus an internal combustion engine car he once owned.
Over the past year, Cacciotti has joined city officials, the police and fire department chiefs and others at a series of monthly meetings to keep electrification efforts at South Pasadena City Hall on track. It all came together with the council’s action to make change for the better, insists the mayor.
“It has really been a team effort to pull all these parts together and bring it to the council for making some key decisions to help our environment,” he said. “I’ve been trying to get our police department to go electric or use some type of alternative fuel for over a dozen years. Now they see that the electric technology has caught up, it’s there with enough charge to make pursuits with better performance. Our city employees and many residents, as studies show, are talking about making an electric vehicle their next purchase.”
As outlined in a city staff report, through efforts taken by the council last week, the city:
- Will participate in the Clean Power Alliance Power Ready Program, which facilitates installation of solar panels at the Hope/Mound City parking lot and battery backup systems at City Hall to support building electrification.
- Plans to take part in the Southern California Edison (SCE) Charge Ready Program, which facilitates installation of Level 2 electric vehicle chargers at City Hall parking lots (police department, fire department, and employee parking lots) to support Public Safety fleet electrification, and a 10-year commitment by the city to provide and maintain the chargers.
- Enter into a Master Lease Equity Agreement between the City of South Pasadena and Enterprise Fleet Management Inc. and appropriate of $304,124 for the leasing of 10 new Tesla Model Y and 10 Tesla Model 3 vehicles of $383,752 for a one-time down payment for 20 vehicles and a 15% project contingency, and authorize $31,124 for the vehicle lease account deficit payment, for a total of $719,000.
- Will provide direction to city staff on developing plans to install one or more Level 3 electric vehicle chargers in the City Hall/police department parking lot to support public safety fleet electrification.
The mayor believes it will take roughly 10 to 16 months before all the new electrification measures are in place and working.
“This is just another milestone for our city,” stressed Cacciotti. “We continue to make them year after year and I like where we’re headed as a community.”
All council members voted in support of the Clean Power Alliance Power Ready Program, but Councilmember Diana Mahmud cast the lone dissenting vote on all the other listed items, suggesting more time was needed in studying the issues.
“Diana is a very thoughtful, and comprehensively reads everything,” said Cacciotti. “She was supportive of the project. She had some concerns about the electric grid, like we all do, but she was a little more careful while the rest of the council is ready to go forward at a faster pace than her. She wanted to spread it out over three years rather than immediately. But then, it’s going to take awhile. It’s going take some time for all of this to come together. I respect Diana. She did a great analysis and asked the right questions.”
Cacciotti, along with SPPD Sergeant Tony Abdalla and the city’s Public Works Director Ted Gerber, led the charge in the city’s latest electric movement. He was also at the forefront of the effort seven years ago when South Pasadena became the first city in the United States to adopt an all electric zero emission equipment standard for maintaining its local parks. At the time, the city was recognized as the first AGZA certified Green Zone in the country.
His crusade for an eco-friendly community has even gone to the South Pasadena Unified School District, Cacciotti urging the city’s largest employer to make the same claim by going green, using 100% battery-powered equipment to maintain its district property and its five public schools in town.
Over the years, electric BMW Mini Coopers, Chevy Volts, a GNG Ford Crown Vic and an electric shuttle van for the city’s Dial-a-Ride have been secured for city use (leased the Mini Coopers for free and obtained a free modified CNG police vehicle).
In addition, dozens of electric vehicles have been showcased as part of a Clean Air Car Show in the past and South Pasadena was first in the nation to repurpose a Tesla battery for a lawnmower to maintain the greens electronically at Arroyo Seco Golf Course in the city’s Arroyo Park.
Further, a South Pasadena ordinance will soon go into effect banning the use of polluting gas powered leaf blowers by independent gardeners and residents.
As a current board member for the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), a position he’s held since 2008, Cacciotti is now encouraging other southland cities and school districts to follow suit.
The environmental effort doesn’t stop there as several years ago the City of South Pasadena was honored with one of the agency’s prestigious Clean Air Awards.
“I’m proud of all the accomplishments we made as a city,” said Cacciotti. “And with our new efforts, we may come out of this by putting very little financial input into these projects. We’ve applied for a grant through the through the AQMD Mobile Source Air Pollution Review Committee for up to a $1 million. So, we may get a grant that would cover the cost of some of the vehicles and some of the chargers. And right now, the city has in its fund $150,000 right now through car registrations – $4 from every vehicle in the city – that must be used for projects such as these. From those sources, we could could ultimately save substantial expenses in the long term.”
As Cacciotti sees it, efforts continuing to protect the planet should be felt by everyone, from conserving water, cutting down on what’s thrown away, recycling to driving electric cars.
“Our effort isn’t some small potatoes where this just is part of South Pasadena’s Climate Action Plan and we’re going to meet one of our goals, reduce pollution, save tens of thousands of dollars for our residents,” he explained. “We’re talking about a world issue that we need to tackle. It’s really about our national and economic security. As a country, we’re still buying $700,000 barrels of oil a day from Russia. We spend over $500 billion a year on foreign oil. It’s time for that money not going to other countries and we reinvest that in our own communities. The money I’ve saved in maintenance costs on my Prius is not going to OPEC, Russia, Venezuela to buy fuel. No, it’s going into my pocket so I can say, ‘Okay, SPEF (South Pasadena Educational Foundation) here is a donation. I can support the church, or apply it to a dinner in town or buy something else locally. I can take that money and reinvest it into our community and help an economy based on clean, renewable energy. The day has come for us to make this incredible transformation throughout the world to battery-powered vehicles and other measures to clean up the air.”