A solar panel installation is seen on the Esplanade Ballroom and South Lobby roofs of the Moscone Convention Center on April 19, 2016. (Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

A solar panel installation is seen on the Esplanade Ballroom and South Lobby roofs of the Moscone Convention Center on April 19, 2016. (Emma Chiang/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Green roofs for a more sustainable San Francisco

San Francisco is a dense urban environment, and we fight over every last inch of land. With so much competition for housing and commercial development, as well as parks and open space and other public uses, we have to make tough choices, often between equally good priorities.

But we also need to be smarter about what we mean by available space. One area of our city that too often gets ignored are our rooftops. Roofs count for 30 percent of our land area in San Francisco, but we are only beginning to think about how we use these spaces.

Earlier this year, the Board of Supervisors passed my legislation that made San Francisco the first major city in the country to require at least 15 percent of roof space in new developments be covered by solar panels. This legislation was a great step for our clean energy future, and I look forward to other cities and states joining us in more aggressively pushing clean energy requirements like solar roofs.

However, solar isn’t the only way we can maximize the environmental benefit of our roof space. Today, the Board of Supervisors will vote on my legislation to allow, as an alternative to the solar requirement, that 30 percent of the roof space can be used to create a “green roof,” also known as a living roof. This will make San Francisco the first city to enact this kind of green roof legislation. Some well-known green roofs in The City include the California Academy of Sciences and the residential building on the corner of Market and Dolores streets, where the Whole Foods Market is located. Anyone who has visited these rooftops understands the dramatic potential our roofs have to be a positive contributor to our city.

Green roofs have tremendous benefits for our health and environment and to both building owners and tenants. These benefits include sequestering carbon, reducing both pollution and energy consumption, enhancing biodiversity and reducing storm water runoff into our sewer system. Green roofs also improve the beauty of our rooftops and connect our residents to nature. Analysis by the Planning Department shows, for building owners, a net financial benefit. The legislation is smart policy, and I hope my colleagues joining me in supporting it.

We need to continue to push policies like the Better Roofs Initiative. Next legislative steps could include how to reach 100 percent utility for our roofs, including through the use of open space and urban agriculture, and how to apply requirements to improve existing roofs, not just new roofs.

As our city continues to grow, we must be smart and efficient in how we use all of our public and private spaces. Green roofs are one way San Francisco can continue to lead the way for a healthier, greener, and more sustainable future.

Scott Wiener represents District 8 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Giants second baseman Donovan Solano scores on a double in the seventh inning against the Dodgers at Oracle Park on July 29. (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
Will the Giants make the playoffs? Kris Bryant may be the answer

By Chris Haft Special to The Examiner You’d be hard-pressed to find… Continue reading

Tiffany Carter, owner of Boug Cali West Coast Creole Shack in San Francisco’s La Cocina Marketplace, was dismayed by gentrification she found when she returned to her hometown to start a business. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
SF Black Wallstreet: Helping residents build wealth, reclaim spaces they’ve had to leave

Tiffany Carter moved back to her hometown of San Francisco five years… Continue reading

A prescribed fire at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks was conducted in June 2016 to reduce hazardous fuel loading, increase watershed health, and restore the natural fire cycle in the Redwood Canyon area ecosystem. (Photo courtesy Rebecca Paterson/National Park Service)
Experts, UC scientists discuss wildfires in the state’s riskiest regions

Wildfires are nothing new in California’s history, but the magnitude and frequencies… Continue reading

Fourth-grade students at Lucerne Valley Elementary School don masks and Western wear for a “Walk Through California” history day during in-person instruction. (Courtesy of Krystal Nelson)
Confusion over mask mandate for California schools sparks tension between districts and parents

By Diana Lambert EdSource Shifting rules around mask mandates at schools are… Continue reading

Steven Buss, left, and Sachin Agarwal co-founded Grow SF, which plans to produce election voter guides offering a moderate agenda. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Grow SF: New tech group aims to promote moderate ideals to political newcomers

Sachin Agarwal has lived in San Francisco for 15 years. But the… Continue reading

Most Read