Twin Peaks Auto Care at Portola Drive and Woodside Avenue is seeking to renew its lease. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Twin Peaks gas station is a test of our ability to make real decisions for climate change

By Phillip Kobernick and Erik Shilts

The Board of Supervisors should reject the lease extension of the Twin Peaks Petroleum gas station.

Renewing this lease would demonstrate the Board’s unwillingness to take direct action on either the climate crisis or the housing crisis by reverting to the status quo and having a “more of the same” approach. Instead, the Board should be thinking of new and creative ways to transform this land from fossil fuels, which are destroying our communities, to something that heals our communities such as new affordable housing. Furthermore, the 25-30 year extension of this gas station violates several city and state policies and laws, is not the best use of public land, and reinvests in fossil fuel infrastructure. Real climate leadership would entail winding down fossil fuels, not subsidizing them.

  • This lease extension is counter to several SF policies and state law.

In March 2019, the Board of Supervisors, under the leadership of Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, declared a “Climate Emergency” (File #190222) and directed the city to “achieve emissions reductions at emergency speed.” Extending the use of fossil fuels on city land for another 25 – 30 years entrenches an ongoing emissions source, hardly the emergency speed reductions that the Board has demanded. In fact, the state will have completely eliminated new gas vehicle sales 10 – 15 years prior to when this lease renewal would end, per Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent executive order.

In December 2016, the Board of Supervisors (File #160222) amended the Administrative Code to “prohibit the City from entering into or extending leases for the extraction of fossil fuel from City-owned land, and requiring inspections of any such land and evaluation of constructive future uses for such land.” This lease extension violates the spirit of this Administrative Code set by the Board just a few years ago to eliminate fossil fuel infrastructure on city land.

Lastly, California state policy dictates that we must reduce GHG emissions fast enough to achieve carbon neutrality no later than 2045 and then become carbon negative. In fact, Governor Brown signed this historic executive order (B-55-18) right here in San Francisco during the 2018 Global Climate Action Summit. How can we achieve our carbon neutrality targets if we’re guaranteeing fossil fuel usage past l the time that the state is supposed to have eliminated emissions entirely? And if we can’t achieve these goals in San Francisco, how can we display leadership to the rest of the state and the rest of the country?

  • This gas station is not the best use of public land.

Given this land’s location relative to the Forest Hill Muni station and the beautiful connecting parks in Glen Canyon, Twin Peaks, and Mount Sutro, the property is an ideal location for 100% affordable housing and community space.

According to the SF Examiner “The City’s 2013 appraisal of the property found the highest value of the property, at $1.8 million, was as a residential or mixed commercial and residential development of up to 26 units.” Extending the lease for a gas station is an admission that the City is not using this land for the best possible use.

  • This lease extension is a reinvestment in fossil fuel infrastructure and prevents the use of alternative fuels.

The lease extension of Twin Peaks Petroleum is on city-owned land and at a rate below what the City’s appraisal determined was the best value for this location. Therefore, the city is providing a below market rate lease for a gas station, constituting a direct city subsidy of fossil fuel infrastructure. Extending this lease would send an appalling signal that the city is willing to directly subsidize harmful fossil fuel infrastructure that is making our city and our planet uninhabitable for future generations.

Some Board members have suggested that perhaps this station can transition to alternative fuels in the future. Extending this lease in its current form makes transitioning to alternative fuels impossible, even on a 20-year timescale. The station owner is utilizing the long lease to finance the upgrade of underground storage tanks, as is required by state regulations. These tanks are expensive and can only be used for gaseous fuels such as gasoline or diesel. The only alternative fuel that the owner could transition to without massive new capital costs would be other gaseous fuels like biodiesel or renewable diesel. However, very few vehicles run on diesel and supplying this fuel alone is not feasible. The owner is banking on selling gasoline for the duration of the lease, nothing else. If the Board is serious about transitioning to other fuels such as EV fast charging or hydrogen, they should put that as a provision into the current lease extension that is being proposed with clear implementation timelines and forbid the costly upgrade to new underground tanks that are strictly for fossil fuels.

  • SF should lead on climate change.

To be a real leader on climate change, you can not subsidize and entrench fossil fuel infrastructure on public land. Real climate leadership would be leading an audit of all fossil fuel infrastructure in San Francisco and then detailing and enacting a plan to phase it all out in an equitable and sustainable process in accordance with the state’s 2045 target.

We again urge the Board to reject the lease extension as a commitment to direct action on climate change and seek better uses for this location such as affordable housing.

Phillip Kobernick and Erik Shilts are volunteers with Urban Environmentalists.

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