Supervisor Eric Mar Has a Green Financing Program for Energy and Water Retrofits

San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar has a new plan to reward homeowners for green upgrades.

Read all about it from this afternoon’s press release, below.

Eric just loves the sun. Maybe you will love it just as much, if his program gets voted in by the full board.


Supervisor Mar Introduces a Green Financing Program

Green Financing Program to help with energy and water retrofits for building owners

Supervisor Mar is working with Mayor Gavin Newsom, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, the Controller’s Office of Public Finance and the Department of the Environment to establish a program to allow San Franciscans to finance environmental improvements to the buildings they own. Today, Supervisor Mar introduced the first of a series of legislation to enable the green financing program.

“With almost half of San Francisco’s greenhouse gas emissions being produced by our homes and local buildings, this new green financing program will drastically curb San Francisco’s carbon footprint and reduce the strain on our regional water supply,” said Supervisor Eric Mar.  “It will also help put San Franciscans to work through our growing green jobs academies and programs.”

This legislation will set up a Mello-Roos Special Tax District that would be available to finance privately–owned energy efficiency, renewable energy and water conservation improvements.  The repayment obligationis attached to the property, rather than the individual, and is paid back through property taxes over the useful life of the improvements. 

Currently, the largest barrier to building owners increasing their energy and water efficiency is the large up-front cost of improvements.  Even with various government incentives and rebates, many home owners find it impossible to make energy or water efficiency improvements due to cost.

“It is my hope that many homeowners and building owners will opt into this great program and reap the benefits of lower utility and water bills while also helping our city achieve its ambitious climate action plan goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and conserving water,” said Supervisor Eric Mar. “San Francisco will be the nation’s first large city to implement a program of this type,” said Mar. 

This legislation is the first of a series of enabling pieces of legislation and Supervisor Mar will continue to work with community and environmental groups, the Mayor’s Office, Public Utilities Commission and other city departments to develop the green financing program.

More deets – read the FAQ, after the jump.

San Francisco’s Green Financing Program


The Board of Supervisors, the Mayor’s Office, the Controller’s Office of Public Finance, San Francisco Environment and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission are working together to establish a program to allow San Franciscans to finance environmental improvements to the buildings they own.  Legislation is required to be passed by the Board of Supervisors and signed by the Mayor to create this program.

What would this program do?

If approved, the program would provide an option to home and building owners in San Francisco to finance improvements to their properties to increase the efficiency of their energy and water use, as well as to install renewable energy generation systems.

How does this program differ from loans available from a private lender?

The financing under the proposed program is attached to the property, rather than the individual, and is paid back through a special line item on the property tax bill over the life of the improvements. If the property is sold or otherwise transferred, the financing is repaid over time by the new owner. Traditional mortgages must be paid off when the property is sold or transferred, and may be unattractive if someone expects to sell his or her home before the energy and water savings can be realized.

Why do we need this kind of program in San Francisco?

Almost half of San Francisco’s greenhouse gas emissions (45%) come from the energy used in local buildings.  At the same time, drought, climate change, and other environmental impacts threaten our water supplies and underscore the need for water conservation.  As a result, our city government is working to reduce water and energy use in local buildings.

Currently, the largest barrier to making San Francisco homes and buildings more efficient is the large up-front cost of energy and water conserving improvements.  Even with tax breaks and traditional loan arrangements, many local home and building owners simply can’t afford to make the upfront investment for environmental improvements that yield their payback over time.  An affordable, accessible financing program will provide a large portion of the city’s 194,000 buildings with the access to the upfront financing they need for these upgrades that benefit the City as a whole as well as the property itself.

What kind of buildings would qualify for this program?

Residential and commercial buildings of all sizes are eligible, subject to certain criteria, such as the type of projects to be completed and the property owner’s property tax payment history. 

What kind of building improvements qualify for the program?

Program eligibility criteria are under development and will accompany the legislation required to establish the program once this initial package of enabling legislation is approved.  There are certain basic elements that will be included.  Financing will be available for environmental improvements with a useful life of five years or more that benefit the public good by reducing the environmental impact of building use.  Eligible improvements would include energy efficiency upgrades—such as adding insulation, replacing windows, and upgrading heating systems, and water efficiency upgrades—such as installing low flow toilets.  Financing will also be available for installation of renewable energy generation on buildings, such as solar arrays and wind turbines.

Why would a building owner want to finance these improvements?

In addition to helping to improve our environment, making these improvements promises to save the building owner a lot of money over time.  By financing these costs over the life of the improvements, the cost of the project is more closely matched with the timing of the financial benefits of improved energy and water consumption performance and reduced utility bills.  Efficiency upgrades will ultimately mean lower energy and water bills over the life of the home, long after the term of the financing has expired. 

How does the program work?

The programs will be structured through the establishment of a Citywide Mello-Roos Special Tax District.  A Mello-Roos tax district allows property owners to come together to tax themselves for an improvement providing public benefits.  In this case, the tax district would be formed on a citywide basis, but would not initially include any specific properties.  Owners of individual properties would elect to join the district by filing documents approving the inclusion of the property and authorizing the levy of a special tax against the property.  In return for opting into the district and agreeing to pay the special tax over the life of the financing, the building owner would receive funds in an amount sufficient to pay the up-front cost of the approved improvements, net of any other grants, rebates or incentives paid to the building owner in respect of the project.

What is the interest rate and term of the financing being offered?

These terms of the program are still being established.  The rate is intended to be as low as practicable while still ensuring a sustainable program, and both the interest rate and term will be fully transparent as part of the final Board of Supervisors approval of the formation of the district and the issuance of debt to finance eligible retrofit projects.




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One Response to “Supervisor Eric Mar Has a Green Financing Program for Energy and Water Retrofits”

  1. Philo says:

    Idiotic pandering, using our money. Why should we subsidize loans to wealthy property owners/ If these improvements are cost effective, the property owners will make them themselves. And I can just imagine how well this wil be supervised, to make sure that people don’t use the loans for other purposes.