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Statement: “Sarah Boot is pushing a mandatory retrofit law that will force homeowners to pay more than $3,000 for government-required renovations before they can remodel or sell their homes,” a recent mailer circulated by City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf’s District 2 City Council campaign said.

Determination: A Stretch

Analysis: Sarah Boot, who’s running for San Diego’s District 2 City Council race, has insisted in recent days that she is against the part of the new proposed Climate Action Plan that would force homeowners to make changes before they sold or remodeled their homes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But this insistence came after her opponent, Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, sent mailers saying she is pushing that plan. We set out to see where Boot stood when Zapf said she was lobbying for the plan. At issue is City Council President Todd Gloria’s Climate Action Plan, a blueprint for reaching state greenhouse gas reduction targets that has yet to be approved by the City Council.

It has been on hold since Mayor Kevin Faulconer took office.

Gloria’s version, which is likely to change under Faulconer, focused on five areas where emissions could be cut by 15 percent by 2020 and 49 percent by 2035. One tack it relied on was to require all property owners to make their homes or businesses more energy- and water-efficient before they can be sold or remodeled. How this would work, and the actual requirements for property owners, have yet to be determined but the retrofit mandate been the most talked-about and controversial element of the plan. It’s been mentioned in multiple news stories and business leaders are already decrying it.

We analyzed how it might work here.

This is the portion of the plan Zapf’s campaign seized on in the mailer. Zapf has spoken out against the mandate, saying it would burden businesses but we struggled to find any instances where Boot discussed this part of the Climate Action Plan.

Until recently, Boot has made only supportive statements about Gloria’s Climate Action Plan.

Here’s an excerpt of what Boot said after an audience member asked for District 2 candidates’ take on the Climate Action Plan at a March 26 forum:

“We need to take a leadership on this. Moreover, based on state regulations we’re required to pass a Climate Action Plan here in the city of San Diego, so I do support Todd Gloria’s efforts to put forth a Climate Action Plan. I know we’re still working out details on what that would entail and I’ll be very curious to see how that evolves. I certainly can’t speak to any specifics, though you might wish me to at this point in time, but they’re not finalized yet.”

Fast-forward a few weeks. OB Rag cofounder Frank Gormlie interviewed Boot and asked whether she supported the plan.

Boot said she supported “much of the Climate Action Plan” and cited its likely expansion of public transit, integration of bike infrastructure and strategy to allow residents and businesses to pursue alternative energy sources.

Again, she didn’t mention retrofits.

Around the same time, Boot promised in a Bike SD questionnaire that she’d be a “strong advocate” for the Climate Action Plan.

We could not find any instance in which Boot said she did not support any part of the Climate Action Plan, and in fact found only positive statements about it.

About a month later, Zapf’s camp claimed Boot was “pushing” for a retrofit mandate that could cost homeowners.

The mailer includes excerpts from a March 20 Voice of San Diego story that found a typical homeowner might need to sink $2,000 to $3,000 into improvements.

To be clear, those numbers are based on requirements in Berkeley that advocates of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan said could serve as a template for environmental upgrades here. San Diego leaders haven’t determined any amounts or mandates yet. The draft simply says San Diego needs to reach certain goals and that retrofits should be part of the equation.

Boot has said for months that she supports the Climate Action Plan, and that draft proposal has for months included a mandatory retrofit for many city homeowners.   At least a few community members asked her specifically about the plan and she never identified a portion of the plan that she did not support.

But after the mailers criticizing her came out and we asked for her position on the retrofits, Boot told us on Tuesday that she is absolutely against the mandate. .

“The details of the Climate Action Plan have yet to be determined – however, as I have said before, I oppose costly home retrofit requirements,” she said in an email statement.

When has she said this before? Boot’s campaign also pointed to a mailer sent shortly after the one we’re fact-checking that declared Zapf a pathological liar for claiming, among other things, that Boot backs retrofits and a robocall last week that also addressed the issue.

But we couldn’t find any instances where Boot clarified this position before Zapf accused her of pushing the retrofit proposal.

Instead, Boot’s offered political non-answers that amount to passive support of the retrofit mandate. She appeared to take pains to avoid addressing the most divisive portion of the Climate Action Plan, even when asked whether she backed the entirety of the plan at the March forum. Her lack of clarity on multiple occasions could easily have led observers to conclude that she didn’t oppose this portion of the plan and perhaps even supported it.

At the same time, though, Zapf’s mailer claims that Boot “pushed” for the retrofit mandate when she never specifically addressed it until last week. She now says she opposes it.

Claiming someone pushed for a policy implies that they’ve vocally lobbied for it. Boot never mentioned this part of the Climate Action Plan, so we decided it’s A Stretch to say she pushed the retrofit mandate. It would have been reasonable, however, for the Zapf campaign – and voters – to assume Boot was at least open to or even supportive of the retrofit mandate at the time the mailer went out. Boot’s positive statements about the Climate Action Plan and multiple attempts to avoid directly addressing the most controversial aspect of the plan left significant room for interpretation – including the logical conclusion that Boot supported the retrofit mandate.

If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.

Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

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