A year after helping pass the most significant legislation San Diego’s seen in Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s tenure, Nicole Capretz, executive director of the nonprofit Climate Action Campaign, spent 2016 reminding the city that cutting greenhouse emissions isn’t as simple as passing a plan.

The city’s Climate Action Plan promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions in San Diego in half by 2035. It had many champions, and its passage ushered in a wave of national media acclaim for the city and its mayor.

Voice of the Year

But in 2016, Capretz went from an activist lobbying for its passage to an outsider agitating for the city to act on the plan’s lofty ambitions.

Early in the year, she challenged the city’s community plans for North Park, Uptown and Golden Hill for not describing how their prescribed development changes would help achieve the share of people walking, biking or taking transit to work envisioned by the Climate Action Plan.

Months later, she threatened to sue if the city didn’t do more to make those plans climate-friendly. The city approved the plans anyway, but Capretz criticized the city over its own analysis showing those plans wouldn’t assist climate efforts.

Capretz ended up at the center of the city attorney race, too. Ahead of the June primary, newly elected City Attorney Mara Elliott said citizens could not, in fact, sue if the city failed to meet its climate goals. Capretz pushed the city attorney’s office to clarify, which it did, confirming citizens could sue over the plan. Elliott backtracked.

In the fall, Capretz was perhaps the most outspoken opponent from the left of SANDAG’s proposed tax hike for transit, highway and open space projects in the county. It didn’t do enough to reduce the region’s carbon footprint, she argued. The measure failed, thanks also in part to opposition from conservatives.

If 2015 was the year San Diego congratulated itself for taking bold action against climate change, 2016 was the year Capretz reminded the city that it had only taken the first step.

This is part of our Voice of the Year package, profiling the people who drove the biggest conversations in San Diego this year.

Andrew Keatts is a former managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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