State and Local Policy Database

San Diego

City Scorecard Rank


San Diego, CA

59.00Scored out of 100Updated 5/2017
Local Government Score:
8 out of 10 points
Local Government Summary List All

San Diego’s 2015 Climate Action Plan (CAP) sets municipal greenhouse gas and energy use reduction goals. Strategies to achieve these goals include a vehicle fleet purchasing policy, an outdoor lighting ordinance, and above code efficiency requirements for new buildings. The Energy Conservation and Management Division of Environmental Services Department manages and coordinates efforts to achieve government operations goals.

Last updated: February 2017

Local Government Energy Efficiency Goals List All

In 2015, the Mayor and City Council of San Diego adopted the Climate Action Plan (CAP), which sets a goal to reduce municipal emissions 15% by 2020, 40% by 2030, and 50% by 2035, from 2010 levels. The CAP also includes a goal to reduce municipal energy use 15% by 2020 and 25% by 2035, from 2010 levels. The city also has an energy reduction goal under DOE’s Better Buildings Challenge that includes municipal buildings.


To meet this energy goal, San Diego would need to reduce energy use by 2.0% per year.


San Diego is not currently on track to achieve their local government energy goal, but the city is projected to achieve savings within 25% of this goal.


San Diego is and will be conducting annual updates and reporting on progress towards its goals in a public report. The Annual Monitoring Report will include specific actions, proposed outcomes and a timeline with milestones to track success in meeting 2020 and 2035 goals. The FY17 Climate Action Plan Funding & Implementation Report provides an update to funding, budgeting and implementing strategies under the CAP. The city will produce an annual update of the city-wide greenhouse gas emissions inventory and progress towards goals will be published. The City will also complete an annual greenhouse gas inventory as part of the Annual Monitoring Report.

Last updated: May 2017

Procurement and Construction List All

Vehicle Fleets and Infrastructure

Current policy (Administrative Regulation 90.73) calls for all new vehicles to be 50% better than CAFE standards by 2020 and for a 5% reduction in vehicle miles traveled compared to the previous year. The policy also calls for operating all vehicles in a manner that ensures maximum fuel conservation including keeping tires inflated to the recommended pressure, using air conditioning selectively, and minimizing public vehicle idling. Additionally, this policy commits the city to investigate the benefit, availability and use of lower carbon fuels, low emission & zero emission vehicles, including but not limited to Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicles, Partial Zero Emission Vehicles, and Zero Emission Vehicles such as electric vehicles. Moreover, the city of San Diego does incorporate web-based GPS technologies to increase the efficiency of their public fleet.

Note: For local fleet initiatives, policies listed must make a specific, mandatory requirement for increasing fleet efficiency. Local alternative-fuel vehicle procurement requirements that give a voluntary option to count efficient vehicles are thus not included.

Public Lighting

San Diego has a streetlighting and outdoor lighting ordinance (Ordinance 20186 passed in July 2012) requiring efficient outdoor lighting. Recently replaced streetlights are connected to photo sensors for dusk to dawn operation. Additionally, the city of San Diego has an outdoor lighting replacement and upgrade program. The city replaced 35,311 sodium-vapor streetlights with energy-efficient, broad-spectrum induction streetlights in a citywide effort in 2013. The city’s Street Division maintains over 40,000 street lights so in 2013, 88% of the city’s streetlights were updated.

New Buildings and Equipment

Among the directives of San Diego’s Sustainable Building Policy (Council Policy 900-14) there is a commitment that all new city-funded facilities and major building renovation projects (more than 5,000 square feet) achieve LEED Silver certification and be constructed to be 15% more energy efficient than California's building code. The city has an environmentally preferable purchasing policy for equipment purchasing decisions (Administrative Regulation 35.80) that includes provisions for resource efficiency, including energy efficiency.

Last updated: January 2017

Asset Management List All

Building Benchmarking and Retrofitting

In the City of San Diego, energy use is monitored and benchmarked using a Smart Energy Management and Monitoring System, the City is in the process of compiling municipal assets into Portfolio Manager. Currently, 747 properties have been entered into Portfolio Manager and are actively being updated. The Climate Action Plan directs the City to form a Municipal Energy Strategy, which will include a comprehensive retrofit strategy for public buildings along with opportunities to integrate renewable energy installations and other emerging clean technologies.

Public Employees

The city has a flexible work schedule and a telecommuting policy in place.

Last updated: January 2017

Community-Wide Initiatives
Score: 7.5 out of 12 points
Community-Wide Summary List All

San Diego’s Sustainable Community Program leads the city’s implementation of its community-wide energy efficiency initiatives.

Last updated: April 2017

Community-Wide Energy Efficiency GoalsList All

San Diego formally adopted the Climate Action Plan (CAP) in December 2015. The CAP sets a target to achieve a 15% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions below a 2010 baseline by 2020, reduce emissions 40% below a 2010 baseline by 2030, and 50% below a 2010 baseline by 2035.

The CAP had a goal to adopt a residential Energy Conservation and Disclosure Ordinance and to reduce energy use by 15% per housing unit in 20% of residential housing units by 2020 and 50% of units by 2035. This would reduce 3,218 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2020 and 5,605 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2035.

The city is starting to produce annual public updates and reports on progress towards its goals. The first Annual Report of the Climate Action Plan includes specific actions, proposed outcomes, and a timeline with milestones that track success in meeting 2020 and 2035 goals. The city also completes an annual greenhouse gas inventory as part of the annual report. This is verified through a neutral third-party to ensure it is accurate and complete. According to data from the city’s most recent greenhouse gas inventory, the city is on track to meet its greenhouse gas emissions goal.

Last updated: April 2017

Efficient Distributed Energy Systems - District Energy and Combined Heat and PowerList All

The city is currently identifying high priority areas for future district energy and/or combined heat and power (CHP) facilities in its research for a Municipal Energy Strategy report. The city is also actively assisting utilities and stakeholders with efficient distributed energy system projects and providing planning assistance.  

Last updated: April 2017

Mitigation of Urban Heat Islands List All

The city’s Climate Action Plan has an urban heat island mitigation goal to increase urban tree canopy coverage to 15% of the city’s land by 2020 and 35% of the city’s land by 2035.

We did not find information on any policies that require or incentivize low impact development (LID) or conservation of private land. The city does not have a private tree protection ordinance.

Last updated: April 2017

Buildings Policies
Score: 14.5 out of 28 points
Buildings Summary List All

San Diego has some building sector initiatives to improve efficiency such as incentives for efficient buildings. The Department of Development Services manages the building energy code compliance and enforcement for the City of San Diego.

Last Updated: January 2017

Stringency of Energy CodesList All

The State of California allows its local jurisdictions to adopt building energy codes more stringent than the mandatory state codes. Title 24 outlines all California building codes. Title 24, Part 6 includes the California Energy Code and the California Building Energy Efficiency Standards (BEES). Title 24, Part 11 includes the California Green Building Code. The California Building Code, BEES and California Green Building Codes have been updated in 2016 and are effective January 1, 2017. The 2016 codes exceed the 2015 IECC standards and ASHRAE/IESNA 90.1-2013. To learn more about California’s building energy codes, please visit the State Policy Database.


Although local authority is permitted, no stretch code has been adopted. San Diego adheres to the 2016 California codes.


Although local authority is permitted, no stretch code has been adopted. San Diego adheres to the 2016 California codes.

Last Updated: March 2017

Building Energy Code Enforcement and ComplianceList All

San Diego has internal staff dedicated solely to energy code compliance. The city does not require building code officials to complete energy code training. The city has made third-party plan review and performance testing mandatory for code compliance. The city provides upfront support to developers or owners for energy code compliance.

Last Updated: January 2017

Requirements and Incentives for Efficient Buildings List All

Green Building Requirements

Private commercial and residential buildings are not subject to green building requirements.

Energy Audit and Retrofit Requirements

San Diego does not yet require commercial or residential buildings to take energy efficiency actions such as energy audits or retro-commissioning.  

Incentives and Financing for Efficient Buildings

San Diego offers expedited permitting through Resolution R-298001 available to residential and commercial construction which meets green building standards outlined in Policy Number 900-14. Financing is available to residential and commercial buildings through the PACE Program.

Last Updated: January 2017

Benchmarking, Rating, & Transparency List All


The State of California adopted Assembly Bill (AB) 802 in October of 2015. It will require commercial and multifamily buildings greater than 50,000 square feet and larger to benchmark energy usage annually. This will most likely begin in 2018.

California requires commercial buildings to obtain and disclose ENERGY STAR ratings to transactional counter parties and the California Energy Commission at the time of a sale, lease, or financing for the entire building through AB 1130.


SoCal MLS, the multiple listing service that serves the San Diego region, includes energy efficiency fields for homes listed on the market.

Last Updated: January 2017


Energy & Water Utilities
Score: 16 out of 20 points
Energy & Water Utilities Summary List All

San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), an investor-owned utility (IOU), is the primary gas and electric utility for the City of San Diego. The City of San Diego is an active promoter of SDG&E’s energy efficiency programs. The State of California requires spending and savings targets for its utilities through an EERS and requires local government- utility partnerships through mandate by the California PUC. To learn more about the state requirements for electric and gas efficiency, please visit the California page of the State Database. On the state level, San Diego advocates for additional spending requirements for natural gas efficiency projects.

The Water Branch of the Department of Utilities provides drinking water services to the City of San Diego, and the Wastewater branch treats the wastewater. The Storm Water Division of the Transportation and Stormwater Department manages the city’s stormwater.

Last Updated: January 2017

Electric & Gas Energy Efficiency Programs, Spending & SavingsList All

In 2015, according to SDG&E, they achieved 264,350 MWh in net incremental savings, representing 1.63% of retail sales. To achieve these savings, SDG&E reported $105,272,152 in spending on electric efficiency programs in 2015, which equates to 3.11% of annual revenue. In 2015, SDG&E reported savings of 0.10 MMtherms from natural gas efficiency programs, representing 0.03% of its retail sales. To achieve these savings, SDG&E spent $9,507,419 on natural gas efficiency programs, which are normalized to $10.89 per residential customer. Spending on electricity and natural gas represented in this section covers SDG&E’s entire service jurisdiction, not just San Diego. SDG&E offers natural gas and electric efficiency incentives and technical assistance to residential and commercial/industrial customers.

The Local Government Partnership is a formal partnership formed between the City and SDG&E to jointly strategize, plan, and administer energy efficiency and other demand side management initiatives in the City. Energy efficiency projects target electricity, natural gas, and water savings. The City of San Diego partners with SDG&E in promoting many electric and gas efficiency programs available to all sectors of residences and businesses in the city.

Last Updated: February 2017

Low-Income & Multifamily EE Programs List All

Low-Income Programs

SDG&E offers the Energy Savings Assistance Program, which provides renters or owners with energy-efficient lighting, water efficiency measures, health and safety measures, door and window replacement, appliance upgrades, insulation, weatherstripping, and caulking. SDG&E also offers the Middle Income Direct Install (MIDI) Program to qualified residential customers. This program provides no-cost energy efficiency measures to customers who meet income eligibility criteria (201-300% of the federal poverty line) within SDG&E’s service territory. SDG&E streamlines eligibility requirements for customers enrolled in other bill assistance programs.

In 2015, according to SDG&E, it achieved 3,760 MWh and 0.25 MMtherms in energy savings from its low-income programs, while spending $8,879,917 on its electric and $8,475,680 on its natural gas low-income efficiency portfolio. These programs served 20,209 low-income customers for both electric and natural gas end uses.

Multifamily Programs

SDG&E offers the Multifamily Properties Energy-Efficiency Rebates Program. This comprehensive program provides rebates for the installation of energy efficient products in apartment buildings, mobile home parks and condominium complexes. Rebates are available for products installed in both common areas and units. The City formally partners with SDG&E to target the multifamily sector.

Last Updated: June 2017

Provision of Energy Data by UtilitiesList All

In order for customers to access their own energy data, SDG&E makes use of the Green Button data sharing platform, providing energy usage data of 17 historical months upon registration. SDG&E has implemented an automated benchmarking service. Building owners opt into this program by creating meters in Portfolio Manager and completing a request for automated data. SDG&E sends 36 months of historical usage data to Portfolio Manager and monthly updates on an ongoing automated basis. SDG&E also provides community energy usage data on a per-request basis. SDG&E signed on with the City of San Diego to partner on the Department of Energy's Better Buildings Initiative, Energy Data Accelerator, to facilitate better access to energy usage data. 

Last Updated: January 2017

Efficiency Efforts in Water ServicesList All

Water Efficiency

The City of San Diego’s Department of Water Utilities offers water use calculators for household and landscape use. There are also rebate programs available for micro irrigation, turf removal, and rain barrels. The City of San Diego is also a member of the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA), which has been partnering with SDG&E for more than twenty years on administering water efficiency programs, such as low-flow showerheads, small business water efficiency equipment, leak loss detection, and education and outreach.

The City of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan has several water savings targets and long-term strategies to reach those targets. One target is to reduce daily per capita water consumption by 4 gallons by 2020 and 9 gallons by 2035 below 2010 levels. Action 1.3 of the Climate Action Plan directs the City to support water rate structures that provide pricing signals that encourage water conservation and reuse. Action 1.4 directs the City to present to City Council for considerations a Water Conservation and Disclosure Ordinance. The core strategy is to implement an Outdoor Landscaping Ordinance that requires use of weather-based irrigation controllers.

Supporting strategies to meet these targets are to record the annual volume percentage of recycled water used and planned to be introduced through 2035 and pursue additional financial resources and incentives for implementing energy and water efficiency measures identified by the conservation and ordinances, and to promote the expansion of greywater systems.

The City is also launching Pure Water San Diego, a phased, multi-year program that will provide one-third of San Diego's water supply locally by 2035. The Pure Water Program will use proven water purification technology to clean recycled water to produce safe, high-quality drinking water. The program offers a cost-effective investment for San Diego's water needs and will provide a reliable, sustainable water supply.

Energy Efficiency and Self-Generation

The City of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan encompasses both local water and wastewater utilities’ operations and include targets to reduce energy consumption at municipal facilities by 15% by 2020 and an additional 25% by 2035 below 2010 levels. Strategies to reach these targets include implementing a Smart Energy Management & Monitoring System for facilities to monitor and track energy consumption and using those results to identify opportunities for great efficiency and demand response along with pursuing LEED for Existing Buildings: Operation and Maintenance Certification for municipal facilities.

Since 2000, the Public Utilities Department has maintained a California Energy Commission-trained Energy Audit Team. Nearly all of the Department's major facilities have energy audit reports. The Department has invested an average of $400,000 per year in energy efficiency projects which have upgraded almost all of its emergency generators, department-owned administration buildings, as well as many of its largest pump stations and wastewater treatment plants. Projects have included lighting re-lamping and control, air conditioning system improvements, and process improvements.

The City of San Diego’s Wastewater Branch has a multiple self-generating facilities and projects. The City also has a goal to capture 98% wastewater treatment gases by 2035. At the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant, methane gas is captured to fuel three generators for a total capacity of 5.7 MW. The system also produces heat which is used to heat the plant’s digesters. Methane capture is also utilized on two other sites, the Metro Bio solids Center (MBC) and the North City Water Reclamation Plant (NCWRP). The MBC has a cogeneration capacity of 6.4 MW and the NCWRP has a cogeneration capacity of 3.8 MW. The Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant has an adjacent 1.35 MW hydroelectric plant that captures the energy of the treated wastewater discharge as it flows down a 90 foot-drop from the plant to the ocean outfall.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

The City of San Diego’s Storm Water Division has recently updated its Storm Water Standards Manual, which contains best practices in green infrastructure. The City has funding available for green infrastructure as required by the state. The City has already integrated low-impact development stormwater best management practices into some capital improvement projects. However, private projects are required to develop and implement storm water best management practices as part of the permitting process.

Last Updated: February 2017

Score: 13 out of 30 points
Transportation Summary List All

The transportation authority serving the city of San Diego is the San Diego Assocation of Governments (SANDAG).TIts area of jurisdiction encompasses San Diego, and 17 other surrounding cities and counties.

Last updated: January 2017

Location Efficiency List All

San Diego’s municipal code includes a transit overlay and urban village overlay for the development of walkable, mixed-use communities. The city allows one or more parking spaces per residential unit. Reduced parking is allowed for studio apartments and in multifamily buildings. As an incentive to promote location-efficient real estate development, the Affordable/In-fill Housing and Sustainable Buildings Expedite Program allows expedited permit processing for affordable infill housing developments that have ten or more proposed units and are located within designated urbanized areas.

Last updated: January 2017

Mode Shift List All

Modal Share Targets

San Diego has codified goals as part of its' Climate Action Plan that include increases in walking commuter share, bicycle commuter share, and public transit commuter share by 2020 and 2035. 

Car and Bicycle Sharing

Car sharing programs currently available to the residents and visitors of San Diego incude Car2go and ZipCar. The city is served by a bikesharing program, Decobike, with over 20 operational stations.

Complete Streets

San Diego has not yet written or codified a Complete Streets Policy.

Last updated: January 2017

Transit List All

The SDMTS transit system that serves San Diego received $432,674,188 in average annual funding from 2011-2015. This funding level is $131.13 per resident in the service territory of the agency, putting it in the fourth highest category (100-149) available in the City Scorecard.

The Transit Connectivity Index measures transit service levels. It is based on the number of bus routes and train stations within walking distance for households scaled by frequency of service. San Diego’s Transit Connectivity Index value is 13, putting it in the fourth highest category (5-14) available in the City Scorecard.

Last updated: January 2017

Efficient VehiclesList All

At this time, San Diego does not offer incentives for citizens to purchase hybrid, plug-in, or EV vehicles. There are no incentives available for the construction of EV charging infrastructure. The city has 184 EV charging stations available for public use.

Last updated: January 2017

Freight List All

Sustainable freight plan

San Diego does not have a sustainable freight transportation plan in place nor does the city has any policies that address freight efficiency.

Smart freight

San Diego does not employ an internet-based application or service to coordinate freight transport.

Last updated: January 2017

Sustainable Transportation Planning List All

San Diego’s Climate Action Plan has a comprehensive plan to reduce VMTs through increasing the use of mass transit, implementing pedestrian improvements in Transit Priority Area to increase commuter walking opportunities, implementing the City’s Bicycle Master Plan to increase commuter bicycle opportunities, and promoting effective land use to reduce VMTs. The city also has a specific greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal for its transportation sector. One goal is reduce average vehicle commute distance by two miles through implementation of the General Plan City of Village Strategy by 2035 and another is to reduce emissions 109,576 MT/CO2e by 2035.

Last updated: January 2017

Low-Income in Transit-Oriented Development Areas List All

San Diego’s Housing Commission and Redevelopment Agency partnered with AMCAL Multi-Housing and LIIF to turn a parking lot into an equitable transit-oriented development project in San Diego. The development will include rental family housing affordable to households earning between 50% and 60% AMI. The city has also reduced parking requirements for low-income housing built near transit.

Last updated: January 2017