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San Jose Will Become Bay Area's First U.S. LEED-Certified City

Downtown San Jose

San Jose has become one of the first U.S. cities to participate in the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Cities certification program. LEED for Cities allows cities and local governments to track citywide sustainability performance. It takes into account 14 metrics, including air quality, education attainment, poverty levels, affordable housing, transportation, water, energy, health, equitability and safety.

The grant provides financial assistance, educational resources and customized technical support. The first round of grants for early adopters was funded by Bank of America and went to six initial grant recipients: San Jose, Washington, D.C., Phoenix, Denver, Atlanta and Chicago.

“San Jose has had a lot of success with its progressive environmental policies,” USGBC Pacific Region Director Brenden McEneaney said.

He said San Jose already has 533 LEED-certified buildings and better energy scores overall, which are already achieving high performance levels. San Jose also unveiled a Climate Smart plan in February with the goal of reducing carbon emissions by 1 million tons per year by 2030.

USGBC Pacific Region Director Brenden McEneaney

Other metrics that are considered include housing affordability and sustainability within affordable housing. First Community Housing in San Jose and Silicon Valley has been building a lot of transitional housing to LEED Platinum standards and has a mission of creating savings on utility bills to decrease cost to residents, building near transit and providing better access to outdoor space. 

McEneaney said he expects the benchmarking data to not only create healthy competition among cities to become the greenest city in the world, but also to provide encouragement and strategies for cities working to become greener.

He said having this data also can contribute to healthier and more sustainable city planning. The data will essentially lead to a report card for the city on what it does well and where it can improve.

“We’re excited to hold up what San Jose is doing to cities around the world,” McEneaney said.