Vice Mayor Kaplan urges the City of Oakland & OUSD to pursue options for clean air filtration in the following letter:
Dear Oakland City Administration and OUSD Leadership,
I am writing regarding the importance of improving our buildings’ air filtration and ventilation systems to protect the health of our communities, and to share information regarding clean air grant programs that offer funding and provide air filtration systems and replacement filters.
As you may know, our communities face multiple dangers related to bad air quality, including health impacts from air pollution, and that some areas are exposed to disproportionate heavy air pollution on a frequent basis, including those near truck routes and other major emission sources. We also face intermittent risks of extremely dangerous air quality, such as during wildfires and industrial incidents and more. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the risks of being in spaces with bad air filtration, as the risk of the spread of COVID-19 is much worse indoors than outdoors, and recent studies have shown that providing effective air filtration in indoor settings significantly reduces the risk of COVID outbreaks in these settings. [LINK to info about reduced outbreaks in schools with good filtration/ventilation]
Oakland has had our own history and experience of the harms caused when our public facilities do not have adequate HVAC systems. For example, previously, on days when the outdoor air quality was at dangerous levels due to wildfire smoke, sadly members of the public were kicked out of our public facilities such as libraries, which were closed down on excess heat and dangerous air quality days. We were told that was because the libraries lacked adequate HVAC systems to keep the air quality and temperatures safe inside the building, and thus, a decision was made to shut the building down. At that time, we asked for improvements to be planned and made, to provide adequate HVAC systems for our public buildings, so that they could provide clean air and safe temperatures, even on days of bad outdoor air quality. Improved ventilation and filtration systems can also significantly improve the safety from COVID and other transmissible diseases, can protect the public from air pollution, and can help ensure that we do not need to close vital public facilities on bad air/high heat days, and thus, would contribute in multiple ways to protecting the health of our workforce and the public. Since last year, our city has taken the initial steps to identify what specific facilities would need, in terms of new installations or upgrades, to provide for clean air in the buildings.
Schools also face challenges related to poor air quality, and also can have significant benefits by providing air filtration. Such systems can reduce asthma and other negative health impacts of air pollution, and providing HEPA filtration has been shown to significantly reduce the spread of COVID in schools.
Currently there are programs that cities and schools can pursue to implement the upgrades to our air filtration systems. The first program is the Wildfire Smoke Clean Air Centers for Vulnerable Population Incentive Pilot Program. The City of Oakland Emergency Services (OES) could enter into an agreement with Alameda County Fire Emergency Management (ACFEM). The program would provide stand-alone air filtration systems and a set number of filters until 2024. Our office has spoken to the County’s Program Administrator, they have the materials waiting for distribution to use in congregate places such as churches, community centers, and skilled nursing facilities.
The second program is the Clean Air Filtration Program, which is being finalized by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) to be managed by the county. This program is set to run for 5 years, it will provide funding for municipalities to retrofit or secure air filters.
Now that the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) has announced these programs to provide clean air filtration systems for facilities serving the public, I wanted to share this information, and urge both the Oakland Administration and OUSD to pursue options for improving air filtration. Additionally, I ask that the Oakland Administration continue the process to identify needs to provide quality filtration and ventilation in city facilities, and pursue funding for such efforts in upcoming budgets and other funding sources, to provide improved air filtration in public buildings, to help protect the health of our community.
Oakland Vice Mayor, Councilmember At-Large
Link to Letter