The City Council on Wednesday, Nov. 20, unanimously approved a “Green Action Plan,” the first step in an ambitious, long-range eco-roadmap for the city to follow in the coming years — even though two council members said the plan was not quite green enough, at least in the short term.
The plan amounts to a wide range of goals, initiatives and education pushes that are, in the words of Shahid Abbas, the city’s director of public works, “SMART” – an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound.
Based on recommendations by the city’s Natural Resources & Environmental Commission in cooperation with city staff, primarily in the Department of Public Works, the plan covers five general areas of focus with a total of almost 80 sub-steps within those areas.
Included in those five major target areas are: taking steps toward making South Pasadena a plastic-free city; enhancing water conservation; reducing the amount of organics that wind up in landfills; addressing the loss of vegetation that contributes to the “Urban Heat Island Effect” (a phenomenon that makes urban areas noticeably warmer); and preparing for even wider-ranging ecological sustainability actions.
The plan will kick in this January and run through June 2021, with city agencies taking all manner of small steps toward those five goals, including educating the public through brochures and other outreach.
And, as that June 2021 time window is closing, an even wider-ranging eco sustainability plan – aiming toward the year 2045 – will kick in around the fall of 2020. That second plan is called the “Climate Action Plan,” or CAP, and it would take an even bigger-picture approach, looking to reduce the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions by coordinating efforts among water, waste, energy and transportation agencies.
While Step 1, the Green Action Plan, passed by a vote of 5-0, council members Diana Mahmud and Richard Schneider voiced concerns over its scope, with Mahmud saying, “It’s not really green, it’s semi-green.’’
“The plan is very good, but it can be improved,’’ Mahmud said. “It is deficient unless you (also) address energy efficiency.”
Mahmud, in fact, said she would “like to see this plan brought back” in amended form at a future council meeting to address her specific concern. But she was ultimately swayed to vote “yes” when Abbas and City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe assured her that such gaps in the overall plan could be added along the way, while at the same time not delaying initial steps starting in January.
For his part, Schneider said he was “very impressed, almost awed” by the Green Action Plan and intended to vote for it despite his quibble that, “There are some deficiencies, specifically in regard to energy and transportation.”
He acknowledged, however, that, “Maybe as a practical matter these are better handled in the (longer-range) Climate Action Plan.”
Schneider also lauded city staff, and particularly NREC members, who he said “have been working on it (the Green Action Plan) for a long time.’’
“They’ve done a wonderful job winnowing down all the possible projects that they could get into,’’ Schneider said.
Beyond his particular questions, Schneider also said, “I think it’s a great plan. I think it has reachable goals.”
Mayor Pro Tem Bob Joe – expected to be named mayor when the council reorganizes at the Dec. 4 meeting – posed no such challenges, saying he was “very supportive of the Green Action Plan, and we need to move forward on it.’’
Mayor Marina Khubesrian said she was “very much in support of this Green Action Plan,” calling it “very ambitious.” But she also warned that city staff, already stretched in terms of workload, cannot achieve the plan’s goals alone.
Success for the plan, she said, hinges on “the whole community working together to make it happen” – an element that depends as much on the city’s educational outreach as it does on staff enacting any particular moves.
Councilman Michael Cacciotti, a longtime supporter of green initiatives, lauded the Green Action Plan as “a great start.”
Among the specific goals of the Green Action Plan are:
• Addressing plastic pollution by shifting the focus from recycling to reducing.
• Ensuring that education, tools and resources are available to transition to less plastics.
• Seeking funds for installing water-bottle refill stations.
• Developing a zero-waste guide for city events.
• Exploring the possibility of banning single-use plastics.
• Retrofitting all water faucets in city facilities with low-flow aerators.
• Connecting restaurants and grocery stores with food-donation organizations (to reduce organics ending up in landfills).
• Exploring ways to establish composting hubs in the city.
Specific steps in the plan figure to roll out incrementally over the coming months and include periodic announcements.
Meantime, more details on the plan are available at southpasadenaca.gov/government/departments/management-services/environmental-programs/city-green-action-plan
More Bike Racks Are On The Way to SP
In another move, the council also voted to spend some $200,000 on building more bike racks around the city, passing the measure ahead of a deadline to receive a grant from Caltrans.
There remains debate, sparked by local bicycle activists, about the specific design and locations of the bike racks, but the council awarded a construction contract anyway, lest the city lose out on the grant money.
The issue figures to be fine-tuned in the upcoming months, with updates forthcoming.