Jeff Clemetson | Editor
After four years and multiple drafts, the city of La Mesa has adopted a climate action plan.
On March 13, the City Council voted unanimously to pass the new climate plan, making La Mesa the ninth city in the region to do so and the first in East County.
“We have produced something that I think is great for the people of La Mesa,” said Vice Mayor Kristine Alessio. “It’s not burdensome on the everyday citizen of La Mesa. It’s in compliance with state law and it fits our general plan.”
Alessio and City Councilmember Bill Baber headed the council’s climate action plan subcommittee and praised city staff, the city’s Environmental Sustainability Commission and outside groups like Climate Action Campaign and San Diego 350 who added input in drafting the plan.
The La Mesa plan sets target reduction of greenhouse gasses to 15 percent below baseline levels by 2020 and 53 percent below baseline by 2035. The baseline level is set to level of greenhouse gasses in 1990.
The city plan also calls for actions to reduce the vehicle miles traveled by residents by 6 percent by 2035, mostly by promoting new housing to be built near public transportation lines and improving infrastructure to include more and better bike and pedestrian pathways.
The plan calls for the city to amend the municipal code to require energy efficiency audits and require energy efficiency disclosure for real estate transactions. The city will adopt new state net zero energy construction standards for all residential construction by 2020 and for commercial construction by 2030, and continue its building retrofit program by completing energy efficiency retrofits in existing residential and commercial buildings.
The solar panel program, which is already happening, will encourage solar installations on residential and non-residential buildings and install solar on municipal buildings.
There are waste reduction plans that will be carried out by Helix Water District and EDCO, and a tree canopy goal of increasing the tree coverage in the city from its current 17 percent to 33 percent by 2035, creating 1,400 acres of tree canopy.
By far the most ambitious and extensive plan to cut greenhouse gasses in the plan is the implementation of a community choice energy program, which will bring the city’s power grid to run on 100 percent renewable energy.
The adoption of community choice energy into the city’s climate action plan was a major goal of environmental groups like Climate Action Plan and SD350.
In a presentation involving several members of SD350, the group encouraged the City Council to set aggressive target dates in implementing the plan.
“We’ve been waiting on this for over three years and we urge you to get working ASAP on the feasibility study for a community choice energy program,” said SD350 member Jean Costa. “We anticipate that the revenue that we could get from this program could be used to fund the actions we need to take to implement our climate action plan. Now the real work begins for all of us.”
Sophie Wolfram, director of programs for Climate Action Campaign, praised La Mesa for adopting a legally-binding plan that included a community choice energy. La Mesa is the fifth city in the region to do so.
“By moving forward with community choice, La Mesa will be showing a preference for local control of electricity, for freedom of choice in the electricity marketplace and for lower bills and affordability for customers,” she said.
Wolfram also asked the council to start working on the feasibility study for community choice before the end of the year and added that implementing a climate plan was a chance for the city make sure that all citizens of La Mesa benefit from the strategies used to reduce greenhouse gasses in the plan because “pollution and access to economic opportunity aren’t evenly distributed.”
“For example, most solar gets installed on single-family homes in more affluent communities. But some of the people who benefit the most by seeing a reduction on their electricity bills from rooftop solar are renters in multi-family units,” she said. “The city may be able to take advantage of state programs to make sure those folks get solar on their homes”
Implementing the climate action plan is all about designating tasks to city staff, said Assistant City Manager Greg Humora. Right now, the city plans on using a senior management analyst as the climate action plan administrator and will hire additional staff after the 2017/2018 fiscal year to further implement the plan. The additional staffing will cost an estimated $2.7 million for the first five years.
“The first year is going to be the toughest year by far,” Humora said. “That’s where we’re going to have to set up the game plan of exactly what’s going to happen and when it’s going to happen. We haven’t started that yet, but what we’ll do is start with the baseline inventory we have, we’ll look at our measures and set up targets and dates and start making assignments of who’s going to take care of those things.”
— Reach Jeff Clemetson at email@example.com.