In the News

Santa Cruz City Council to tackle climate plan; environmental groups to make transportation, water recommendations

By J.M. BROWN

Santa Cruz Sentinel, 1/19/12

SANTA CRUZ - Environmentalists will line up next week to suggest the city make several key changes to its Climate Action Plan that, in their view, would strengthen the greenhouse gas-reduction strategy.

Members of People Power, Transition Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Desal Alternatives and other groups are expected to push the City Council during a study session Tuesday to revise sections on transportation, water and other aspects of the plan. The council will only study the plan Tuesday. A vote is not expected until February or March.

Groups have planned advocacy events to engage the public ahead of the study session.

People Power and other groups will host "Underwater Tour of Santa Cruz," an event designed to demonstrate, using a comedic bent, what challenges the city could face without climate action. The event is planned for 4 p.m. Tuesday outside City Hall. Advocates will also gather for a "Community Response to the Climate Action Plan" at 7 p.m. Thursday at Ecology Action, 877 Cedar St.

The 108-page plan aims to increase the number of residential solar systems from the current 500 to 5,000 by 2020. The city would also like 500 businesses to be solar powered by 2020. The plan also calls for a reduction in energy use within city buildings by 40 percent and the cutting of in-town vehicle trips and commutes by 10 percent.

People Power's director, Micah Posner, said the city needs to align its road widening and expansion plans for Mission Street and other corridors with the Climate Action Plan's goal of shrinking vehicle trips.

"The Public Works Department is projecting an increase in local auto trips and planning accordingly," Posner said. "That's working at cross-purposes."

Mark Dettle, head of the city's Public Works Department, said although there was predicted to be a 7 percent increase in vehicle trips from 2000 to 2020, roadway improvement projects often pave the way for more bike lanes, wider sidewalks and other measures that encourage alternative transportation.

"Our Public Works planning is really consistent with the Climate Action Plan," Dettle said. "It's not at cross purposes at all."

Santa Cruz Desal Alternatives will call for the council to acknowledge that a proposed desalination plant will increase the city's energy use. The group is calling for a citywide water neutral development policy requiring all future building projects to offset water use.

"Although the goal to reduce total water use is a huge step forward, it is insufficient to bring about a decline of greenhouse gas emissions at the level needed to support city reduction goals," Rick Longinotti, a founder of the group, wrote to council members Tuesday.

Advocates are also calling for the budget-strapped city to establish more citizen oversight of how the Climate Action Plan is implemented and demonstrate it will provide the resources to carry out the ambitious goals.

Ross Clark, the city's climate action coordinator, said the plan has been made better by public input and said opportunities for input will continue when staff reports twice yearly on the progress. But Ross said it's not his call to say whether a citizen oversight panel is needed.

"From Day One, the community has been very vocal in wanting to see the plan done well and provide insight on what the priorities were and what things could do as a community," said Clark, who has been working on the plan for three years. "We really took the comments to heart."

IF YOU GO

CLIMATE ACTION PLAN

WHAT: Santa Cruz City Council study session

WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: Council Chamber, 809 Center St.

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