A coalition of California cities that is working locally on global sustainability issues is growing bigger.

Green Cities California
recently added two new entries on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay — Hayward and Richmond.

“It’s a networking opportunity,” said Adam Lenz, sustainability coordinator for the city of Richmond. “We make sure our agendas are aligned and take on some regional and big picture issues that might be too burdensome for a single city, like for instance a plastic bag ordinance. We align with some green friends and work in same direction.”

In February, the GCC released on its Web site a Master Environmental Assessment on Single Use and Reusable Bags with a summary of available research on the sustainability issues.

The coalition provides documentation that individual cities can use (saving time and resources if they had had to compile the research themselves) to build Environmental Impact Reports on ordinances to ban or restrict single-use bags by city retailers. (See PublicCEO.com article on the master environmental assessment.)

Hayward, which joined GCC with Richmond in March, is working on a plastic bag ordinance, said Erik Pearson. The city plans to make use of the coalition’s master environmental assessment.

“We’re scheduled to go back to our sustainability committee this fall and present a draft ordinance,” said Pearson.

Staff is also working on a draft of an ordinance encouraging recyclable takeout food containers and curbing the use of polystyrene containers in the city. For such an ordinance, they can make use of a GCC Web site featuring best practices, including polystyrene bans in San Francisco and Santa Monica.

The GCC site delineates road maps of cities implementing policies, including ordinance language, staff reports, news releases, advertisements and Power Point presentations. The policies are broken down into categories such as energy, waste reduction, urban design, urban nature, transportation, environmental health and water.

The idea is to give another city a little head start as they build consensus for a new policy or law.

Hayward adopted a city sustainability plan last July. The city is now working on residential and commercial energy conservation standards, promoting financing options to incentivize home and business owners to make improvements that will reduce the proliferation of greenhouse gases, Pearson said.

The coalition experience will also come in handy as Hayward begins to work on public education of issues the city is pressing as part of its sustainability plan.
Richmond passed a sustainable food ware ordinance two months ago, said Lenz.

Effective July 1, it prohibits city businesses from selling takeout food in non-compostable containers, plates and utensils. Richmond and neighboring El Cerrito are now making plans for curbside composting collection to roll out this summer.

The city is also including an energy and climate action section in its general plan update.

Richmond is the largest city in the country with a Green Party mayor (Gayle McLaughlin, elected in 2006 and running for re-election).

Green Cities California’s other members are Marin County and the cities of Berkeley, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Barbara and Santa Monica.

“We’re not actively trying to expand,” said GCC Coordinator Carol Misseldine. “People contact us and want to investigate being members and we work with them on that.”

The coalition intentionally sets the bar high for membership, Misseldine said. Each jurisdiction is required to have a local sustainability plan and to have adopted the United Nations Urban Environmental Accords.

Lance Howland can be reached at lancehowland@aol.com