By Bianca Bruno.
Following the draft Climate Action Plan released last month by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer as a plan-of-attack document to mitigate the city’s general plan, Chula Vista is now in the beginning stages of kicking up its own environmental policies.
Chula Vista’s Climate Action Plan is a roadmap for the policies and programs the city needs to adapt to ensure it’s on track to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in line with state standards.
The group of stakeholders making the recommendations for the plan — the Climate Change Working Group — has held meetings for the past year. The group includes a range of sustainability and conservation leaders, development and real estate interests, as well as water and energy industry insiders.
They’ll be presenting their recommendations to the City Council on Nov. 18. And if history is a guide, the council will likely accept the recommendations. Once the plan gets approved, city staff will get to work writing a more detailed plan. The process will likely take six months before any recommendations get implemented.
Here’s a look at where Chula Vista’s plan differs from San Diego’s:
Retrofits are in the mix. But they’re not mandated.
The Chula Vista group thought retrofits – in which property owners make energy-efficient changes to existing buildings – were important to include in its recommendations, said Sassan Rahimzadeh, the group’s chair who is also a member of the Resource Conservation Commission for the city and was vice chair of Chula Vista’s previous Climate Change Working Group. But unlike initial drafts of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan that included a divisive retrofit mandate, Chula Vista’s plan leaves a lot more wiggle room.
The group, Rahimzadeh said, has been careful to avoid ostracizing home buyers and sellers, which members believed would be a risk if a point-of-sale retrofit mandate were included in the final plan.
“[Home sales are] one of the largest sections of the Chula Vista economy and it would create a negative pushback on buyers and sellers,” Rahimzadeh said.
Rahimzadeh said the plan will likely include a major education component to inform residents of the benefits of elective retrofits. One possible recommendation would be to ask homebuyers who purchase older homes to make retrofits within 15 to 24 months of moving in.
Stakeholders agree on the need for energy choice.
One thing the working group has settled on: Community Choice Aggregation, which allows residents to decide on their own mix of renewable energy, makes sense for Chula Vista.
“We all came to an understanding there’s not really any negative points to it,” Ragimzadeh said.
Community Choice Aggregation gives residents the option to choose where their energy comes from, as Andrew Keatts has explained:
Residents can choose from a few energy packages based on price and the share of renewable sources within it. Someone to whom the environment is very important could opt for all renewable energy. A similar person on a tighter budget could choose a package with 50 percent renewable energy. They could also opt out of the CCA and stay with the previous utility provider.
Pete Hasapopoulos, a community organizer for the Sierra Club’s local clean energy campaign, said the recommendation to provide grid-delivered clean energy through Community Choice Aggregation sets the city up to be much more sustainable.
“The only way to get 100 percent clean energy, in our opinion, is to do Community Choice Aggregation,” Hasapopoulos said. “The fact that the working group is recommending that, they’d be using the best tool to move toward 100 percent clean energy.”
Setting up a grid energy system through Community Choice Aggregation has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than any of the other recommendations in the plan. It could also make the Climate Action Plan’s main goal — reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels — happen sooner.
But Hasapopoulos said he’d like to see Chula Vista set a specific goal of using 100 percent clean energy for the future, similar to what San Diego has done. He said by laying out firm goals to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2035, San Diego forced itself to be held accountable.
“Chula Vista is the second largest city in the region,” Hasapopoulos said. “It matters that they get this right.”
But the city has to do more than just get it right.
Like San Diego and other cities across the state, Chula Vista is required to reduce its GHG emission levels by state standards. The 12 action areas identified in the working group’s most recent recommendations could generate up to 166,000 metric tons in greenhouse gas reductions by the 2020 deadline.
Chula Vista’s plan sets short-term goals.
Chula Vista might not take on any specific long-term goals. That’s because unlike some others, Chula Vista’s plan gets updated pretty frequently.
The city has had a Climate Action Plan since 2000. It was updated in 2008, and again in 2010.
Brendan Reed, an environmental resource manager who’s worked on the current plan for the past year, said Chula Vista’s Climate Action Plan will be updated again in 2020. That’s a stark difference from San Diego’s plan, whose goals stretch to 2035.
Another difference between the two: San Diego’s Climate Action Plan was written to complement the city’s general plan. Chula Vista’s wasn’t.
Climate Action Plans — by definition — don’t have to correspond with the city’s general plan. Chula Vista’s general plan was adopted in 2005 and identified goals to be met by 2020. Its Climate Action Plan isn’t being used to mitigate the city’s general plan.
Reed said the city’s past plans have exceeded state standards for reducing the harmful emissions.
“If you look at our previous versions, they’re very action-oriented,” Reed said. “We’ve checked a lot of those boxes off now. We think it’s worthwhile. We don’t want a plan that just sits on a shelf.”
“That doesn’t mean just because Chula Vista isn’t doing this as a part of their general plan,” he said, “that it wouldn’t be wise to go beyond 2020.”