By Niki Cervantes
September 14, 2016 -- Relying on everything from bike sharing to cleaner-running buses and more energy efficient buildings, Santa Monica ended a 15-year plan in 2015 to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent with even greater reductions than anticipated, City officials said in a final report by the City’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment.
The City’s 15x15 Climate Action plan cut emissions to 20 percent below the pollution levels before the 1990 baseline, according to the 29-page report.
During that time, the population grew, as did commercial activity and tourism. But using cleaner-burning fuel on City buses and other municipal vehicles and instituting many more environmentally friendly practices kept the impact of growth in check, said the report, which was printed on “100% post-consumer content recycled paper with vegetable based inks.”
“This reality demonstrates that Santa Monica, and other communities, have the potential to enjoy prosperity and economic growth without increasing the environmental impact that was historically associated: decoupling carbon emissions and economic development,” the report said.
It also laid the “groundwork for the City’s more aggressive Climate Action & Adaptation Plan,” in which Santa Monica pushes towards becoming “carbon neutral” to cope with climate change, officials said. Its planning is extending into 2030 and 2050.
“As a coastal city in an arid climate zone, our city is particularly vulnerable to the potential adverse impacts of severe climate change due to human activity,” said Dean Kubani, the City’s sustainability manager.
“The example of Santa Monica and other local communities have helped catalyze California’s internationally-significant efforts to mitigate climate change.”
A study on the potential impact to Santa Monica of sea level rise and increased storm activity is also near completion, Kubani said.
One particular obstacle to being a greener city were existing buildings in Santa Monica, the report noted. Buildings alone were responsible for nearly a third of its greenhouse gas emissions.
The City started trying to offset that by reducing energy use in existing buildings and by requiring new construction be more energy efficient, the report said.
For example, the City approved 705,631 square feet of new construction that requires the use of solar energy, electrical vehicle charging areas and the addition of more than 1,000 spaces for parking bikes.
Meanwhile, Southern California Edison and the Southern California Gas Company helped residents and businesses install energy efficient measures and appliances, thus saving a combined 5,105 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents (MTCO2e) during 2013-2015, the report said.
In 2016, the City updated the Green Building Ordinance to mandate solar for all new construction. The report said Santa Monica also reduced 35,592 (MTCO2e), exceeding the City’s goal in its 15x15 plan.
In addition, 25 energy and water projects used the City’s Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, saving an annual 279,106 kWh.
Other signs of progress included the collection of more than a thousand bulky items collected through the “Bulky Item Collection and Move-in/Move-out” program; extensive recycling that reduced more than 100,000 pounds of items hauled annually to landfills; the 20 percent cut in water use citywide; and the launching of “Breeze,” the first bike-share system in the region.
Santa Monica increased local water production to about 70 percent of demand, reducing its reliance on imported water, the report said.
But the City missed the deadline on other projects, installing electric vehicle charging stations, the report noted. Some City projects were short on funding; Others take a long time to complete officials said.
For example, installing electric vehicle charging stations take nearly two years from concept to construction, officials said.
according to the 29-page report, which was printed on “100% post-consumer content recycled paper with vegetable based inks.”
“Extensive planning, siting, design and coordination is required with utilities and equipment providers,” officials said. “The City is continually planning new stations, identifying locations and developing methods of deployment to avoid this issue."