Del Mar seeks better environmental activism

DEL MAR — Most people are reluctant to admit they’re trying to keep up with the Joneses. But when it comes to environmental activism, Del Marians readily acknowledge they would like to be more like their northern neighbor.
At the June 21 council meeting, Bruce Bekkar, chairman of the Energy Issues Advisory Committee, highlighted some environmental accomplishments of several San Diego cities.
Carlsbad, for example, set a goal to power all city services with renewables within the next few years, Bekkar said. Chula Vista has already exceeded a state-mandated requirement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
“But of course the place that most people think about with environmental activism here in North County is Solana Beach,” he said.
“According to their website they are actively pursuing environmental activism in terms of energy efficiency, water conservation, green building, recycling programs, transportation alternatives and sustainability.”
The city has raised $25,000 to purchase property in an Ecuadorian tropical forest to offset its greenhouse gas emissions, Bekkar said. It also hired an environmental program manager.
Bekkar said Del Mar is essentially “sitting at ground zero with regards to the effect of the climate crisis.”
“We have no dedicated resources, no baseline data and no particular plan for dealing with these challenges,” he said.
“Del Mar is very diverse in its population, which is one of its strengths,” Bekkar said. “We are especially rich in terms of our population of scientists and other highly educated, intelligent and committed individuals.
“We have a history here of civic activism and foresight, one that has delivered us, still intact, as a charming village,” he said. “Therefore, it’s inconsistent with this wealth of resources both in terms of people and place and our history that we don’t lead in the response to the threat of a climate crisis. The good news is we can still take actions that matter, but that window of opportunity to do that is closing fast if you believe in science.”
Bekkar presented six recommendations from the Energy Issues Advisory Committee that included forming a committee to create a climate action plan, fast-tracking applications for LEED-certified construction or other energy-related improvements, providing free parking for electric vehicles and drafting a resolution to support Assembly Bill 32, which requires cities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.
The committee was also asking for a new Waste Management contract that included a strong recycling component, especially for commercial customers. Coincidentally, that was on the night’s agenda.
The group also wanted the city to approve funds to join the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, something council members planned to discuss at a later meeting.
“I was somewhat discouraged to find out we hadn’t done much in Del Mar because it’s a relatively small town,” said resident Tony Corso, who offered to donate $1,000 to help fund an environmental specialist for Del Mar.
“Our city … has oftentimes been on the leading edge of many social issues,” Councilwoman Crystal Crawford said. “Yet we find ourselves falling behind our sister city to the north.
“We want to do more,” she said. “I really appreciate Mr. Corso coming forward and offering his own private funding, and hopefully we’ll have matching funding from other residents who want to see us find ways to emulate what’s happening in Solana Beach.”
For the most part, council members supported the recommendations, although they opted to rename and expand the scope of the Energy Issues Advisory Committee rather than form a new group.
“We need to start moving forward,” Councilman Don Mosier said, especially with items that are easy, such as free parking for electric cars. “We’ll forgo minimum revenue for encouraging the purchase of vehicles that don’t pollute,” he said.
Although Councilman Mark Filanc supported most of the recommendations, he wasn’t so sure about the free parking.
“I think I support it but we also get a lot of revenue off of that parking down there and I’d hate to see it go away,” he said.
Council members directed staff to come back with a report on which items could be implemented, especially those that require funding, and the ramifications of each. The city attorney said some things, such as the free parking, would need to be codified.
“I’d have to say that I think we’re probably behind in many ways, and it’s a little embarrassing that we are,” Mayor Richard Earnest said. “I think it is incumbent upon this group … to take some action.
“We may be the first generation in the history of this country that will pass on to the next generation a quality of life that’s worse than the one we had when we got here,” he said.

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