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City forms plan for pollution

ENCINITAS  — City Council adopted a citywide emissions reduction plan March 9.
The unanimous vote to accept and implement the municipality’s first plan of its kind came after more than a year of workshops and planning by various departments. It was separated from the general plan process in order to meet certain funding deadlines and to provide flexibility when changes are necessary according to Diane Langager, a principal planner with the city.
The guiding document or “roadmap” is meant to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the city. “It is a living document,” Langager told the council.
“It makes your eyes tired and your eyes sore,” said Mayor James Bond, referring to the in-depth report brought forth by the city staff and consultants. “We have to make sure we’re not replicating or duplicating a lot of things.”
Consultants from Irvine-based CTG Energetics, Inc. gave a presentation outlining the Climate Action plan, known as CAP. Heather Rosenberg, a principal at the company gave a brief history of the reason for developing a plan to reduce emissions.
The nebulous state law AB 32, the global warming solutions act, passed in 2006 and calls for a reduction in emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Transportation, housing, agriculture, building, land use and many other issues are included within one regulatory framework Rosenberg said.
“The law recommends that municipalities reduce emissions by 15 percent,” she said. However, the law does not provide guidance on how to proceed with such reductions nor does it contain an enforcement mechanism.
The consultants chose emissions from 2005 as the base year. Most of the emissions came from transportation — a not-so surprising 70 percent as compared to the second highest sector of emissions, residential, which came in at 15 percent.
Two stakeholder meetings were held in 2009. “It proved to be very beneficial and everyone listened to what everyone else had to say,” Langager said of the meetings.
City departments were also asked to participate in the review of the plan and ensure accuracy of the various components as they relate to the ability of each department to meet the plan’s goals.
“It’s an emerging document that means different things to different people,” Rosenberg said.
“Everything in this plan is good for the city, not just reducing emissions,” Rosenberg said. She said the plan’s strategies to reduce emissions were feasible but needed to be refined over time and make adjustments as needed.
The plan focuses on strategies that are within the city’s control. “This is very much a bottom-up approach,” Rosenberg said.
Specifically, the plan addresses transportation, building, water and municipal strategies.
While the council was supportive of the document as a whole, it expressed concern over the implementation process. “These are all great ideas but going forward with them people have to understand that there will be some degree of discomfort and some cost associated with it,” Bond warned. “It’s going to make a change that touches all of us,” he said.
“I am very concerned when we talk about a reduction in parking,” Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan said, referring to the plan’s call for a strategy to increase alternative transportation by limiting the amount of available parking spaces within the city. Because she said public transportation in the city is not comprehensive, “it would be short-sighted to cut off summer visitors as well as residents from adequate parking.”
“The next step is to focus on implementation of the plan,” Rosenberg told the council. “This is a framework, a starting place for addressing current and future issues.”
“The general plan will be informed by the CAP,” Langager said.
Deputy Mayor Jerome Stocks said he felt good about the document but was concerned that the city could be exposed to litigation. However, City Attorney Glen Sabine said that under state environmental laws there was no theory of legal action.
Kathleen Lees, a member of the general plan update committee and a Leucadia resident, said the residents have consistently requested a “green” community at the various workshops sponsored by the city. “As we update our general plan this is our opportunity to do more than the minimum required,” she said.
Russell Levan, another Leucadian, questioned the interdisciplinary aspect of implementing the plan. “Someone is going to have to be responsible,” Levan said. He suggested that an environmental coordinator could do the job.
Livia Borak, an attorney at Coast Law Group, said the plan was a good start. “In general we think this is a great step forward,” she said. However, she noted that the transportation and water issues should be more comprehensive within the plan.
Councilwoman Teresa Barth said the plan was a means for the city to control its own destiny in the face of federal and state environmental mandates. “‘He who fails to plan, plans to fail,’” Barth said quoting Winston Churchill.