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Oceanside addresses climate change, economic growth in plan update

26 inches/ 756 words

By Samantha Taylor

OCEANSIDE — As the city continues to grow, so will its carbon footprint. That’s why city staff is trying to figure out how to curb the city’s future greenhouse gas emissions now before it’s too late.

For the last few years, Oceanside has been working on updating its General Plan for the future of the city. This is the first time the city is undertaking a General Plan update in more than 40 years.

The state requires each city and county to prepare a general plan that includes seven mandated elements addressing land use, circulation, housing, conservation, open space, safety and noise. Oceanside chose to include two optional elements to its General Plan Update, one that addresses economic development and the other addressing energy and climate action.

The General Plan Update adopted the tagline “Onward Oceanside” to highlight the city’s progress in recent years.

The economic development and energy and climate action elements of the update aim to prioritize employment growth, expanded tax base, sustainable energy use and climate resilience over the next 15 to 20 years.

While the economic development element will outline strategies to bolster local economy, the energy and climate action plan intends to support state efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions by using more local renewable energy, reducing energy use, promoting recycling and reuse and encouraging other sustainable, environmentally friendly practices.

A fundamental component to the energy and climate action element of the General Plan Update is its Climate Action Plan (CAP).

Earlier this month, Oceanside Planning Division staff released its Draft Program Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the economic development element, energy and climate action element and the CAP. The draft report has been posted on the city’s website for a 45-day public review period which will end March 18.

The DEIR is a “high-level assessment” of the economic development and energy and climate action elements as well as the CAP greenhouse gas emissions reduction measures, and is designed to mitigate environmental impacts from the city.

According to Russ Cunningham, principal planner and project manager of the General Plan Update, once the public comment period on the DEIR closes, staff will have time to respond to input and prepare a final report. It will then go before the Planning Commission on April 22 for its recommendation, then to City Council on May 8 for final approval.

According to the draft CAP, upon adoption a “Climate Action Coordinator” will be appointed and “Climate Action Planning Team” members will be selected. Within two years of its adoption, key ordinances will need to be developed and CAP actions will need to be implemented. The remaining measures will be implemented within five years and will continue to be implemented after that.

One of the greenhouse gas emission reduction strategies outlined by CAP would adopt a policy mandating the city procure 75 percent of local energy from renewable sources. Cunningham said many residents want 100 percent instead.  

The DEIR notes procuring 100 percent of local energy from renewable sources as the “environmentally superior alternative.” Cunningham said Council could opt for the 100 percent alternative.

Suzanne Hume, founder and education director of CleanEarth4Kids.org, said her organization supports the CAP and appreciates the city’s effort.

“It’s an excellent start,” she said at a March 4 climate action workshop held by the city to discuss CAP components as well as the energy and climate action element for the General Plan Update.   

Hume is one of those Oceanside residents who want 100 percent of local energy to come from renewable resources like wind and solar. She also wants to see community choice aggregation in Oceanside as well.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, community choice aggregation is a program that allows local governments to procure power on behalf of their residents, businesses and municipal accounts from a different supplier while still receiving service from their existing utility provider.

Cunningham said he has also heard from others wanting community choice aggregation. He noted that while the CAP doesn’t specify how the city would procure renewable power, it lists community choice aggregation as well as a potential partnership with San Diego Gas & Electric as possible options.

The economic development and energy and climate action elements of the General Plan Update aim to apply “smart growth,” a type of community development plan that attempts to curb urban sprawl and environmental impacts.

“Oceanside’s going to continue to grow,” Cunningham said. “What we want to do is discourage sprawl, which could increase greenhouse gas emissions due to extra vehicles and miles spent on the road.”

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