On Tuesday, September 20, the City released its first annual “State of the Sustainable City Report” and launched its companion website.
Santa Monica’s City Council adopted the City’s first Sustainable City Program on September 20, 1994, according to the report card, “to ensure that Santa Monica can continue to meet its current environmental, economic and social needs without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same.”
In February of 2003, the City adopted an updated and expanded version of the program that included eight goals.
At a kick-off event last Tuesday, Brian Johnson, City Environmental Programs Manager. described the report card is a response to “people who are always asking how we are doing” in meeting the City’s eight sustainable goals.
Each set of goals received two letter grades. The first grade rated “measurable progress” and the second rated “ how we’re doing in creating building blocks.”
The City’s Senior Environmental Analyst Dean Kubani told the gathering that a celebration was in order because this is the “first time in 11 years people can see how the City is doing in sustainability in its entirety.”
Mark Gold, Director of Heal the Bay, who has chaired the City’s Environmental Task Force for 14 years, said the report card was very positive and “very refreshing” because it showed that the City is “very self-critical.”
The City received a grade C with an A for effort on Resource Conservation. Goals in this area include decreased consumption of non-local, non-renewable, non-recyclable energy, water, materials and fuels and promote renewable resource use. The grade reflects the fact that energy use and GHG emissions have risen slightly in the past few years while there has been a reduction of approximately 6 percent in citywide water use between 1990 and 2000. There has also been increased waste diversion from landfills from 14% in 1990 to 62% in 2002.
Environmental and public health goals included minimizing/eliminating the use of hazardous and toxic materials and the levels of pollutants entering the air, soil and water. The grade for these goals was B with an A for effort. Progress in this area included the improvement of bay health significantly since 1990 and regional air quality improvements in the same period. City toxic reduction programs have become nation-wide models, hazardous waste collection is improving, and access to organic produce is excellent. Citywide sewage flows are up 18% since 1999.
The transportation goal, which received a grade C- and an effort level of B+, was to maximize mobility and access while reducing traffic and pollution associated with transportation. Bases for the grades included a steady increase in bus ridership over the past decade and reports from over 70% of residents that they use alternative modes of transportation occasionally. Santa Monica is a leading advocate for the Expo light rail line, but traffic is bad in many parts of the city and only 3 percent of arterial streets have bike lanes.
Economic development goals included nurturing a diverse, stable local economy that supports the basic needs of residents and increases sustainable business practices. The City’s performance got a B with a C+ for level of effort, as it has “a strong and diverse economy” and business “greening” and “green business certification” have led to more sustainable businesses.
However, jobs and housing are out of balance (increased from 1.36 in 1998 to 1.45 in 2001) and the real cost of living is rising faster than real household incomes. Income disparity is narrowing, due to gentrification, and the City has no long-range economic development plan.
In the areas of open space and land use, the City received a grade B+ and a level of effort of A.
Goals include the development and maintenance of a diverse open space system, an urban environment that supports both the community and the natural environment and land use that encourages alternative transportation.
Progress in this area has increased significantly over the last decade. The size and diversity of the community forest has increased 17% since 1995. 88 % of residents live within a half-mile of a park/open space (55% within 1?4 mile), and the most recent development activity has been mixed-use.
In housing, the City received a grade D- with a level of effort of A. The City housing goals are to provide a mix of affordable, livable and green housing types for people of all socio-economic, cultural and household groups.
Housing affordability for low and middle-income groups is a major problem in Santa Monica, and production of new affordable housing for low and very low income people fell from 86% in 1998 to 54% in 2003.
A grade of B+ and an effort level of B+ were given to community education and civic participation.
The goals in this area are the active participation of residents in civic affairs and community improvement efforts. Citizen participation is strong in both civic affairs and community events and voting rates are typically higher than County, State, and federal averages. Volunteering rates are also solid and increasing, and residential awareness about sustainability is increasing.
The final goal of human dignity did not receive a grade but got an A for effort. Goals in this area are that all community members are able to meet their needs, have adequate access to housing, health care, education, employment, and are empowered to enhance the quality of their lives.
No grade was given for progress owing to a lack of data, but the City has a long history of providing extensive services in these areas and is taking a leadership role to address homelessness at the regional level.
Major challenges include homelessness and youth/gang violence.
A Sustainable 41 Award was presented to the City from State Assemblywoman Fran Pavley at the gathering.More information can be found at the new website www.smepd.org.