Santa Monica’s Third Annual Sustainability Report Card was presented last week, and the City received lots of C’s as well as many A’s for effort. To sum it up, many areas need improvement, and the City is making a notable effort.
The Sustainability Report Card grew out of the Sustainable City Program originally created in 1994. The program’s Sustainable City Plan lists eight goal areas which, taken together, provide a template for sustainability in the community. Three years ago, the first Sustainability Report card was issued, with grades for the City in each of these goal areas. The primary grade reflects actual progress to reach a goal, and a “level of effort” grade looks at policies, amount of time put in by City staff, community effort, and use of resources to achieve the goals.
Shannon Parry, Senior Environmental Analyst for the Sustainable City Program, presented the Report Card at a September 20 breakfast held at the Main Library. She went over each goal area, reminding the attendees that the “level of effort” grade is the one to keep in mind.
Resource Conservation: Primary Grade: C, Effort: A-
The goal is to decrease consumption of non-local, non-renewable materials and fuels. Santa Monica has decreased waste diversion from 67% to 62%, water use has increased by 3%, and solid waste generation continues to increase. However, the City is working positively toward energy conservation, has added one new LEED certified building (the Main Library), and is taking the lead in promoting solar energy.
Environment and Public Health: Primary Grade: C, Effort: A-
The primary C grade here reflects a continuing problem with wastewater levels and beach pollution. The A for effort reflects the City’s ban on plastic containers, an increasing number of households participating in proper disposal of hazardous waste, and the continued operation of four farmers’ markets providing organic, locally grown produce.
Transportation: Primary Grade: C+, Effort: A
With an award-winning bus system that has made improvements to service and uses alternative fuels, as well as the new bike valet service, Santa Monica has made important efforts in this area. But traffic congestion and inadequate bike lanes are still issues to work on here.
Economic Development: Primary Grade: B, Effort: A
Santa Monica’s economy remains resilient, with growth in several sectors, and no one sector representing more than 25% of the total economic activity. There is a disparity between jobs and housing that makes it difficult for people to live near their place of work. Still, the primary B grade reflects the growth of green business practices throughout the City.
Open Space and Land Use: Primary Grade: A, Effort: A
With the opening of the new Airport Park and Euclid Park, with more green space planned, and with growth and diversity to the urban forest, Santa Monica gets top ratings in this category.
Housing: Primary Grade: D, Effort: A
The loss of more than half of its rent-controlled housing (to state-mandated vacancy decontrol) has worked against Santa Monica’s high grades in this area. The City does get an A for effort for progressive legal actions that keep some rental housing available for low-income tenants.
Community Education and Civic Participation: Primary Grade: A, Effort: A
Santa Monicans are sophisticated and informed. They participate in numerous local workshops and attend civic meetings. The A grade reflects recent community participation in such efforts as the LUCE (Land Use and Circulation Element) meetings.
Human Dignity: Primary Grade: B-, Effort: A
While the primary grade here reflects a concern for safety in the Pico neighborhood and also the issue of homelessness, the City’s overall commitment to meeting people’s needs for safety and survival needs has been outstanding.
The Sustainable Report Card is available for viewing at smepd.org.