Santa Monica’s high marks on its 2010 Sustainable City Report Card reflect why the city has become known nationally as a model of sustainability.
The report card grades the City’s progress toward goals in eight sustainability areas. These areas are resource conservation, environment and public health, transportation, economic development, open space and land use, housing, community education and civic participation, and human dignity. Grades are also given in each area to represent the level of effort the City currently focuses on achieving the goals.
For average effort this year, Santa Monica got an A worth hanging on the fridge, but for average grade in results, the city only garnered a B, indicating room for improvement.
The City’s grades improved in resource conservation, environmental and public health, and human dignity but remained the same in the other five areas. The last report card was released in September of 2008.
Shannon Parry, the City’s sustainable program coordinator, gave a presentation on the report card on Sept. 21 at the Santa Monica Main Library. She noted that some of the grades might seem lower than expected because the City has set such “aggressive goals.”
The City’s grade of B- for resource conservation reflects resource use is down and sustainable practices are increasing. More materials are being diverted from landfills, water demand has dropped, and more citywide energy is coming from renewable sources.
Santa Monica’s efforts to improve beach water quality, reduce marine water debris by implementing a ban on the use on non-recyclable plastic take-out containers helped the City earn a C+ for environmental and public health.
Another area where the City received a C+ was in transportation. More people are carpooling and are riding their bikes to work, and the majority of the Big Blue Bus’ fleet are fueled by alternative fuels. The grade did not increase because of the City’s continuing congestion problems.
Economic development was again given a B grade because the City continues to have a strong economic diversity, which has shown growth in green business despite the recession.
Santa Monica received one of its highest grades, A-, for open space and land-use because of park accessibility (the Annenberg Beach House opened in 2009), and plans are underway for two new parks in the Civic Center area. In addition, more mixed use projects have been built and the City’s recently update of its Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) reflect its continued commitment to an integrated land use and transportation policies for the next 20 years.
The grade for housing was a lot lower, C, which indicates the City’s continued drop in affordable housing and its attempts to invest in affordable housing options. In 2008, 248 affordable units were added and that number jumped to 290 in 2009.
Another one of the City’s highest grades, A-, was given in the area of community education and civic participation. More than 4,000 people and 60 community groups gave input on the LUCE update, in 2009, 822 people learned about living a more sustainable lifestyle by participating in the Sustainable Works Community Greening Program, and attendance at the Santa Monica Festival and other City-sponsored events.
Lastly, the grade for human dignity moved up to a B as the City has seen a drop in its homeless population, increases in the number homeless people receiving services, and crime and gang violence have dropped significantly.
Santa Monica has had a sustainable city program in place since 1994. The grades are developed with the help of independent consultants and outside experts. More information can be found at www.smgov.net/departments/ose.