City works toward climate protection goal

In 2012, the City Council has planned to voluntarily reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7% below 1990 levels, as outlined in the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which Laguna adopted in 2007.

The city has taken steps recommended in the city's Climate Protection Action Plan to achieve the goal, but staff is hard-pressed to calculate the reduction in emissions, according to environmental analyst Michael Phillips, who updated the council Tuesday night on the implementation of recommendations in the city's plan.

"We probably don't know the 1990 emission," Phillips said.

However, Phillips reported the city has purchased alternative fuel vehicles, replaced incandescent lighting in public buildings with fluorescent lamps, designed new public buildings for natural lighting and ventilation and worked with Waste Management, which handles the city's trash disposal, to convert its diesel fleet to low-emission vehicles.

Charging stations, bicycle racks and a bike path have been installed. More sidewalks and outdoor furniture encourage folks to get out of their cars and walk.

The council also recently approved an outdoor lighting ordinance to control light pollution and is developing an ordinance banning single-use plastic grocery bags.

Phillips' report included the status of five priorities set by the council in January 2011, three of which have been completed:

•An environmental and sustainability section has been established on the city's website Content includes information on such items as solar rebates and hazardous waste disposal, and resource documents like Vision 2030 Final Report and the city's action plan.

•A comprehensive energy audit of city-owned facilities and operations measured energy use and proposed actions to reduce it, which have mostly been implemented.

•Information about nonprofit, "green" building has been made available at City Hall.

Ongoing efforts include:

•Creation of a sustainability element to be included in the city's general plan that states the city's goals, policies and recommended actions.

•Power purchase agreements, which would allow the installation of solar power systems in city-owned facilities in return for a guaranteed competitive electric rate.

To date, no structure has been identified for enough consumption to make the project financially feasible, as well as acceptable to uphill neighbors who would look down on the installation. City staff will be keeping an eye on evolving technology for less-obtrusive panel systems.

"The Susi Q was built for future solar power," said Chris Prelitz, former chair of the defunct Environmental Committee, now being restructured. "It can be installed for nothing.

"There are a million things the city can do without costing it a dime."

Savings, Prelitz said, can be measured by the lowered costs.

Phillips' report also contained suggestions about the use of reclaimed or captured water.

"Reclaimed water has come up," said City Manager John Pietig. "It takes a distribution system, but we can take a look at opportunities such as landscaping on city facilities. I don't know of a comprehensive system that would feasible."

Councilman Kelly Boyd said Phillips should meet with water district officials who might know of programs of which the city might be unaware.

Mayor Pro Tem Verna Rollinger proposed holding public forums to educate the public.

Village Laguna commended the city on its commitment to the Climate Protection Agreement but also suggested some improvements:

•Concerns about how solar panels look from neighborhoods far above can be addressed and view obstructions minimized.

•Extend bus service and develop remote parking sites.

•Discuss with the school board ways to reduce private vehicle traffic to and from the schools.

•Discuss a gradual increase of recycled water for landscape use with the water districts and the South Orange County.

•Educate the public on how much electricity is being saved.


Related council action

In other action related to the environment, the council supported adoption of the draft Special Protections for areas of special biological significance.

In Laguna that means Heisler Park, and the city was used as an example to develop the draft based on the best management practices and infrastructure improvements to control pollution and discharges in park rehabilitation.

If the state water board adopts the draft, the city will be required to obtain a permit to discharge storm flows in the special area. Administrative and mandatory compliance monitoring costs will increase.

The council also approved an $800 appropriation for travel expenses for Councilwoman Toni Iseman, who has been appointed as Orange County representative to the League of California Cities Environmental Quality Committee.

Iseman said the $800 would probably come out of the council's travel budget without the need for an additional appropriation.

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