Verde Laguna: Time to work together for environment

No matter how you cast your vote on Tuesday, now we have to work together. As Jon Stewart said at the "Rally to Restore Sanity" last weekend, "We hear every damn day about how fragile our country is — on the brink of catastrophe — torn by polarizing hate and how it's a shame that we can't work together to get things done, but the truth is we do."

It's worthwhile to think seriously about these positive words, because this is a journey we are all on, whether we like it or not, whether we are conscious about it or not, whether things unfolds according to plan or not.

We should be aware that there are differences among us, but at the same time we have to know that we can work together. The last City Council actually did it when with compassion they worked out a solution for the homeless.

As mentioned in the U.S. Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement: "Local governments have the power to affect the main sources of pollution directly linked to climate change: energy use, transportation and waste. Cities control the day to day activities that determine the amount of energy used and waste generated by the community." They have a unique position to influence citizen behavior.

I believe that usually there are no absolutes, and that most of the time we must judge according to the circumstances. The give and take is continuously shaping our lives, and always changing, and in this scenario we can either be passively carried along or we can engage in our lives by walking up and participating fully.

If we walk this path we are going to find less and less separation between you and me. The challenge for us is to display ideas and somehow find ways to implement them. Now I'll allow myself to put a few out for consideration, which are coming from many sources, organizations and the candidate's forums before the elections. Ideas for a better Laguna.

First we have to understand that "in many ways the environmental crisis is a design crisis." (Van Der Ryn). It's a consequence of how things have been done at least since the Industrial Revolution, how things are made, buildings are constructed and resources are wasted. Why do we start here? Because the change we are going to have soon is the selection of a new city manager, and I wish to see next a sustainable approach to many city issues. Because if we reduce or eliminate the negative impact to the natural environment, we can establish at the same time the goal to enhance quality, meaning creating better buildings and improving our transit system, with better products and techniques available today, creating a better place to inhabit.

For instance, I care about air quality and public health, and this subject is directly related to transportation. Basically if we reduce auto dependency and traffic congestion, we promote clean air. This is something that the free shuttle does, so I wish it would be extended. Every gallon of gasoline emits 20 pounds of C02, so I would like the city to purchase when needed fuel efficient vehicles and small vehicles if possible, and the use of alternative fuel vehicles for the City fleet.

We should encourage walkable neighborhoods, and work with council for the implementation of some measures passed on Oct. 5, such as the construction of a public way for the length of Coast Highway and on Laguna Canyon from the beach to El Toro Road. Remove obstacles from walkways and encourage driveways along these paths to secondary streets when possible. The solutions should include the need of pedestrians, bikers, transit and public in general as written on the Complete Streets Act (AB 1358). Public health experts encourage walking and bicycling as a response to the obesity epidemic. Studies shows that 65% of the public are more likely to walk in neighborhoods with sidewalks. I would.

I would like the council to pencil the implementation of the promised Park and Village Entrance project, and work a solution for the parking needed. With the remark that parking, other than a structure, doesn't mean more asphalt.

Water is an area where we should make efforts to improve efficiencies and conservation. The mayor's document says that "nationwide drinking water and wastewater systems cost more then $4 billion a year in energy to pump, treat, deliver and clean water. That the energy cost to run drinking water and wastewater systems can represent as much as one third of municipalities' utilities energy bill, and often be the largest utility expenditure for a city."

I don't have the numbers for Laguna, but I know we can improve efficiencies on outdoor use, that fixing a leak on a sprinkler controller can save 40 gallons of water per day and smart controllers can avoid overwatering practices and reduce excessive runoff. The use of graywater for landscape irrigation is the most cost effective and efficient water conservation measure readily available, and a 10 minute shower can generate 20/50 gallons of water while 45 gallons is sufficient for irrigation in most homes. I know that talking about efficiencies, the use of reclaimed water should be considered for future use, more when by law we treated wastewater to secondary standards before discharging to the ocean. The runoff problem should be addressed to improve water quality and ocean health; that requires cleaning Aliso Creek and the support of the Marine Life Protection Act. All these things are inter-related, that's why we need a holistic approach to problem solving and a sustainable design philosophy to heal what has been damaged.

I can keep adding to this list but I want to hear from you. My last call is for building our local economy—expanding businesses in Laguna and creating jobs. We have to imagine a world of prosperity and health and begin designing for it today. It is going to take all of us to be successful.

"You may say that I am a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us and that the world will be as one."

—John Lennon

GUSTAVO GRAD is a Laguna Beach resident and certified sustainable building advisor. He can be reached at

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