Measuring Emissions.. A better way

Sustainability MetricsIn today’s world, cities are responsible for about 70% of global carbon dioxide emissions. Therefore, it is of upmost importance that we begin to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in cities. Cities may start by assessing their Green House Gas emissions and creating an emissions inventory.

The purpose of the GHG Emissions Inventory is to identify the sources and quantities of GHG emissions within the City’s jurisdictional boundaries. This Inventory is the first step in addressing GHG emissions. Continue reading

Sustainability and the Environment: GHG Emissions Practices

In This Thread: A report that looks at basic climate change science and the way cities tackle environmental planning and sustainability, through GHG emissions reductions strategies.

In the last 12,000 years, Earth has not been changed and transformed in the way it has in the last few decades. In “Essential Points for Policy Makers”, a global scientific consensus on human impacts on the biosphere and what it means for the future if we continue our path, five areas of key concerns were listed. These five points are climate disruption, extinctions, loss of diverse ecosystems, pollution and human population growth and consumption patterns. In addition to these are other problems that are all related, including the issue of fighting the business as usual approach to energy production and the importance of educating the public on the need for a change in our societal framework, that is if the desire of the people, businesses and governments of the world want to maximize the chance of future generations to enjoy a world at least as good as it is currently (Scientists Consensus Group, 2013; 1). We need these changes urgently – even if we have a carbon neutral energy system by 2035, climate likely will not stabilize until after 2100, and it will still be a different climate than our current one (SCG 2013; 3). ‘Likely’ used in this sense implies that there is a 66-100% chance of the effect occurring. This is the definition used in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) publications.

In light of this greater scientific consensus and in order to understand sustainability and the way cities tackle sustainability and environmental planning, we must first look at fundamental definitions of sustainability. Continue reading

Protecting Natural Open Space

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The Claremont Wilderness Park provides hiking trails connecting to the San Gabriel Mountains

Natural open space is a natural, or undisturbed, landscape set aside for the purpose of preservation or conservation of natural resources and features (such as plant and animal habitats) or scenic aesthetic values; it is precious because it cannot be replaced once lost and requires protection and conservation from the City of Claremont.  There are numerous advantages to preserving open space that benefit people across many aspects of life. Individuals, landowners and developers can benefit through increased property values thanks to access to open space. The community of Claremont, as a whole, benefits by maintaining a sense of place and community through environmental protection.  Protecting natural settings also benefits individuals’ lives by providing cultural and recreational assets, creating a break from the urban setting and creating an essential human connection with nature.  In the context of Claremont, preserving and improving the existing natural open space means preventing most if not all new development in natural areas and increasing the biodiversity of these areas.

Buffer Areas to Protect Natural Open Space

Preserving natural areas and preventing sprawl has been a responsibility of planners since the birth of the profession.  These natural areas are generally protected from development by formal regulations, such as laws and by-laws, which normally stress the value of the ecology in the area. Land parcels adjacent to protected natural open space pose an issue for the habitats and wildlife in the area; in many cities, especially in Southern California, these parcels are zoned for some type of residential usage that often encroaches and may damage open space.

Dedications for Open Space – Flower Mound, Texas

One of the many ways that cities can deal with this issue is to create a buffer area between the development and natural area through the use of a dedication. A dedication is an area of land given by the developer to the government, usually the local government, as a requirement for allowing development.  One precedent where this was used successfully for the protecting of natural open space was in Texas, in the Town of Flower Mound. The Town created a trail ordinance that outlined where all trails were to be built; this means if a development is planned in a location where the Master Plan shows a trail, the developer must build it. These trails have adequately fulfilled the purpose of connecting the town’s open spaces as well as providing buffer areas for protecting them. From this precedent we can recognize the importance for local governments to create clear goals and plans for the management and protection of natural open space. The City of Claremont is on the right track as it develops a master plan for the management of the local Wilderness Park.

The Town of Flower Mound managed to protect vast areas of open space with its Trails Master Plan and easements on local developers

The Town of Flower Mound managed to protect vast areas of open space with its Trails Master Plan and easements on local developers

Promoting Infill Development

Another way to protect environmental damage in natural open space areas is to prevent the development of along their outskirts completely by promoting infill development; building on unused and underutilized lands within existing development patterns (California Department of Planning and Research). California needs to favor development within existing urban areas to achieve its environmental goals and to help improve the economies of its cities and towns.  However, according to the California Infill Builders Association, there are numerous roadblocks for cities to overcome to promote infill projects;

  • Inadequate infrastructure– Many prime locations for infill development suffer from weak demand for housing due to deteriorating/unappealing sidewalks and streets, lack of public transit, insufficient or aging utilities. Areas require significant public investments in infrastructure to make infill projects profitable and attract for private financing.
  • Higher Economic Costs– A more expensive construction process, longer permitting time, and additional infrastructure burdens often deter developers from infill projects.
  • Restrictive Local Land Use Policies– Requirements for local infill projects often require extensive, time consuming, and expensive planning studies that deter developers from taking on infill projects.
  • Unavailable parcels– Vacant parcels in cities are often too small, or scattered for actual development. In Claremont’s case there is also the issue of many historic structures that require creative development practices in order to make them viable for reuse (the Packing House is an excellent example of this).

With so many obstacles for private developers, it is highly important that cities and other forms of local government step in to provide incentives and assistance programs to achieve infill development goals.

Davis, California and Infill Development

The City of Davis, California has extensive experience in dealing with growth issues with infill development to protect surrounding natural areas. Davis is similar to Claremont in that the downtown is economically strong and alternative transportation systems are well established though much of the community is built to standard suburban models, although Davis is still undergoing growth.  In an attempt to attract developers the City of Davis has created a list of vacant and underutilized parcels, and their ideal development potential that it has listed on the city website. This partially eases the process of infill development for the developer and is ideal for local government. This precedent also makes another problem very clear; local governments need to transition themselves off redevelopments, a tool for acquiring funds for projects that has been eliminated in California, and become more creative in other ways to assist financing infill projects.

Encouraging Native Species

Another goal for protecting natural open space in Claremont is to maintain the existing biodiversity. One way to do this can be to remove invasive species, but then there is still the potential for more invasive species to return. Part of this comes from properties around open space areas that use landscaping that is not endemic to the area. One solution is to strongly encourage, through financial incentive and education, the use of native species for landscaping and removal of lawns on properties throughout the City.

Long Beach, CA - A lawn prior to conversion to native species garden

Long Beach, CA – A lawn prior to conversion to native species garden

Lawn-to-Garden Program

The City of Long Beach currently has a program called “Lawn-to-Garden” hosted by the Long Beach Water Department that educates residents on best practices and designs for native species landscaping. It also provides incentive for each square foot of lawn converted to a more sustainable native species garden that uses less water. Similar programs exist in Claremont, but don’t have the same level of engagement, and can follow a similar model to Long Beach’s while being tailored to more local needs of using native plant species like the ones found in the San Gabriel foothills.

After conversion

Long Beach, CA – After conversion

LADWP- Feed In Tariff

Feed in tariff also known as FIT is a widely used policy mechanism that first started in Germany. The purpose of FIT is to increase the deployment of renewable technologies such as solar PV, Wind generators etc. Unlike many incentives currently used by utility agencies, cities, and states the FIT program offers an opportunity for private owners whether it is residential or commercial to sell electricity back to a central grid.

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Implementation Plan by City Management

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According to the City’s 2013 Sustainability Report Card, Public Outreach in education effort meets its goal in sustainability plan and exceeded in checklist of actions completed or survey of residents. The City Government achieved a number of sustainability accomplishments by 2013 such as Sycamore Canyon Park Restoration Project; Claremont Home Energy Retrofit Project (CHERP); Claremont Safe Routes to School Bicycle and Pedestrian Education Program; Claremont Named Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) by the League of American Bicyclists; Sustainability Committee; Sustainable Claremont; Earth Day Celebration; Green Waste Recycling; Door-to-door E-Waste Collection, Recycling, and Disposal Franchise Agreement; Household Hazardous Waste Collection; and Free LED Holiday Light Exchange. Reported in Goal 7.2 – Permanently integrate sustainability principles into daily decision making processes, the City continued to staff the 9-person Sustainability Committee to review implementation of the Sustainable City Plan, which was created based on 2009 report card. Continue reading

Cleaner Transit Infrutructure that Create Connections

With cleaner mode infrastructure the city of Claremont has many options with the extension of the gold line going through Claremont. There is a variety of ways to improve transit the city of Claremont has it goals for the transit to improve with the extension of store services at the depot transit center, bus stop enhancements , encourage the use of electric vehicle and many more best practices that can still be explored

One of the stations that does great where the downtown area is walking distance is the station in Fullerton. There is a café area with outdoor seating where the trains pass through. This give the people more freedom to sit down eat and wait for their ride without the worry if they will miss it because they went somewhere else to get food. Comfort is a big part to having more transit riders. Also another good best practice at the station is that the actual busses from OCTA will go into the station to pick up people. Another area that Claremont should improve on is the bus routes. There needs to be something faster such as the BRAVO. This bus has less stops and its studies was made to determine these areas. The study focused on areas that had the highest numbers of riders.  The Reason that all of these examples were picked is because it creates regional connection. The BRAVO actually goes through the station in Fullerton and it is an example of different methods that improve the infrastructure that is given but at the same time improves the regional connection. http://www.octa.net/BravoBusService.aspx

‘To bring out more community in Claremont there needs to be a best practice where bus stops are enhanced and have an identity. This could include a unique canopy which also would provide shading for people. It could be a unique color such as the ones in Anaheim. The goal of the identity would be to create a sense of community. When an individual is driving around they will clearly see theses bus stops. This can create awareness and help individuals look at other means of transportation.

Another Key thing is to have directories which highlight all of the stations and different modes of transportation. One key thing that most directories in the cities will miss would be places where there are charging stations. When there is more advertisement it creates incentives for people to look into these different options.

In terms of electric vehicles if there was a measure such as charge Portland it would incentives people to change their vehicles. There is a need for more electric car infrastructure which would create a reduce dependent on cars whom run on gas. What this also does is provide jobs but more importantly reduces carbon footprint. Having a measure where there will be an abundant amount of charging stations around the city will increase the chances of people to switch between the type of transportation they use. The city of Claremont currently have two charging stations which is not enough for residents that want to change to cleaner transit.

Another option that is currently happening in Santa Ana is the Street Car. It was currently approved and it will run through the busiest street in the down town and extend to create a connection, but it will begin at the Santa Ana Regional Connection Center. This mode of transit would be great for a city like Claremont. As it shares the right away with the automobiles and travels with the flow of the traffic. It would have frequent stops and designed for short trips which would create more connections in the city. It allows for riders to also take bikes on it. Currently the street car systems that have been built in the US within the past ten years have been successful. For example a bigger city like Portland and also Kenosha, Wisconsin (a small city with a population of approximately 90,000 attracted $175 million in added value along its streetcar line. http://santaanatransitvision.com/streetcar_route_options.html

Having projects such as the gold line extension will vastly improve the connection in the city and with Claremont being one of the stops there is much potential to benefit from the addition. It will increase ridership and with more development there can be a opportunity to capitalize and help become more sustainable at the same time.

What’s did California do?!

In the State of California, many regions are taking the initiative and starting to shift towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Claremont has created a Sustainability City Plan, which the “vision is one where all who live and work in Claremont are enabled to live in ways that allow them to meet their needs while preserving the ability of future generations to do the same” (Claremont Sustainable City Plan). In order to track their progress, yearly sustainability report cards report just how well, or how un-well, the city is doing to achieve a sustainable city. The plan is broken up into 7 different segments, with several sub-sections, which correlate with Claremont’s General Plan. In order to fulfill goal area one, and subsection 3 (1.3), Resource Conservation- Solid Waste, a major statewide ban may alleviate the pressure for Claremont to personally force businesses and consumers to alter their current ways. Continue reading