When Solana Beach signed the U.S. Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement last year, it committed to trying to meet or exceed the goals of the Kyoto Protocol to reduce global warming pollution.
Leading the charge is the Clean and Green Committee, a passionate volunteer group whose mission is to help the city and its citizens to follow through on this commitment.
"We go out and look for ideas for what we can do both as individuals and as a city, and propose them to the city," said Steve Goetsch, who founded the group with residents Jack Hegenauer and Roger Boyd.
The Clean and Green Committee is not an official commission like the council-appointed Budget and Finance or the View Assessment Commissions. It is an informal group that meets regularly with city staff at City Hall and anyone is welcome to join.
In the past year and a half, the group has outgrown its meeting room and now about 10 citizens sit around folding tables with city staff in council chambers to share ideas, discuss city initiatives and public education opportunities.
"The members we have are all brilliant people willing to work to create meaningful products to help us figure out what we can and cannot do," said Danny King, the city's environmental programs manager.
The U.S. Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement calls for such actions as inventory greenhouse gas emission and create an action plan reduce them, practice and promote sustainable building practices, make energy efficiency a priority through building codes, and held educate the public about global warming.
Committee members Jack Hegenauer and Annie Kaskade developed a course screen to prioritize a long list of possible actions based on rough cost-benefit ratios. The low cost items with some benefit are identified as easy to do, and low cost with high benefit as priority items.
"It's a triage system," Hegenauer said, "which enables us to present to the city some things that are really worthwhile doing."
Some of the easy tasks have already completed. After signing the mayor's agreement, the city completed an energy audit and installed energy efficient lighting. The city council implemented ordinances to ban plastic bag advertising and to require the recycling of construction and demolition materials.
Developing a citywide climate action plan will take more time and research, though King said it could be completed by the end of the year. He is collecting historical data on energy consumption, transportation volumes and recycling rates to help assess the city's 1990 greenhouse gas emissions, to then determine what is a reasonable reduction target.
However, other initiatives are well under way, including a green building incentive program and a solar installation incentive program.
City staff are developing a green building incentive program based on Build It Green, a point-based system in which homeowners can get credit for building or remodeling their homes in a more sustainable and energy efficient way.
The Build It Green system is easier than Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), tailored to California, and proven quite popular in Northern California cities.
Staff is still considering what incentives to offer, which may include reduced permit fees and a streamlined permit process.
The program will be voluntary for now, though the state may make such practices mandatory within the next few years.
City staff plans to meet with the building community to get feedback on the program and hopefully have it ready for council approval in September.
The solar installation incentive program is being modeled after the Berkeley pilot program to establish a citywide assessment district, which would allow those homeowners who wanted to install solar to pay for it over 20 years on their property taxes.
"It eliminates all the up-front costs," King said. "The major hurdle for most people installing solar is the up-front costs."
There is the possibility this program could not be implemented in Solana Beach as a general law city, but state legislation is already being worked on to address those issues, King said.
To help educate the public about these programs and global warming in general, a new green website will be available on the city's Web site in August. The new Web site will have information about all the city's environmental programs, such as recycling, solar and water conservation.
The Clean and Green Committee has been very impressed with how firmly, and quickly, the city has embraced the mayor's agreement.
"The city has stepped up dramatically," said Roger Boyd. "As a small, interested and involved community we can implement programs rather quickly compared to larger constituencies."
However, while the city can provide leadership, much of the action to reduce emissions must come from the citizens.
"The committee will only be considered effective when every citizen of Solana Beach considers themselves a member," Goetsch said. "It's going to take all of us working together to commit to reducing greenhouse gasses."
Look for more information about the Clean and Green Committee and city environmental programs at Beach Blanket Movie Night, Saturday, August 23 and the city's Web site at