Chula Vista's Comprehensive Sustainability Action Plan
The City of Chula Vista has been at the forefront of sustainability since rolling out its citywide recycling programs in 1993, joining the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 1997, and publishing its first Climate Action Plan in 2000. In 2014, the City Council approved the City Operations Sustainability Plan (Plan), a comprehensive sustainability action plan focused on seven key areas in its municipal operations: energy and water use, green purchasing, waste management, pollution prevention, green buildings, and infrastructure. The Plan identified more than 30 sustainability strategies, making the city the first jurisdiction in San Diego County to initiate a coordinated sustainability plan of action for municipal operations. The Plan is intended to ensure a strategic and inclusive approach to reduce municipal operating costs, improve local environmental quality, and provide a community-wide lead-by-example model.
The City of Chula Vista has long understood the threats of climate change to its community and has established itself as a leader among municipalities in planning to reduce or mitigate GHG emissions and impacts. The City Operations Sustainability Plan operationalizes many goals and recommendations contained in the following series of lead-by-example initiatives adopted by the city:
Climate Action Plan (2000)
Since 2000, Chula Vista has been implementing a plan to address the threat of climate change to the local community. This plan was revised to incorporate climate mitigation (2008) and adaptation (2011) measures to broaden the city’s climate-related efforts.
Municipal Building Energy Efficiency Policy (2005)
Establishes energy conservation and renewable energy guidelines for city buildings and facilities requiring they be 20% more energy efficient than state energy conservation standards dictate.
Energy Strategy and Action Plan (2011)
Incorporates eight major components of the city’s overall energy strategy within energy conservation, supply, and procurement. The broad-based efforts include individual short-term action plans and the assigned staff to implement them.
In 2013, city staff participated in a six month sustainability training with REV Sustainability for organizations interested in developing a sustainability plan, which was sponsored and partially funded by San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E). While a strong emphasis of the training is on energy conservation and efficiency with detailed program and incentive information from SDG&E representatives, each month is devoted to a specific sustainability focus and formal training with experts in lighting, HVAC, water, waste, metrics, procurement, and more. The training led to the creation of a multi-departmental Green Team within the city government.
The Green Team was established as an internal task force comprised of staff from the Public Works, Finance (Purchasing), and Human Resources departments, and a representative from the City Manager’s Office. Most of the Green Team members are at management levels within their respective departments allowing them to ensure sustainability and continuous process improvement within their areas of responsibility. The chosen departments have budget oversight and implementation responsibility in one or more of the seven focus areas to be addressed in the Plan. Once established, the team was directed to identify opportunities to integrate sustainability practices internally within city operations. One of the main drivers for creating the Plan was to document and connect the city’s existing sustainability policies and initiatives through a single, comprehensive document.
The Green Team met monthly for six months to develop the Plan. Three Green Team members attended some of the monthly REV Sustainability trainings. The training provided useful case studies on how different organizations have approached sustainability action planning and tools to help quantify potential utility and cost savings. Successful implementation of the Plan was dependent on securing the commitment and support of the City Manager and City Council. Once a draft Plan was written, it was presented to department heads and the City’s Resource Conservation Commission to gain feedback from senior officials and the public. It was then formally reviewed and adopted by the City Council to ensure the necessary staff resources would be dedicated to the project.
Throughout the planning process, it was important that the Green Team:
- Address already existing operational goals to improve efficiency and reduce costs
- Focus on implementation strategies that were realistic and focused on achieving the city’s goals
- Work closely with the Public Works Director to bring forward many of the principles and activities of the REV Sustainability training, such as the design of an overarching municipal operations sustainability plan to allow the city to lead-by-example
- Communicate with city management to keep them fully aware of the Plan’s development progress to prepare them to present it to City Council for approval
The resulting City Operations Sustainability Plan sets numeric goals and identifies implementation strategies in each of the seven focus areas. It was approved by City Council and made an official citywide document to be implemented and periodically updated.
Since the Plan was finalized, the Green Team has met on a quarterly basis to determine both the progress and barriers in meeting various goals and strategy implementation, as well as identify potential funding sources. The Green Team is responsible for implementing strategies in each of the plan categories. Staff updates the City Council annually on the Plan’s implementation and progress towards meeting its five-year goal. The first report will be presented in January 2016 with an update on 2015 activities.
The majority of the staff time dedicated to developing and implementing the Plan was supported by existing departmental budgets. In some cases, staff time was reimbursed through funding provided by SDG&E and the California Public Utilities Commission under their Local Government Partnership Program. The Plan utilizes available funding and is designed to help lower long-term utility and fuel costs, maximize the reuse and recycling of discarded materials, create a healthier workplace, and contribute to cleaner air, water and land in the community. The city has a multi-year agreement with SDG&E for local government partnership funds and some funding for larger projects and pilots.
For example, in August 2015, the city received a grant award of $135,000 from The San Diego Foundation and the Bloomberg Award for Local Sustainability Matching Fund, a project of the Funder’s Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities, to begin the water reuse community engagement processes for developing the water reuse framework document. The purpose of the finished document will be to guide the city’s expansion of water reuse and conservation efforts.
While the Plan was initially developed more centrally by the Green Team, it acknowledges that long-term success is dependent on engaging all city employees in its implementation. As such, the Green Team has integrated sustainability information into the city’s new employee orientation process, conducted employee surveys, and developed a recognition program for city employees that demonstrate sustainable leadership. The new employee orientation includes a 15 minute presentation on the city’s Sustainability Plan, allowing new staff to be brought into the sustainability culture from the beginning of their employment. A new employee brochure is given to each employee during orientation.
Marketing and outreach to city leaders and staff will be conducted through the annual CLEAN Employee Award, quarterly employee lunch & learns, annual employees surveys, the Green Team, new hire orientation, and annual plan progress reports.
The Plan’s performance tracking is tied into the city’s broader Strategic Plan reporting efforts, removing the need for additional staff time or resources. The City Manager’s Office Green Team representative acts as the lead for the city’s continuous improvement program, creating a seamless link between the two efforts. Key performance metrics are tracked by the individual departments which are implementing specific components of the Plan. As part of the annual progress report to the City Council, these metrics are synthesized and summarized. The city updates the plan so progress on implementation can be provided to Council. As part of the Climate Action Plan, the first update will be in early 2016.
Key metrics for success include:
- Annual energy usage (kWh & Therms)
- Energy use intensity (MMBTU/square foot)
- Percent onsite renewable energy
- Annual potable/recycled water usage (HCF)
- Number of employees trained in green buildings & sustainable operations.
The City Operations Sustainability Plan provides a powerful framework to facilitate action within city government for the city’s energy and environmental initiatives. In 2015, the Plan has resulted in an indoor LED lighting retrofit project, web-based irrigation controller upgrades, and preferred parking designations for alternative fuel vehicles. As an example, the LED pilot project was launched in February 2015 and completed in May 2015. The city replaced a 218 fluorescent bulbs with 205 LED bulbs. During the process, 13 lamps were de-lamped, resulting in a 73% reduction in total wattage. The next step is a city-wide bulb count, including both linear and screw-in base type fixtures. The city is also looking at park lighting as well, due to the high failure rate of induction bulbs encountered after the last retrofit.
Anticipated outcomes of the plan include:
- Reduced municipal energy use by 20% by 2020.
- Reduced overall municipal potable water use by 10% by 2020.
- At least 80% of all office and custodial supplies annually categorized as “green” by 2020
- At least 75% of waste from municipal operations recycled annually by 2020.
- All non-storm water discharges from municipal facilities (including landscape over-irrigation) directed to storm drains by June 2015.
- Compliance with storm water “Best Management Practices” (BMPs) requirements on all municipal facilities and pass annual inspections with a minimum score of 80% by 2020.
- Forty percent of fleet transitioned to hybrid or alternative fuel technology by 2020.
- Increased percentage of employees who regularly use sustainable commute options by 30% by 2020.
- All new buildings over 10,000 sf will be designed and constructed to meet enhanced green building standards, while at least two existing buildings will be operated and maintained to meet enhanced green building standards by 2020.
- Integrated sustainable design concepts and products into all infrastructure projects by 2020 using the American Public Works Association’s Envision – Self Assessment Tool.
The City Operations Sustainability Plan encourages collaboration among municipal departments and creates a cohesive strategy to accelerate sustainability initiatives throughout city operations, leading to a 24% energy reduction and an annual savings of approximately $270,500.
Large Suburban, population 260,000
To achieve a 20 percent energy reduction in city buildings by 2020 based on 2010 levels
Lack of efficient and effective communication and collaboration among key municipal departments toward their energy goals
The creation and implementation of the City Operations Sustainability Plan, a cohesive strategy to enable city efforts to coordinate and accelerate sustainability initiatives throughout city operations
The Plan has enabled the City of Chula Vista to achieve a 24% energy reduction for an annual savings of approximately $270,500