Council Meeting: February 11, 2003                                                                                                            Santa Monica, California




TO:                        Mayor and City Council

FROM:                  City Staff

SUBJECT:           Adoption of the Santa Monica Sustainable City Plan and Consideration of Governance Structure



This report requests that City Council adopt the Santa Monica Sustainable City Plan, which is an update and significant expansion of the Santa Monica Sustainable City Program adopted by Council in 1994, and consider a governance structure.



In September 1994 City Council adopted the Santa Monica Sustainable City Program (SCP).  This program was initiated two years earlier by the City’s Task Force on the Environment “as a way to create the basis for a more sustainable way of life – one that safeguards and enhances our resources, prevents harm to the natural environment and human health, and sustains and benefits the community and local economy – for the sake of current and future generations.”


The SCP includes internal and citywide goals in four main areas: (1) Resource Conservation, (2) Transportation, (3) Pollution Prevention and Public Health Protection, and (4) Community and Economic Development.  Numerical sustainability indicators were developed as a means to measure progress toward meeting these goals.  A 1990 baseline was developed for each indicator and a target for the year 2000 was set.


As documented in the attached Sustainable City Program 2002 Status Report, the City has made significant progress toward reaching the adopted Sustainable City goals and targets.  In recognition of these achievements Santa Monica is now viewed as an international leader and role model for municipal sustainability.



In reviewing the progress made since the 1994 adoption of the program, the Task Force on the Environment recognized the need to update and expand the Sustainable City goals and indicators to provide a more complete picture of community sustainability, and to develop new indicator targets for 2010.  The Task Force felt that a comprehensive update would allow Santa Monica to build on its initial success and better address the challenges to sustainability that remain.


The update process began in July 2001 with the formation of the Sustainable City Working Group - a group of community stakeholders that included elected and appointed officials, City staff, and representatives of neighborhood organizations, schools, the business community and other community groups.  The working group participated in a facilitated review of the Sustainable City goals, indicators and targets over a 15-month period, which culminated in a public meeting on September 21, 2002.  The working group proposed significant changes and additions to the initial Sustainable City goals and indicators, and assisted with the creation of new indicator targets.  Early drafts of the proposed update were revised to reflect the community input received during the summer of 2002.  The attached Santa Monica Sustainable City Plan that resulted from this update process was approved by the Task Force on the Environment on November 18, 2002 and is being forwarded for City Council adoption as part of this staff report.


The Santa Monica Sustainable City Plan represents a comprehensive update of the 1994 Santa Monica Sustainable City Program that builds upon the success of the original program.  The name was changed from “Program” to “Plan” to better reflect the long-term comprehensive nature of the community’s vision and Santa Monica’s efforts to become a sustainable city.


Plan Structure

The Santa Monica Sustainable City Plan is founded on nine Guiding Principles that provide the basis from which effective and sustainable decisions can be made.  These Guiding Principles have been revised and updated from the versions initially adopted in 1994.  The Plan has also been expanded to include eight Goal Areas:

·        Resource Conservation

·        Environmental and Public Health


Within each Goal Area are specific goals, which comprise the core of the community vision and represent what Santa Monica must achieve to further its efforts to become a sustainable city.  


For each goal, specific indicators have been developed to measure progress toward meeting the goals.  Indicators are tools that help to determine the condition of a system, or the impact of a program, policy or action.  When tracked over time, indicators provide useful information to assist with decision-making.  Two types of indicators are tracked as part of the Sustainable City Plan.  System level indicators measure the state, condition or pressures on a community-wide basis for each respective goal area.  Program level indicators measure the performance or effectiveness of specific programs, policies or actions taken by the City government or other stakeholders in the community to address the goals.


Specific targets have been created for many of the indicators. The targets represent aggressive yet achievable milestones for the community.  Unless otherwise noted, the targets are for the year 2010 using the year 2000 as a baseline.


Leadership, Guidance and Implementation

In recognition of the expansion of the Sustainable City Plan beyond the original four goal areas, the Task Force on the Environment and community stakeholders have recommended the formation of an advisory group with broad representation in the community to provide leadership and guidance for implementation of the Sustainable City Plan, and an interdepartmental staff working group to effect its programs.  A Sustainable City Steering Committee (SCSC) would be created to serve as the primary advisory body to the City Council and the community on policies, actions and implementation strategies. 


It is proposed that the core of the SCSC be comprised of representatives from each of the following:


Once assembled this core group would identify representatives from other stakeholder groups in Santa Monica who they feel should also be represented on the SCSC.  The SCSC would also include a liaison from the City Council.  SCSC members would help to ensure that Sustainable City goals serve as the basis for decision-making by their respective commissions, and the City departments and sectors of the community with which they interact.


At the City staff level, it is recommended that an interdepartmental Sustainable City Implementation Group, chaired by a representative from the City Manager’s office, be created to coordinate existing City activities so they are consistent with the Sustainable City goals and facilitate the implementation of innovative programs and policies to achieve the goals.  Members of this group would serve as Sustainable City liaisons to their respective departments.  Staff support for the SCSC would be drawn from this interdepartmental group.


The SCSC and the staff Implementation Group would develop an implementation strategy for meeting Sustainable City goals and targets, and coordinate implementation, both interdepartmentally and between the City and community stakeholder groups.



Within one year following City Council adoption of the Sustainable City Plan, a baseline indicators report and a Sustainable City Implementation Strategy will be developed and presented to Council.  The implementation strategy would outline specific actions by the City and all sectors of the community that should be undertaken to meet the goals and targets presented in the Plan. The indicators report will be updated and presented to Council every two years following completion of the baseline report.  Updates will include an explanation of the progress achieved toward meeting the program goals and targets as well as a review of the continued community relevance and feasibility of the indicators and targets. The indicators report will provide useful information to City Council, City staff and community members on the progress being made toward meeting the goals and targets of the Plan, and provide a basis for decision-making about policies and actions that influence the City’s ability to meet the goals and targets.


Other Considerations

The proposed Sustainable City Plan represents a considerable effort of many months duration by City staff, Task Force and Board and commission members and interested public participants.  It entails a significant expansion of the scope of sustainability efforts for a community already recognized for its environmental programs and awareness.  It will engage City staff time and monetary resources and will also likely affect Santa Monica residents, businesses and visitors for the next eight years and beyond.  For these reasons the City Council should give careful scrutiny to all aspects of the plan.


The plan includes several new Goal Areas that extend well beyond the prior program’s primary focus on the natural environment, each with associated goals, indicators and targets.  These are: Economic Development, Open Space and Land Use, Housing, Community Education and Civic Participation, and Human Dignity.  Economic Development was a goal area in the original program although there were few associated goals and indicators.  In the proposed plan sustainable Economic Development is more specifically envisioned.  Council should consider whether extending plan focus into each of these areas is appropriate at this time.


The goals and indicators of the proposed plan are ambitious.  There is no way to determine potential City budget impacts of pursuing them absent a specific implementation plan for each of the goals.  Moreover, implementation will likely involve new behavioral expectations and, potentially, could lead to the proposal of new regulatory restrictions on residents and businesses.  Similarly, associated economic impacts cannot be determined absent implementation specifics.  While progress toward meeting the original goals has been measured, and philosophical satisfaction can certainly be taken with program results to date, it is not possible to measure the specific costs and benefits associated with the attainment of many of the programs goals.

The proposed plan, as noted above, extends the definition of sustainability well beyond the environmental expertise provided by the Task Force on the Environment. (The Task Force has provided advice, impetus and visibility in support of the original program and would presumably continue in a similar role in relation to many of the goals of the proposed plan).  The concept of a steering committee for the proposed plan stems from the perceived need for broader advisory expertise, and a sense that, absent oversight and involvement by community stakeholders, opportunities for achievement of targets may be lost.


The proposed advisory body is envisioned to have input to Council on a wide range of policies, programs and projects.  This input would be additive to that provided by existing Boards, Commissions and the Task Force, as appropriate to the subject matter.  Council must determine whether indeed such an additional advisory body is desirable or whether the existing structure of boards and commissions (and the Task Force) can provide appropriate and timely input for Council decision-making.  One consideration must be whether the additional level of review and input will delay Council policy formulation and project approvals.


The proposal is largely silent on the form that the advisory body would take and how appointments would be made.  The concept of a “committee”, a new term for a standing City advisory body, must also be given consideration.  The proposal envisions a body that would be advisory to the community as well as the Council, a role that no other City advisory group performs.  If Council wishes to proceed, the merits of an open-ended task force model versus the more formal, statutorily defined Board/Commission model must be assessed.  Experience with the former suggests that it would be largely self-determining, while the latter provides that Council define the body’s charge, parameters, membership and terms of office by ordinance.  The City Attorney advises that adopting the model proposed may be legally problematic.  The model diverges significantly from the governmental structure established by local law and would likely create legal controversy relating to process issues.


The work of any advisory body involves costs and staff support.  The Environmental Task Force has been largely supported by EPWM Environmental Programs Division staff and is funded through the Water, Wastewater, Solid Waste and Stormwater funds.  A broader advisory group would require additional staff support from the City Manager’s office, given the interdepartmental working group envisioned, and would draw support from the General Fund as well as Enterprise funds given the expanded Goal Areas.  Estimates of the costs associated with City Boards and Commissions range from $15,000 to $100,000, varying with the frequency of meetings, breadth of noticing, number of staff involved, and regulatory role, if any.


The proposed interdepartmental working group is a practical vehicle for keeping sustainability goals in focus as the work of the City progresses.  It would represent a dedication of staff resources, which comes at some impact to existing workload and priorities but is manageable absent significant staff reductions related to the challenging budgetary climate over the next several years.


With the conclusion of the original Sustainable City Program, it is time to determine how best to continue progress into the first decade of the new century.  The efforts of the past year merit recognition. The proposed plan and the proposal for advisory and implementation bodies merit public discussion and close consideration in regard to Council and community priorities and potential resource allocation.



There is no way to assess the potential fiscal impact associated with adoption of the Santa Monica Sustainable City Plan, absent a specific implementation plan for each of the goals, although adoption sets a course that will clearly have fiscal and perhaps economic impacts.  Presumably, creation of a Sustainable City Steering Committee would entail costs similar to those associated with other City advisory and regulatory bodies.  Fiscal impacts associated with implementation of the Sustainable City Plan will be detailed when the implementation plan is presented to City Council.



Staff recommends that City Council carefully consider and adopt the Santa Monica Sustainable City Plan and consider the governance structure.


Prepared by:  Susan McCarthy, City Manager

Craig Perkins, Director of Environmental and Public Works Management

Brian Johnson, Environmental Programs Manager

Dean Kubani, Sustainable City Coordinator






  1. Draft Sustainable City Plan
  2. Sustainable City Program 2002 Status Report