The Newport Beach City Council will consider a comprehensive plan aimed at having city staff and those with business before city hall to operate in a sustainable way.
Former Mayor Nancy Gardner and Jean Watt, a former council member and founder of Stop Polluting Our Newport, co-chaired a steering committee that recognized the work the city staff has already done on water and energy conservation but also identify where coordination among programs and departments can be improved.
The first step was to have the City Council publicly say that they are committed to sustainability.
“I think that will spur a lot of enthusiasm from non-profits that work on the environment,” Gardner said.
Among the committee’s members were prominent environmentalists including Bo Glover, executive director of the Environmental Nature Center, and Steve Wicke of the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club.
The sustainability plan has guidance on a range of topics including building, education, waste reduction, transportation and energy.
One example is for the city building department to create expediting permitting for projects that include green features.
It also encourages the installation of solar trees to generate power at city parking lots where its aesthetically compatible and financially feasible.
“The approach we suggest the city take in this plan is a positive approach, one of carrots,” Gardner said. “There are no penalties or fines.”
Once this voluntary approach was explained over several meetings it earned the unanimous support of the Newport Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, said Chamber President Steve Rosansky.
“I know with our membership sustainability, green buildings and things like that are all very top of mind these days especially with our younger members,” Rosansky said. “They tend to gravitate toward things that are environmentally friendly.”
The committee also decided that it would be best to use the resources that the city has such as its existing committees and commissions rather than hiring a new director or creating a new department.
Councilman Kevin Muldoon said he didn’t see why local, state or federal government should be involved in promoting environmental sustainability.
Councilman Scott Peotter likewise expressed he was reluctant to dedicate city resources to the sustainability plan.
“I like the idea of bragging about what we are already doing,” he said. “I’m just fearful like Mr. Muldoon of creating a government program so I guess I have a very tentative approach to going any further with this.
Councilman Keith Curry said the city needs a sustainability plan.
“I think they’ve worked hard to make sure some of the onerous elements of these plans that have manifested themselves in other communities don’t manifest themselves here,” he said. “I think it’s in the long term interest of the livability of our community that we move forward on this.”