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Town Hall with Supervisor Neal Coonerty

neal-coonertyWhat is being done at a governmental level to prepare the county for climate change?

Efforts to reduce human contributions to causes of climate change are under way in the county of Santa Cruz. One of these efforts involves preparation of a Climate Action Strategy (CAS), also sometimes called a Climate Action Plan. A Climate Action Strategy or Plan provides the framework for local implementation of AB 32, and for compliance with SB 97 and SB 375, which are three pieces of state legislation that address local responsibilities related to climate change and sustainable community planning.

In the most general terms, the CAS will serve as a framework for identifying actions that the county of Santa Cruz and the general public can take to lessen human contributions to climate change, as well as measures to undertake to be ready for the anticipated effects of climate change. The CAS will address three levels of actions:

1) Steps that the county can take to reduce the impact of county activities;

2) Measures that can be taken to help reduce impacts of activities of residents and businesses;

3) Steps that can be taken to support regional efforts to reduce human contributions to climate change, such as encouraging development patterns that promote reducing vehicular miles traveled by the public, strategies for reducing emissions from energy production, and so forth.

The CAS, which is being drafted by the county’s planning department, will articulate the county's and community's vision for how to anticipate, prepare for, and respond to climate change. The CAS will set goals (including a target for reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions which builds on the two existing GHG inventories); and will contain programs, policies and measures that will be pursued to meet the goals. The CAS will focus on identification of practical and feasible means of achieving the vision. The CAS will also be used to establish “thresholds of significance" for use in preparing CEQA environmental review documents, and for identifying feasible mitigation measures that would be imposed as conditions of approval on development projects. It is anticipated that the draft CAS will yield suggested new or amended General Plan goals and policies, and possibly suggestions for new regulations or Code amendments to implement these goals. The work product that will be drafted by April 2012 will contain various "project descriptions" for these proposed new goals or regulations. CEQA review and adoption would occur as a “phase two” of activity to implement various aspects of the CAS.

Many of us are examining our own carbon footprint and making changes in how we live our daily lives to reduce our impact on the environment. The county of Santa Cruz is also planning for the future by developing strategies and policies to reduce the county’s carbon footprint. If you are interested in participating in this process, please consider attending the Board of Supervisors meeting in April 2012 when the CAS will be presented to the Board; or call my office at 454-2200 and I can notify you when this item will be discussed.

You were in support of the proposed La Bahia Hotel that the Coastal Commission ruled against in mid-August. In your opinion, what does this decision mean for Santa Cruz, its economy and its tourism industry?

Twenty years ago when I was on the City Council, the La Bahia site was identified as an optimal location for a hotel in the beach area.  Since that time there have been several plans to develop the site, finally culminating into the 125-room Spanish-style hotel project that was heard at the Coastal Commission (CC) earlier this month. The Commission voted against the project 6-4, with our local County Supervisor Mark Stone also casting a no vote. With the defeat at the Commission, the residents of the city of Santa Cruz lost more than just a hotel, we lost approximately $700,000 per year of direct tax revenue for the city which would fund things like police, fire protection, parks, and community programs. In addition, we have lost tax revenue that could have been gained from an expanded tourist season. We also lost more than 100 year-round, well-paying jobs with a preference given to neighborhood residents in Beach Flats.  During a time when our city has had to make drastic cuts in order to balance our budget while dealing with millions of dollars in state take-aways of local revenue, I am proud that the city and the majority of our community supported this balanced project that would have helped generate revenue and grow our economy.  It’s incredibly disappointing that a statewide commission ignored the community and made it that much more difficult for our city to continue to sustain itself.

Comments (2)Add Comment
...
written by rebeccasimone, September 13, 2011
can this guy shave for a change
...
written by Nora Hochman, September 02, 2011
Supervisor Coonerty, in expressing disappointment that the Coastal Commission denied SC City's application to violate its own local coastal plan and therefore the Coastal Act, should have greater appreciation for what the Commission did. The upholding of the Coastal Act and Commission's refusal to play into the hands of the promises of the developers at the expense of sound land use planning, is admirable.

Like Supervisor Coonerty, I too am disappointed that after 20 years, a developer cannot figure out how to propose and build a project on that site that makes money for the builder, investors and city. What I cannot understand, however, is how the Supervisor can criticize the Commission for doing its' job, a job much like a county supervisor, sworn to uphold laws and regulations and consider many matters of land use.

Supervisor Mark Stone, one vote of six, showed real principle in casting his vote. Many think he played to organized labor with this vote: nothing could be further from the truth. Labor would have supported Mr. Stone in his Assembly bid anyway. Now, with Councilmember Lynn Robinson getting into that race, and Supervisor Coonerty withdrawing his endorsement of Stone in favor of Robinson (really?!), it is clear that our community needs another thoughtful, measured representative like Mark Stone, just as we've had Bill Monning for us.

We need to be thinking about broad landscapes, whether political or land use policy. I believe that's what Commissioners Stone and Blank and four others did and they deserve our admiration for that.


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