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Residents Brainstorm Ideas to Update Environmental Plan

Residents got to weigh in recently on how they would like to see La Cañada Flintridge create a new Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, offering suggestions to decrease emissions that ranged from installing more electric charging stations to creating a more reliable and consistent bus shuttle system.
Representatives from Blue Strike Environmental and Impact Sciences led the workshop, with LCF Councilman Kim Bowman and Keith Eich attending the two separate meetings with groups of about 15 residents.
The city is working to update its 2016 Climate Action Plan and to identify climate-related vulnerabilities, providing adaptation measures that build resilience to current and future climate threats. LCF launched the CAAP project in September of 2022.
The plan was updated in 2018, Bowman told the Outlook Valley Sun, adding “Since then, our understanding of climate issues and adaptability options have advanced, and the impacts of our previously adopted policies can start to be measured. My view is that climate science is clear that it is now or never to limit climate change and prevent irreversible devastation planet-wide. To change the world, we need to improve our environmental stewardship here at home in La Cañada.”
Blue Strike Environmental is leading the effort to collect data, develop an outreach and engagement plan, researching state, local and international greenhouse gas reduction targets, and develop a vulnerability assessment to identify the city’s exposure to the future impacts of climate change.
A subcommittee consisting of Bowman, Mayor Pro Tem Rick Gunter and representatives from LCUSD and JPL meet twice a month to provide organizational input and manage the CAAP update process.
“The consultants are conducting the data analysis and preparing a draft of the CAAP. City staff continues to [oversee] that relationship and ongoing implementation measures based on the last adopted climate action plan and approved policies of the council,” Bowman said.


Kristin Cushman, the stakeholder outreach lead from Blue Strike Environmental, led the presentation and conversation among residents on May 18.
“So, as most of you know, climate action is the opportunity to create solutions for impact and mitigation. So, we’re going to talk today about different sectors of that. We’re going to talk about drought. We’re going to talk about wildfire and the adaptation elements of the plan as well,” said Cushman.
She explained that the project is in the “initial phase,” when the group creates progress reports, defines what has been done since 2016 to create a baseline for the city and know what challenges or barriers will be ahead.
She went down the timeline and said that in July and August they will make recommendations to community members and develop a strategy development phase. In October, a draft will be ready to bring to the community and by November, the final CAAP is scheduled to be complete.
Cushman said that there are state requirements for cities to follow, which will be important in the process of updating the CAAP. Those include Senate Bill 32, which sets a target of reducing emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030; SB 379, which requires each municipality to conduct a Climate Vulnerability Assessment; and SB 100, which aims to use 100% of renewable energy by 2045.
The team is also keeping in mind the already existing LCF greenhouse gas emission goals from its 2016 CAP, like lowering 2007 emission levels by 15% by 2020 and lowering them by 58% below 2007 emission levels by 2035.
“We’re going to update using the 2016 CAP,” said Cushman. “We’re going to update the emission targets. We’re going to maintain compliance with state legislation, and we’re going to establish
2023 goals and strategies. And we’re
going to put it into a timeline like a roadmap.”
Part of the process is also doing a vulnerability assessment of the city.
“We have done a vulnerability assessment,” said Cushman. “We have used a tool that the state provides. It’s a tool that offers guidance on how to understand the vulnerability of a city. It also offers suggestions on what the city can do to adapt or to pivot, to make sure that they’re prepared.”
Vulnerability points include extreme heat and drought, wildfires and flooding and mudslides.
Cushman said that the city and California should expect 10 times more extreme heat days than in previous years, and intensity of rainfall and the number of wildfires are expected to happen twice as much in the next century.
She also brought up the possibility of LCF having to set up a resilience hub, or a place people in the city would know to go to in case of an emergency. The hub could be a library or city hall and would include a storage unit, emergency supplies and run on renewable energy.
“Climate change is sometimes misunderstood as being about changes in the weather, when in reality it is about changes in our every way of life,” said Cushman. “So, this climate action plan is going to focus on the municipal side of city generated facilities, and also the community.”
Cushman said the meeting is to get the community’s feedback on what they envision could work for local residents and businesses.
“What the city can do to help not only strengthen their operations and the governance of it, but also make small behavioral changes,” said Cushman. “Build in some things that might motivate or inspire their staff. And then on the community side, build in some things that you all can do at home or at your business, and try to align those two efforts. That way, it’s more of a community driven climate action plan [and also] around trying to change behavior.”
Cushman proposed some broad, best practices to the group of residents to decide if they might be viable for LCF. The practices were organized by five sectors: transportation, energy, resource conservation, green community and equality and resilience.
Some of the practices included transitioning the cross-town transit shuttle to all electric vehicles, banning gas-powered lawn equipment, launching a sustainability speaker series or newsletter and creating guidelines for improved stormwater management.
“The last part of our planning process is to kind of go through this framing, where we prioritize all the strategies that we’re going to come up with your input, and then we’re going to rank them based on how much greenhouse gas emission reduction potential is there,” said Cushman. “How cost effective is this strategy? What kind of community benefits do these strategies bring? What are the effects on the economy? We need to really talk through all of this. And then, of course, the last ones are alignment with state and local policies, and then what’s more important these days in any planning process is equity, and climate justice.”
Community members in attendance discarded some ideas that Cushman presented, like piloting a car-free day program at the schools, where there would be one day where nobody drove to school.
“You need to research your private schools, as well as your school district, because you have so many private schools. You’ve got a large group of students that are coming from out of the district. So, it’s just something to consider,” said a community member.
Residents also brought their own ideas, which Cushman encouraged. The presenters took notes as residents shared them. Suggestions included more electric charging stations, fewer trash haulers and a more reliable and consistent bus shuttle system.
The strategies, she explained, don’t all have to be requirements across the city, but instead, voluntary programs to encourage leading by example and educating the community.
Cushman brought up the idea of thinking about “equality and resilience” and if all demographics are served in the city, such as if there are housing opportunities for the elderly.
“I don’t think you want to touch that. That’s a major discussion that’s going on currently in the city, about senior housing,” one community member told her.
Off-road vehicles were also a topic of discussion between residents that attended.
“We’re in the process of taking all this data from the city for energy use and utilities, water use, vehicle miles traveled within the city, and we’re recalculating greenhouse gas emissions based on each of those sectors,” said Project Manager Ben Fordham from Blue Strike Environmental.
Fordham is taking emissions sources from the year 2019 to avoid the impacts of COVID, breaking them down by residential and commercial energy (electricity and natural gas), community-wide on-road transportation (vehicle miles traveled), community-wide off-road transportation (landscaping equipment, construction equipment), community-wide solid waste, community-wide water and wastewater, municipal (city building) energy use (electricity and natural gas), municipal streetlights and traffic signals, municipal employee commutes and municipal water use.
Cushman explained that after the inventory is complete, they will create a graph to show how emissions result in the city this year versus the past, and how to plan for future emissions.
“We’ll be able to see if the city has reached its original targets, and we’ll be able to forecast that inventory to 2050,” said Cushman.
After the presenters gave their remarks, Bowman told community members to write down something they would like to see happen if they had a magic wand.
“If it didn’t matter how politically feasible or expensive it was, what’s the one thing you would do in the city,” said Bowman. “If everyone wrote one magic thing they would like to see done, that would improve the climate situation.”
Bowman also suggested they write down something that could realistically work in the city.
“I’ll let the consultants who facilitated the discussions speak for themselves, but I found the community engagement helpful and exciting. LCF residents understand the importance of climate action and know our city so well that I would guess some of the most effective ideas will come from our community members,” Bowman told the Outlook Valley Sun.
Next steps, he said, will be for the top preliminary proposed implementation items to be presented to the council for consideration during the upcoming June budget hearings for FY 2024, to be held July 23-June 24. Later, a draft report will be released, followed by a final report for council consideration, Bowman added.
The team also encouraged community members to take a survey to get feedback from residents who couldn’t attend the workshop.
“[There have been] 104 responses so far, and the survey remains open. The consultant will use the results and all other data to update the CAAP,” Bowman said.
To take the short survey, visit cityoflcf.org/climateaction/ and scroll down to find “City-wide survey” link. To stay up to date on the CAAP project, visit cityoflcf.org/climateaction/.

First published in the June 1 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.


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