MAIN LIBRARY — If it was your teenager’s high school report card, you’d probably feel like saying, “I can tell you’ve been working really hard. But let’s talk about those test scores … .”
On its “Sustainability Report Card” — City Hall’s assessment of steps taken to improve the environment that was released on Tuesday — Santa Monica got an A for effort but had considerably more room for improvement in the results column.
The report card, issued by the City Hall’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment (OSE), contains a grade for effort and a grade for performance in each of eight categories: resource conservation, environmental and public health, transportation, economic development, open space and land use, housing, community education and civic participation and human dignity.
While the grades reflect the degree of success the OSE has had in implementing the “Sustainable City Plan” — a guiding document adopted in 1994 — the office’s director, Dean Kubani, said the report card reflects every Santa Monican’s effort to improve sustainability.
“It’s actually a report on how —collectively — all of us are doing to become a more sustainable community,” he said at an event held Tuesday morning at the Main Library’s Martin Luther King Auditorium.
In keeping with a trend, the city received no mark lower than an A minus for its efforts in each category. It got a C in the housing category and C pluses in both transportation and environmental and public health. The rest was a smattering of A’s and B’s. It showed no regression; each mark was either unchanged or a slight improvement over 2008, the last time the report card was issued.
In remarks on Tuesday, Mayor Pro Tem Pam O’Connor praised Santa Monica’s efforts to improve sustainability, calling the city an environmental leader in Southern California.
“This is a real achievement, but we can’t rest on our laurels,” she said. “The key is always going to be to continue to move forward.”
Councilman Kevin McKeown said despite the city’s small size, Santa Monica is known as a destination throughout the world, and that level of recognition means its sustainable practices can have an influence far beyond its border.
“I would argue that we’re making a good start by doing what we’re doing in Santa Monica for the whole world,” he said. “People know what we do here. We’re a place that people know about because of our innovation and our remarkable collaboration on the Sustainable City Plan, among other things.”
In the transportation category, OSE said last year 13 percent more people rode their bikes to work, encouraged by an 11 percent increase in bike lanes in the city. Bike-versus-vehicle accidents, though, were up 78 percent since 2007, “indicating the need for additional educational and bike safety investments,” according to the report card.
The city also won praise for positive changes in the health of the Santa Monica Bay, especially an 84 percent decline this year in the number of days during the dry season with poor water quality at the Santa Monica Pier.
Sales were up 4 percent at the city’s farmers’ markets, and the implementation of a ban on non-recycleable take-out containers and a plan to possibly ban single-use plastic bags won the city credit for “a demonstrated commitment to reduce toxic chemicals and pollutants community-wide.”
In resource conservation, the report card gave Santa Monica credit for establishing a pilot “food waste composting program,” increasing its use of solar power and exceeding the 70 percent citywide recycling target.
“Our grades are inching up, but we still have miles to go. What’s exciting is seeing our whole community pull together with a commitment to innovation and collaboration on long-term sustainability,” McKeown said.