CITY HALL — The City Council signed off on a plan to walk its sustainability talk Tuesday when it accepted the Strategy for a Sustainable Local Economy, a policy meant to “green” all aspects of the business environment in the city by the sea.
The plan attacks sustainability in every sense of the word, calling for policies that reduce the environmental footprint of Santa Monica businesses while also encouraging economic vitality and the corresponding benefits to the city’s tax base.
“Sustainable” is a broad term, said Dean Kubani, director of the Office of Sustainability and the Environment tasked with coordinating the plan.
“It’s not just about companies that produce sustainable products or operate in a sustainable manner, but also those that give back to the community,” Kubani said.
Different businesses and industries give back in different ways, either in terms of high wage jobs, products or services the community wants to use or even the amount of tax revenue funneled back into city services.
Much of the strategy presented Tuesday was aimed at bringing in the right mix of businesses and then providing incentives and programs that allowed them to be as eco-friendly as possible while also able to make a living.
The plan promotes attracting and retaining a sustainable array of businesses, working with new and existing businesses to make their processes and buildings less resource-intensive and supporting those businesses through marketing and a commitment to buy local.
Council members embraced the presentation with an eye to plug holes in the business community that lead Santa Monicans to big box stores outside of city limits.
“We need something between the 99-Cent Store and Bloomingdales,” said Councilmember Kevin McKeown.
There’s a lot of work left to do, staff said.
The city lacks a sustainable business hub to support the development of green businesses, an ordinance to promote energy-saving building retrofits and a retail center that embraces the ethos of Santa Monica’s campaign and still provides reasonably-priced products that Santa Monicans crave.
Even so, the work to “green” Santa Monica business is moving forward, Kubani said.
“We went through a whole laundry list,” Kubani said. “I think they recognize that this effort is well under way.”
And, according to the consultant report, Santa Monica should be able lay the groundwork for all of this for under $600,000.
Some history: The City Council gave the green light to draft the Strategy for a Sustainable Local Economy, or SSLE, in 2006. It was finalized and delivered to the Office of Sustainability and the Environment in the summer of 2009 with full intent to come to council for general approval in 2010.
That didn’t happen.
“The reason it’s taken a long time to get to council is because we wanted to pull together all of the various departments that would be affected, get them involved in implementing it, review report, make recommendations and come up with a way to proceed,” Kubani said.
The original report came with a lot of big ticket items with hefty dollar signs attached. Rather than move forward immediately with a number of expensive propositions, city staff from various departments worked together to see how they could fit the principles of the strategy into projects they already had in the works.
To that end, Kubani noted, the work on the strategy was well under way by the time the council saw it on Tuesday.
A Buy Local campaign to support local businesses launched in the last year, alongside an online companion site, the Buy Local Market, meant to make finding products and services easier than ever before.
The Office of Sustainability and the Environment has already moved forward with a commitment to building less resource-intensive buildings, and giving businesses and homeowners help in getting and installing earth-friendly technologies like solar cells.
In similar fashion, 155 businesses have gone through the “business greening program,” which teaches employers and employees alike to change the way they buy and do business with the aim of saving money and conserving resources.
City staff pursued programs that already had some council support, and managed it without additional funding, Kubani said.