Santa Monica will experience more frequent droughts and coastal flooding, hotter temperatures and poorer air quality as the world’s climate changes throughout the next century, according to new documents released by City Hall.
However, officials said the city’s geography and the City of Santa Monica’s Climate Action & Adaptation Plan (CAAP) will shield residents from some of the impacts of climate change. The plan, which was released last month, describes how the City will ensure residents have affordable water during droughts, contain sea level rise and deal with high heat days. It also outlines strategies for Santa Monica to produce 80 percent less carbon emissions than it did in 1990.
“Taken as a whole, the plan is really significant,” said Dean Kubani, the City’s chief sustainability officer. “This is a goal that requires a transformative change in our society.”
Santa Monica’s deep, wide beaches will help protect the city from rising sea levels, Kubani said, but the City will still need to mitigate the impacts of flooding on the coast.
It is already collaborating with the Bay Foundation to restore the beaches’ sand dunes as a storm barrier and will evaluate the efficacy of the program over the next 10 years. The CAAP also suggests setting guidelines for flood-proofing buildings near the ocean and identifying the coast as a hazard zone in real estate transactions.
While the City works to prevent seawater flooding, it will also be bolstering Santa Monica’s freshwater water supply to be more resilient to regional droughts.
Santa Monica previously imported more than half of its water from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California that depends on the Colorado River, which is going through its longest drought in history and could be subject to rationing by the mid-2020s. By 2023, it will import just one percent of its water, with the rest coming from local groundwater, recycled water and harvested rainwater. The City will be funding three projects at a combined cost of $78 million to meet that goal.
“Even when we have a prolonged drought, we’re going to be taking and making our own water and recharging our aquifers, so that’s going to give us a level of resilience we wouldn’t have if we were importing our water,” Kubani said.
The City’s other strategies to respond to climate change include building community and government networks that can respond to events like high heat days or flooding, making infrastructure and buildings more resilient to climate change and growing more food locally.
Kubani said it will be particularly important to protect vulnerable groups, such as homeless or elderly individuals, from high heat days and the hot-weather diseases that climate change will propagate.
“We’ll be working with public health agencies and private health providers to make sure they have places to go when it gets really hot, such as cooling centers,” he said.
The CAAP’s other section describes the City’s plans to reduce current carbon emissions by 60 percent.
Transportation comprises the bulk of Santa Monica’s current emissions – about two-thirds – and the CAAP calls for half of local trips to be taken by foot, bike, scooter or skateboard and a quarter of commuter trips to be taken by public transit. It also projects 50 percent of vehicles to be electric or zero emission.
It will be a challenge to initiate the cultural shift required to get people out of their cars and onto trains, buses, bikes and their own two feet, Kubani said. The CAAP proposes raising parking prices to discourage driving, expanding public transit and adding electric bikes to the City’s Breeze Bike Share fleet.
“It will require slowly changing the behavior of the entire community and how we get around, which includes things like building housing near transit, more dense housing developments, making the city more walkable and making it safe for people to ride their bikes around town,” Kubani said.
Electricity and natural gas used in buildings make up the second largest piece of the carbon pie at 30 percent of Santa Monica’s emissions. The CAAP sets a goal of zero net carbon buildings, which would comprise a quarter of the plan’s total reduction in emissions.
The City recently switched residents to the Clean Power Alliance (CPA), which provides 100 percent renewable electricity as a default option. While residents have the option to stay with the slightly cheaper Southern California Edison (SCE), Kubani said few are opting out of CPA.
Other targets to reduce carbon emissions from buildings include installing solar panels, reducing fossil fuels use in existing buildings by 20 percent and discouraging the use of fossil fuels in new development.
The City’s zero waste by 2030 plan aims to cut emissions by another three percent. The CAAP stipulates that 95 percent of Santa Monica’s waste be diverted from landfills, largely through composting, recycling, preventing food waste and discouraging single-use containers and packaging.
The City is soliciting public input on the plan through the end of the month. It is available online at https://smclimateaction.konveio.com.
“We’re asking people to review this and give us their ideas, and if there are ideas we missed, we’re going to include those in the plan,” Kubani said. “We also want to hear where there’s pushback or concern because that’s going to help us think of different ways to address certain areas.”