The County is updating our Climate Action and Adaptation Plan as the current version is nearly a decade old. The key word in the new plan is adaptation. The previous plan focused primarily on sea level rise as the impact of concern from climate change. Now we have lived experience of intense storm events, like the 2016-17 storms, and wildfires, such as the 2020 CZU Lightning Complex Fires, to demonstrate there are additional real and immediate climate impacts that we need to plan for.
The new plan also outlines strategies for reducing emissions and measures how we are doing against our greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions targets. The Governor's Executive Order B-55-18 signed in September of 2018 sets an ambitious goal of carbon neutrality as soon as possible, and no later than 2045.
Preliminary measures of our 2019 emissions show a 17% reduction from 2009 (see graph below). This is largely thanks to the creation of Central Coast Community Energy (3CE), which buys renewable energy for our local power grid. This means just 0.4% of our total emissions are due to residential and non-residential electricity use. Thanks to the creation of 3CE we are a leader in California and the nation in renewable electricity.
Our largest source of GhG emissions is cars and trucks. They account for 61.4% of our total. Roughly 50% of all emissions are from passenger vehicles alone. To address this we're undertaking an update to the County General Plan (the Sustainability Update, see more in section below) that focuses on in-fill development so people can live closer to their work and services. We're also rolling out multi-modal improvements on Soquel Drive such as buffered bike lanes and improved METRO service.
The second largest contribution to our GhG emissions is from natural gas usage for heating, water heating and cooking in commercial and residential buildings. Based on the preliminary data these account for 22.8% of our emissions. The Board of Supervisors will consider requirements for new construction to be all-electric soon. The just-passed "Inflation Reduction Act" also includes subsidies for things like heat pumps to help more homes transition away from gas.
There is reason for hope and still much work to do. We expect to complete the new Climate Action and Adaptation Plan by December of this year. This is a great opportunity to provide feedback on things you'd like to see in the plan. Feel free to email me ideas if you can't make Tuesday's meeting.
The public rescue of Watsonville Hospital out of bankruptcy is nearly complete. County staff have been working above and beyond to pull it off. I'm happy to say we have raised all of the money needed to complete the purchase of the hospital. Funds are still needed to ensure operating capital is available throughout the next year.
The hospital's turnaround plan will take it from losing millions of dollars a year to being back in the black. This will require collaboration from the hospital's employees and insurance providers.
Keeping Watsonville Community Hospital open is essential, not just for South County, but for all of Santa Cruz County, so that we have beds available for those who need one.
This report is on the implementation of the County's plan to develop a systemic response to syringe collection. It includes data about the number of syringes collected through public kiosks (like the one pictured at 701 Ocean St), by Downtown Streets Team, Save our Shores and the City of Santa Cruz Parks & Rec department. In June of this year, the seven existing kiosks collected more than 60,000 syringes. The Board will consider a proposal for eight additional kiosk sites.
This is a significant set of changes related to septic systems and requirements for advanced wastewater treatment systems. It will affect people living in rural areas as well as those who work in the real-estate and housing industries. Most of these changes are being driven by new state requirements that our County must comply with. I will strive to strike a balance between environmental safeguards and affordable alternatives that enable housing.
New ALERT Wildfire Cameras Installed
Two new wildfire cameras installed at the Board's direction were hugely helpful during the recent DeLaveaga fires. The cameras at Dream Inn and Silver Mountain Winery (see photo above) provided close up views of the fire from different directions. This helped firefighters limit the burn area to 3-5 acres. You can see the live feed from the fire cameras here.
The Board also renewed support for the FireSafe Council in this year's budget. There's no time like the present to join or start a Firewise group and become prepared, not scared. Learn more here:
Planning Commission Seeks Feedback on Sustainability Update
The County of Santa Cruz is nearing completion of the Sustainability Policy and Regulatory Update (“Sustainability Update”), and invites the public to contribute to finalizing updated housing and other land use regulations in unincorporated areas of the county.
The Sustainability Update involves major updates to the County General Plan and County Code, as well as preparation of new Design Guidelines. These updates will serve as a blueprint for future land use and transportation priorities within unincorporated areas of the county. The Santa Cruz County Planning Commission will hold two virtual public hearings (see below) to accept public input as the County works to finalize the plan. See www.sccoplanning.com/SustainabilityUpdate for more information.
The Sustainability Update includes updated regulations for housing production, transportation, agriculture and resource conservation, sustainable communities, code modernization, commercial development, community services and environmental justice. Consistent with County priorities under the Vision Santa Cruz County strategic plan, the Sustainability Update is being conducted through an equity lens, and recognizes that effective land use and transportation planning are necessary to create sustainable urban communities, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and provide additional housing options for all county residents while protecting our natural resources and agricultural areas.