Environment and Energy

Overview

Environment and Energy

Article California Cities Helen Putnam Award for Excellence By Joshua Richardson

South San Francisco staff and residents team up to restore rare grassland and endangered butterfly habitat

Sign Hill Park is South San Francisco’s last undeveloped refuge and the home of two endangered butterflies, the mission blue butterfly and the callippe silverspot butterfly, as well as a variety of rare wildflowers. For many years, the park suffered from habitat degradation, reduced funding, and a lack of public interest. 

Efforts to reverse this decades-long trend took off in 2018 when the city’s Parks and Recreation Department staff applied for and received a Measure K grant from San Mateo County, which awarded $75,600 to the city. This critical ecosystem is now thriving, and public engagement is strong thanks to an ongoing restoration program.

Article Local Works By Karina Gonzalez

Oceanside’s crystal-clear vision for achieving greater water independency propels city to open first water purification facility in San Diego County

Following the drought in 2008, Oceanside knew it was time to act to ensure the community had a reliable water source. After nearly a decade of research, planning, and construction, the coastal city opened the first high-tech water purification facility in San Diego County, which will provide 30% of the city’s water supply. 

Using state-of-the-art technology to purify recycled water, Pure Water Oceanside produces clean, locally sourced drinking water that will help serve the community for generations to come. 

Article News from the Institute for the Local Government By Hanna Stelmakhovych, Nikita Sinha, and Allison Shea

Reach for the switch: Engagement strategies for California’s energy future

Passing energy efficiency policies can be a cost-effective and impactful way to meet the state’s climate goals. Making this change effectively and equitably requires intentional public engagement strategies — especially since these policies are highly technical and can negatively impact low-income residents.

Article Features By Maria West

Here’s how cities are responding to organic waste recycling regulations — and the resources available to help them

California’s new organics waste law is the most ambitious change to trash in 30 years. The law seeks to dramatically reduce methane pollution, a key contributor to the climate change crisis, by reducing organic waste. Although the road to full implementation is ongoing, the state has seen remarkable progress since the requirements took effect earlier this year.

Article Executive Director's Message By League of California Cities Executive Director and CEO Carolyn Coleman

While global climate change is daunting, local actions provide hope

California is racing to prevent the irreversible effects of climate change, and the stakes have never been higher. Concrete actions at the local level to protect our world for future generations are tangible and provide hope that we may still be able to prevent irreversible damage.

Article Solutions for Cities By Justin Skarb

Four ways Cal Water is keeping water safe, reliable, and affordable

California Water Service takes a holistic and preemptive approach to water sustainability, safety, infrastructure, and equity to ensure their customers have access to water that is safe, clean, reliable, and affordable.

House on fire
Article Executive Director's Message By League of California Cities Executive Director and CEO Carolyn Coleman

How Cal Cities is helping city officials prepare for the next big wildfire

Every day, cities deliver an array of public safety services to protect the residents and businesses within their communities. Recent events across the nation have sparked conversations around reimagining those services, particularly in the area of local policing.  However, in many cities in California, local leaders are also reimagining how to deliver public safety services when a wildfire strikes.

Article By Cal Cities Annual Conference and Expo speakers

How the public and private sectors are creating more energy-efficient cities

Even if the world meets the goals set forth by the Paris Climate Agreement, the effects of a warming environment will be felt in California for decades. “Historical and unprecedented” wildfire seasons and droughts are becoming the norm and sea levels are predicted to rise by as much as seven feet by 2100. However, many local leaders are doing more than just hardening their communities against climate change; they are also actively working to reduce its effects.

Article Features By Mark Brown, Sashi McEntee, Dan Schwarz, and Bill Tyler

How Marin County is changing the wildfire prevention paradigm

Marin County, like many of California’s cities, towns, special districts, and counties,  provides fire prevention services. In Marin, nineteen different agencies have this responsibility — plus several regional, state, and federal land managers as well. With nearly 70,000 housing units in Marin’s wildland-urban interface, fire danger is a very real and immediate concern for many residents. The county worked together to create a comprehensive fire prevention plan.

Article News from the Institute for the Local Government by Karalee Browne

Make equity and sustainability decisions with communities, instead of for communities

The stakes are high as cities engage in major planning efforts and adopt new budgets to ensure that they have the planning, infrastructure, and resources to adapt to this new normal. But how do we ensure that the new plans and policies we create will actually make our communities more equitable, environmentally resilient, and economically vibrant? The Institute for Local Government (ILG) offers five strategies for cities, based on recent research, as well as the technical assistance, and capacity-building support.

Redwood Sky Walk
Article Local Works By Jill Oviatt

A bird’s eye view: Eureka’s Redwood Sky Walk takes conservation and education to the next level

It’s hard not to get immersed in the surreal experience of northern California’s latest attraction: Eureka’s Redwood Sky Walk. Incredibly, the city didn’t invest a dime in the $4 million project. While redwood education and conservation are at the heart of the initiative, the potential economic benefits for the area were a huge factor behind community support and funding. 

Dry cracked ground
Article President’s Message By League of California Cities President and El Centro Mayor Cheryl Viegas Walker

Facing climate change head-on: city leaders must act swiftly to prepare for its impacts

The immediate and secondary impacts of climate change can be felt deeply in our communities, but we as city leaders have a responsibility to our residents and future generations to mitigate these impacts as much as possible. Cities are leading the way in finding innovative strategies to protect their communities from climate change and cultivate healthy and sustainable communities.  

Santa Maria develops a hands-on, career-based agricultural education program for high schoolers

When the opportunity arose to create a model program with students and local businesses, the city of Santa Maria stepped up. The city partnered with a local ag-related businesses to create a successful hands-on educational program, from work of planting pumpkins, and networking with community members, to creating fun events.

Bikers on a path
Article Local Works By Jill Oviatt

Arcata rises to the challenge: innovative upgrades to award-winning wastewater treatment plant

Just 34 years ago, Arcata’s pioneering wetland wastewater treatment facility was the talk of the town, winning multiple awards for its integration of oxidation ponds and fresh water marshes to do the dirty work of cleaning the city’s wastewater through a mostly natural process involving bacteria, plants, and sunlight. But the once groundbreaking equipment is breaking down, and the city has developed a two-phase project to not only replace 50-year-old parts, but develop new strategies to face new challenges.  

The cogeneration facility at the San José-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Facility features artwork by Buster Simpson.
Article Local Works by Lisa Yarbrough

Cities of San José and Ukiah lead the way on critical water infrastructure projects

Looking ahead at growing population demands, many cities are embarking on infrastructure modernization projects to ensure water reliability. They are also taking a long view and designing these projects with climate change in mind. As droughts and warmer temperatures become more common, cities are on the front lines working to ensure their constituents have a sustainable source of water now and into the future. 

City of Alameda works to build climate resiliency and advance sustainability

The city of Alameda is an island community in the San Francisco Bay Area that faces an existential threat from sea level rise. The city responded to this challenge by developing a cutting-edge Climate Action and Resiliency Plan, including a roadmap for a “Climate Safe Path,” in which Alameda aggressively reduces its own greenhouse gas emissions as well as raise climate awareness.

Water supply cover
Article Legal Notes by Michael G. Colantuono

A legal win for city finance – Supreme Court holds utility rates not subject to referendum

Referendum is a power granted to voters, essentially allowing the electorate to put statutes adopted by legislative bodies to a vote of the people. However, the recent California Supreme Court decision in Wilde v. City of Dunsmuir held that water rates are not subject to referendum, making this an important win for public utilities and local governments, and boosting stability in local finance.

Article President's Message by Cheryl Viegas Walker

Cal Cities strategic priorities set a course for 2021

In December 2020, city leaders who serve in leadership positions for the League of California Cities divisions, departments, policy committees, and diversity caucuses convened virtually for the annual League Leaders program, to chart the organization’s priorities for 2021. Developing member-driven and -informed strategic advocacy priorities is key to the effectiveness of Cal Cities’ advocacy efforts on behalf of cities.

Article Features by Stephanie Hunting and Liz Moody

From Vision to Reality: Lessons Learned in Complete Street Implementation

These projects can be challenging, but they improve traffic and support healthy lifestyles.

Article Features by Wendy Sommer

How Cities Can Build Resiliency and Fight Climate Change With Healthy Soil

Seventeen cities in Alameda County are employing carbon farming, which increases the ability of soil and plants to pull carbon from the atmosphere and store it deep in the soil. Carbon farming also increases water-holding capacity, reduces erosion, creates healthier plants, and increases forage production; it’s an essential part of a resiliency strategy.