Water conservation, greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, public health and the environment will be the focus of a new Sustainability Commission the San Mateo City Council formed Monday to bring new light on issues that have sometimes fallen by the wayside.
In the past, issues relating to sustainability have fallen on other commissions that may not be as equipped with time or experience to carry out policy recommendations to the council, said Kathy Kleinbaum, senior management analyst for the city who will help staff the commission.
“I think that there’s a lot of topics that are sort of broached at various other commission meetings including Planning, Public Works and Parks and [Recreation], that would really be better served by a commission that’s focused on sustainability. Because it’s a very complex issue,” Kleinbaum said.
Some of the future commissioners’ projects will include updating and implementing the Sustainable Initiatives Plan, the Climate Action Plan and the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Program, Kleinbaum said.
“I’m excited about the Sustainability Commission,” Deputy Mayor Maureen Freschet said. “It’s more than just about being green. Right now we’re looking at a lot of environmental issues, the drought especially, but there’s so many different issues related to the environment that the City Council on its own couldn’t do all of the research on and this way we have a commission help guide us. So having a Sustainability Commission is very timely.”
The push for water conservation policies and the city’s Landscape Water Efficiency Ordinance started before the drought, but the state’s current climate emphasizes their urgency. One of the commission’s first roles will be to coordinate with the California Water Service Company to develop a supply and conservation plan, Kleinbaum said.
The commission will provide critical assistance to get the city to adhere to state requirements such as reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent by 2020 and complying with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District guidelines, Kleinbaum said.
“Staff is recommending the commission initially focus on the larger environmental issues and then, once they gain their footing, fold in social justice and economic aspects of sustainability,” Kleinbaum said.
Future topics will include the city’s beekeeping ordinance, looking at health concerns for transit-oriented and affordable housing communities that are located near freeways or more “toxic” parts of the city and reinvigorating the San Mateo Acting Responsibly Together community outreach programs, Kleinbaum said.
Councilman David Lim said he’s thrilled the commission has gained traction since it was previously stunted by budget cuts and department audits.
“We just have a lot more environmental and social equity issues that need to be addressed through a commission dedicated to those issues. We had a lot of problems with sustainability issues falling through the cracks,” Lim said.
In years past, the city had to pay fines and was under a cease and desist order by the Bay Area Water Quality Agency because San Mateo’s wastewater treatment plant was leaking into the Bay, Lim said.
As the commission progresses, it will also help develop policies related to the economic and social sustainability of the city, Freschet said. She wants to make sure everyone in the community has access to what the city has to offer and for San Mateo to become sustainable in every sense of the word, Freschet said.
“Sustainability is the connection between our environment, but also our economy and society. There’s three prongs to it … you have to have a healthy environment and a vibrant community and economy and that’s going to foster growth” Freschet said. “And I think the Sustainability Commission is going to help achieve that.”
San Mateo residents interested in being part of the commission and providing advice to the council can apply now. The city welcomes those who have expertise in related fields but it isn’t a requirement and anyone with strong interests in social and environmental policies is encouraged to apply. For more information and to apply for a commissioner position visit www.cityofsanmateo.org.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106