In November 2009, the City Council accepted Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) funds from the Federal Department of Energy to undertake several projects to increase energy efficiency. One of these projects was the drafting of a Climate Action Plan (CAP). The Climate Action Plan (CAP) is a stand-alone community-based policy document that establishes a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions achieved through implementation of a variety of actions, that when implemented, will help to achieve broadly-supported community values including: 1) protecting our water and air resources; 2) reducing the waste-stream to the landfill; 3) improving energy-efficiency; 4) enhancing choice in mobility; and 5) creating healthy and livable communities, while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The greenhouse gas reduction opportunities come from a wide variety of sources in the community, including but not limited to transportation, buildings, and water conservation.
Drafting the Climate Action Plan - Public Involvement
In December 2010, the Merced City Council appointed an 18-member Climate Action Plan Advisory Ad-Hoc Committee. The committee met monthly with Staff from January 2011 through September 2011, to prepare the draft Climate Action Plan. The Committee consisted of citizens, representatives of schools, colleges and universities, public entities, utilities, environmental advocacy and conservation groups, the building and development community, “green-jobs” industry; and local chambers of commerce representatives. The Committee acted in an advisory role to City Staff. Key advice and direction from the Committee included: 1) Initial actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions should be those with the least financial or regulatory resistance; 2) Community partnerships need to be forged and expanded; 3) Set broad goals, but let individuals (builders, business owners, etc.) select specific methods to achieve them; 4) Pursue actions, not simply based on its GHG reduction potential, but on the suite of benefits that it can provide the community; 5) Attainment of the target is grounded in the leadership model set by Council to implement the Plan; and, 6) Focus on the “what” of the plan, not the “how” – meaning the field of feasible and effective actions will continually change, whereas the Plan’s values and goals will provide long-term implementation direction.
In August 2012, the City's Economic Development Advisory Committee unanimously recommended approval of the Climate Action Plan with inclusion of a "Statement of Intent" that was placed in the Implementation Chapter of the CAP.
The actions that we take today will ensure a sustainable future tomorrow. The Merced Community consists of an array of interested citizens and groups each containing the ability and energy to implement in whole, or as partners with others, many of the ideas and actions expressed in the Climate Action Plan. Such independent and community-based spirit is celebrated and encouraged. Implementation of Merced’s CAP will only be accomplished with the help and participation of an engaged community. Creating a Programmatic Climate Action Plan is one of the implementation actions.
Creating a Programmatic Climate Action Plan
In October 2012, the City Council of the City of Merced unanimously adopted the City’s first Climate Action Plan. While this plan has broad community support and includes many recommended actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it lacks necessary elements for use as a state-sanctioned CEQA permit streamlining tool. The City seeks to streamline the City’s permitting process, as it applies to assessment of greenhouse gas emissions, by creting three interrelated planing tools:
Programmatic Climate Action Plan:Through this project, the CAP is envisioned to be enhanced by:
conversion to a programmatic Climate Action Plan, or stand-alone document, that provides a CEQA-related incentive for sustainable growth;
inclusion of a cost–benefit analysis of key recommended actions;
expanding the plan monitoring section with a detailed accounting of indicators to measure the success of the plan;
conversion of development-based general plan policies to practical codes and ordinances (see Amended Code and Standards, below); and
creation of a Unified Design Manual (see Unified Design Manual, below) containing development prototypes, making the associated codes and ordinances easy to understand, thereby ensuring their effectiveness in achieving the goals of the CAP.
Amended Code and Standards:The Code Amendment will focus on development standards that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enable permit streamlining at a reasonable cost. Code amendment topics could include: 1) higher-density developments in mixed-use centers; 2) provision of multi-modal transportation; 3) access to and construction of mass transit facilities; 4) enhancement of urban forests and open space; and, 5) water conservation and waste management.
Unified Design Manual (UDM): The heavily illustrated Unified Design Manual (UDM) will depict the City’s CAP-driven updated development codes and standards related to land use, site/building design, circulation, and environmental review, into a user-friendly comprehensive image of sustainable development. The UDM will be an easy to read reconstitution of otherwise disparate, but related City Codes and standards.
PCAP Consultant Selection
The City is currently in the process of accepting, reviewing and selecting a professional planning firm to complete the documents descirbed above. A consultant should be on-board by the fall of 2013.
If you have questions, comments or would like to participate in the implementation of the Climate Action Plan, please send your name and physical mailing address (not just an email address) to firstname.lastname@example.org