Editorial: Can Environmental Committee be sustained?

October 20, 2011

This week, local merchants gathered in the City Council Chambers to find out how they can comply with a proposed ban on single-use plastic bags in Laguna Beach. A year or so ago, food purveyors were similarly engaged in learning the ropes of the city's then-new Styrofoam prohibition.

A "dark skies" ordinance is now being tinkered with at City Hall to end annoying lighting and save energy, and an effort to accommodate bicyclists within city limits is also in the works.

What do all these initiatives have in common? They all originated with the city's Environmental Committee, the newest of the City Council-appointed committees, charged with making strides in "all things sustainable," from energy efficiency to anti-pollution efforts.


So it's ironic that the Environmental Committee, founded six years ago, is now on a forced hiatus due to the fact that it can't find enough members to form a quorum. This despite the fact that leading committee member Chris Prelitz founded the wildly popular environmental activist group Transition Laguna, which now boasts nearly 500 members.

Environmentalism in all its aspects seems built into the DNA of Laguna Beach.

Back in March, the committee set its goals for the year, a "wish list" that included:

•Investing in cost-saving sustainability measures so the city can be both environmentally and economically responsible;

•Implementation of Vision 2030 and the Mayors Climate Protection Plan;

•Strengthen implementation of the California Green Building Code; and

•Invest in water security and reclaimed water.

The first Environmental Committee was appointed Sept. 25, 2005, and in 2006 the committee inaugurated its Environmental Award to recognize efforts "to preserve, conserve, protect and enhance the environment in and around the city of Laguna Beach."

In six years, this committee, which grew out of the old Open Space Committee, has given much to the city. It has also had its ups and downs as members came and went. The committee's open-ended mission to work toward "all things sustainable" has given it both strengths and weaknesses: strength in allowing members to promote just about any project or agenda, but weakness in that many of the ideas inevitably ended up dying on the vine and frustrating members.

Over the next two months, a council subcommittee will be looking at ways to shore up the committee to sustain it, or it may recommend that the committee be permanently disbanded.

As a look at the committee's goals attests, despite the accomplishments there is still much work to be done in making the city truly sustainable. A committee of like-minded folks is probably the best way to accomplish those goals.

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