January 2010-both the beginning of a new year and the beginning of a new decade-offers many opportunities for reflection, as well as welcomed ideas for moving forward. It is no secret that market events of the past year have many in land use and its related policy fields hoping for a better 2010. To acknowledge the beginning of a new year and the adoption of new local and state green building regulations, TPR spoke with a number of the luminaries in attendance at the recent VERDEXCHANGE Green Marketmakers Conference in Los Angeles, asking them to predict the issues or challenges related to sustainability that will dominate their respective endeavors over the next year.
What do you expect will be the most critical issue or challenge pertaining to clean technology and sustainability in 2010?
There are two issues in my world for this year. One is siting renewable energy plants-how we do that quickly, effectively, and in an environmental and sustainable way. That is an issue that we are facing on a large scale today and we are going to continue to work on intensively over the next couple of years. The second is administering federal stimulus money-using it to bring lasting benefit to California. We are investing in our workforce; we are investing in energy efficiency retrofits. We are trying to scale it up sustainably so we're creating jobs that will continue to be there over time. –Karen Douglas, Chair, California Energy Commission
I am hoping that California becomes more competitive in the renewables and sustainability market. I am on the Executive Board for the National Conference of State Legislators, and I go around the country and meet with other legislators who are actively luring green companies to their states, offering incentives, and encouraging them to build and locate their plants to bring jobs to the state. We are not going to get out of this deficit anytime soon unless we make a commitment to keep jobs in California-to make sure companies have a path to success here in California. –California State Assemblymember and Majority Whip Fiona Ma
Our issue has been water supply. When we think of sustainability, we think of how we accommodate growth. There is growth continuing in Southern California. People are having children; people still move here. How can we accommodate growth without stressing the system, without importing more, without using more energy? How do we use technology to reuse water and more efficiently use power to supply and accommodate all that growth? -Jeff Kightlinger, General Manager, Metropolitan Water District
Jobs. Expanding the definition of green jobs to include every job in America. -Rick Cole, City Manager, City of Ventura
The simple, and biggest, natural resource issue is water resources. Climate Change is making the water supply much more erratic than it has been in the past-it is much less predictable. We have growing demand; we have environmental issues. The biggest natural resources issue is looking at water resources to make them sustainable by changing the way we manage them. –Lester Snow, Secretary, California Natural Resources Agency
The big challenge will be to keep the momentum on transforming our economy. The election that just happened in Massachusetts is going to cause a lot of people to pause and wonder if this is the time to take on climate change. We have to do it this year. It might not be this climate bill, but we have to keep moving forward. If we have a transportation bill, it needs to have elements geared toward promoting a cleaner environment and cleaner transportation alternatives. We can create clean jobs in all kinds of sectors-from transportation to construction to water supply. We need to look at every one of those sectors with an opportunity to create good paying, career-level jobs. -Cecilia Estolano, former General Manager, CRA/LA
The big issue for us in Southern California, given our high unemployment rates, is how do we tie our sustainability solutions to our economic recovery? How do we ensure the most rational application of our ambitious environmental goals in a way that actually incentivizes private sector investment and foreign direct investment into the region? We have substantial needs for the creation of new jobs across all different industry sectors. The carefully harmonized application of policies and regulations between our federal, state, and local policies will provide certainty and clarity so that businesses feel confident that their investment in Los Angeles and California will be wisely placed. -Bill Allen, President and CEO, Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation
Next year I think we will see approval of a major transmission project in California. There are several transmission projects now, all of which will carry renewable energy and will go a long way to meeting the state's renewable energy and climate change goals. -Dave Olsen, Director, Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative
The challenge for local government is to convince the development community building to sell that despite the fact that they themselves will not benefit from the long-term savings from energy efficiency and green building development, it is still worthwhile to do it. We are sort of forcing them to do it, but we are getting a lot of backlash from them. They need to either be convinced or we will need to see some premium in prices for those developers who have achieved green building standards.
Right now we are seeing a lot of the residential developers voluntarily going beyond our standards because they are finding it a great marketing tool-people want to be in those buildings. Builders who are building for the long term are also embracing green building standards. But we are still getting push back from the smaller developers, building to sell, who believe that they are not getting a return on investment. The challenge is to see an increase in the price for those buildings. The other option might be that the scale at which green building is happening might lower the premium of initiating those kinds of practices. -Gail Goldberg, Director, Los Angeles City Planning Department
The largest issue on the agenda that is going to become more salient is water. There is a perception that we are dealing with a local drought situation, but in the climate change modeling and forecasting this is not even a two- or three- or five-year drought. It is a fundamental change in precipitation and snow pack patterns. People informed about the modeling are very aware that this is a paradigm shift in thinking-more like what the Australians have been going through for the last decade. The reality of that is going to hit home as we start talking about supply- versus demand-side management. For example, the models are predicting that by the end of the century, the snow pack in the High Sierra, which currently stores one-third of our portable water, will be down to ten percent. We are managing population growth, demands for water, and cost for water. We just had an $11 billion bond at the state level that Californians must approve. Add concern for the Delta and the inundation of salt water. All those issues combine to make the issue of water one that is in people's faces right now. -Professor Daniel Mazmanian, Director, Task Force on California's Adaptation to Climate Change; Bedrosian Chair, USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development
The hard thing is going to be finding the funding and the resources-given the realities of the state and local budgets-to carry out a lot of the progressive things that have been done and put into law-like SB 375-for greenhouse gas reductions. It's one of those things that every one agrees we need to do, but, for instance, the governor and the Legislature cut public funding for transit operations, which means bus drivers and one of the main strategies for achieving greenhouse gas reductions. They eliminated all those dollars. The challenge will be to maintain or expand the dollars available to meet ambitious environmental and job creation goals. -Richard Katz, Board of Commissioners, Metro; Member, California High Speed Rail Authority
With California being so mired in budgetary process and pressures, the real issue is whether or not the state can help regions and localities move forward in what seems to be a very broad desire to develop the green economy. I think they will. There is a lot of focus on this issue. California can come together so we can see the progress we want to see. 2010 is going to be a big year for California-a turning point. -Jim Wunderman, President and CEO, Bay Area Council