SLO's plan for growing the greenbelt, carbon neutrality and a circular economy

Jun 26, 2020

San Luis Obispo is releasing a plan to make the city a lot more environmentally friendly.

By 2035, San Luis Obispo has a goal of reaching a net zero carbon footprint—meaning by then the city as a whole is removing or eliminating as much carbon dioxide as it emits into the atmosphere. 

But Chris Read, the city’s sustainability manager, said the city’s new Climate Action Plan really focuses on the changes San Luis Obispo can make right away and during the next three years..

“That’s because those are the things we have the most direct control over with our current staffing and budget allocation,” Read told KCBX News. “By focusing on those items, those things we can do now, we can really make substantial progress on those actions.”

Part of what the city wants to do now is add more electric charging stations to encourage residents to swap out their gas engine cars for electric vehicles.

Something Read said pays off in the long run.

“We know that the total lifetime cost of electric vehicles is so much cheaper than traditional vehicles and it can really allow folks to have access to mobility by reducing costs in the long run,” Read said.

The plan is a big document with many parts. Included is a plan to pass a citywide ordinance by 2022 that requires everyone—residential and commercial—to subscribe to organic waste service. Instead of being buried at the local landfill and emitting methane for years, all that organic waste will go to the city's new anaerobic digester. That facility turns green waste into electricity. 

San Luis Obispo is already known for being pretty bicycle friendly, but part of this plan includes motivating more people to travel by bike as well as bus around the city.

“The idea is that there will be more infrastructure for cyclists, more, safer bike lanes and continually improving transit systems,” Read said.

This month the city council adopted a program encouraging builders to create all-electric buildings and homes moving forward. City officials also want to see current structures revamped with solar power.

So, the city has created a package of incentives—like financial rebates and flexibility of regulations—for those who choose to go more green.

The Climate Action Plan is really just a series of small steps that will help fight climate change, Read said..

“It’s a really ambitious target of carbon neutrality,” Read said. “But it sees this moment and challenge as a real opportunity to develop a clean green economy that is more resilient and ready for the 21st century.”

The city was paying for the plan with $45,000 carried over from a past budget. However, this funding has now been put on hold as the city assesses COVID-19 budget impacts. But Read said the city has identified a way to complete the plan using staff resources only.

Residents are encouraged to provide their opinions on the draft plan, until the July 22 deadline.

After that, city staff hope to finalize the Climate Action Plan in August and start putting it into practice.