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The Greening of Pasadena

By Pasadena (CA) Mayor Bill Bogaard
April 2, 2007


Worldwide attention is focused on Pasadena (CA) every New Year’s Day during the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game. Now, Pasadena is focusing its own attention on global environmental issues by changing our way of thinking and how we conduct our daily lives.

With the city council’s unanimous approval in autumn 2006 of the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, we adopted an action plan for creating a number of environmental improvements including pedestrian and bicycle-friendly amenities, green power, sustainable building practices, and alternative-fuel vehicles.

The United Nations Green Cities Declaration and Urban Environmental Accords include recommended actions for cities to take by 2012 to contribute to global efforts. In response, the city council recently adopted an ambitious and progressive five-year action plan with more than 70 initiatives for addressing global warming, reducing waste, protecting natural habitats, reducing risks to public health and more.

A team of city staff from departments across the board worked on the action plan for both of these important, long-term environmental commitments to determine which actions had been accomplished already and how many will be achieved in the future. These team members take information back to their department directors and other key staff, coordinate the information from a broad, interdepartmental perspective, and reconvene with updates.

Inspired by this broad framework and mindful of the power of the legislative process, our holistic platform for state and federal environmental policy includes important provisions that complement our green city action plan.

Pasadena has a tremendous asset for our environmental crusade – our accomplished and devoted citizens. Our new Environmental Advisory Commission, a group of city council-appointed volunteers with expertise in a number of related areas, is guiding and accelerating our progress. I am confident that this impressive group will result in new doors being opened for future resources and partnerships.

Recognizing the importance of maintaining our momentum, the city council approved funding a full-time environmental/sustainability planner to help implement our action plans, support the environmental advisory commission, conduct research on related issues and keep abreast of best environmental practices at the local, state and federal level.

One of Pasadena’s hottest topics is sustainable development. Our Green Building Practices Ordinance, effective April 15, requires private and public buildings to be designed, rehabilitated and constructed according to the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system. We offer a wide range of incentives through Pasadena Water and Power, as well as LEED-related consulting services at no cost to applicants.

As a member of the U.S. Green Building Council, Pasadena Water and Power, our municipal utility, provides incentives that encourage sustainable practices. These incentives, ranging from $15,000 to $30,000, are approved on a first-come, first'served basis, and applicants are required to provide verification of LEED registration and a Pasadena building permit before incentive funds are reserved.

In support of these new requirements, we have been conducting free “going green” seminars since February 2007 with two customized tracks – one for residents and one for developers. Participants in these popular events learn how to incorporate techniques, maintenance and management into their homes, offices and daily lives. Topics for developers and building owners include the city’s green building ordinance, the cost and benefits of building green, green tenant improvements, and green building maintenance and operations for the exterior and core; residents come away with knowledge about do-it-yourself green projects, landscaping for the environment and the importance of “big picture” thinking. In June of this year, the workshop series will culminate in a half-day tour of green buildings in Pasadena.

Understanding that our 2,300 municipal employees are equally responsible for our success in becoming a truly sustainable city, an innovative, online training module will soon raise awareness of what it means to be green and inspire them to be creative environmental stewards at city hall and at home.

We do not intend to develop our sustainable environment in a vacuum; indeed, our commitment is shared by many Pasadena institutions and corporations.

For example, Art Center College of Design recently conducted a sustainable mobility summit to address the devastating costs – social, environmental and economic – of maintaining our gas-powered, automobile-dependent society. The two-day event turned ideas into profitable solutions and facilitated constructive, real-world change.

Caltech’s new Center for Sustainable Energy Research is developing technologies aimed at transforming the industrialized world from fossil fuel reliance to sun-powered. More energy from sunlight strikes the earth in one hour than all of the fossil energy consumed on the planet in a year. What is lacking is not the solar energy, but the science and engineering innovations that are needed to use it.

With Honda’s recent announcements of new environmental technologies associated with their cars in the near future, it is even more exciting that the automaker’s newest design studio opened its doors in Pasadena in December 2006.

As a mid'size urban community with world-renowned institutions and architecture, Pasadena is striving to be a model city that ensures a safe and sustainable environment for generations to come.

I am optimistic about our environmental future in Pasadena and other U.S. cities, especially knowing that green building programs and other sustainability measures are beginning to take hold in a growing number of jurisdictions.

To learn more about Pasadena’s sustainable programs, visit the website www.cityofpasadena.net/greencity or call 626-744-3726.