By Jake Zawlacki
April 8, 2020 (Lemon Grove) -- In a 3-2 split, the Lemon Grove City Council voted Tuesday to approve the city’s Climate Action Plan, a plan to take advantage of $2.5 million in grant funds from SANDAG to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 through local projects.
In accordance with Gov. Newsom’s Executive Orders in a response to mitigating the transmission of COVID-19, the meeting commenced online via Zoom.
After a virtual pledge of allegiance, the City Clerk read public comments that had been submitted to the City Clerk’s office at 5 p.m. of the day prior. Only one comment was made.
Teresa Roziak began with the issue of leftover Measure S signs that had yet to be taken down. Her comment turned critical of Mayor Racquel Vasquez as she asked, “Where is our Mayor?” Roziak claimed that actions taken by the Mayor in reaction to COVID-19 “should have been happening weeks ago,” then urged the Council to “please all do your jobs.
After the public comments portion of the meeting closed, Yadira Altamirano and Jennifer Mendoza urged residents to use the county website to find information regarding COVID-19 https://www.lemongrove.ca.gov/community/covid-19. The webpage is updated daily with federal, state, and county level information.
The City Manager report also offered information for residents in Lemon Grove regarding COVID-19. All evictions are suspended in accordance with the state’s new guidelines and residents can find information about this on the county website. Lemon Grove Grubbin https://www.lemongrove.ca.gov/home/showdocument?id=7899 provides updated hours and delivery services of local restaurants.
Local canceled events include the Eggstravaganza with the possibility of a virtual event in its place, as well as Spring Day Camp with hopes of scheduling a Summer Day Camp in the future. All parking lots to parks and park rentals are closed, however, parks remain open for residents. The city has applied for an emergency fund grant for unsheltered individuals, however it was stated to be unlikely the city would receive a grant.
City Hall is accessible by appointment only and only taking one customer at a time.
San Diego Sheriff Lt. Mike Rand informed the Council about 211sandiego.org, where residents can report a business in violation of COVID-19 regulations. Extra patrols of parks, schools, and business districts are being instituted during the shelter in place order.
Councilmember Aldira Altamirano offered information regarding economic injury disaster loans under the federal stimulus package. Businesses need their EIN, business information and personal information to request up to a $10,000 loan advance for business expenses. The loan itself will be 100% forgivable, and the turn-around time for requests are currently averaging 3 weeks.
The second loan through the Paycheck Protection Program intends to cover 10 weeks of payroll. If 75% was used for payroll specifically, this loan would also be forgiven. Currently $352 billion is available in loans.
Following the reports, Mayor Vasquez offered words of compassion to bolster the community. “Let’s be clear. The only way we get through this pandemic is by acting together.” She added, “We will do it with everyone’s cooperation.” The Mayor also encouraged citizens to use the resources on the City’s website.
The only action item on the agenda, the city’s Climate Action Plan (CAP) was discussed next. Noah Alvee, Community Development Manager, explained the details of the proposal. The proposal is to acquire $2.5 million in funding opportunities to decrease greenhouse gas emission over the next 15 years. Mr. Alvee included eight strategies in his presentation.
Mr. Alvee stated that public comments about the CAP included raising the goal of the city’s renewable energy from 75% by year to 100% by 2030, an annual report of CAP progress as opposed to a biannual report, adopting a legally binding CAP, and the need for addressing social equity in the CAP. He recommended the Councilmembers unanimously adopt the plan in order to complete the CAP before the deadline later this April.
Councilmember Altamirano suggested raising the target to 100% renewable energy by 2030 and to raise the usage of public transit from 4% target to 8%. She questioned the need for new homes to be built entirely electric and recommended a social equity statement to be included.
Councilmember Jerry Jones was hesitant regarding a 100% goal from a logistical perspective and raised the point that entirely electric new homes would cause affordability issues.
Councilmember David Arambula agreed the goal should be aspirational and suggested 85-90% as a target. He asked about the existing green projects, to which Mr. Alvee confirmed that the Main Street Connect project would be eligible as part of the CAP. Arambula also pointed out that while Community Choice Energy (CCE) programs are ideal, they require funding the city is not in a position to support.
Mayor Vasquez also requested the report go out annually and supported the inclusion of social equity language.
Public comments regarding the Climate Action Plan all pulled on the same strings. Social equity language was a must, annual reports were needed, and the goal should be set to 100% clean energy by either 2030 or 2035. Of the 12 public comments, nine of them explicitly stated those recommendations. Additional comments included raising the goal of bicycle commuters and walking commuters to 10% and 5% respectively. Other commenters purported the benefits of a CCE to lower emissions.
Councilmember Jennifer Mendoza recalled having ridden her bicycle to work from Lemon Grove into El Cajon 50 years prior and seeing a “soup of smog” before her. She stressed the importance of the CAP.
A motion was raised to delay the vote, but the Councilmembers were reminded by Alvee of the April 21st deadline for the grant. He stated staff would be unable to prepare an updated plan by the deadline and it needed to be approved today or else the funding would no longer be available. Mr. Alvee reminded the Council that it is a living document and that his team will be preparing the amendments in June.
Jones moved to approve the Climate Action Plan as is, with the understanding that the Council will later reconvene to amend the plan. Mendoza seconded. The motion passed 3-2 with the vote recorded as follows:
Arambula made it known his vote was because he wanted the goal to be increased to 85-90%.
After the vote, the meeting moved to closed session regarding anticipated litigation in three potential cases. In response to ECM’s inquiry after the closed session, the City Attorney reported, “No reportable action was taken.”